I’d like to thank you for the many cards and good wishes I’ve had from staff and students. I really enjoyed the event on Friday even if the weather wasn’t quite what we’d have hoped for. I am really grateful to you for all the hard work you do for the University. We make an enormous difference to the lives of so many of our students and their families, and to the life of the city and the region. We may work in an increasingly relentless and market-driven environment but one of the things that marks Bradford out is its continuing commitment to the work a University can do for the public good and for the communities that we serve. Long may that continue.
Thanks again for all your hard work and commitment over the years and the very best of luck in the future.
A successful ‘Party on the Amp’ marked the traditional end of term for our students and I know that many staff are now busy with marking, arrangements for exam boards and preparations for July’s awards ceremonies. My thanks to everyone for dealing with what can be a very pressured time. I do hope the rewards when you see our students graduate make the effort worthwhile. The Students’ Union’s new Sabbatical officers will be taking over later this month and I wanted to thank the outgoing team and wish the new officers good luck over the next academic year.
re:Centre and the STEM Building
You will have hopefully seen that the STEM Building is now complete and that we are close to the handover of the new Sustainable Enterprise Centre which will become known as the re:Centre, reflecting the role it will play in coordinating and developing our work on sustainability and the new circular economy.
We are planning a formal opening of the building later in the year and are continuing to work closely with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in the delivery of a range of business-focused programmes on a global basis. We also hosted a visit by the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, Gregory Barker, last month to showcase our work on sustainability and the role of the re:Centre within it.
The new STEM building will provide facilities for incoming school groups across the district as well as providing first class laboratory facilities for students at the University.
We need to continue to focus on the underlying issues we have in relation to our league table position. You will be aware of the continued focus on both our entry tariff for new students and our good honours rates because they significantly depress our position in all of the key league tables that will appear in the next month or so. We have consistently grown our average tariff over the last four years and need to maintain that trajectory. We continue to focus on improving our good honours. That needs to deliver results in the next couple of years if we are to move back up the tables. We have also been actively recruiting more staff over the last six months or so, both to improve our staff-student ratios, and to help in the Research Excellence Framework submission.
My thanks to staff who encouraged students to complete the National Student Survey this year. Our completion rate was at almost exactly the same rate as last year thanks to some great last-minute efforts by staff. We will get summary results in late-August which will also be an important component of our League table position. We have improved the outcomes over the last four or five years but so too have other universities, often at a faster rate. I look forward to seeing the impact of the the improvements in the curriculum and in Learning and Teaching we are bringing in that will improve the student experience.
The HE sector is becoming an increasingly competitive marketplace. Our work with schools and colleges, applicant events, communications through the website and social media, are just some of the vital components of helping us to achieve our recruitment targets.
This year we are delivering an advertising campaign called ‘Be Outstanding’ to aid our recruitment efforts, which you will see appear on outdoor advertising sites in the next few weeks. The campaign uses our own outstanding students and alumni to get across what the University of Bradford has to offer. You can get a sneak preview of some of the designs and learn more about the campaign by visiting http://www.bradford.ac.uk/marketing-and-communications/ug-2014-campaign/
Our Open Days are also central to our recruitment efforts and our next events will be taking place on Friday 5, and Saturday 6 July. Open Days are a key part of the decision making process for students and, when surveyed, over 90% of our visitors said that they were more likely to apply to the University following the event. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the many staff involved in organising and running these crucial events.
The National Media Museum
Many staff and students will be aware of recent media coverage about the possible funding cuts to the Science Museum Group and the impact this could potentially have on the National Media Museum here in Bradford. Read my thoughts here.
Chair of Council, Paul Jagger, has recently announced that our incoming Vice-Chancellor, Brian Cantor, has agreed to work alongside the senior management team in the period July to September and that Sue Kershaw will be Acting Chief Executive in that period. I hope that this arrangement will allow for a smooth transition. It also means you can get rid of me at the end of June as originally planned! I know that Brian has already met with some staff and has a full diary of meetings over the next few months. He has commented to me how friendly people have been. That is not a surprise to me – if Brian is able to receive the kind of welcome and friendship that I have found in the time I have been here he will be very lucky indeed.
Congratulations to our Head of Finance, Angela Dobrucki who recently received a Yorkshire Rising Stars of the Year Award in the Not for Profit category. Angela received her award at a ceremony in May.
Blackburn’s Precision Polymer Engineering (PPE), who design, develop and produce rubber gaskets and rubber components for industries around the world, has partnered with Ben Whiteside and team in the Centre for Polymer Micro and Nano Technology on a two year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project valued at £120,000. The KTP project will develop a new production cell facility for manufacturing ultra-high precision, small and micro-sized elastomeric sealing components.
Victoria Lavis in the School of Social and International Studies has been awarded £650,000 from Economic and Social Research Council for an inquiry in to the response to diversity in three Yorkshire prisons.
Knowledge Transfer Partnership associates Tarik Saneecharaun, Sharon Zhu and Tahereh Ghazaany have been nominated for the prestigious Business Leader of Tomorrow Award. Tarik is working with Watson Smith Ltd of Leeds, part of the Norgren Group and Dr Peter Olley and Professor Andrew Day, in the School of Engineering, Design and Technology. Sharon and Tahereh are working with Datong Plc. and Professor Raed Abd-Alhameed also in the School of Engineering, Design and Technology. The winners of this award will be announced in late July after panel interviews with shortlisted candidates.
Congratulations to all.
Many staff and students will be aware of recent media coverage about the possible funding cuts to the Science Museum Group and the impact this could potentially have on the National Media Museum here in Bradford. While we are yet to learn if the group’s funding will be cut, and what this might mean for the museum in Bradford, I was pleased to see the announcement yesterday of an inquiry by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee into the Science Museum Group’s proposed response to any further cuts in funding.
We have a strong and long standing relationship with the Museum, which sees many of our students and staff collaborating with the museum each year. It plays a huge part in attracting students to our city and is a fantastic asset for the Bradford community.
We will, of course, offer whatever support we can to the National Media Museum as it looks to secure its future and I know that many staff and students are among over 30,000 signatories of the online petition that has been set up.
I’m delighted to be among the first to congratulate Professor Brian Cantor on his appointment as the next Vice-Chancellor of the University. Brian has had a highly distinguished career as an academic in the field of engineering and for the last ten years has been a very successful VC at the University of York.
I know him well from meetings of Yorkshire Universities as well as through our membership of a number of Science and Innovation Boards in Yorkshire. I know he is very excited about working at Bradford and will bring great energy, commitment and vision to the role. I am sure colleagues across the University will both welcome Brian and commit to working with him for the benefit of the University.
Brian will take over the role on October 1 2013. As I’ve noted before I was intending to leave my post at the end of June but, in order to ensure there is a smooth transition period for Brian, I will continue formally as the VC until Brian arrives. On the positive side I hope this arrangement will help Brian settle in to the University. On the negative side it does mean you’ll all have to put up with me for a few weeks more!
I do hope that colleagues managed a break at some point over Easter despite the unseasonably cold weather (OK- I am a soft southerner but surely it was a bit cold…). It has been good to see the students back and the library and Student Central busy again.
At our Senate meeting at the end of March the case for the merger of SCIM and EDT was agreed in principle and the process of looking at the detailed arrangements for the change has started. It has been really good to have a positive lead from the schools which, whilst acknowledging the work that needs to be done, recognises the potential advantages to be gained from the change. We will be working hard with staff and students to support the change and we will be considering carefully the investment needs of the merged entity if it is to develop and grow its teaching and research in the way anticipated by the plans.
Senate also discussed plans in place for the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) institutional review due to take place sometime in 2014. We want to make sure we are well prepared for this and, in particular, that we are able to work closely with our student representatives in preparing our self- evaluation documents and in discussing issues and initiatives with the QAA assessors.
National Student Survey (NSS)
Many thanks to staff who have continued to encourage as many of our final year students as possible to complete their NSS returns. Despite these efforts we are still lagging behind where we were last year and some way short of our target of trying to ensure 70% of our students complete NSS. In some areas, such as Chemical & Forensic Sciences, Physio, Media Studies and Midwifery, the turnout has been very impressive, but this is not the case across the University. Given that some of the best performers in the sector routinely get over 75% of their students to complete the NSS we really ought to be able to achieve better than our current returns.
In general the more students who complete NSS, the better the overall results are when they are announced in August. Increasing our NSS returns is a good way of helping to improve our overall scores which we know are a key component of most league tables and also feature in the key information sets that prospective students use in choosing where to apply.
Higher Education budgets
The University received its budget updates from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) at the end of last month. Happily there were no unpleasant surprises and we were broadly in the position that we had modelled at the end of last year. We are now seeing the dramatic cuts in the size of the teaching allocations from HEFCE which are being replaced by contributions from the raised tuition fees that took effect in September 2012. The research and science budgets continue to receive a degree of protection but that will be increasingly difficult for HEFCE to sustain. It is also likely that there will be continuing pressure on the widening participation budget which may potentially impact on us in the next couple of years.
The overall impact of the budget in March is generally gloomy. Our main funding department, Business, Innovation and Skills is likely to see additional cuts of 1% in 13/14 and 2% in 14/15 and, given that the HE budget takes the lion’s share of BIS, this cannot but impact on HEFCE budgets in the future.
re:centre at the University of Bradford will open its doors in June and will provide a new space for research, regeneration, reinvention and rethinking the future.
The building was known throughout its building phase as The Sustainable Enterprise Centre, but it is recognised that thinking around sustainability has moved considerably since this project started back in 2007 and the new name will ‘re:flect’ new agendas in a way that is distinctive within Higher Education.
If you would like a hard hat tour of the building before completion, then there are set dates through to opening at the end of June. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further details. In July there’ll be a series of open house events for people to look around and learn more about the future activities of the centre.
In the region
I’m pleased to report that the University will be playing the lead role in a new Yorkshire Innovation Fund which will be distributing some £10m of funding to universities in Yorkshire. Funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the University has worked hard over the last couple of years to secure ERDF funds for this initiative which will provide support for innovative industrial partnerships and knowledge transfer activities with universities in the region.
The fund will be based in the University Research and Knowledge Transfer function, with staff appointments funded through ERDF.
There will also be some new faces amongst the Vice-Chancellors of the region. Whilst my replacement is likely to be announced in late-April, new VC’s will also be taking over at Leeds and York University over the next few months.
For football fans and non-fans alike, it has been great to celebrate the achievements of Bradford City in getting to Wembley. Whilst the result was not what we’d hoped for, it provided a welcome boost of positive publicity for the city. I know it marked a highlight for many of our staff and students who made it to the game and came back disappointed at the result, but exhilarated at the show the fans and team had put on. I was also pleased to hear that one of our students, Gintare Karpaviciute, from the School of Computing, Informatics and Media, was on the sidelines at Wembley as an official club photographer. Gintare was among students who took up the club’s invitation to film and photograph home games this season. Her photos impressed the club so much that she was invited to the final at Wembley Stadium.
At the most recent Senate meeting a number of important changes to our academic regulations were approved. These will help to ensure a fairer outcome for our students in terms of their final degree results, as the changes we are making bring our processes much more in line with what happens elsewhere in the sector. Shirley Congdon, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching, has helped to shape these changes and has been very busy communicating them to staff and, in particular to all our current students.
Such developments should not be seen in isolation from the wider set of changes we are making to our curriculum and teaching programmes. These are designed to provide a positive, supportive and engaged atmosphere for learning and teaching at Bradford. Alongside our project to ensure that our black and minority ethnic students achieve results at least as good as their white counterparts, our focus over the next few years will be to continue to raise the aspirations, academic outcomes and employability of our students. Nothing can be more important than that in securing our future.
League Table Performance
The most recent meeting of the University’s Council, held in January, included some key debates on our performance in the league tables. It’s an issue that remains central to our corporate strategy and our focus on the quality of our learning and teaching and student performance will make the single biggest difference to our league table performance over the next few years.
Council also debated some of our proposals around the nature of our investment strategy over the next five years. At a time of uncertainty it is important to continue to make investments in staff, in research facilities and in the estate. The meeting provided an opportunity to begin to explore sets of proposals around our ambitions for the University.
Discussion around continuing to invest in research, in the work we need to do to make our student support services as accessible and open as possible, in future developments around community pharmacy and optometry facilities, and in the estate itself helped to demonstrate how we want the University to develop and how our Council can support specific proposals.
I have flagged up in previous postings the discussions around creating a new unitary structure for SCIM and EDT which will deliver a stronger academic footprint and better use of resources. The work of the Task Group set up to look at the possible options has worked hard with both staff and students to explore why a unitary structure might work, what advantages it might deliver and the difficulties it might face.
Likely structures have been discussed with staff in the schools and we are continuing to work with the student body to reassure them that their own work and progress will not be damaged in any way by proposed changes. It is likely that a paper seeking agreement on the key principles and structures can go to Senate for discussion at the end of March. If senate approves those proposals, more detailed discussions and an implementation plan can be put in place in order that the new grouping can be functioning by the start of the new academic year.
National Student Survey (NSS)
Our final year students are currently completing their returns to the NSS. These are vital to the University. They are one of the most important components on university league tables and our work to improve our overall position depends critically on good returns. The NSS is also a very valuable source of feedback on our programmes and support. We cannot, of course, directly influence what they say but we can try to ensure that as many of our students as possible complete the returns.
At the moment our return rate is some way below both where we were at the equivalent stage last year and where the sector currently is. There are PowerPoint slides available which can be shown at the start or end of lectures to promote the survey. It is also worth noting that the survey can be easily completed on a smartphone. So I ask that you encourage as many students as possible to fill in the survey.
The start of term has been a busy one. The exam period was happily unaffected by the weather but the last few days have been challenging. I am especially grateful to all those staff who worked to help keep paths and roads clear. Often working very unsocial hours (including shifts at 2am and 7am) and in difficult conditions their work was vital in allowing the University to reopen with only one day of closure for the start of the teaching period.
Recruitment into the future
We received our grant letter for 13/14 which sets the context for funding that year and also sets out some key Government priorities for Higher Education in 2013-4. It makes clear that there will continue to be changes to the student contract number (which sets our recruitment parameters) and these changes will have significant implications for the sector.
Colleagues may have read, in the Times Higher today, about the 2012 end of cycle assessment data from UCAS which has revealed the shortfalls in undergraduate numbers by institutions across the UK.
It’s important to recognise that while Bradford’s figure is reported as a drop of 679 acceptances in 2012; in 2011 the University had extra numbers from the modernisation fund and we also over-recruited in the same year.
As I’ve mentioned in previous updates, this year the University was committed to focussing on the quality of our student intake, rather than lowering our entry tariff and I am pleased that after off-setting against over recruitment in 2011 the University achieved 94% of its 2012 recruitment target. This meant that we were within around 200 of our contract number. Not where we wanted to be but nevertheless not the meltdown that many might have anticipated.
The grant letter outlines key changes for the next few years. While our contract number would normally be reduced because of under-recruitment, that will not happen this year, because of the general fluidity in the sector. It is fortunate that this decision gives us some scope to ensure we recruit well in 2013.
In the longer term however it is clear that the government is set on allowing those universities that are able to grow to continue to expand their numbers at the expense of those that struggle to achieve their targets. We will therefore be moving over the next few years to a position of a much more open market which was what the government was seeking when it put the new funding model in place. Those that can achieve good numbers and that wish to grow will not be prevented from doing so by restrictions within the student contract number. If universities are unable to attract sufficient students they will experience a long-term decline.
Our funding depends crucially on our ability to continue to attract students to come to Bradford because an ever-increasing proportion of our income will come directly from student tuition fees rather than from government funding. We know that we did not achieve our contract number in 2012. We also know that our applications have fallen this year, although that is not the case in all Schools. It is therefore more important than ever that we continue to stress the benefits of a university education at Bradford to all our potential home and international students. High graduate employability, a good student experience, the benefits of a strong student support system and facilities, the experience of being taught by research-active staff are all factors which will be important in persuading students to come here rather than to our competitors. The ability to deliver those things that will continue to attract students to Bradford are very much in our hands which is why the projects that we have around the student experience, around the development of more innovative, student-centred learning, around improving our estate and facilities and enhancing our research reputation and league table position are absolutely vital if we are to continue to thrive in the new market. Students can and will be very selective. We need to ensure that Bradford is a positive choice for them. That is the way to guarantee a secure and sustainable future.
We are currently working hard on the submission that the University will be making to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) towards the end of this year. This national research survey will be vitally important in measuring and ranking the research outputs of the University. Those outputs will include our publications (books, research papers), the innovation our research has produced in terms of patents and company spin-offs, the research income we are able to generate and the wider impact on society of the research work we do.
It is important in showcasing the strength of research at Bradford and, given that we see research-informed teaching as central to a strong student experience, a lot of work is on-going to ensure that the submission is as strong as possible. We will be very tactical and targeted in what we submit and will only be submitting work which is likely to be ranked at an ‘international quality’ level. Our aim is to ensure that we achieve a Top 50 ranking for our research. This will be important in helping to improve our overall league table performance over the next two to three years to ensure we achieve a Top 50 ranking in 2016.
National Student Survey
On Monday February 4 the annual National Student Survey (NSS) will begin with an external organisation surveying our final-year students about their experience at Bradford and about the support and development they have experienced at the University.
This has been an important focus for us over the last few years and is a key contributor to league tables. We have improved our position over the last three years and I do hope we can maintain these improvements this year. Our overall satisfaction levels are at about the national average and I hope that the closer level of engagement we have had with students, and the very real improvements we’ve seen in a number of academic and support areas can be maintained.
We will be working hard to make sure the number of students filling in the NSS is as high as possible to ensure we have a representative view and I’d ask all staff to encourage students to complete the survey.
The results of the NSS appear in early-September and provide both an important barometer of the experience of our students as well as important pointers to how we can improve. Improving NSS results is vital if we are to improve our overall League table position.
Donations to Universities are an increasingly important source of revenue, especially for the creation of scholarships for students in particular need of support. Here at Bradford we have established a small ‘development group’ to explore ways in which we can increase donations for the work we do. I know that a number of staff already contribute to those philanthropic funds through monthly donations and I am grateful for the support they give. The funds raised through this payroll giving go towards student hardship funds.
Work with potential donors and with a range of charitable trusts are continuing as does the annual Telethon project which encourages alumni to give towards our student hardship fund and which has raised sizeable sums over the last three years which are distributed to student societies. I am also pleased to announce a five-year project with the Bestway Foundation which will provide £250,000 towards postgraduate scholarships for needy students from Pakistan, and an initial £75,000 funding support from a Saudi donor, Mr Yasser Homran, to help support a named three-year lectureship in Peace Studies.
These are just a couple of examples of the kind of longer-term work we are doing to grow the amount of philanthropic support we can marshall for the University.
Despite the weather, work on the Sustainable Enterprise Centre and the STEM Building are continuing apace. It is likely that they will be completed by the end of May and we will be looking towards a formal opening of both buildings when they are fully occupied and operational in early-September. The first building will be an important public face for our engagement with sustainability and with the business opportunities that we see that providing; the second building will connect university work in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) with school curriculums and will bring budding scientists into the university at an early age. Hopefully they will be the Bradford science graduates of the future. I am also pleased to let you know that the University has been able to buy a key piece of land adjoining the campus off Tumbling Hill Street known as the Beehive site. We were able to buy this at a very competitive price and it will provide an important addition to the footprint of the estate as well as an addition to the assets of the University. It will also allow us to plan for the development of a piece of land next to the campus which has been largely derelict for over four years.
Many thanks to all those staff who were involved in this year’s December Graduation ceremonies which went off really well. We graduated around 1200 students in our five ceremonies and many of the students and their guests commented on how friendly and approachable people were and how the events themselves had the right mix of ceremony and informality. They are always a reminder of the work that all University staff do in helping people to study and develop in their time at Bradford.
The sector is continuing to digest the impact of the recruitment falls this year. Our own shortfall in terms of Home/EU students looks to be at around the sector average and it is clear that many universities have experienced falls in home students. Given that we are also seeing a fall in overall applications for September 2013 across the sector it is clear that we need to continue to work hard to make sure our potential students understand the benefits of studying here, the pathways that a Bradford degree provides to employment and the range of facilities and experiences that we can offer. It is also clear that recruitment of international students, a very important component of our student intake, is more challenging than it ever was. Our overseas offices in Dubai and Beijing are working hard to develop the links and partnerships which are essential for sustainable recruitment.
It has been pleasing to see the developing work on our Curriculum Framework and Employability Strategy which are important in continuing to bring students to Bradford. Work is now beginning on implementing this work which, along with the student charter, are designed to further enhance the student academic experience.
You can follow developments and view related links via Shirley Congdon’s new Learning and Teaching blog.
I hope that colleagues have been able to see the work now completed on the first and second floors of the Library. It has made an enormous difference to both the feel of the library and to its environmental performance and it has also opened up some very pleasant views onto the amphitheatre. Inevitably it has caused some disruptions to both students and staff but I hope you will feel it has been worthwhile when you see the end result. It has also been pleasing to see the Sustainable Enterprise Centre (SEC) and the STEM building next to it progressing well. We hope to be able to formally open both buildings together in April or May. The SEC will host an overarching institute for our work on sustainability and the closed loop economy while the STEM Building will help to inspire and train a young generation of scientists from the schools of the district who we hope will be students here in the future.
I am delighted to congratulate members of the School of Management on achieving the coveted international ‘Triple Crown’ of external accreditations. It has now secured accreditation from the two key US-based organisations (AACSB and AMBA) together with the Europe-based EQUIS organisation. It joins a small number of UK Business and Management Schools with this ‘Triple Crown’ accreditation and positions the School of Management strongly within European and global rankings. My thanks to all the staff who worked so hard to achieve this. It provides a fitting tribute to Dr Sarah Dixon who will be leaving the role of Dean of the School to take up a senior post in China.
I’d also like to congratulate Shirley Congdon, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching on her promotion to Professor of Educational Development.
The University has achieved two major accolades at the prestigious Higher Education Green Gown Awards which recognise exceptional environmental and sustainability initiatives and are considered the leading award scheme in the sector. Two Ecoversity projects at the University fought off 68 finalists to win the ‘Construction and Refurbishment’ category for the Sustainable Student Village: The Green and was also awarded Highly Commended in the ‘Carbon Reduction’ category for its toolkit for waste which saw landfill reduced by 83%. These initiatives aim to embed sustainable development in the learning and living experience of all students.
Finally I’d like to offer my huge congratulations to Bradford City after their momentous and well deserved ‘giant killing’ defeat of Arsenal earlier this week. As an Arsenal fan, that really hurt!
Congratulations to all and best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.
Today and tomorrow we celebrate the success of another cohort of our students as they graduate. Congratulations to all our graduates, honorary graduates and the many friends and family joining us here in Bradford for the celebrations.