‘Making a difference’ is one of five values that underpin our University’s core purpose and vision for the future. It is about being part of a University that is fully engaged with the needs of society and which contributes to cultural, social and economic development. It goes back through our history to the first Principal of University College Dundee, who believed that the impact of our academic work was a feature which distinguished us from other institutions.
This value finds its current expression in the University’s commitment to driving regeneration of the city of Dundee; through engagement with industry, attracting inward investment, catalysing cultural growth by developing and creating cultural assets including DCA and V&A at Dundee, and by stimulating social developments such as the work towards establishing a centre studying social deprivation. It has international as well as local implications, for example in our ambitions to develop new treatments for neglected tropical diseases.
This value is also expressed in our new strategy in terms of the integration of three strands of academic endeavour, namely learning and teaching, research and wider impact. Wider impact includes both our knowledge exchange agenda as well as our public engagement work. We are not alone in developing a wider impact strategy, but many universities see this as an extension of the research agenda. But in much the same way that we argue that research and teaching inform and enrich one another, so it is with wider impact. I think it is important that our students are educated in a University which is fully engaged with the needs of society, that they see the fruits of knowledge being used to drive innovation in business – and indeed to drive business formation – and that they are inspired by their University’s commitment to social and cultural development. Seeing at first hand how knowledge and understanding can be applied to solving real problems is likely to be a more useful contribution to employability of our graduates than attempting formally to teach employability skills.
And all this is important because in Scotland there is a woeful lack of investment in research and development by Scottish businesses. This means that there is little capacity for Scotland’s businesses to absorb, and hence benefit from, the acknowledged world class research undertaken by our universities. The long term solution to this problem must be to educate students who will be instinctive innovators. If we succeed, our graduates will not just fill available jobs in the marketplace, they will help to drive economic growth creating new jobs for themselves and those that follow. That would make a difference!