As I mentioned in my briefing yesterday, Geoff Layer, currently Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) has been appointed as the new Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton and will take up that post in August of this year. I’m sure you will join me in wishing him well in his new role after a very successful time here in Bradford.
Funding and fees
Funding and the political context within which higher education is evolving have continued to dominate my horizons, as the start of the New Year brings a range of challenges for students and staff here at Bradford. The overall funding settlement for 2011-12 was announced just before Christmas and is close to where our own estimates had been. It represents a substantial cut in both our teaching and research grants for the next academic year albeit one for which we have been planning.
Our students remain deeply concerned both about these cuts and about the likelihood of significantly higher tuition fees for future generations of students. We have had a series of discussions over the implications for Bradford. These discussions – in Schools and Directorates, at key University Committees and, most recently, in Senate have been very helpful in determining our response to this unprecedented change in funding.
What has emerged from these discussions is a very strong commitment to set fee levels which will both allow us to continue to improve the student experience here and maintain our ability to attract and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Other associated changes, most notably the end of the Educational Maintenance Allowances are likely to mean that the work we do in the local area, particularly with schools, to encourage pupils to enter higher education will be more important than ever.
National Student Survey
It is within this context that the National Student Survey launched here last week, inviting final year students to have their say on their time here at the University. I’m sure you are all aware of the increased importance of the survey results within the new environment for higher education. I ask that staff do all they can to ensure we swiftly reach the 50 per cent response rate threshold for all of our courses and ultimately achieve our institutional target of 70 per cent by the end of the survey period in April.
If you would like further information or help with promotion or completion of the survey, please contact Mark Dolby, our Internal Communications Officer on ext. 6510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
British Science Festival
Planning for the British Science Festival at the University in September continues apace. I’d like to thank the many academics who have proposed and convened a wide range of sessions for the event. These range right across the spectrum of science, social science and the creative arts and will provide a great showcase for the work of the University. The Festival will also coincide with the opening of The Green, our new sustainable student accommodation on campus and with the ‘City Park’ in the city centre.
Our work in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects has been further enhanced by a ‘Greening STEM’ award as we look to identify ways to make our work in labs and workshops more sustainable. The award will enable us to develop a number of curriculum and skills projects alongside our existing STEM-related work in schools across the district and in partnership with the Ellen McArthur foundation. It is more important than ever that we find the time and financial support to develop this kind of work in order to develop the long-term reputation of the University.
Research and Knowledge Transfer
Our work in research and knowledge transfer remains more important than ever and it is always a pleasure to see some of the outstanding work that colleagues across the University do. Staff continue to generate external research income at a time when the competition for funding is more important than ever. The range of international conferences and symposia that we contribute to is vital for the academic reputation of the University.
At present there are significant shifts in research funding concentration with a smaller number of universities seeking the largest share. It is a trend we need to resist to ensure that world class research is funded wherever it is found. And the best way of demonstrating that is through the excellence of the work we do, the books and papers colleagues publish and the research grants that we secure.
Engagement in research and KT is one of the most valued activities of staff here and makes very significant contributions to the student experience, to our reputation and to the economic success of the region. It will be more important than ever to ensure that we are able to clearly articulate what research and KT activity brings to the University in the future if we are to head off efforts to concentrate research in an ever-narrower group of universities.
The Centre for Skin Sciences has won six new industrial research contracts to the value of £686,000 in recent months, one of these jointly with the Centre for Infection control and Biophysics. The projects span a diverse range of research areas; including skin and hair pigmentation (Prof Tobin, three projects total value £416,000), hair growth mechanisms (Prof Randall, a £253,000 project; Prof. Tobin, a £13,000 project) and safe use of UVR for sterilisation of skin (Dr Britland & Dr Snelling; a £22,000 project).
Congratulations to the Centre for Educational Development whose Turnitin guidance for staff has been recognised as an example of good practice in a Higher Education Academy and JISC guidance publication called ‘Policy works: recommendations for reviewing policy to manage unacceptable academic practice in higher education’.
Congratulations to a number of colleagues in the School of Social & International Studies who contributed to the Oxford International Encyclopedia of Peace (Oxford University Press 2010), which was awarded the ‘Book of the Year’ by the International Conflict Research Society. The Society called it “an amazing achievement which establishes the knowledge base for our area”.
Ian Armit and Graeme Swindles in the School of Life Sciences have received a research grant for £112,466 from the British Academy for Mobility, Climate and Culture for a project entitled ‘Re-modelling the Irish Iron Age’.
Crina Oltean-Dumbrava in the School of Engineering has been awarded two research grants. One worth £6,000 from the Higher Education Academy for Future Skills Curriculum Development Framework, and one worth £4,325 from the Royal Academy of Engineering for a project entitled ‘Maximising benefits to University courses, students and employers through placements’.
John McAlaney in Psychology, is a partner in a successful transnational project funded by the European Commission Directorate General for Justice, Freedom and Security. The project involving six partners is being led by the University of Bremen in Germany and is exploring ‘Social Norms Intervention for the prevention of Polydrug use’. The University will receive £54,157 for its part in the partnership.
Congratulations to all.