It is a pleasure to introduce this year’s Annual Accounts, not least as the last academic year has been filled with many remarkable achievements at individual and collective levels.
I am proud of how our University has flourished, building on the innovation, collaboration and agility of previous years and learning from the challenges we have faced. We have successfully advanced our four strategic pillars of driving excellence in education, high-impact research, fostering an outstanding and inclusive community and enhancing our strategic partnerships. The ongoing advice and leadership provided by members of Council, our governing body, and Pamela Chesters CBE, Chair of Council, has been invaluable and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for the important role they continue to play in our success.
Advances in education and student experience
At the culmination of this reporting period, we have been named University of the Year 2023 by The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide.
This is particularly special, because we earned this accolade as a result of advancements across the board, including coming fourth in the UK for undergraduate university experience and fifth for graduate prospects in the associated Times rankings. We are ranked 7th best university in the UK by the Guardian University Guide 2023 and 8th in the UK in the Complete University Guide 2023 and were placed in the top 100 globally in the QS Graduate Employability Rankings, these rankings all representing rises over the previous year. The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) graduate outcomes survey for the cohort graduating in 2019/20 showed that 92.9% of Bath’s full-time UK domiciled first-degree graduates working in the UK are in high-skilled employment 15 months after completing their studies.
Of course, these results represent a huge amount of hard work across our academic and professional services staff. It is heartening to see the work of our community also leading to strong recruitment performance, with our undergraduate entry tariff increasing and record numbers of applications this year. The first part of the academic year was still very much concerned with safely navigating the pandemic, and much credit is due to our teaching staff for the swift return to face-to-face education, with 92% of our scheduled teaching in-person, which was greatly appreciated by our students.
And for our graduating students, it was a joy to see our graduation ceremonies return to Bath Abbey this summer. These included cohorts from 2019/20 and 2020/21 whose ceremonies had been postponed by the pandemic, in addition to last year’s graduates, all of whom had the opportunity to celebrate their achievements with friends and family.
We are committed to continuous improvement, and over the last year, we have entered the implementation phase of our ‘Curriculum Transformation’ programme which looks to enhance further our educational provision.
We strive to provide a well-rounded student experience and a culture of care. This year, University of Bath students recorded overall satisfaction of 86.3% in the National Student Survey 2022, more than ten percentage points greater than the median score of Universities UK members (75.6%). I am also pleased that University won a national award in July, in recognition of the excellent support offered to students throughout the pandemic, being named ‘Best Campus Experience of the Year’ by the College & University Business Officers association. We are building on strong foundations and looking at how we enhance all aspects of the student experience, developing a strategic implementation plan in partnership with student representatives. Overall, we strive to support our students to develop the personal attributes needed to fulfil their future ambitions in employment, leadership and making a positive impact wherever they work and live.
Progressing our research agenda
It has been an important year for our research ambitions. Published in May 2022, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 results showed that 92% of research submitted achieved the two highest classifications of ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Equally importantly, it showed a clear strengthening of our research intensity.
The last 12 months have seen us build on the three institutional themes of Sustainability, Health & Wellbeing, and Digital, and support the growth of our research through the Bath Beacons initiative. We celebrated our first Research Culture Week and launched our Research with Impact campaign to promote some of our research highlights externally.
This year, we also opened the new £70m Institute of Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS). The 11,300 m2 purpose-built facility at the Bristol & Bath Science Park will not only help drive research and innovation into developing future generations of clean and efficient propulsion systems but will also house the South West’s first Green Hydrogen production facility.
The next few years will see us continue to grow our research power and impact, particularly at international level.
An outstanding and inclusive community
We have made a series of senior appointments this year to help lead the implementation of our strategic objectives. We were delighted to welcome Professor Deborah Wilson, our new Dean of the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences; Ian Blenkharn, Director of Education & Student Services; Chris Youles, Chief Information & Digital Officer; Gordon Cox, Director of Development & Alumni Relations; Dev Biddlecombe, Director of Estates; Alice Ludgate, Director of Student Support and Safeguarding; and Catherine Baldwin, our new Director of Recruitment and Admissions.
We have also introduced new ways of working for staff, including hybrid working for office-based professional services colleagues. We have been taking action and making preparations to support both staff and students through cost-of-living pressures. We have also made clear progress on our Climate Action commitments, including becoming the first University to include Carbon Literacy in induction for all new students, becoming the first UK university to sign the Green Chemistry Commitment, introducing a new travel and expenses policy, a sustainable food commitment and we continue to make real contributions to carbon reduction through our research. We have also established a Culture and Inclusion team, led by Professor Rajani Naidoo, Vice-President Community & Inclusion. There has been a range of activity across our student and staff communities both to celebrate inclusion, build on successes such as the Athena Swan Silver award for our institution and also to help us explore challenges and to think in new ways.
Enhancing our strategic partnerships
Our enterprise and innovation agenda has come to the fore this year, and our first Enterprise Day, held in April 2022, brought together business leaders, academics and students to nurture collaboration between academia and industry. Not only have the number of University spin outs increased in the last year, but student enterprise activity has significantly increased, with a 29% rise in full business plans submitted to our expert panel. Launched in November 2021, the £17.0m Innovation Centre for Applied Sustainable Technologies (iCAST), along with the opening of the new IAAPS facility, will enable researchers to work with industry to support the UK’s transition to net zero. Based in the Carriage Works in Swindon, iCAST is a collaboration between the Universities of Bath and Oxford, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult’s Sustainability Partnership (National Composites Centre, and Centre for Process Innovation) innovation experts at SETsquared, Local Enterprise Partnerships, investors and companies. Supported by the Research England Development Fund, iCAST will operate as a research and development and collaboration hub for companies working on clean growth technologies.
We have also opened a new building housing our School of Management which, in addition to nine lecture theatres, a 250-seat auditorium and a Behavioural Research Lab, includes an Employability Hub for visiting industry partners to help prepare students for the workplace, and collaboration spaces where students, faculty and employers can meet, study and work.
This year, we have appointed four new distinguished international visiting professors as part of the Global Chair scheme: Professor Chuyang Tang from the University of Hong Kong; Professor Tianhong Cui of the University of Minnesota; Professor Carolyn Ann Emery of the University of Calgary, and Professor Konstantina Nikita from the National Technical University of Athens. As leaders in their respective fields, we are honoured to be hosting them and to build such strong international partnerships in research and practice.
It has been heartening to see the continued positive trajectory of so many areas of our work. In the years to come, we can expect challenge as well as an opportunity, but I am deeply proud of what our University community has achieved so far, and look forward with anticipation to see the fruition of the plans we are developing together.
Professor Ian White
Vice-Chancellor and President