President's Office - Leading Change - DCU Strategic Plan 2001-2005

Leading Change - DCU Strategic Plan 2001-2005

Adopted by Governing Authority February 2001

Mission and Values


The mission of DCU is to foster creativity and to spearhead change for the benefit of society.

Core activity

DCU will accomplish this mission by discovering, analysing, expanding, and disseminating knowledge, by developing creative and critical thinking, and by fostering skills and learning.


DCU's distinctive values are to be:

  • Collaborative and networked
  • Accessible and open
  • Developmental and supportive
  • Innovative and flexible

DCU is committed to intellectual integrity, objectivity, and academic freedom.


  1. Building on Success
  2. A Radical New Focus
  3. A Dynamic and Flexible University

 1. Building on success and strategic focus

DCU has had a vital impact on the Irish higher education system. As a "renegade" or unconventional university, DCU broke the traditional mould. The INTRA programme integrated academic education with practical experience. Cross-disciplinary degree programmes and research centres have transcended traditional boundaries and opened new perspectives. DCU pioneered distance education in Ireland. DCU led the way in building international student exchanges and international programmes. DCU has been proactive in the development of its local region and in addressing social disadvantage. DCU has been consistently focused in its development, and was the first Irish university to adopt a strategic plan.

DCU graduates have consistently been the most sought after by employers. DCU was outstandingly successful in the first major round of HEA research funding, which saw the establishment of our National Research Centres in Sensors, Networks and Communications, and Plasma Science.  Innovation has been accompanied by rapid growth and dramatic development of the campus and the institution, including the recent building of a new library, new postgraduate residences, a new student social centre, and soon a new performing arts centre. This success will be built upon as DCU moves into a new era marked by urgent and exciting challenges:

Knowledge and research are now central to national strategy. The student body will become more diverse, with the development of both lifelong learning and a more multicultural population. Universities are facing a wider range of more intense competition. The impact of technological development and economic growth on society is a more critical issue than ever.

Over the next five years, DCU will meet these challenges by proactively influencing change at national and international level. The university will accomplish this: through a radical new focus on academic themes that transcend disciplinary boundaries; through building more strategic external partnerships; through harnessing the best of both new technology and face-to-face communication; through radical and creative approaches to its organisational and decision-making processes; and through strengthening the staff and student community. A particular emphasis will be on building ethical awareness in relation to all fields of university activity and in relation to national and global issues.

DCU, in the development of its selected strategic priorities during the planning period, will be a radical and innovative university. It will be strongly research led, and its focused research strategy, built around world class specialisms, will also help to assure excellence in teaching and learning.

Overall Objective:

  • DCU will be the leading Irish university, and will achieve national and international prominence in the targeted areas encompassed by its strategic themes.

2. A radical new focus

DCU is proactive in its portfolio of academic programmes and research, and will continue to develop and adjust this portfolio in the light of changing needs. It is DCU's policy that all teaching programmes are informed and animated by areas of world-class expertise within the university. Such expertise arises not only from basic research, but also from activities such as applied research, commercial spin-offs, consultancy, seminars and short courses, executive education, and publications.

DCU's strategic academic focus will be framed around a small number of cross-disciplinary strategic themes. The university's Colleges, Schools and Centres will contribute to the development of each of these themes, within a quality administrative and support infrastructure provided by the service units. As such, the themes will provide the framework for continuous cross-disciplinary collaboration, for investment in strategic initiatives, and for developing strategic external partnerships. They will provide a window from the external world into the work of the university. This approach represents a radical departure from the emphasis of most universities on traditional disciplinary frameworks.

The choice of these themes and what they contain is based on an assessment of both DCU's current relative strengths and emerging opportunities. Ongoing decisions on the detailed development of these themes, and the investment of resources in them, will be informed by a rigorous process based on detailed objective evidence as to their academic strength in DCU and/or the potential for future development of the themes. The pursuit and investment of resources in these thematic areas will be significant, urgent and selective.

Six academic themes have been selected for strategic development. They are:

(i) Communication, arts and culture

This theme addresses the links between communications (including the underlying technology), media, and the performing arts. Areas to be pursued within this theme include network technology and mobile communications, media and journalism, information filtering and digital technology, multicultural issues, translation studies and technology, Irish-medium education, foreign language pedagogy, and the performing arts.

(ii) Education and learning

This theme addresses technological and pedagogical development, particularly in higher education. Major issues here include the development of e-learning and enabling technology, of distance education and the challenge of lifelong learning. A further challenge is for DCU to advocate a radical enhancement of the school curriculum in science, making it exciting and attractive to young people. Obstacles faced by people who are socially disadvantaged, or who have disabilities, in accessing learning and education will be addressed.

(iii) Business and innovation

This theme addresses enterprise and innovation: e-business, internationalisation, and product and process innovation (including that of indigenous firms). This in turn must be supported by secure and reliable software and information systems. A further challenge is the area of governance and citizenship, including corporate accountability and regulation, and evolving models of corporate and political governance. The field of management learning, and relationship and knowledge management, is also increasingly central. Finally, financial markets are becoming increasingly critical and complex, requiring the development of sophisticated statistical models and insights.

(iv) Science, discovery and technological innovation

This theme recognises the key role played by scientific research and education in developing a knowledge-based society, which will safeguard and strengthen the future economic growth of the nation. Since its foundation, the university has encouraged interdisciplinary collaborations within and between its constituent Schools, a strategy which has resulted in the recent establishment of several National Research Centres, which are a key for continuing priority support. Among the areas which have emerged for potential future growth are: miniaturisation, measurement and signalling; mathematical modelling and scientific computing; smart materials: fabrication and engineering design; and science for a sustainable environment.

(v) Life sciences and health in society

This theme emphasises a proactive holistic approach to health in the community, rather than one of curing illness in institutions. It includes health promotion, the relationship between health and physical activity, and harnessing developments in biotechnology and related areas. Other areas to be pursued will be disease diagnosis and prevention technologies as well as environment and health monitoring technologies. Effective practical follow-through from research findings is a particular challenge in this area. Also on the agenda is pursuit of best practice in providing a safe and healthy environment in DCU for staff and students.

(vi) Social development and world order

This theme focuses on action-based research, in such fields as local economic and community development, quality of life issues, social equality, inclusion, and ecology. The university will offer support to the community and voluntary sector in developing research skills. Linkage between local and global issues, and the development of a political economy approach to Ireland's place in a globalised world order will be on the agenda. Specific emphasis will be given to the development of North Dublin, and on North-South co-operation in Ireland.

Objectives for the strategic themes:

  • DCU will be the leading centre of expertise in Ireland, and a leading centre internationally, in relation to each theme.
  • DCU will achieve national and international distinction in strategically targeted areas within each theme.
  • DCU will belong to an international network of institutions widely recognised as leading centres of expertise in relation to each theme.
  • In relation to each theme, DCU will be the preferred academic partner by key organisations in Ireland and overseas, whether public, private or voluntary.

3. A dynamic and flexible university

The focus on strategic themes will provide a framework for engaging more directly with decision-makers in government, industry, and the community, and influencing change in society. This in turn will mean developing to an even higher level than before the university's activity in research, consultancy and public information and debate. It will mean developing much greater emphasis on lifelong learning. It also means acting as an agent of social change through the university's own activities. Finally, to bring all of these developments to fruition the university needs to be as flexible and innovative as possible in its organisation, to encourage, support and promote its staff and students, and to stimulate creativity and innovation.

Creating knowledge to lead change

Over the coming five years DCU will be engaged in directly addressing the needs of the community on an even greater scale. There is an increasing need, and increasing government support, for lifelong learning, including continual professional development and adult education.

DCU will greatly strengthen its role in broadening and deepening the knowledge available to society through its research. There is - and there will continue to be during the lifetime of this plan - unprecedented funding for research. Support for developing and sustaining centres of research excellence and outstanding individual researchers will receive fund-raising priority. DCU will further strengthen its institutional research structures, facilities, processes of identifying priorities, and human resource policies in relation to research. This will be done with a view to retaining and attracting research talent capable of building or sustaining international leadership. A radical new research policy, detailed in the associated document DCU Strategic Research Plan 2001-2005, will be implemented to catalyse research activity across all disciplines.

Other areas which will become even more prominent within the portfolio of activities include postgraduate education, consultancy, executive education, commercial spin-offs, conferences, seminars, and publications, and stimulating public awareness and debate. To develop these activities successfully, DCU will provide more systematic support and incentives. Effective policies and structures will support executive education and consultancy. DCU will be a leading source in Ireland of knowledge-intensive business start-ups. DCU will play a leading role in raising public awareness of, and stimulating debate about, ethical issues.

DCU will purposefully build strategic partnerships nationally and internationally with academic and non-academic organisations as a vital support for developing all of these activities. It will aim to be part of a focused international alliance, with presence in selected regions, with co-operative activities in key areas of research and education. DCU will be looked to by key external organisations in Ireland and elsewhere as the preferred source of support, advice and expertise in relation to its themes of strategic academic focus.


  • Revenue deriving from activities and initiatives other than the provision of full-time, campus-based undergraduate teaching programmes will continue to grow, and should grow to more than match the revenue from such programmes by the end of the planning period.

The networking university: a learning community

Universities have traditionally tended to see themselves as self-contained; they have seen external relationships as peripheral, and have developed them in an ad hoc way. This approach is no longer viable. Universities must become more accessible, not only to new types of students but also to external partnerships and stakeholders. They must harness the learning opportunities offered by new technology, and must build a dynamic interaction between theory and practice. These imperatives will inform the development of DCU's educational strategy, which will be further elaborated in a separate strategic action plan.

DCU already has a strong reputation for the quality of its education programmes; over the coming five years the quality of its education and learning provision will be even further enhanced. The university will develop an e-university strategy combining technology-assisted methods with traditional learning methods. DCU will harness the development of information and communication technologies to address more effectively its key educational objectives, and to enable it to link more effectively with the external community. Such objectives include deepening the quality of learning, more effective symbiosis between personal and professional development, more critical thinking and social awareness, broader access to learning for all - including those with disabilities.

Critical to achieving these objectives will also be the strengthening of the campus as a vibrant social and learning environment and the pursuit of a holistic approach to student development. Students are an integral part of the university community and are partners in the process of discovery. The university will further strengthen synergy between teaching and research, and opportunities for students to contribute to research, explore issues and share their findings with the wider community.

This strategy also aims to enhance lifelong learning and to broaden access to university education of targeted groups (including disadvantaged persons and practicing professionals). It will also allow the university to work in partnership with the wider national and international community, especially the business and voluntary sectors, and to strengthen the dialogue between academics and professionals.


  • DCU will be an international leader in developing and implementing the concept of the e-university,  including in the dissemination of knowledge.
  • DCU will be the national leader in the provision of lifelong learning.
  • The interaction between theory and practice, and between personal and professional development, will be recognised as a hallmark of DCU education.
  • The quality of social and campus life in DCU, and the promotion of student well-being, will be regarded as a strength of the university.

A catalyst for social development

DCU is committed to the goal of equitable, sustainable and healthy social development within the university community, locally and regionally, nationally and globally. It will seek to foster a sense of responsible global citizenship among all staff and students.

There are continuing, and in some cases deepening, patterns of exclusion and inequality in a time of rapid economic growth. Such exclusion can arise, for example, from socio-economic disadvantage, disability, or ethnic background. These patterns are reflected in all Irish universities. DCU will introduce initiatives to improve participation in all areas of the university by people from marginalised groups.

While North Dublin, DCU's home region, includes concentrations of social disadvantage, there are now new opportunities for development, including along the M50 corridor. DCU can play a powerful role in helping to exploit such opportunities and in tackling disadvantage in the region. North-South co-operation in Ireland, and the Dublin-Belfast corridor are a particular concern of DCU, as is the related development of the British-Irish relationship.


  • Ambitious access targets will be set and met for people with disabilities, mature learners, ethnic minorities, and people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • DCU will play a leading role in the ongoing social and economic development of the North Dublin region, including in tackling social exclusion and in providing support for the community and voluntary sectors in the region.
  • All DCU programmes will include an element explicitly designed to promote responsible local and global citizenship.
  • DCU will be the leading academic champion for North-South co-operation.

A more flexible organisation

DCU has grown rapidly, and this process places strains on organisational structures which require a regular reassessment of fitness for purpose. In addition, new competitors are emerging, which exhibit an ability to be flexible and responsive. Most of all perhaps, there is the strategically critical challenge of attracting and retaining high calibre staff - support and technical staff as well as teaching and research staff - in a growing economy. For all these reasons, DCU will review and continually improve the internal processes by which the organisation operates.

To enable the university to build its position as a dynamic innovator, support must be strengthened for innovation and enterprise within the university. Processes need to be streamlined so as to maximise opportunities for staff to be creative and innovative.

DCU will pursue a culture of partnership, dignity, diversity, equality and respect for all individuals. The university's overall strategic plan, the strategic plans of faculties, Schools and units, and individual professional and personal development plans should inform one another, and be compatible with one another. There will also be regular reviews to ensure the most effective delegation and devolution of decision-making, along with regular reviews of the impact of those decisions. In general decisions will be made on the basis of consultation with those who will be most closely affected by them.


  • DCU will be the university of choice for people aspiring to work in higher education.
  • The attitude to all staff by management, to management by staff, and by staff to one another, will based on a culture of partnership, affirmation and respect.
  • Leadership practice will be based on clear standards; all staff will take responsibility for the impact they make as individuals on the quality of life in the University.
  • DCU will have an organisation that is innovative, pro-active and responsive, with speedy and non-bureaucratic decision-making processes, and will be known for this.
  • Decision-making will be based on transparent goal-setting, resourcing, measurement of outcomes, and agreed review and evaluation procedures.
  • DCU will represent best practice in relation to equality issues.