As we approach the second anniversary of the beginning of the pandemic, it is difficult not to be seized by the extent to which the events of the past two years have affected virtually every aspect of our lives. In the lead-up to March 2020, the word “disruption” was a platitude of startups and tech companies eager to overturn traditional practices. But the pandemic has gone one step further, disrupting the disrupters, upending our conventional modes of living and working, and accelerating progress almost universally.
In the higher education sector, the pandemic has propelled us into a new era of pedagogical innovation and fast-forwarded the adoption of remote teaching and learning models. But many questions about the future of higher education remain, including the fundamental question of the role of universities in the 21st century.
As a modern university, York continues to act as an anchor institution – a hub for surrounding communities, an incubator of ideas and innovation, and a space where university and city, academia and industry, people and culture can come together to drive positive change locally and globally.
And so we are thrilled to have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to envision, shape and develop a truly community-engaged university campus through the implementation of Living Well Together: Keele Campus Vision and Strategy. Launched in December 2021, the strategy serves to embed our core principles of social and environmental responsibility – and our ongoing commitment to Indigenous reconciliation – within our plans to reimagine more than 77 hectares of land on our Keele Campus, beginning with the reinvigoration of the Harry W. Arthurs Common and setting out four new neighbourhoods within the campus: a commercial centre, a high-tech district, a primarily residential district, and a mixed-use residential, commercial and athletic neighbourhood.
Drawing on the strengths of the six priority areas identified in the University Academic Plan 2020–2025: Building a Better Future, and underscored by the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, this innovative plan recognizes the immense social value that can be achieved when a university is well-integrated – creating a vibrant, safe and highly functional community-centred campus that benefits students, faculty, staff, our neighbours and our many partners.
The pandemic has reminded us that we must continue to challenge the traditional notion of what a university can offer, and Living Well Together: Keele Campus Vision and Strategy does just that.
Universities educate for individual and collective capacity, expand knowledge and address society’s most pressing social, economic and environmental challenges. We can play this role in a way that is insular and self-limiting or in a way that is inclusive and expansive, the better to maximize complementary societal benefit.
With our new Keele Campus Vision and Strategy, we are choosing the latter approach – one that builds on the lessons we have learned from the disruption of the past two years while keeping its sights set firmly on the future. ■