Angela Dennett, a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

Over the past 10 months the University has been engaged in wide-ranging conversations both internally and externally about its strategy for the next five years and beyond. In this period, a clear vision has emerged, not only of the direction we should take, but also of the way in which we should conduct our life together. It has been an exciting time.

During that process of consultation, it became clear how rightly proud we are of working and studying at the University of Sydney. By any measure, this is a remarkable institution, in the top 1 percent of research universities in the world. Consider just two metrics of our work in 2009. That year we received more research grant funding from the Australian Research Council than any other university in Australia. We were also, for the fourth year in a row, recognised by the National Union of Students as the university offering the best student experience in the country. It is not surprising that our alumni include both Nobel Prize winners, and national and international leaders.

During our consultations it also became clear that staff and students are keen to maintain this tradition of excellence. We are not complacent. The Green Paper The University of Sydney 2011–2015 outlined both the external and internal challenges that we face in maintaining our current position. Respondents to the Green Paper echoed our concern about increasing international competition for the most able staff and students. They spoke, too, of the University’s organisational complexity, and the consequent difficulty of collective planning and decision-making for the institution as a whole. They were concerned about the state of our physical infrastructure and keen to see the financial resources of the University wisely used. Staff and students wanted to ensure that none of these challenges weaken the growing global impact of the University’s work.

This White Paper offers commentary on our Strategic Plan 2011–2015 and how we propose to meet these challenges. The strategies it describes touch upon every area of our work. In education, we aim to make the student experience of the University richer and easier to navigate. We will achieve this through: a new University-wide approach to curriculum renewal, including a review of our undergraduate generalist degrees; new mechanisms for promoting pedagogical best practice throughout the institution; a suite of initiatives for enriching our students’ experience of campus life; and a major overhaul and simplification of our systems of student administration. In research, we aim better to identify and support our research strengths and to invest in a small number of major cross-disciplinary research and education initiatives in areas of national and international importance. Thus we will establish a University-wide centre for the study of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease – three of the chronic conditions that claim most lives in Australia and that are of growing importance in both the developing and industrialised world. In our work internationally, we have a suite of initiatives both to make our campuses more open to the world, and to make it easier for our students to acquire international experience. More locally, we have plans to build much deeper links in both education and research with industry and business communities and with identified local and rural communities. Finally, the Strategic Plan outlines new ways in which we can engage in collective planning and decision-making, and ensure academic and financial accountability, enabling the University to build on its extraordinary academic strength and to manage its finances and infrastructure effectively.

We are confident that the strategies outlined in this White Paper and Strategic Plan are vital to building upon the work of this great University, and that implementing them will be important to ensure its ongoing international competitiveness.

An epilogue to the White Paper offers a vision of the University in 2015: it is a vision that we believe to be true to our core purpose and values as a community, and consistent with much of our history and current life. But it is also a vision of a University better equipped for the challenges of an increasingly competitive global higher education sector.