Our future

Knowledge | Wisdom | Humanity

This new vision and strategic plan for The University of Manchester will take us into our third century. It builds on a rich heritage of discovery, social change and pioneering spirit that is at the heart of our University and our city region.

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"As a proud Manchester institution with a growing international reach, we have created this plan based on our fundamental belief that the purpose of our University is to deliver benefit to society and the environment, and to protect our unique status as an open place of enquiry and challenge."

Edward Astle and Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell

The foundation of this vision and strategic plan remains our three core goals of research and discovery, teaching and learning, and social responsibility, which are encapsulated in our motto: knowledge, wisdom and humanity. It builds on our strengths while taking the University in new directions.

It points to a future where we will expand our world-leading research to address the most challenging global questions and exploit our capability for interdisciplinary research; transform the way our students learn to make them the most employable graduates and truly global citizens; and ensure that all our activities make a positive difference to society.

The strategic plan reinforces what already makes The University of Manchester distinctive: our excellence, openness and inclusivity, our longstanding commitment to social responsibility, our scale and breadth, our tradition of innovation, and our very close bonds with, and location at the heart of, Manchester.

We have built our vision and strategic plan on extensive consultation with colleagues, students, alumni, and regional and national stakeholders. This approach has ensured a shared creation of ideas and allowed us to test the resilience of the priorities that we have identified. It has also enabled us to explore and refine how to deliver them.

This is a vision and strategic plan of substance, supported by detailed delivery plans. Our success will be evidenced through independent measures of our core activities.

Universities such as ours are ideally positioned to help address many of the world’s major challenges, finding new means to deliver environmental sustainability, close the gap of societal inequalities, improve health, inform and empower citizens, and create the leaders of the future.

While the plan is broad in its scope, with stretching ambitions in many places, it contains clear priorities set within each theme and measurable outcomes. We will, of course, be agile and adaptable to external change, but we will hold onto the ambitions set out here to ensure that we are well placed for the future.

Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor
Edward Astle, Chair of the Board of Governors

Our story so far

  • Manchester Mechanics' Institute

    The Manchester Mechanics' Institute opens to educate the city's working population.

  • Graduands in the main quad at the Victoria University

    Owens College becomes the first part of the Victoria University, England's first civic university.

  • Christabel Pankhurst

    Already campaigning for votes for women, the suffragette Christabel Pankhurst becomes our first female law graduate.

  • Ernest Rutherford

    The world's first artificial nuclear reaction, sometimes referred to as 'splitting the atom', is carried out by Ernest Rutherford.

  • Arthur Lewis

    Manchester appoints Britain's first black professor, the economist Arthur Lewis, later a Nobel laureate.

  • Freddie Williams and Tom Kilburn, the inventors of the Baby, shown programming the Manchester Mk 1 computer

    Computing is born with the world's first stored-program computer. Alan Turing, pioneer of artificial intelligence, contributes to its software.

  • The Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank

    The Lovell Telescope is completed at Jodrell Bank. The observatory is declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2019.

  • Jean McFarlane

    Manchester becomes home to England's first nursing degree, with Jean McFarlane appointed England's first Chair of Nursing.

  • Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov

    Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov receive the Nobel Prize in Physics and establish Manchester as the 'home of graphene'.

  • View of the Whitworth Building and Whitworth Hall from Brunswick Park

    We are placed 33rd in the Academic Ranking of World Universities, up from 78th in 2004, and 27th in the QS World University Rankings.

Our purpose

To advance education, knowledge and wisdom for the good of society.

The University of Manchester's motto and coat of arms

Our coat of arms features our motto and was granted in 2004, when the Victoria University of Manchester and UMIST were both dissolved and a new institution, The University of Manchester, was created in their place.

Our motto

The Latin inscription which appears at the base of the crest, Cognitio Sapientia Humanitas, means 'knowledge, wisdom and humanity'. These are three of the University's values, along with academic freedom, courage and pioneering spirit.

Elements of the coat of arms

Elements of the coat of arms: sun, lion and torch

The coat of arms includes a demi-lion wearing a mural crown and emerging from a circlet set of roses and holds a torch.

A sun, appearing on blue, symbolises growing enlightenment.

The bees on the new shield mark the University's connection with the city of Manchester.

The University's colours of Manchester purple and Manchester yellow are used throughout.

Our vision

We will be recognised globally for the excellence of our people, research, learning and innovation, and for the benefits we bring to society and the environment.

Our values

As an autonomous institution, we will strive to bring our shared values to life.

  • Knowledge

    We are ambitious in our pursuit of new ideas, greater understanding and discovery.

  • Wisdom

    We share and apply our knowledge and experience to guide balanced and evidenced decisions for ourselves and for society.

  • Humanity

    We embrace and celebrate difference, respect and support each other, and act with integrity to benefit society and the environment by transforming and enriching lives.

  • Academic freedom

    We support with enthusiasm and vigour the principles of freedom of thought and speech.

  • Courage

    We think and speak freely, and act boldly to challenge assumptions and shape our future for the greater good.

  • Pioneering spirit

    In the radical Manchester spirit, and inspired by our people, history and scale, we create the exceptional.

Strategic plan

The strategic plan sets our University priorities for the first five years of our journey towards the vision. We have built our strategic plan around three core goals and four themes.

Our three core goals are research and discovery, teaching and learning, and social responsibility.

Our people, the core of whom are our staff and students, and our values are at the heart of our plan, while our themes, innovation, civic engagement and global influence, underpin everything we do.

Our values graphic OURPEOPLEOURVALUES INNOVATION CIVIC ENGAGEMENT GLOBAL INFLUENCE TEACHING AND LEARNING SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY RESEARCH AND DISCOVERY

Our people, our values

From life-saving research to life-changing teaching, from gold medals to green spaces, everything we do at our University has people, our students, colleagues and alumni, at its heart.

Together we will achieve great things, working collectively towards our shared goals.

Priorities at a glance
  • Great people doing great things
  • Wellbeing
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion
  • An environment and facilities to support our people
  • Our values

View our ambitions and strategic priorities for our people, our values
Our ambitions

We will:

  • be a university to which our students, staff and alumni are proud to belong, and where our values unify us in what we do and how we do it;
  • be a place where people can achieve great things, with the finest possible conditions for our staff and students to do what they do best and work together as one connected community;
  • embed sustainable, responsible approaches in all our practices, enabling every one of our people to play a part in a healthier future for our University and planet;
  • be committed to equality and diversity, and to equal opportunities for all;
  • set high expectations of ourselves and hold each other to account for delivery.
Over the next five years our priorities will be:
  1. Great people doing great things. We will recruit, retain and support the very best staff and students, and streamline our operations to create time and funds to allow focus on our core goals and themes. We will instil professionalism and a spirit of curiosity and creativity.
  2. Wellbeing. We will be a recognised leader for staff and student pride, and will be a destination of choice for staff and students globally. We will amplify our efforts to give our students and colleagues the right processes, support and pathways towards wellbeing.
  3. Equality, diversity and inclusion. Our students and staff will be representative of the diversity of talent in our communities. Equality, diversity and inclusion strengthen our University and will be at the heart of our core activities. We will create an inclusive and supportive environment led by effective leaders so that everyone can participate fully and reach their full potential.
  4. An environment and facilities to support our people. We will create an outstanding and sustainable setting which serves to support our people in achieving our core goals. We will increase the availability, responsiveness and personalisation of our services, the blend of our on- and off-campus provision, and the sustainability of our practices, while also building in the flexibility to adapt. This will include the largest single-site home for engineering in the UK and further ambitions for new connected learning spaces, reductions in our carbon footprint to support a zero-carbon future for Manchester by 2038, a refurbished main library and enhanced digital infrastructure.
  5. Our values. We will embed our values across the University as we work together to deliver our strategic plan.

Research and discovery

Our University is a powerhouse of research, with a history of world-changing achievements, and is ranked among the leading research universities globally.

To build further the quality of our research, we will attract and develop the best people, engage with global challenges, encourage and enable collaborations, and provide an environment where great ideas are born and abound.

Priorities at a glance
  • Accelerating interdisciplinary research
  • Developing research leadership and creativity
  • Digital and creative research
  • An open and responsible research environment
  • Inspiring student learning with our research-intensive environment

View our ambitions and strategic priorities for research and discovery
Our ambitions

We will:

  • be a world-leading source of new knowledge, excelling in discovery and application;
  • build on our record of path-breaking interdisciplinary research;
  • bring the world's best people together, combining expertise from across disciplines to understand and find new solutions to society's biggest questions;
  • provide a creative, ambitious and supportive environment in which researchers at every career stage can develop into and thrive as leaders in their chosen field.
Over the next five years our priorities will be:
  1. Accelerating interdisciplinary research. We will build on our interdisciplinary strengths to address major challenges, investing in areas of strength and scale, including our research beacons and sector-leading interdisciplinary institute model. We will mobilise our leaders, raise our ambition and amplify our profile, positioning us to produce the next big ideas.
  2. Developing research leadership and creativity. We will expect all our researchers, including our research students, to strive for excellence, including in their leadership and collegial mentoring. We will provide a work environment which enables success, placing development and wellbeing of all our researchers at the heart of all we do through a portfolio of the highest quality training and support at all career stages, and attracting the best new talent through a new President's Fellowship Academy to accelerate the progress of early-career academics.
  3. Digital and creative research. We will invest further in Digital Futures, our large-scale, University-wide programme of leading research on the transformative potential of digital technology, and build skills and infrastructure in the development and application of data analytics and other digital research skills. We will deliver Creative Manchester, our ambitious programme to foster creativity and deliver the full potential of our creative activities in all aspects of our research.
  4. An open and responsible research environment. We will complete our strategic investment in transforming our research environment to support Open Research and a modernised Responsible Research Framework for how we organise, resource, conduct and share our research to meet the highest standards of research conduct and integrity; environmental sustainability; equality, diversity and inclusion; and positive economic and social impact.
  5. Inspiring student learning with our research-intensive environment. We will use our research knowledge, skills, equipment and related infrastructure to provide an inspiring learning environment and unique opportunities for our undergraduate, postgraduate and research students.

Teaching and learning

As an institution built on world-class research, we want to share knowledge to challenge and transform our students, giving learners of all ages and backgrounds the chance to contribute to positive change, improving their lives and those of others.

We will inspire learners with challenging ideas, knowledge and wisdom, and help them develop the capabilities needed for a stellar career. Our teachers will be supported to deliver the highest levels of student satisfaction, embracing digital opportunities and placing personalisation at the heart of what we do.

Priorities at a glance
  • Enhancing the quality of our teaching
  • A transformative student experience
  • Realising students' potential: 'Manchester made me'
  • An education for sustainable development
  • Lifelong and flexible learning

View our ambitions and strategic priorities for teaching and learning
Our ambitions

We will:

  • meet the diverse future needs of society through flexible, personalised and interdisciplinary educational experiences that develop and apply new methods of teaching and learning, and promote lifelong learning;
  • challenge our students to learn without boundaries in a research-intensive environment, gaining digital, creative and ethical leadership skills, and a global perspective;
  • work in partnership with our students, inspiring them to build their own unique student experiences in a framework of excellence and social and civic responsibility;
  • build on our record of inclusion by breaking down barriers to higher education and boundaries to learning.
Over the next five years our priorities will be:
  1. Enhancing the quality of our teaching. Our new Institute for Teaching and Learning will be an academic centre to support teaching quality, embed innovative teaching methods and lead on university-wide strategic projects. We will optimise our systems to free up more time for our excellent people to enable transformational student experiences, both curricular and co-curricular.
  2. A transformative student experience. Our research-based teaching, new digital platforms and ways of learning will create a more personalised and inclusive approach, giving students a greater voice. Staff will be better equipped and supported to deliver life-changing educational experiences, and we will continue to create world-class teaching and learning spaces, and online resources.
  3. Realising students' potential: 'Manchester made me'. This distinctive set of opportunities will allow our students to reach their full potential and optimise their employability. It will be built around interdisciplinary learning and personal development, including creative, digital, sustainability and entrepreneurial capabilities.
  4. An education for sustainable development. All our students will have opportunities to engage in the biggest social, economic and environmental questions facing the world through programmes linked to relevant United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  5. Lifelong and flexible learning. We will prepare our graduates for an increasingly digital world that will demand agility and digital skills. We will create increased student choice and flexible learning through combinations of face-to-face, online and blended learning at greater scale.

Social responsibility

We were the first British university to set social responsibility as a core goal.

From our access programmes and scholarships to our research tackling the world's biggest questions, we make a difference on a local, national and global scale.

We will now establish our University as the sector's leader for social impact by engaging our communities in our work, enabling all our people to help bring about a better world and embedding responsible processes and environmental sustainability in all our key activities.

Priorities at a glance
  • Engagement, involvement and inspiration
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Embedding social responsibility

View our ambitions and strategic priorities for social responsibility
Our ambitions

We will:

  • be a university where every person is able to make a difference;
  • be recognised globally for our distinctive work and reputation across our full range of activities;
  • address social and environmental challenges through our research, teaching and learning, public engagement, and campus operations.
Over the next five years our priorities will be:
  1. Engagement, involvement and inspiration. We will focus our pioneering social responsibility work on campus, in communities and around the world on four new priority themes: social inclusion, better health, environmental sustainability and cultural engagement.
  2. Sustainable Development Goals. We will align our work with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to remain a global leader in the sector. Each of our research beacons and institutes will have at least one major theme which addresses a global challenge outlined by the SDGs.
  3. Environmental sustainability. Our research and teaching will prioritise contribution to effective use of natural resources, reduction of pollution, maintaining biodiversity and addressing the climate emergency. We will lead by example in targeting wherever feasible the removal of avoidable single-use plastics from all services and activities on campus, and we will align with the city's zero-carbon target by 2038.
  4. Embedding social responsibility. We will further integrate our commitment to social responsibility across key learning, research, professional services and cultural institution activities.

Innovation

From artificial intelligence to the isolation of graphene, many of the most transformative ideas of our age were formed in Manchester.

We will build on our research strengths, the creative enterprise of our staff, students and alumni, and the unique opportunities in our region to establish ourselves as an international powerhouse of innovation.

Priorities at a glance
  • ID Manchester
  • Health innovation
  • Graphene City
  • Innovation ecosystems
  • Enterprise through knowledge and commercialisation

View our ambitions and strategic priorities for innovation
Our ambitions

We will:

  • be recognised globally as Europe's most innovative university;
  • create a world-leading innovation campus, where tomorrow's solutions are developed and realised;
  • be celebrated as a hive of commercial and social enterprise.
Over the next five years our priorities will be:
  1. ID Manchester. We will transform our North Campus into Innovation District (ID) Manchester, a world-class environment where breakthrough ideas are turned into reality.
  2. Health innovation. We will accelerate the benefits of our research through our relationship with the regional health and social care services via Health Innovation Manchester and the unique nature of devolved healthcare in the city region, and the establishment of our centre for health translation and innovation.
  3. Graphene City. Realising the potential of our ecosystem for graphene and other 2D materials, we will create a thriving knowledge-based economy, built on fully operational facilities, commercialisation, an established angel fund and coordinated governance with city and business.
  4. Innovation ecosystems. We will build the ecosystems for the next innovation opportunities, including facilities to support our city's clean growth mission and alliances with media and the cultural sectors to help drive innovation through Creative Manchester.
  5. Enterprise through knowledge and commercialisation. We will transform the scale of our intellectual property commercialisation activity, bringing capabilities together, engaging staff and establishing entrepreneurship as a defining feature of the Manchester experience for students such that all have the opportunity to develop their capabilities.

Civic engagement

From our beginnings as England's first civic university in its 'original modern' city, we have sought to break down boundaries and improve lives.

Through research that involves our population and informs local policies, engagement through staff and student activities, the social impact of our cultural institutions, and alignment to the Greater Manchester strategy and ambition, we will further strengthen the bonds between our University and our region.

Priorities at a glance
  • Culture firsts
  • Research engagement, collaboration and application in Greater Manchester
  • Contributing to the regional economy
  • Creating opportunities

View our ambitions and strategic priorities for civic engagement
Our ambitions

We will:

  • be recognised as a university that creates opportunity for our whole community through transformative education, research and engagement;
  • be an international exemplar for pioneering civic collaborations that deliver health, social, environmental and economic benefits for all, in a city region with a clear sense of place;
  • be a leading cultural and creative partner for our region, integral in securing Manchester's place as one of the world's most vibrant and welcoming cities.
Over the next five years our priorities will be:
  1. Culture firsts. We will support our unique cultural institutions, the Whitworth, John Rylands Library, Manchester Museum and Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, to be effective bridges between our University and the public. We will build regional, national and international partnerships in culture with each being seen as 'first in class'.
  2. Research engagement, collaboration and application in Greater Manchester. We will work with our own community to take on challenges and opportunities faced locally. Building on our strong regional relationships and existing capabilities such as Policy@Manchester, we will co-create, understand and apply world-class research across a range of social, economic, health, environmental and cultural agendas. A major focus will be on local business and on building ID Manchester into the leading innovation hub in Europe.
  3. Contributing to the regional economy. We already create 18,000 jobs and add more than £1.7 billion a year to the gross value added (GVA) of the city region. We will increase our contribution through a range of activities, notably ID Manchester, a greater proportion of our students obtaining employment in the north-west and thus driving business investment, and graphene commercialisation, where independent estimates suggest the potential to generate up to 15,000 jobs and in excess of £2 billion in growth.
  4. Creating opportunities. We will expand social, educational and employment opportunities for people in Greater Manchester through our targeted widening participation programmes, our School Governor Initiative and by supporting local people to develop skills and find jobs through The Works.

Global influence

We aim to be in the top 25 universities globally, attracting high-quality staff and students from across the world, and undertaking research of global standing and impact. We will position our University to continue to thrive in an increasingly international sector.

Priorities at a glance
  • International collaboration and partnerships
  • Attracting global talent
  • Global reputation

View our ambitions and strategic priorities for global influence
Our ambitions

We will:

  • produce a step change in our high-quality research through international collaboration, sharing facilities and knowledge with select international partners;
  • double the proportion of our business research income from international sources;
  • increase the geographic and socioeconomic diversity of our intake;
  • enhance our reputation as a member of the world's leading group of universities by communicating the distinctive benefits we bring to the world;
  • be recognised for European and global leadership in developing the influence of the international university sector;
  • engage our staff, students, alumni and partners around the world as influential advocates for our activities.
Over the next five years our priorities will be:
  1. International collaboration and partnerships. We will develop a focused portfolio of partnerships to reflect the University's interests across the globe, extending our existing commitments and cementing diverse relationships through joint postgraduate opportunities, sustained research programmes, staff and student mobility, and other initiatives.
  2. Attracting global talent. Our learning is enriched by an internationally and socially diverse population of the world's most talented students and researchers. We will put in place a suite of measures and infrastructure to grow and diversify our international participation.
  3. Global reputation. We will be highly ranked in recognised international reputational league tables. We will grow our reputation for excellence through strategic stakeholder management, where an investment in people and technology enables two-way engagement, targeting and partnership, allowing us to increase advocacy and influence the debate globally. We will encourage our staff to take leading roles in external bodies which influence the direction and reputation of our sector.

Measures of success

To gauge our progress towards our vision, we have identified the following measures of success. We aim to achieve these by 2025, unless otherwise stated, and will monitor these annually through specific measures.

  • Our people, our values

    95% of staff will say the University is a good place to work

  • Impact on society

    We will measure our success against a portfolio of measures and quality marks of social, cultural, economic and environmental impact

  • Innovation

    We will be recognised as Europe's most innovative university

  • Research and discovery

    The quality of our research will place us among the top 5 UK universities in the Research Excellence Framework 2027

  • Carbon reduction

    We will align to the city's decarbonisation pathway and 2038 target for zero carbon

  • Teaching and learning

    We will achieve 90% student satisfaction

  • Global influence

    We will be recognised as among the best universities in the world, in the top 25 in leading international rankings

  • Financial sustainability

    We will be generating at least a 5% annual financial surplus to reinvest in our core activities

Resources

Vision and strategic plan

Download our vision and strategic plan as a PDF document.

Vision and strategic plan (1.1MB)

Five-year plans for our core goals and themes

Later in 2020 we will publish our five-year plans for our three core goals and four themes. You will be able to download these here.

Information for staff

If you work at the University, you can find further resources on StaffNet.

Corporate documents

Read our other corporate documents.