Strategy for the future
An interview with Manuel Tunon de Lara, President of the University of Bordeaux on the institution’s strategic plan: U25 - for the University of 2025.
The strategic plan for the University of Bordeaux, called U25, plans for the next 10 years. Why set the "milestone" for 2025?
The recent founding of our university was the product of a strategic project which aimed to restructure higher education and research within the Bordeaux site. The project was given a real boost by the "Campus Operation" and IdEx Bordeaux which enabled us to achieve the majority of our objectives. It’s now time to look at the bigger picture and start planning over a longer timeframe in order to envision what it is that the University of Bordeaux should become. To do this however, we must look beyond the timescale of elective mandates or State contracts and focus instead on the overall objectives for the university itself, rather than just the results of specific projects. From this perspective, a period of ten years allows us to be realistic, looking beyond our current immediate needs.
It’s now time to look at the bigger picture and start planning over a longer timeframe...
What are the main issues faced by the University of Bordeaux?
The university aims to educate people of all ages and, in a general sense, to transfer the knowledge produced through its economic and social environment. It is therefore at the center of several substantial challenges:
- The paradigm of education needs to change: we must realize that the needs of students have changed. Behind every university degree, there should be a cluster of core skills which enable students to succeed in their future life, both professionally and as people. This will happen namely through a fundamental transformation in education, and by adapting to new technologies.
- Higher Education is already globalized and is sure to become even more so in the future. The future of the university will therefore be international; both in terms of its ability to attract the best students and lecturers from around the world and also its international image and presence.
- One of the key driving forces in the university’s development is the excellence of its research. In addition to the individual demands of each field of research, disciplines are increasingly cross-cutting. This is an important in order to progress and in particular, to answer the most pressing questions posed by today's society.
What are the main features of the University of Bordeaux’s strategic plan?
We have identified four main themes which will determine the success of the university over the next ten years, which can be broken down into operational objectives. In a general sense, they respond to the challenges outlined above:
- The role of the university: we aim to use our best research forces to try and remedy some of society’s biggest challenges. This will be achieved mainly by certain specializations which are firmly anchored within our economic and social environment for a fairly systematic multidisciplinary approach.
- A modernized academic experience: the courses offered must correspond to the needs of the students and their future careers; the university is in a very good position to succeed in the task of becoming more involved with its environment, in particular with businesses, breaking with the old “us and them” mentality, if that still exists! This modernization is also educational and the university thus intends to take a leading role in the project.
- Knowledge open to innovation and creativity: the university should be a breeding ground for creativity, facilitating as much innovation as possible. We therefore need to create favorable conditions by carrying out cutting-edge research and then using this in our teaching, supporting several disciplines at once and supporting talented individuals in their initiatives. Little by little, this dynamic should allow us to construct an ecosystem in which businesses can find their place and draw inspiration for their own development.
- Institutional efficiency: there is no future without institutional sustainability. Without getting into the debate on the role of the State, French universities in general, and the University of Bordeaux in particular, need to make a real effort to base themselves around a responsible plan and a sustainable funding system. For me, that is achieved through more autonomy and a new, more receptive relationship on both sides with the administrative authorities.
How can we work towards achieving this ambition?
Firstly, we have identified 4 transversal priorities which will be the catalysts we use to transform the university: internationalization, digitalization, campus urbanization and talent management. Each of these priorities correspond to different actions which can be applied within our organization.
On another note, we must collectively construct a roadmap, a sort of operational plan, which every person needs to be able to adapt to their own level and immediate environment.
How was the strategic plan designed?
The strategic plan was created based on the reflections of the management team; it has been the subject of several internal seminars in order to establish a vision, themes and priorities. We also integrated ideas put forward by our colleges and departments who have the most detailed visions for the various subject areas and who can also anticipate what challenges they will face in terms of research and education.
The main directions to follow have been discussed by a strategic orientation committee at the university. This was chaired by various research bodies, local authorities and our closest academic partners, such as Sciences Po, Bordeaux INP or Bordeaux Sciences Agro. We also had the opportunity to invite external experts, with whom we identified the national and international strategic orientations that will inevitably impact our project.