It has been a busy few weeks on campus welcoming new and returning students and it has been great to see the Atrium and Student Central so busy. I know academic and support staff everywhere have worked hard to support our new students and to make them feel part of the community here.
The Higher Education sector is carefully digesting the impact of the big changes we have seen this year in the funding regime. Of course the full impact of the changes will be evident over the next few years but it is very clear that there will be no ‘rolling back’ of the changes whatever the nature of the government in power. I have been able to talk to many of you in the recent assemblies I’ve held and I hope people feel both a sense of optimism in the face of change coupled with a clearer understanding of the things that we can do, both individually and collectively, to ensure we remain strong and sustainable.
I hope that colleagues in the Schools are now able to look in detail at the National Student Survey (NSS) quantitative and qualitative results for last year which were made available last month. They provide an important barometer of how the student experience at Bradford compares with other universities. What is interesting is the range of variation between different subject areas within the same school with some outstanding performances alongside results which are well below the national subject averages. The point I made at the assemblies about many of the mechanisms for improving our position in, for example, league tables being in our own hands is underlined by these results. Whilst I do accept that the methodologies in the NSS are less than perfect they are an important part of league table data that we need to take very seriously.
I wanted to flag up an important initiative we are developing in relation to the attainment of our students. We are very good at being able to attract and support students from a wide and diverse range of backgrounds to study at Bradford but we are less good at helping them to achieve really good results at the end of their time here. Our percentage of ‘Good Honours’ results (either a First or Upper Second degree) is one of the lowest in the country. We also have a significant gap in the percentage figure across different ethnic backgrounds. I have asked Nadira Mirza, formerly the Dean of SLED, to take on a role as Director of Student Success, to lead an initiative to improve the results of all of our students but, in particular to try to understand and deal with the attainment gap between students from different ethnic backgrounds. If we can narrow those gaps our league table performance will be significantly improved. I was also pleased to be able to sign our student charter together with Furquan Naeem from UBU, at a recent event, which I hope demonstrates our commitment to work together with our students to help them develop and succeed at University.
The summer has been a busy period for building work on our estate and it is pleasing to see some key projects coming close to completion. The games areas close to the library will open shortly and will provide much-needed recreational space for both staff and students.
The work of the library is also close to completion. I hope you’ll agree that it has transformed the two upper floors and created a much more open and functional space with great views over the amphitheatre. And, it has been completed on budget and on time. My thanks especially to all the staff in the Library who have had to deal with construction work, with the establishment of a range of special arrangements for students and with a vast amount of work with the stock. I am convinced we’ll feel it has been worthwhile.
The Sustainable Enterprise Centre is also progressing well. We knew it would be a challenge to hope that the low-carbon hempcrete walls would be able to properly dry out in the summer, especially as I’m not sure we had a summer this year, but it is on track and will provide an iconic, very low carbon build at the heart of the campus. It shows we can build sustainably, innovatively and to budget and demonstrates what a great Estates team we have.
I was pleased to join the Lord Mayor of Bradford to congratulate our grounds staff on their Yorkshire in Bloom Gold Rose and Chairman’s prize. Their work to create a maintain such a fantastic environment for students, staff and visitors is a a great example of how all staff contribute to the Universities success. At a recent Open Day a number of visitors commented on how green the campus is and were pleasantly surprised to find such a wonderful setting so close to a city centre.
A number of colleagues have recently been promoted to reader or professor:
- Dr Claire Surr, Reader in Dementia Studies
- Dr Gerry Armitage, Professor of Health Services Research
- Dr Marina Bloj, Professor of Visual Perception
- Dr Neil Cooper, Professor of International Security Studies
- Dr Ian Scowen, Professor of Analytical Chemistry
- Dr Rami Qahwaji, Professor of Visual Computing
Congratulations to all.