For football fans and non-fans alike, it has been great to celebrate the achievements of Bradford City in getting to Wembley. Whilst the result was not what we’d hoped for, it provided a welcome boost of positive publicity for the city. I know it marked a highlight for many of our staff and students who made it to the game and came back disappointed at the result, but exhilarated at the show the fans and team had put on. I was also pleased to hear that one of our students, Gintare Karpaviciute, from the School of Computing, Informatics and Media, was on the sidelines at Wembley as an official club photographer. Gintare was among students who took up the club’s invitation to film and photograph home games this season. Her photos impressed the club so much that she was invited to the final at Wembley Stadium.
At the most recent Senate meeting a number of important changes to our academic regulations were approved. These will help to ensure a fairer outcome for our students in terms of their final degree results, as the changes we are making bring our processes much more in line with what happens elsewhere in the sector. Shirley Congdon, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching, has helped to shape these changes and has been very busy communicating them to staff and, in particular to all our current students.
Such developments should not be seen in isolation from the wider set of changes we are making to our curriculum and teaching programmes. These are designed to provide a positive, supportive and engaged atmosphere for learning and teaching at Bradford. Alongside our project to ensure that our black and minority ethnic students achieve results at least as good as their white counterparts, our focus over the next few years will be to continue to raise the aspirations, academic outcomes and employability of our students. Nothing can be more important than that in securing our future.
League Table Performance
The most recent meeting of the University’s Council, held in January, included some key debates on our performance in the league tables. It’s an issue that remains central to our corporate strategy and our focus on the quality of our learning and teaching and student performance will make the single biggest difference to our league table performance over the next few years.
Council also debated some of our proposals around the nature of our investment strategy over the next five years. At a time of uncertainty it is important to continue to make investments in staff, in research facilities and in the estate. The meeting provided an opportunity to begin to explore sets of proposals around our ambitions for the University.
Discussion around continuing to invest in research, in the work we need to do to make our student support services as accessible and open as possible, in future developments around community pharmacy and optometry facilities, and in the estate itself helped to demonstrate how we want the University to develop and how our Council can support specific proposals.
I have flagged up in previous postings the discussions around creating a new unitary structure for SCIM and EDT which will deliver a stronger academic footprint and better use of resources. The work of the Task Group set up to look at the possible options has worked hard with both staff and students to explore why a unitary structure might work, what advantages it might deliver and the difficulties it might face.
Likely structures have been discussed with staff in the schools and we are continuing to work with the student body to reassure them that their own work and progress will not be damaged in any way by proposed changes. It is likely that a paper seeking agreement on the key principles and structures can go to Senate for discussion at the end of March. If senate approves those proposals, more detailed discussions and an implementation plan can be put in place in order that the new grouping can be functioning by the start of the new academic year.
National Student Survey (NSS)
Our final year students are currently completing their returns to the NSS. These are vital to the University. They are one of the most important components on university league tables and our work to improve our overall position depends critically on good returns. The NSS is also a very valuable source of feedback on our programmes and support. We cannot, of course, directly influence what they say but we can try to ensure that as many of our students as possible complete the returns.
At the moment our return rate is some way below both where we were at the equivalent stage last year and where the sector currently is. It is also worth noting that the survey can be easily completed on a smartphone. So I ask that you encourage as many students as possible to fill in the survey.