This has been a busy month in terms of national developments. I have previously talked about the Browne Review and the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) and their implications for universities. Following yesterday’s announcement by the Government of its plans to raise the fees cap to £9,000, the financial implications are stark. We will now have a clear shift from public to private funding of higher education something which is unprecedented anywhere else in Europe.
This seems to have been done on the basis of a pragmatic solution rather than a discussion of principles. Some of the other assumptions are also debatable. Can we assume that student demand will provide the ideal determinant of educational quality? How can the removal of any direct public funding support for courses in the arts, humanities and social sciences be justified on the grounds of public utility?
Whilst Bradford does have a strong science and engineering tradition and focus, I doubt that any of us would argue that we do not need critical social science and a continuing tradition of work in the humanities here. The range of subjects we have is precisely what creates our university community of staff and students reflecting diverse intellectual traditions and backgrounds. That variety deserves to continue.
I have set in place a number of meetings with schools and directorates. I would like to use these meetings to begin a discussion on our responses to the radical changes that are on the way. I would like staff to reflect on the implications of a much more ‘commodified’ system of education. A horrible word I know, but we appear to be moving to a system where a degree is regarded in the same way as any other commodity that is sold through the market!
We need to consider how we maintain the academic character and reputation of the institution, how we match that to the improvements we are making to our student experience and how we continue to recruit and support students in the changed environment. The financial demands on students and their families will be quite unlike those that have arisen in the past. Whilst these are radical changes I am confident in our ability to respond and I would like to use these meetings to explore with you how we develop our programmes, student support and our reputation to meet these changed circumstances. I look forward to hearing your views at these meetings and welcome your comments below.
The British Science Festival
I’m delighted that the University will be hosting the British Science Festival, one of Europe’s largest science festivals, along with many partners from across the city. Yesterday we held the launch event at the University and I’m grateful to those academic colleagues who have already suggested lectures or events for the main scientific programme. I would encourage staff to consider submitting a proposal for the event (deadline November 15). These events will raise the profile of our research work and our research teams. It is a great opportunity to showcase what we do and to help grow our reputation and I would emphasise that it is not solely about science. The theme ‘Exploring New Worlds’ embraces a wide range of our academic interests.
The Braduate Fund
Over the past year we have been working hard to increase donations in support of the University. The telephone campaign we ran earlier in the year (with the help of 40 students) has raised significant monies for the University from our alumni for what we’ve called The Braduate Fund. At a meeting last week we were able to distribute some £10,000 of Braduate Fund donations through a number of small grants to student groups. A diverse range of groups were supported, ranging from students in Peace Studies taking part in a mock United Nations event in London to American football kits for the developing team and sets of drums for the African arts student groups. These grants will make a big difference to our students and we are grateful for the continuing support of our alumni in making these grants possible.
The Bradford School of Optometry and Vision Science have launched an electrodiagnostic testing unit which means patients from across the West Yorkshire region, thought to be suffering from a range of eye diseases, will no longer have to travel as far afield as Manchester or Newcastle, to undergo key diagnostic tests.
Congratulations to The University’s Summer Experience@Bradford team who placed a record number of students with businesses over the summer period this year. Paul Jagger, Chair of University Council, attended the Hawaiian-themed final in September where Sunjaya Nagaraya, a final-year business and management student was announced as the overall winner for this year.
Anant Paradkar and Adrian Kelly, in the Centre for Pharmaceutical Engineering Science,
have secured a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Nature’s Laboratory for £125,721 over two years to develop innovative and consumer acceptable propolis containing products for therapeutic, nutraceutical and personal care markets using principles of formulation development of poorly soluble materials.
Andrea Cullen and Mick Ridley from Computing, Informatics and Media, have secured a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Sovereign Healthcare for £119,791 over two years to develop an organisational e-strategy and related supporting technologies. Including: e-processing of health claims and e-management of policies; e-communication with both customers and employees.
Francis Cleaver and Tom Franks from Social & International Studies, have received a research grant worth £99,923 from the British Academy for Understanding water governance in challenging environment: how institutions adapt to change.
Chris Gaffney from Archaeological, Geographical and Environmental Sciences, has received four research grants totalling £49,027 including two from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. One worth £33,352 for Cross Sectional Study, Tanzani, ‘measurements of pit latrine dimensions using geophysical techniques,’ and one worth £6,778 in partnership with Armin Schmidt for ‘new concepts for pit design for on-site sanitation – identifying layering using geophysical techniques’.
Elaine Brown, Ben Whiteside, Adrian Kelly and Phil Coates from Engineering have secured £208,040 (€236,829) FP7 funding for research for SMEs ‘POLYSENSE’ project for the development of a low cost in-line polymer inspection system to improve the use of recycled materials in plastics processing industry.