That mission thing

June 10, 2010

THE's excellent analysis "Soul searching, not soul stirring" (20 May) missed two important aspects of the process of creating believable, evocative and meaningful mission statements.

First, if the process is handled well, it encourages people to buy into the goals and the "big idea" of the university in which they work. Staff, students and alumni can begin to get excited about what their institution stands for.

This process and its outcome provide a believable vocabulary for talking about the institution - something absent from many British universities. It enables them to answer the question posed by Michael Wolff, founder of brand consultancy Wolff Olins: "What is the point of you?"

Second, the answer to Wolff's question provides the scaffolding around which the university can talk about itself publicly. With the lobbying of government and private fundraising likely to become increasingly important in the next few years, universities are going to need vice-chancellors, staff, alumni and governors who can articulate the distinctive contributions their institutions make to the world.

A good mission statement that genuinely speaks with the voice of the university and that can survive being tested, prodded and, above all, used will make this task far easier.

Adrian P. Beney, Iain More Associates, Durham.

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