A five-year vision to deliver financial sustainability and academic excellence at Glyndŵr University was unveiled on Friday.
At a breakfast meeting on its Wrexham campus, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Graham Upton, set out the strategic framework that will guide the University’s decision-making from 2015-2020.
Professor Upton announced a four-year financial turnaround which includes a projected £1.7m surplus for 2015/16 and a turnover of up to £75m by 2019/20.
There are plans to grow student numbers over the same period, doubling the number of full-time UK/EU undergraduates to 5,400.
The interim VC vowed to make the Wrexham-based institution ever more attractive to students, improve the quality of teaching and harden ties with FE and HE partners, notably Bangor University and Coleg Cambria.
The University is also forging stronger links with Grwp Llandrillo Menai, South Cheshire College, Grwp Neath Port Talbot, the University of Wolverhampton and international colleagues, including those at MARA in Malaysia.
He revealed that closer links are being built with the University of Chester, who will be validating Glyndŵr’s PhD programmes as it looks to strengthen its reputation for research and eventually secure its own RDAPs (Research Degree Awarding Powers) in the future.
Declaring that the north east Wales institution is “a university of, and for the region” and “a family” which goes from strength to strength, he said: “’Working in partnership and putting students at the heart of the University are key to achieving Glyndŵr University’s ambitions to grow turnover to £75m and increase undergraduate numbers.
“One of the things that attracted me to this university and something we do so well is our focus on learners – people from many different backgrounds – giving them an opportunity and widening access for all.
“That’s so important, but it’s got to be about more than that; we need to have more input into the economy and meet the training needs of businesses out there across the country. We want our students to be skilled, to be job ready and to make a difference when they leave the Glyndŵr University family.”
Professor Upton added: “We are looking to embrace relationships with other colleges and universities and build them into our plans for the future.
“However, I am not content with just being important to the local region. We need to be nationally and internationally connected – we want to use our expertise to build relationships with the world.”
Professor Upton lauded the ESO project team at St Asaph for its achievements in polishing mirrors for the world’s largest telescope, but admitted there was a need to broaden the University’s research base.
He expressed how important links with industry and business are to the future of the University, citing not only the University’s intentions to grow its science, technology and engineering provision, reinforcing Glyndŵr’s reputation in advanced manufacturing and composites, but also the strong links being developed with the creative industries, with health sciences and the community and voluntary sectors.
“This framework is going to help turn these ambitions and proposals into a reality – so what are our key performance indicators?” he said.
“We have a plan to double undergraduate numbers. That is a big challenge but it is crucially important, and achievable.
“We also need to create a rich environment, a mix of students bringing different ideas; we are building up a good number of EU students but are limited to the number of international students we can take – 100 at present – and they are vital to us, so we want to grow this number to 10% of the student population by 2019/20.
“The University also vows to provide every undergraduate with the opportunity of accredited work-related experience linked to the curriculum, and will ensure that at least 94% of graduates are employed or undertaking further study six months after leaving.
“These are big targets, they are ambitious but we can do it if we work together and help build a new era for Glyndŵr University.”
Echoing those words, University of Chester VC, Professor Tim Wheeler, praised his Wrexham counterpart for delivering a vision that will bring the two institutions closer together.
He said: “Glyndŵr is our nearest neighbour so if there’s anything we can do to help with research, especially applied research in West Cheshire and north east Wales, then I think that’s a very positive development for both universities.”
The five-year strategy was welcomed by Wrexham MP Ian Lucas, who said the next course of action must be to “build further momentum in our community” to support Glyndŵr’s staff and students for the future.
Wrexham Assembly member Lesley Griffiths added: “Wrexham is fortunate to have an innovative educational institution like Glyndŵr University. The establishment helps promote our region, has had a positive impact on the town, as well as the wider north east Wales community, and these latest developments will enable them to go from strength to strength.”
The strategy was welcomed by those in attendance, particularly a renewed focus on training the workforce of the future so that they leave university with the appropriate skills to succeed in their chosen career.
Askar Sheibani, CEO of Deeside-based communications company, Comtek, was among those who praised Glyndŵr for its positon in industry, and added: “I’m very pleased to hear that there will be closer links with companies, and we can build on this even further.
“Working together with the private sector is key for the students to go on to proper, sustainable high quality employment and take advantage of the resources the University has here.”