Firstly my thanks to all the staff who have worked so hard in welcoming back our students for the new academic year. I know that our new students have appreciated the work of both staff and the Students’ Union in helping them to adjust to new demands and patterns of work.
For a number of our international students, visa issues have created many additional problems because of recent changes in regulations. I appreciate the hard work of staff who have helped resolve what can be complex bureaucratic hurdles which are not of our making. We have also been able to provide additional support to help those students experiencing difficulties with processing their finances through the Student Loan Company.
Notwithstanding these problems it was especially pleasing that so many international students were able to visit City Hall in October for a welcome to the city from Councillor John Godwin, the Lord Mayor. John’s welcome was especially warm given that he has been a great supporter of the University as a member of our Council.
I was delighted that a couple of weeks ago the University won the Times Higher Education Award 2009 for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable development’. The award reflected a lot of hard work by many staff and students over the last few years. The range of activities ( a more sustainable estate; work in ‘greening’ the curriculum; lots of involvement from the student body; ) was especially commended in the award. At a time when issues of sustainable development are becoming more important in the sector it is good that Bradford has been nationally recognised for the innovative way in which the ecoversity project has evolved. A small group from the university will be presenting our work to a meeting representing all UK universities in early December.
I have just returned from a visit to Pakistan (my second this year) to help in the development of Namal College which is our associate college located about three hours east of Islamabad. I was there to celebrate the start of the first cohort of students who will follow a Bradford degree at the College and also to launch a fund-raising initiative with our Chancellor, Imran Khan, to ensure that the College is able to fully support students from very low-income families. At a gathering of over 800 people in Islamabad, attended by a number of ambassadors as well as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the role of the University in supporting the College was celebrated and the support fund was launched. Work like this demonstrates something of the ethical side of our activities. Just as the University of Bradford here works very hard to attract and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds so it is especially pleasing to be able to do likewise through our associate college in Pakistan.
This week also marks degree ceremonies in Malaysia and Singapore when over 600 students will receive University of Bradford degrees in a range of fields – engineering, management, informatics and life sciences. These students graduate after following the identical curriculum, examinations and regulations as our students here but are able to do that in their own countries. It is a model which the University has developed very successfully and which helps our overall financial sustainability. Allied with our research connections it is a visible sign of the strong international presence the University continues to maintain. I suspect that over the next five to ten years this will become a more common form of undergraduate provision for international students and that we are likely to be looking to attract a growing proportion of these students to postgraduate programmes delivered here in Bradford.
Work on the estate
The summer has been a busy period for redevelopment and maintenance work on campus. A large number of general teaching areas underwent significant renovation over the summer. I know from staff comments that we still have a lot of work to do to ensure our facilities are as good as they can be. We have allocated significant budgets for this and are fully aware that we still have some way to go.
It has been good to see the full use staff and students are making of the new sports hall and facilities. Despite a few teething problems, the road closures and barrier changes have, I believe, helped to create a calmer and safer campus. Work on the new Students’ Union building is well underway and one can now begin to envisage how the work, coupled with the road closures will improve that end of the campus. My congratulations to colleagues involved in the new £11m build at Emm Lane which not only looks first class but is also on time and on budget for opening at the end of the year. The work on new laboratories for the School of Life Sciences over the summer was also successfully completed and will provide state-of-the-art teaching facilities for a large cohort of students and a better teaching environment for staff.
There are a number of major projects which we are continuing to develop, (the new School of Health Studies; better flat-bed lecture theatres) which will really enhance the look and (more importantly) the facilities for those who work and study here. The current financial climate is a challenging one but it is important that we remain confident and that we continue to focus on investments in both buildings and staff that enhance the two key drivers for the institution, namely a better student experience and continued strong international research.