I do hope that colleagues managed a break at some point over Easter despite the unseasonably cold weather (OK- I am a soft southerner but surely it was a bit cold…). It has been good to see the students back and the library and Student Central busy again.
At our Senate meeting at the end of March the case for the merger of SCIM and EDT was agreed in principle and the process of looking at the detailed arrangements for the change has started. It has been really good to have a positive lead from the schools which, whilst acknowledging the work that needs to be done, recognises the potential advantages to be gained from the change. We will be working hard with staff and students to support the change and we will be considering carefully the investment needs of the merged entity if it is to develop and grow its teaching and research in the way anticipated by the plans.
Senate also discussed plans in place for the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) institutional review due to take place sometime in 2014. We want to make sure we are well prepared for this and, in particular, that we are able to work closely with our student representatives in preparing our self- evaluation documents and in discussing issues and initiatives with the QAA assessors.
National Student Survey (NSS)
Many thanks to staff who have continued to encourage as many of our final year students as possible to complete their NSS returns. Despite these efforts we are still lagging behind where we were last year and some way short of our target of trying to ensure 70% of our students complete NSS. In some areas, such as Chemical & Forensic Sciences, Physio, Media Studies and Midwifery, the turnout has been very impressive, but this is not the case across the University. Given that some of the best performers in the sector routinely get over 75% of their students to complete the NSS we really ought to be able to achieve better than our current returns.
In general the more students who complete NSS, the better the overall results are when they are announced in August. Increasing our NSS returns is a good way of helping to improve our overall scores which we know are a key component of most league tables and also feature in the key information sets that prospective students use in choosing where to apply.
Higher Education budgets
The University received its budget updates from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) at the end of last month. Happily there were no unpleasant surprises and we were broadly in the position that we had modelled at the end of last year. We are now seeing the dramatic cuts in the size of the teaching allocations from HEFCE which are being replaced by contributions from the raised tuition fees that took effect in September 2012. The research and science budgets continue to receive a degree of protection but that will be increasingly difficult for HEFCE to sustain. It is also likely that there will be continuing pressure on the widening participation budget which may potentially impact on us in the next couple of years.
The overall impact of the budget in March is generally gloomy. Our main funding department, Business, Innovation and Skills is likely to see additional cuts of 1% in 13/14 and 2% in 14/15 and, given that the HE budget takes the lion’s share of BIS, this cannot but impact on HEFCE budgets in the future.
re:centre at the University of Bradford will open its doors in June and will provide a new space for research, regeneration, reinvention and rethinking the future.
The building was known throughout its building phase as The Sustainable Enterprise Centre, but it is recognised that thinking around sustainability has moved considerably since this project started back in 2007 and the new name will ‘re:flect’ new agendas in a way that is distinctive within Higher Education.
If you would like a hard hat tour of the building before completion, then there are set dates through to opening at the end of June. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further details. In July there’ll be a series of open house events for people to look around and learn more about the future activities of the centre.
In the region
I’m pleased to report that the University will be playing the lead role in a new Yorkshire Innovation Fund which will be distributing some £10m of funding to universities in Yorkshire. Funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the University has worked hard over the last couple of years to secure ERDF funds for this initiative which will provide support for innovative industrial partnerships and knowledge transfer activities with universities in the region.
The fund will be based in the University Research and Knowledge Transfer function, with staff appointments funded through ERDF.
There will also be some new faces amongst the Vice-Chancellors of the region. Whilst my replacement is likely to be announced in late-April, new VC’s will also be taking over at Leeds and York University over the next few months.