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Report of the Vice-Chancellor to Senate December 2013

The report given by Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell to the Senate on Wednesday 4 December 2013.


1. Chancellor’s Installation

The Installation of The Earl of Wessex as our new Chancellor on 7 November was a momentous day in the history of our University and a chance to celebrate with the city and our University community both here and around the globe a new phase in our story. I would like to thank all those staff and students who helped on the day, and to all those who worked so hard in the days and weeks leading up to the event.

After the Installation ceremony in Bath Abbey, The Earl and Countess of Wessex were welcomed onto our campus for the ‘Open House’ event. I know they both enjoyed meeting our staff and students, seeing some of innovative research, watching performances by our student societies, and getting a real sense of what our University is like.

The day was concluded with His Royal Highness officially opening The Chancellors’ Building. He took a tour of the building and was very impressed with its facilities and architecture.

2. Research Excellence Framework (REF)

The University’s submission for the REF was submitted by the deadline of 29 November 2013. The outcome will be published in December 2014.

3. Doctoral Training Centres

3.1 EPSRC has recently announced the results of the competition for Doctoral Training Centres (DTCs). Two centres at Bath – Sustainable Chemical Technologies and Digital Entertainment – have been renewed for a further five years. Bath is also a partner in three new DTCs funded by EPSRC. All will have their first intake of students in 2014/15.

3.2 We have also been successful with other Research Councils: NERC will fund the GW4 consortium bid (led by Bristol), which also includes a number of external industrial partners. The NERC award of 28 studentships per year to the consortium is the highest awarded to any single bid. AHRC will also fund the GW4 partners in a consortium with Southampton, Reading, Bath Spa and Aberystwyth. This award is for 40 studentships per year to the consortium.

3.3 The above are in addition to our existing ESRC and BBSRC funding for doctoral training.

4. Student Applications

Undergraduate applications are showing another positive trend this cycle. Applications to the University are currently 9% higher than at the same time last year, against a national decline.

5. Massive Open On-line Courses (MOOCs)

A working group is being set up to be chaired by Alan Hayes, Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching) in the Faculty of Science, to look at the implications of MOOCs for the university.

6. Programmes

Responsibility for the programmes BSc Sport and Social Sciences, BSc Sport (Sports Performance) (Work-based Learning), FdSc Sport (Sports Performance) will move from the Department of Education to the Department for Health with effect from the 2014/15 academic year. The School Board of Studies agreed this at their meeting on 20th November 2013. The programmes themselves will remain unchanged. The Childhood, Youth and Education Studies programme will remain in Education.

7. Public Engagement

7.1 Celebrating Engaged Research, the University's inaugural Public Engagement Showcase, was held on 13 November. The event looked to celebrate the range of engaged research already taking place at the University, and offered networking opportunities for researchers, postgraduate students and professional services staff with an interest in public engagement. Alongside a keynote talk from Professor Angela McFarlane (previously Director of Public Engagement & Learning at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) were eight 'Ignite'-style presentations (five minute summaries) from across the faculties and School of Management that showcased examples of, and learning from, engaged research. These presentations were complemented by nine stalls exhibiting engaged research. The Showcase proved popular, with some 110 people in attendance and feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

7.2 Celebrating Engaged Research followed on from the contribution that the Public Engagement Unit made to the Chancellor's Installation, sourcing and coordinating 10 handson research exhibits for the Open House. Alongside new initiatives to grow awareness of, and expertise in, engaged research (e.g. a seed funding call for engaged research projects; the recruitment of public engagement advocates and the launch of a postgraduate research student public engagement forum), the Unit will, in 2014, look to develop existing and new events. The team will be contributing to Bath Taps into Science, broadening its remit, and running the annual Images of Research competition. They are also forging new links with the Fringe Arts Bath Festival to secure an exhibition space for the University's research, and linking in with national opportunities such as Universities Week, Cheltenham Science Festival and Pint of Science. On-campus, the team will launch monthly 'public engagement conversations' on varied engagement-related themes.

8. ‘Let’s Talk’ Session

I held an open meeting for staff on 14 November which was well-attended and also streamed on-line. The questions discussed covered a wide range of topics including:

  • public transport and parking issues
  • our relationship with the city of Bath
  • lack of social space
  • support for mobile devices
  • staff pay and the living wage
  • and the challenge of remaining number one for student satisfaction

9. Internationalisation Update

9.1 The University has hosted a major delegation of government officials and ViceChancellors from India to discuss technology-enhanced learning and also partnerships more widely. Direct follow-up engagement with India will take place with the visit of a major Bath delegation in February.

9.2 The University has also entered into partnership discussions with one of Germany's leading universities - the TU Munich (TUM). TUM has existing Erasmus partnerships with the University, ongoing research collaborations in two faculties and the School of Management and shares a wide range of our international partners.

9.3 The University is close to signing a partnership agreement with Colciencias, the Colombian national research council, to attract funded full-time PhD students from across Colombia to the University of Bath.

9.4 The Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Internationalisation) has recently visited Mexico. The Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), a premier HEI in the country, is interested in a strategic partnership with Bath. This could offer scope for funded faculty mobility to the Tecnológico de Monterrey in some of our disciplines, notably the School of Management. Conacyt, the National Council of Science and Technology, is also interested in an agreement to allow postdoctoral mobility between its research centres and Bath. The Director of International Partnerships will be visiting Mexico to follow up on these developments.

10. New Buildings

10.1 The £24 million Chancellors’ Building constructed by Vinci was officially opened on 7 November by our new Chancellor. The building was delivered from concept to completion in less than half the normal time for a building of its size which makes it one of the fastest delivered buildings of this quality and scale at a university within the UK.

10.2 Building work is underway to create new student accommodation on campus, which will include 708 additional en-suite bedrooms and a new refectory, and on the new Centre for the Arts. Both are due for completion in 2014.

10.3 Each new development seeks to enhance the excellence of our research and teaching activity but also the University’s capacity to engage with our local community. The new facilities aim to benefit a much wider audience than staff and students on campus and provide opportunities for knowledge and ideas to be exchanged – whether these are visitors from the local area or from around the world. For example, we plan to use the Chancellors’ Building to host a series of public lectures and our new conference facilities will provide a vital resource to businesses in the city.

11. Other University News

I particularly wish to draw the attention of Senate to the following developments since our previous meeting: - recent significant grant awards include:

Description Funder Principal Investigator Amount
LowCAPu-Low cost Auxillary Power Unit Technology Strategy Board Dr Sam Akehurst
Selective Laser Melting for Engines Technology Strategy Board Dr Sam Akehurst £257,592
ALPUIS EPSRC Professor Guy McCusker £284,505
Structure-Function Studies on Clostridium Difficile Large Toxins MRC Professor Ravi Acharya £324,613
Centre for Low Emissions Vehicle Research (CLEVeR) EPSRC Professor Gary Hawley £1,659,568
Parental Responses to Child Trauma: the Role of Trauma Specific Behaviours and Parenting Style in Facilitating Child Psychological Adjustment ESRC Dr Sarah Halligan £329,338
  • Professor Tess Ridge, Professor of Social Policy, has been made an Academician by the Academy of Social Sciences. Professor Ridge is one of 900 Academicians, all distinguished scholars and practitioners from academia and the public and private sectors, selected by a peer group for the standing and impact of their work. Professor Ridge’s main research interests lie in childhood poverty and social exclusion, particularly exploring children’s own perspectives on poverty and disadvantage. Her research has had an impact on policy development and legislation at local, national and international levels, including the Child Poverty Act, and has informed the thinking and priorities of child poverty lobby groups and NGOs. She is currently working closely with The Children’s Society to develop a new and innovative longitudinal study of childhood poverty that will explore the experience of contemporary low-income childhoods over time, from the child’s perspective.

  • Simon Bond, Director of our Innovation Centre, recently attended the launch of a multi-centre hub in Amman, Jordan at a reception hosted by King Abdullah of Jordan. Called the UK Jordan Tech Hub, it has been designed to help drive economic growth through a technology and innovation partnership between the UK and Jordan. It will focus on sectors where the UK and Jordan have complementary strengths, including digital, biomed, low carbon, ICT and finance. The Bristol and Bath region has been specified as a leading development base in the UK for creativity and innovation, with particular strengths in film, animation, microelectronics and advanced engineering. It is also at the heart of one of the largest cluster of silicon designers in the world.  Professor Richard Butler from the Department of Mechanical Engineering has been awarded a prestigious Research Chair by the Royal Academy of Engineering and GKN Aerospace to carry out work that will have a significant impact on the design and manufacture of composite structures for future aircraft. Professor Butler will develop a suite of analytical methods to improve manufacturing processes and optimize the efficient use of fibre-reinforced composite material in high-value composite structures.

  • Professor James Davenport, from the Department of Computer Science, has been elected as joint Vice President of the BCS Academy of Computing. The BCS is the Chartered Institute for IT, and has 75,000 members. The organisation is a learned society concerned with the practice of education and research in computer science. Its mission is to ensure that everyone benefits from IT, and to achieve this the BCS Academy of Computing was created.

  • I would like to thank the Development & Alumni Relations Department on their recent donors’ event held at the Royal Society on 20 November.

  • The Research Development and Support Office also helped to arrange the successful SetSquared 10th anniversary celebrations, held at the House of Commons on 27 November.

12. Conclusion

Members of Senate are invited to note the report.

Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell
November 2013


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