The strategic aims
The strategic aims identified in the development plan of the Scuola Normale Superiore are to rise in particular to six challenges:
* The impact of research on social and economic development [aim 2; aim 5; aim 6; aim 7; aim 8]
* The competitiveness of the national and international university systems [aim 1; aim 2; aim 4; aim 5; aim 6; aim 7; aim 10]
* Social integration, inclusion and equity [aim 3; aim 7; aim 8]
* Economic and environmental sustainability [aim 6, aim 7; aim 9]
* The strengthening of the brand [aim 1; aim 3; aim 4; aim 5; aim 6; aim 7; aim 8]
* Quality, transparency and participation [aim 1; aim 8; aim 9; aim 10]
Aim 1: The services for students.
The central position of students and of the collegial life of the Normale needs to be incentivised and supported by means of strategic planning and careful management of the teaching and services. The planning of the teaching, the delivery of the courses, the relationships with the partner universities, the mentoring, counselling and placement services and mobility are strong points of the Normale model, but they must be organised in a more functional, coherent and organic management that capitalises on resources and encourages internal synergies and the extension and strengthening of networks of excellence in the public and private spheres. Mapping of the processes, collection of data, consolidation of good practice, revision and functionalisation of the regulations are tools to be refined in all the priority actions identified by the aim.
Challenges: The competitiveness of the national and international university systems, the strengthening of the brand, Quality, transparency and participation.
Aim 2: Doctoral education
The organisation of the PhD courses plays a crucial role in the strengthening of the research and teaching fields, a priority and transversal aim of the Normale. To achieve this aim, we need to respond to the external input (criteria for the accreditation of the Institutes of higher education with a special status and subsequent ministerial planning with reference to doctoral education) and to focus on certain priority actions, such as strengthening and increasing international attractiveness, trying out and promoting interdisciplinary and transversal studies and skills, incentivising the participation of PhD students in joint and institutional projects, developing frontier research projects and encouraging mobility abroad.
Challenges: The competitiveness of the national and international university systems, the impact of research on social and economic development.
Aim 3: Social mobility and gender gap
The Normale, thanks to the quality and free nature of the services it offers, is able to make use of tools that are fundamental to its necessary and welcome role of furthering students' prospects of moving up the social ladder, and of incentivising students' territorial mobility; these aspects, however, can be further enhanced through the strengthening of the brand and specific Third Mission activities. In addition, a strategy needs to be worked out to bridge the gender gap between male and female students at the Normale, where the number of women who apply and are subsequently admitted is considerable lower than that of men. Hence the Normale presents a different picture from that of the Italian universities in general, in which the number of applications and enrolments shows a prevalence of women. A strategy must therefore be planned for the achievement of gender balance at the Normale; the organisation and management of the university orientation courses can play a vital role in this strategy, through the distribution of ex post questionnaires shedding light on the choices of male and female students and on the reasons for the reluctance of women to apply for admission to the Normale, the inclusion in the orientation course programmes of the theme of gender bias and the inclusion of at least 50% of women lecturers and mentors in all the disciplinary areas.
Challenges: Integration, social inclusion and equity, the strengthening of the brand.
Aim 4: International placing and development of the Alumni network
The Normale, albeit emerging as among the best universities at international level in the disciplines of reference, needs to improve and consolidate its reputation and attractiveness. It is for this reason that, in addition to identifying the best strategies for achieving important placings in international rankings and emphasising the results of its research in the context of the next VQR, actions need to be put into place in order to increase the number of visiting lecturers, researchers and students from abroad, to encourage mobility abroad for its own researchers and students and their participation in exchanges and collaborations, and to valorise the outcomes of projects inherent to the Departments of Excellence.
In addition, a planned development of the Alumni network will considerably enhance the reputation of the Normale and its role in education and in the context of the RDI. The Alumni can be asked to provide testimonials for the Normale in the various work and network environments to which they belong, carry out mentoring and placement activities for students and take part in fundraising initiatives.
Challenges: The competitiveness of the national and international university systems, the strengthening of the brand.
Aim 5: Strategies for recruitment of academic staff and researchers
The hirings of type B researchers of both genders in the last three-year period, together with the potential career advancements of researchers of both genders on permanent contract in possession of the national scientific qualification, will lead to a substantial equalising of the number of full and associate male and female professors. This is not in line with the tradition of the Normale, and could have a considerable impact on its governance.
In the light of these considerations, the future lines of intervention will be as follows: the completion of the hirings envisaged within the Department of Excellence of the Sciences; the use of resources – present and future - deriving from special plans for the recruitment of Type B researchers of both genders to cover only those teaching and scientific needs arising from the resignation or transfer of associate professors, with a view to adding younger members to the teaching body; a greater opening up of the Normale to the creation of posts for young men and women who are winners of particularly competitive projects; the creation of posts for full and associate male and female professors or for researchers on contract on the basis of funding external to the Normale.
With particular reference to the covering of posts for full professors, the possibility will also be considered of direct calls adopting high selection standards, which in the past has proved useful for recruiting high-profile figures.
Challenges: the impact of research on social and economic development, the competitiveness of the national and international university systems, the strengthening of the brand.
Aim 6: Enhancement and development of participation in networks for the funding of research and initiatives for technological transfer
The Normale presents placings worthy of merit regarding the ministerial contribution to the projects, in particular in the context of PRIN, whereas at European level it is placed only in the highest band of the lines of funding (ERC, Marie Curie). Its scant presence in other European calls can be attributed to a limited knowledge of the opportunities that exist and a poor capacity to create networking, as well as the lack of incentivisation tools and forms of rewarding linked to participation in calls. Hence in the next three-year period the following actions will be necessary: to exploit the existing networking channels (including that of the incoming visitors) and to set up others; to enhance the skills of the support personnel in the identification of the calls, the setting out of the proposals and the analysis of the assessment reports; to incentivise participation within the Scuola in project proposals within the European programmes; to valorise the results of projects by communicative means of impact, both internal and external, as well as the potential initiatives and the results inherent to technological transfer, creating a profitable channel of exchange and communication between third party partners and the Scuola Normale.
Challenges: the impact of research on social and economic development, the competitiveness of the national and international university systems, the strengthening of the brand, economic and environmental sustainability.
Aim 7: The development of Open Science
For the European Commission (EC), a top priority is the close connection between the research policies of the universities and the maximum visibility and impact of the results, both in the scientific community and in society. In line with the EC, the MIUR – together with other national funders – and the CRUI consider open access to the results of research and to raw data to be an indispensable tool for the free dissemination of science.
Through the practices of Open Science, the Normale proposes to overcome the problems of financial sustainability of the costs of access to scientific production, but above all to speed up the development of research and to promote its social impact within the tradition that has always characterised it: the promotion of merit and of culture to the benefit of all. It will thus be necessary to strengthen and implement the Normale's open access archive, subjecting to an institutional regulation the store of scientific literature produced by the research staff. These actions will need to be accompanied by a commitment to the dissemination of the Open Science culture within the community of the Normale, through the organisation of workshops and the creation and dissemination of informative material.
Challenges: Integration, social inclusion and equity, the impact of research on social and economic development, economic and environmental sustainability, the competitiveness of the national and international university systems, the strengthening of the brand.
Aim 8: Impact policies and actions in the Third Mission
The contribution of the Normale to the dissemination of research and to the transfer of knowledge is recognised at local and national level. The Normale, moreover, is able to bridge the strictly territorial divide and overcome the intrinsically temporal nature of the individual events organised, by the filing and publication on the web of the related videos.
Such a wide range of events in person and of video contributions in exponential growth requires a more structured planning and management: the numerous Third Mission activities, and in particular those of social and cultural impact, must be subjected to a strategic planning – set out in a document shared with the authorities and the community of the Normale – lending greater coherence and visibility to the various initiatives, consolidating the cultural brand of the Normale and leading to the creation of a data bank of indices of approval and/or impact.
Planning must include the strategy of digital communication; the Web and the social media offer efficacious solutions for developing in an organised manner a communication of the research that actively involves a very wide audience: they enable the identification and reaching of the established targets, offer spaces for the sharing and creation of contents, enable surveys and consultations and provide traceable feedback. Digital narration and the social channels, if inserted into a wider outreach planning strategy of the Normale, can also support and amplify the impact of the traditional communication in presentia.
Challenges: Integration, social inclusion and equity, the impact of research on social and economic development, the strengthening of the brand, Quality, transparency and participation.
Aim 9: Strategies for the economic sustainability of the campus
The economic and financial sustainability of the Normale will need careful monitoring in the next few years in order to come to grips with the external context, which is uncertain and with diminishing funding, as well as the internal context, for an adequate valorisation of its activities. An initial important step will be to increase the participation, and hence the awareness, of the community of the Normale regarding its budget and its economic and financial dynamics, with meetings for dissemination of information tailored to the various components.
In order to be able to identify with any accuracy the areas and actions of improvement, in-depth studies and investigations will have to be carried out on the budget items, including by means of benchmarking analyses on shared indicators with the other Scuole with a special status. In addition, regarding budgeting, reporting and analytical accounting, there will need to be an assessment of the opportunities and modes of creating a management control model which will adapt to the special characteristics of the Normale and facilitate the planning of its aims and the monitoring of the results obtained.
Economic sustainability is also attained through energy efficiency on the campus of the Normale, placed as it is within the cities of Pisa and Florence and with a heritage of movable property and real estate, much of it of historical-artistic significance, that has grown with time. A further step is now needed in the direction of a sustainable environment; for this purpose, besides carrying out the works already planned, the intention is to join the International Sustainable Campus Network.
Challenges: Economic and environmental sustainability, Quality, transparency and participation.
Aim 10: Processes of quality assurance and strategic control
Over the years, in several deeds and documents, the Normale has brought the levels of its activities in line with the qualitative standards in its various institutional fields: Teaching, Research, Services and Third Mission. Moreover, in 2018, in compliance with the orientations of the legislators in terms of quality, the Scuola set in motion an intensive process of blending these standards within a system of policies and of quality assurance. The concept of quality, for the Normale, is essentially the product of the interaction between lecturers, students and the learning context of the institution. This strategic aim is meant to intervene in the areas of planning and quality assurance and of the initial and periodic accreditation of the Normale, and to set up a “directional dashboard” that will periodically provide the authorities with a synthesis of the information handled and the measurement of the performance parameters.
Challenges: Competitiveness of the national and international university systems, Quality, transparency and participation.