DCU strategic plan seeks to tackle global challenges

20 Sep 2017

From left: DCU alumna and event MC Caoimhe Ní Chathail; Minister Richard Bruton, TD; DCU Students’ Union president Niall Behan; and DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith pictured at the launch of the university’s five-year strategic plan. Image: Nick Bradshaw

Dublin City University’s new five-year strategic plan puts the focus on creativity, lifelong learning and sustainability. Claire O’Connell reports from the launch.

Dublin City University (DCU) has a new plan for the next five years, and it takes the global view.

Launched today (20 September), the 2017-2022 strategic plan bears the title Talent, Discovery and Transformation, and it puts a strong emphasis on creativity, sustainability and the integration of technology across all aspects of teaching, learning, research and innovation.

In practice, that will mean new spaces and ways to foster learning, culture and collaboration; a strong emphasis on multidisciplinary research; and more links with local, national and international communities.

Extensive consultation

The main themes of the plan arose through extensive consultation with the DCU community, according to DCU deputy president Prof Daire Keogh, who described how one online event – DCU Fuse – resulted in 5,400 ideas being expressed and around 68,000 page views in just 24 hours.

The consultations eventually crystallised around six themes – talent, discovery, creativity, society, technology and sustainability – that form the bedrock of the new plan.

Specific aims within those themes include greater access to education; more international research collaboration; a Brexit institute to explore the impact of Brexit on government, business and society; new and extended initiatives to increase diversity and inclusion; and the development of a cultural quarter in the area and a carbon-neutral campus.


Introducing the second strategic plan he has stewarded for the university, DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith put the vision in context, citing the changing world of work, geopolitics and the environment.

“Our purpose will be to address major challenges facing the world today, to develop the talent and the knowledge [to tackle them],” he said. “In tackling challenges of an era of unprecedented change, we see unprecedented opportunities.”

Creating new ideas

Creativity and culture form strong strands through the fabric of the strategic plan and, among other targets, the university plans to open up its spaces and cultural assets to create a north Dublin cultural quarter and to establish a DCU institute of creativity focused on scholarship, outreach and education.

The university’s innovation campus, DCU Alpha, will host a maker space and, with Intel, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) hackathon events that meld the creative and performing arts with technology.

The hackathon events, the first of which takes place in October, will explore a “rich vein of possibilities” to encourage innovation at the intersections between STEM and the arts, MacCraith told Siliconrepublic.com.

“We are very excited about what will emerge there,” he said. “And, more broadly, our focus on creativity and culture is university-wide. We want to foster an environment where they can flourish and we want to create space for the sharing of ideas. I think interesting things will happen.”


Sustainability and lifelong learning also shine through the pages of the plan. MacCraith described how sustainability would not only be woven throughout the student curriculum to engender a more conscious mindset, but that the university would also ‘walk the walk’ and put sustainable operations in place, including making one of the campuses carbon neutral.

“We want to create a culture of sustainability,” he said.

Education, too, should be accessible and sustainable, and the strategic plan points to developments such as a broader access programme for students who might not otherwise be able to avail of third-level education, a digital campus, extended online access to resources – including DCU massive open online courses (MOOCs) on the FutureLearn platform – and more opportunities for lifelong learning.

This was particularly welcomed by Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton, TD, who spoke at the launch about the central role of education for science, enterprise and culture, and also about breaking down barriers and creating a fairer society.

Minister Richard Bruton, TD, speaks at the launch of DCU’s strategic plan. Image: Nick Bradshaw

Minister Richard Bruton, TD, speaks at the launch of DCU’s strategic plan. Image: Nick Bradshaw

Students at forefront

DCU Students’ Union president Niall Behan welcomed the strategic plan at the launch, saying that it was “truly reassuring to see that students will be at the forefront of this university going forward with this strategy here today”.

Behan particularly looks forward to the opening of the new student centre on the Glasnevin campus next spring, and the announcement of a new student engagement award.

“I am passionate about the overall holistic education of the students, the lived and learned experience,” he said, applauding the plan’s emphasis on developing student talent.

“There is also a huge emphasis on ensuring students have a 21st-century skill set and attributes that will qualify students for a dynamic online world, as well as being adaptable to the global environment.”

Purposefully different

MacCraith spoke of the valuable role of universities in providing quality education and knowledge as he looked to the coming years.

“We will be a university of transformation, we will be a university of enterprise,” he said.

“DCU will be purposefully different and DCU will aim to be consistently excellent.”

Dr Claire O’Connell is a scientist-turned-writer with a PhD in cell biology and a master’s in science communication