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How do we change the world? How do we reduce inequalities and establish a supportive and diverse community? It starts with our shared values – brought together through The Big Leeds Conversation. 

As a place of education, research and societal impact, and as an employer, the University of Leeds plays a huge role in our region and in the lives of millions around the world, either directly or indirectly. Yet, shifts in attitudes, changes to policy and the development of new technologies have fundamentally changed the context for universities over recent years.   

These changes have been radically intensified by the global pandemic and climate crisis. And, as our sector contemplates its role in the world – not just in education and research, but within industry and the arts, social justice, equality and inclusion – more of us are coming to terms with the fact that the higher education sector sometimes appears like it has slightly lost its sense of purpose, swept up in a sea of competition, rankings and external expectations and demands. 

Community, culture, impact 

In this context, our University published a new academic strategy, Universal Values, Global Change, which charts our course for the next 10 years.

Within it are three overarching elements: community, culture and impact. We can only have a positive impact on the world and truly make a difference if our University community is strong. We can only achieve our ambitions if we foster a culture of collaboration, both internally and externally.  

That’s why we must listen intently to our people to collectively explore, discuss and agree the values that will guide our University and the behaviours of our community in the future.  

As we face into the next decade, my fellow senior leaders and I believe culture change cannot be undertaken by individuals in isolation, we must join together to reimagine what kind of university we want to be.   

We all share a duty to ask ourselves: are we truly clear what our values are, how we will behave and how we treat others on our journey ahead? 

It’s time for us all to take on this challenge together. 

Your voice in The Big Leeds Conversation 

Over the next few months, through a series of online discussion forums, all staff, students and postgraduate researchers will be invited to contribute to the co-creation of our core values and to define the behaviours we want everyone to uphold.  

This series of online discussions is The Big Leeds Conversation. 

The first conversation takes place in July and we will discuss the behaviours we should expect of each other, as well as those we should not tolerate; what we enjoy about working or studying here at Leeds; and how we can become a values-led University. 

We’ll use this discussion to build a draft framework of values and behavioural expectations – and we’ll invite everyone to check and challenge this framework in a second online conversation. Between all of us, by saying what we feel is strong, wrong or missing, we’ll be able to refine the draft into an agreed shared framework. 

This process will be delivered by an independent organisation called Clever Together. It will provide us with anonymous, protected digital spaces to share and nurture our ideas. Together, we will co-create a bold new framework to take us into the future, with renewed ambition and purpose.  

Our shared values will change lives 

With new and clear values, we can re-imagine:  

  • our employee offer – from how we hire to how we inspire – to help create a collaborative and supportive place to work;  
  • our student experience and how we offer education; and  
  • who we collaborate with and how we deliver world-class research.  

By co-creating and upholding new shared values in everything we do, we can shape our next decade to realise our full potential, and to build a positive, fairer future for all in our University and beyond. 

There will be challenges, but the opportunities for our community are enormous.   

Together, let’s establish our values. By being values-led, we can truly change the world. I hope you will join us in this fundamental endeavour. 

Professor Simone Buitendijk
Vice-Chancellor