Strategic Framework 2018-2030

An applied university of today and for tomorrow

Our Strategic Framework was launched in 2018 to guide the University over the next decade to 2030. Since then, the University has enjoyed numerous successes that have accelerated progress against our strategic ambitions. 

Our long-standing reputation for teaching excellence has once again received national recognition, with the University being awarded Gold in the latest Teaching Excellence Framework by the Department for Education. Derby’s innovation and research activities have grown significantly since 2018, with our world-leading and internationally excellent research and impact being recognised in the Research Excellence Framework 2021. 

In addition, we have provided over 2,000 SMEs with collaborative research, innovation and business support, and developed strong industry partnerships with both global and regional organisations that are enabling us to be at the forefront of addressing immediate national and worldwide challenges. Operating under our 2022 Civic University Agreement, our distinctive public engagement strategy has been awarded an NCCPE Bronze Watermark Award, evidencing our excellence and future-focused commitment to our community. 

The University of Derby is exceptionally proud of its position as an applied university of today and for tomorrow, and everything we do continues to be driven by delivering excellence and opportunities for our students, staff and region. 

Producing a long-term strategy during a period of unprecedented change, not only in our sector but politically, socially and economically, creates a challenge but also opportunity. Agility and flexibility within our Strategic Framework, through which we can flex the journey but not the destination, is therefore crucial. 

In this dynamic environment, everything we do continues to be driven by delivering excellence and opportunities for our students, staff and region. We are a modern university with a modern outlook and will continue to work with purpose, positivity and confidence to fulfil the ambitions set out in our Strategic Framework.

Vice-Chancellor speaking at the Strategic Framework launch event

Our Framework

A key element of our Strategic Framework is to ensure its accessibility and relevance to all staff, making sure that our strategic ambitions can be aligned to individual and team contributions and performance throughout the organisation. Below, we set out the key elements which comprise our Strategic Framework.

Our Purpose

An applied university of today and for tomorrow. Everything we do is driven by delivering excellence and opportunities for our students, staff and region.

Our Pillars

What we do and how we do it through to 2030 is shaped by our Pillars, which set out what we will succeed at to fulfil our overarching Purpose and ensure the University succeeds for its students, staff and region.

When our Strategic Framework was launched in 2018, there were three Pillars. Since then, our ability to build on our strengths and capitalise on opportunities has led to the decision to now introduce a fourth Pillar, through which we will lead the way in impact from industry engagement and give greater strategic visibility to this critical element of the University of Derby’s heritage and future.

Our students will benefit from a high-quality learning environment, pioneering use of modern learning methods, access to diverse and exciting opportunities, and a continually evolving suite of services and support covering all aspects of their lives.

They will study an industry-relevant and research-informed curriculum shaped in collaboration with partners across business and professions, and in line with global issues. This is delivered through industry-connected and research-active academics able to share their experiences and build connections.

Our students will graduate with the skills, knowledge, experience and attributes which enable them to fulfil their ambitions and make a positive contribution to the world. They will set their aspirations high and have the intelligence, curiosity and innovative mindset to succeed in their chosen career path.

As the only university in our city and county, we take seriously the responsibility we have to drive the economic, social, cultural, educational and environmental prosperity of our home.

Working with others, and with the full commitment of our staff and students, we will raise aspirations and improve the education, skills, health and wellbeing of current and future generations across our region. We will play our part in positioning Derby as a key city on the national and international stage, with our academic reputation established as a core element of the ‘Derby story’.

Our innovation, research and knowledge creation is focused on making a practical, positive difference to people’s lives, regionally, nationally and globally. 

We believe in the transformational nature of education and, as a champion of social mobility, will inspire and create opportunities for all across our region and beyond, regardless of age, background or location.

Our ability to offer the broadest range of options from Apprenticeships to Foundation Years, and Short Courses to Postgraduate, means that at every stage of someone’s life or career, there are the tools, resources and opportunities on offer at the University of Derby from which they can benefit.

Our renowned knowledge and innovation in online learning acts as the perfect platform for us to be a pioneer for education in the unsettled and changing world in which we live. Be it through online or face-to-face underpinned by a blended delivery founded upon a dynamic virtual learning environment, Derby will be at the forefront of the flexible, integrated learning revolution aligned to the needs of learners now and in the future.

Our global outlook will see more international students coming to our university and more opportunities for home students to travel overseas as part of their studies, further enriching their experience.

Industry engagement, whether in the form of our curricula, our research, our civic activity, or our knowledge exchange work, has always been of great significance to the University of Derby. Situated in the heart of England and considered as the home of the Industrial Revolution, Derby is a place where innovators and industrialists have made their mark on the world for over 300 years.

As the only University in the county of Derbyshire, we play a critical role as an anchor institution that works side-by-side with thriving global businesses, successful SMEs and other cultural and voluntary organisations to drive innovation and solution-focused responses to challenges. The introduction of a fourth pillar with a focus on industry engagement gives greater visibility to an existing strength, firmly embedding it and ensuring it becomes part of our local, regional, national and global reputation.

We will further establish ourselves as the preferred partner of choice to provide solutions to social and industrial challenges by delivering academic expertise, innovation and knowledge, alongside a pipeline of student and graduate talent who are equipped to meet the challenges of the future.

Through the introduction of this pillar, we will work with colleagues across our Colleges and professional services to embed existing approaches and activity, explore and prioritise new opportunities, and work to establish collaborative, cross-institution ways of working. Collectively, this Pillar will deliver enhanced outcomes for our students’ development and employability as well as drive progress across our academic themes and innovation and knowledge exchange agendas.

Our Strategic Aims

Our Strategic Aims have been developed to give increased visibility to the six core areas of the university’s activity that contribute to our success. They represent the things we need to be good at to succeed in the delivery of our pillars and overall purpose.

Our Strategic Aims encompass the Institutional Success Measures and Performance Indicators that assess our progress and success against our ambitions.

We will deliver high quality, industry-engaged programmes and curricula to ensure that our students and graduates are equipped with the right skills, values and experiences to respond to societal challenges, to offer applied solutions to global issues and ultimately thrive in their future careers.

With a focus on quality, we will be ambitious in our innovation and research endeavours across our academic themes, maintaining our reputation for applied research that sits at the interface of academia and industry. We will prioritise activity that aligns with our strengths and has the potential to create meaningful impact at regional, national and international levels.

With will work collaboratively and creatively to develop progressive partnerships with businesses, cultural organisations and others, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, that will deliver an ecosystem of research-informed public engagement, innovative impact, skills development and social mobility that benefits the University, the city of Derby and beyond.

We will work together to create an inclusive, collaborative and respectful culture in which staff and students feel valued and can realise their full potential, and our talent, creativity and leadership are nurtured and developed to equip us for the future.

With a focus on skills, productivity, creativity and impact on industry, underpinned by effective student recruitment and income generation strategies, we will effectively prioritise our activities and resources to deliver the continued sustainable financial growth of the University.

We will drive environmental sustainability on our campuses through our culture, infrastructure, services and partnership initiatives, as well as through our innovation and research activities.

Our Academic Themes

Our promise to ensure everything we do is driven by delivering excellence and opportunities for our students, staff and region is embedded in our innovation, research and knowledge exchange activity. We are committed to delivering research that makes a real-world impact.

Our research is focused into six academic themes that are aligned to the local and global challenges we face. The interdisciplinary nature of our research enables us to deliver innovative and impactful solutions, concepts and technologies. Our discoveries directly link back to our curricula, with our students receiving high-quality, research-informed teaching and study opportunities.

Our academic themes are:

Find out more about our Academic themes.


Our Values

A robust set of values has been a key factor in achieving the success we have enjoyed to date. How every member of the organisation approaches their work, and how we approach each other, is as important as what we do to ensure that we achieve our ambitions.

We respect one another and enable people to achieve beyond their expectations. We foster team spirit and create a strong sense of community, working together with students, colleagues, alumni, partners and our wider community.

We are progressive, ambitious and make an impact. We look for opportunities to stretch and challenge ourselves and others. We create communities where we are confident to share our views, challenge the status quo and celebrate success.

We are modern, seek out and new ways of thinking, and employ innovative practices. We have a confident and agile approach to change, working together to embrace challenge, take the lead and set the pace.

We are curious, optimistic and strive for excellence in what we do. We believe we all make a difference.

Future Derby

Producing a long-term strategy during a period of unprecedented change, not only in our sector but politically, socially and economically, creates a challenge but also many opportunities.

The organisation is delivering against our strategic ambitions, but there is a parallel need for systemic change that can provide us with a secure but agile and dynamic operating model for the future. Future Derby has been launched as the programme that, over the next 3-5 years, will drive transformation of these elements to deliver successful outcomes.

View the Strategic Framework PDF Brochure