A message from the Vice-Chancellor

A message from Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell

Dear Colleagues,

This Wednesday (2 April) we will be hosting our annual Founders Day - an event to celebrate our past, present and future as a University. I am delighted that this year will be the first attended by our new Chancellor, HRH The Earl of Wessex, who will also chair the annual meeting of Court. There are still spaces available at both the public lectures and I would encourage you to come along if you can. Further details on these lectures and how to book tickets is available online. It is worth noting that after Professor David Rhind’s lecture there will be a drinks reception at 6.45pm on level 2 of the Chancellors’ Building, at which the Chancellor will be present and all are invited to attend.

Thank you to all those who took part in the recent Let’s Talk. It was good to see so many of you, with around 180 colleagues in the Chancellors’ Building and over 250 more viewing the live stream. I hope you found the event as valuable as I did. There were some interesting questions and very useful feedback, both in the question and answer session and afterwards over tea and coffee. Your input is greatly valued and I hope you got a sense from my opening presentation that action is taken as a result of your feedback. We will continue to keep you informed of updates on the ideas and questions raised, and if you missed Let’s Talk a recording is available to watch online.

Since my last message I have enjoyed two more departmental visits, this time to the Widening Participation team and the Department of Chemistry. Articles on both will appear on the homepage in the coming days but I’d like to thank both Annette Hayton and Professor Matt Davidson, and all their colleagues, for making me so welcome and telling me about their innovative and exciting work. View full list of the planned visits for the rest of the academic year.

As mentioned last month, we have recently received notification of our provisional funding allocation from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) for 2014/15. The level of our 2014/15 HEFCE grant reflects the reduction in HEFCE’s annual funding from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS). At the same time, we were told that there would be a retrospective reduction to our 2012/13 HEFCE grant. Consequently, our final 2013/14 HEFCE grant will be lower than our provisional allocation. This reduction in public funding is an outcome for which we have actively planned for and is less than we had forecasted and built into our budgets. We have taken steps to buffer the impact of a decline in direct funding from HEFCE and its diminished role as a major source of income for the University as the new fee regime becomes increasingly established.

Last Friday, new Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) were announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as part of a major Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) investment in this area. I am very pleased to tell you that of the 22 CDTs announced nationwide, we were successful in obtaining funding in two new areas. The CDT in Statistical Applied Mathematics led by our researchers will be a major step forward in transforming mathematical education at doctoral level and is a huge boost to the Department and the University. We are also partners with the University of Bristol for another CDT, covering Condensed Matter Physics. These new Centres complement our pre-existing CDTs in Sustainable Chemical Technologies and Digital Entertainment, as well as three others in which we are partnered with other universities.

There is also good news about our first MOOC ‘Inside Cancer: how genes influence cancer development’. I am told it was one of the highest rated online courses on the FutureLearn platform with 94% of those who responded to a post course survey rating the course as good/excellent.  With retention rates generally around 5-10% for these courses, it is great to hear that 34% of those who logged on stayed with us for the entire six weeks. It had just over 7,800 participants sign up from 44 different countries bringing together students, researchers, medical practitioners, sufferers and carers into a single online space. Congratulations to a real collaborative effort by Biology & Biochemistry and the Learning & Teaching Enhancement Office.

I’d like to finish by wishing you all a Happy Easter when it arrives later next month.

Best wishes

Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell DBE DL

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