I hope that you have managed to have a break over the summer at the end of what has been a very busy academic year. I know that the ‘summer break’ is something of a myth because the University is as busy in July and August as most other times of the year with degree ceremonies, continuing work on the estate and preparations for clearing and new admissions. And for academic staff I do know how important a period of calm is over this period in order to find the time for research and writing.
As you will know this year has been a challenging one for all those people seeking to get a place at University. The pressure of rising applications across the sector coupled with a reduction in overall numbers has meant a lot of uncertainty for potential students. Bradford has benefited from the award of a sizeable number of additional places in our science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) provision and the clearing period has been very busy for staff. I am very pleased that our additional places have meant we have been able to provide courses for so many deserving students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to go to University. At a time of reduced places across the sector it is pleasing that our recruitment this year is up on last year. I’d like to thank all those staff and students who helped make the clearing process successful and those who worked hard, either on the phones (right) or at our open days, to make potential students feel welcome and supported.
The summer period has been an exceptionally busy time in terms of building work. The new Student Central is now handed over and will open shortly. There will be a staff open day on Monday 13 September and I would urge you to have a look at the new space which will provide a really excellent space for both staff and students. At last, it will give our students the social and learning facilities they deserve. Estates have done a fantastic job in terms of design and execution of the project (on budget and on time!) and we can be justly proud of this facility. I know that it will make a big difference to the students here.
Work on the new School of Health building is also progressing very well as is the Sustainable Student Village which will provide a high quality, sustainable environment for over 800 of our students from next September. I am pleased that we have been able to maintain our investments in regenerating the campus despite the financial challenges that all universities face. I feel it is more important than ever to invest in the future of the University.
Science at the University
I am delighted to report that last month the University was awarded just over £3 million from HEFCE to further develop our work in STEM in the region. The University is already one of four national ‘lead universities’ in encouraging STEM activity and this latest award will help us to take this work further. Part of the money will be used to develop a STEM lab close to the Sustainable Student Village which will be heavily used by local schools as part of a project to encourage more involvement in science and there will also be some revenue funding to do more work in schools on science agendas. The continuing investment by HEFCE in the University reflects a confidence in the work that our staff and students do. I am also delighted to tell you that the University will be hosting the British Science Festival in September 2011 which is a major international showcase for science and will bring major benefits to the profile of the University and the City. The science agenda is of course an important one for government and fits with the academic footprint of the University. At the same time I am clear that a strong understanding of the impact and implications of science for society can only come through other areas of academic work – social sciences and the creative arts- areas in which we have real strengths and which we remain very strongly committed to support alongside the science agenda.
The financial environment
As you will know funding for higher education faces real pressures. Not only has the sector already lost around £1billion over the last 12 months, the Comprehensive Spending Review due in October is very likely to see very significant cuts over the next four years which may be between 25% and 35% or 40% depending on who you believe. At a sector-wide level, we have been working hard through Universities UK to ensure the government are made fully aware of the important role that universities play in innovation, economic growth, international competitiveness and research and development. There has been a great deal of work in meetings, lobbying, talking with coalition ministers and policy documents to ensure that our position in properly represented. That is very important to ensure that teaching and research in higher education is not irreversibly damaged by cuts. The reality is of course that there will be significant changes to our funding alongside many other areas of the public sector.
We have been anticipating at least some of these changes. Our scenario planning has included the possibility of very significant cuts and we have sought to share these with trade unions and staff as widely as possible. We have had two programmes of voluntary staff reductions over the last year and I remain committed to try to seek any reductions by voluntary means. Staff costs are over 60% of our budget. Clearly we are continuing to review our costs in all areas alongside ensuring we maximise our income. Strong home and international recruitment, external research income, consultancy work, are examples of what we can do to help ensure we maintain a strong, cohesive and confident University. There are issue that are likely to arise over the next few months in relation to pay, possible pension changes and the outcomes of the Comprehensive Spending Review that will provide significant challenges for all of us. I remain confident that we can deal with these in as open and transparent a way as possible so that we can balance the significant concerns that staff may have over the financial climate against the real strengths and sense of shared engagement that Bradford continues to show.
Following a year of excellent work by the Respect Sexual Orientation Staff Network, the Equality and Diversity and HR teams, supported by staff from across the University, we will shortly be sending our submission to Stonewall for a place on the Workplace Equality Index of LGB friendly employers.
The University’s archaeologists are part of an international team who discovered a wooden henge, a major ceremonial monument less than one kilometre away from the iconic Stonehenge. The discovery received widespread media coverage and is a great example of our collaborative research. Congratulations to all involved.
Pauline Chan from Computing, Informatics and Media, Innovation Unit, has been awarded a Short Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) worth £38,500 with AIM UK Limited to develop context aware smart healthcare software.
Mark Van Hoorebeek at the School of Management has been awarded £5,350 project funding from the Higher Education Academy for Comparative Sharia Law: The development of teaching materials in the area of Sharia compliant financial instruments and intellectual property.
Ruth Bartlett from the School of Health Studies is working with the Social Care Institute for Excellence on consultancy (£2.5K) for the development of online learning features for SCIE.
The WELL project in Escalate has been awarded another £40k to develop a ‘maturity toolkit’ in relation to work-based learning. Ibrar Butt and Peter Hartley clinched the deal in a meeting at the JISC Innovation Forum, working with our external consultant, Peter Chatterton.
A full list of Research and Knowledge Transfer success can be found in the latest edition of the RKTS newsletter
Best wishes for the new academic year.