2.3 Promoting renewal through the organisational culture

Auditointiryhmän arvio

University actively promotes an innovative organisational culture

According to the audit visit, the higher education community were clearly very proud of their university. At the audit workshop, staff spoke about a sense of belonging to the university and a purpose to their work. The rich variety of disciplines, the culture of openness to different ideas, new insights and moving towards internationalisation were highlighted as strengths of the university. The university was considered as alive, brave, and not afraid of challenges.

Based on the audit visit, the UL demonstrated a commitment to cultivating an innovative organisational culture by encouraging experimental activities within the university and with partners both nationally and internationally. There was a lot of space for grass-root-level innovations and initiatives, to work with local communities, businesses and with international partner universities. The university used a project-based approach often linked to additional funding to promote interdisciplinary projects, upcoming topical issues such as AI, and the personal development of its staff. One of the initiatives included enhancement-led visits to different faculties and academies with the aim to boost quality, exchange practices and to strengthen cooperation within the university (see also the discussion in Chapter 3.3).

Based on the teaching staff workshop, the staff were encouraged to be innovative, to try new ideas, and to develop their knowledge and skills both in research and educational provision. Examples mentioned included the INOVUP teaching and learning workshops, UL support for the digitalisation of teaching and learning, various university- and faculty-level pedagogical and research conferences, and professional faculty gatherings and meetings.

A key strength of the UL was its culture of self-reflection, self-development, and self-renewal. This ethos was embraced across various groups, reflecting a shared commitment to personal and institutional growth. The UL staff were involved and invited to participate actively at the university. There was also clear encouragement for international cooperation and mobility, attending international and national conferences, and various other ways for staying up to date with latest developments and trends. All this strengthened the conditions for a creative atmosphere. On the other hand, a lack of time was mentioned by several interviewees and workshop participants as one of the main obstacles to innovation and attending various offerings at the university. Especially the administrative burden of the academic staff was considered high, as discussed elsewhere in this report.

The UL demonstrated its aspiration to be a learning organisation by actively benchmarking itself against international peers and drawing insights from leading universities worldwide. This was a clear sign of its dedication to ongoing improvement and innovation. On the other hand, there would be ample opportunities for benchlearning merely within the university. According to the audit visit, there was unused potential at the university in terms of cross-faculty and interdisciplinary collaboration, sharing and learning. This was highlighted by the interviewees and particularly by staff who participated in the audit workshop. There was a desire among the staff to work more together and to get to know each other better within the university. Working more together, the university could achieve much more, learn a lot and much faster, as mentioned in the workshop.

The university is working in an agile way with its external stakeholders

As discussed above, the UL effectively engages with external stakeholders, including media, industry partners, ministries, and society. The university has a central position in Slovenia and is networked both with public and private sector organisations with many alumni and former academic staff members of the university working in several key positions in the country. The UL is active in transferring its research and activities to the public, e.g., by frequently organising or taking part in events in Ljubljana. Further enhancing public involvement in research and embracing citizen science could facilitate broader engagement and strengthen the societal impact of research projects. Among others, the academic staff highlighted the need to strengthen the role of science and scientific argument in wider society. The cooperation with other universities in Slovenia was less described during the audit visit. Such cooperation takes place through different national networks and collaboration projects, such as the UNI.MINDS project to showcase best practices of collaboration with the commercial sector, and the INOVUP project improving the quality of higher education.

The industry partners described the cooperation with their university partners as very agile for a such a large university. The university’s receptiveness to the needs of society and industry when planning study programmes and course content was commendable. Based on the audit, most of the collaboration takes place at the faculty level mainly due to the decentralised nature of the university. Some representatives for external stakeholders and staff considered interdisciplinary projects involving several faculties of the university as challenging due to the different systems in place in each faculty. This is one of the key challenges for the university for the future. The need for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to meet the future needs of the labour market and society were recognised by several interviewees. The university needs to maintain its agility and good existing cooperation with its external stakeholders, but at the same time promote and facilitate more efficient and flexible cross-faculty interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary cooperation internally and externally.

The university actively uses international cooperation and networks for enhancement

The UL’s participation in European projects signifies its active role and commitment to the broader European research agenda. The diverse range of projects undertaken by academic staff across various disciplines highlights the university’s capability to contribute to and benefit from the collective European research and innovation efforts. The UL’s involvement in international networks, such as EUTOPIA, highlights its commitment to enhancing its activities through global collaborations. This network provides a platform for sharing best practices and insights from partner institutions. The UL has a wide range of international cooperation agreements and over 200 partners globally with the intention to use international partnerships and networks for quality assurance and development. The number of international agreements is not relevant but the quality and content of those agreements. Therefore, the UL’s intention to consolidate the international network is encouraged. This would allow more efficient management of agreements and better and systematic evaluation of the impact of the respective cooperation.

Cooperation with alumni and continuous network management

The UL collaborates with its alumni and utilises the alumni network to enhance its activities. The university’s extensive national networks, which include alumni and partnerships with local and regional companies, strengthen its linkage with the outside world. These connections foster collaboration, knowledge exchange and innovation that transcend academic boundaries. Collaboration with the alumni is a significant strength of the UL, and it is evident that this cooperation is robust with 63 alumni clubs integrated into the UL Alumni Clubs Association. Alumni activities are also well integrated into university initiatives. The institution engages the alumni effectively, involving them in mentoring programmes, shadowing, and collaborative activities at both national and international levels. The university leverages its strong alumni network to host networking events, guest lectures, different events and seminars, mentoring programmes, its own surveys, social media accounts, alumni portal and a podcast for alumni called “Alumni Talk” further integrating alumni into its activities. The management of the clubs are supported by organising training events and meetings by the university. While these processes seem more activity-oriented, the university could benefit from a more goal-oriented approach in its alumni and network management. There is room for improvement in the continuous management and updates of alumni and stakeholder networks to ensure their sustained relevance and impact.