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Vice-Chancellor’s introduction to the Annual Accounts 2022/23

The introduction to the Annual Accounts by the Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Ian White.

Annual Accounts

Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Ian White
Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Ian White

It is a pleasure to introduce this year’s Annual Accounts and to reflect on a remarkable year of progress and achievement. At the outset, I would like to thank our staff, students, members of Council, Students’ Union, alumni, and our many partners and supporters whose contributions are at the heart of our continued success.

The 2022/23 academic year started on a very positive note for our community, being named University of the Year 2023 by The Times and Sunday Times in recognition of the advances made in our high-quality education and student experience.

It ends with us passing some major milestones two years into our new strategy, ‘Our University, Our Future: Connected’, which emphasises the importance of inclusivity and excellence. This is therefore an important moment to reflect on and to acknowledge the major goals which are now being achieved early, the progress being due to a multitude of collective and individual successes. At the highest level, our work has been reflected by recent domestic and global rankings results including:

  • our recognition as a top 5 UK university by the Complete University Guide 2024, highlighting the progress we have made in recent years to be ranked so clearly as one of the UK’s leading institutions for education, student experience and research
  • being named one of the world’s top 150 universities in the QS World University Rankings 2024. This rise of 31 places puts the University into the top 10% worldwide

Both of these were ultimate ambitions for our Strategy, which at a more detailed level sets out our ambitions across four pillars, against each of which we have made substantial progress.

Driving excellence in education

I am delighted that our excellent teaching has been recognised by a triple ‘Gold’ award in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) 2023. Our University was found to have typically outstanding quality across Student experiences, receiving a Gold rating for this aspect, and outstanding quality across all the features of Student outcomes, also receiving a Gold rating for this aspect as well as overall for the institution.

One of Bath’s outstanding quality features within TEF related to educational gains, which is based on data from sources including the National Student Survey scores, entry tariffs and graduate outcomes. The employability of our graduates continues to be a real strength at Bath. At the time of writing, we are ranked fourth in the UK for graduate prospects in The Complete University Guide 2024, sixth for graduate prospects by The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 and sixth for careers after 15 months in The Guardian University Guide 2024. In September 2023, we were also named University of the Year for Graduate Jobs in the new Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

We are, however, far from complacent. Over the last year, we have been implementing our ‘Curriculum Transformation’ programme, the most significant restructuring of our educational framework in 25 years. This looks to enhance further our educational provision, with most new courses launching in the 2023-24 academic year.

We were pleased to be able to celebrate the culmination of the achievements of our students at the Assembly Rooms in December 2022 and at Bath Abbey in July 2023, with our wonderful graduation ceremonies. We also recognised a number of outstanding individuals with honorary degrees: Colonel Anne McClain received an honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering; Mr Richard Mills an honorary degree of Doctor of Clinical Psychology; Claire Smith an honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering; Mr Robin Hayes an honorary degree of Doctor of Business Administration and Mr Brian Schofield a posthumous honorary degree of Master of the University.

Driving high-impact research

We have made real strides in advancing our research culture within the University this year, including our second Research Culture Week and no fewer than 35 funded initiatives to support the strengthening of research culture at all levels within the University. Our researchers have also received numerous individual and collective prizes this year, and I was delighted that Professor Laurence Hurst was awarded the Humboldt Prize in recognition of his world-leading research on evolutionary genetics.

We are deeply grateful for the support of the West of England Combined Authority and Research England which has enabled us to officially launch the Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS). In addition, the Institute for Sustainability was launched in January 2023, and others are being established including the Institute for Digital Security and Behaviour, Institute for Climate Change Resilience and Institute for the Augmented Human. We have also agreed six new Bath Beacons which will support groups or networks of researchers with capability and capacity to develop large research funding applications.

These initiatives have already seen significant growth in our research income, with major awards being announced this year. We are leading an EPSRC-funded £12m project, the Cellular Agriculture Manufacturing Hub, which will develop new approaches to making food products. Additionally, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is funding an £11m UK Hub for Research Challenges in Hydrogen and Alternative Liquid Fuels (UK-HyRES), led by the University of Bath, to lead future UK strategy on hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels. We were delighted as a result of these and other awards to see our total research awards surpass £63m this year, up 32% from the previous year. This now is only £11m from the steady state, longer-term values required to deliver on our 2021-26 strategy.

Our postgraduate researchers and all those who support them are crucial to our research agenda at Bath, and I was pleased to see the advances made in the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) 2023 results. The overall satisfaction rate was 83%, up from the 80% rate we achieved in 2021, which places Bath 16th out of 100 institutions. We will continue to work on ways to further strengthen the doctoral experience at Bath.

Fostering an outstanding and inclusive community

As those closest to Bath will know, the sense of community here is something that makes our University a truly special place to learn, live and work. Following the pandemic, it has been inspiring to see the return to activity on campus really accelerate. In addition to our rapid transition back to in-person teaching, clubs and societies are thriving, with around 10,000 students taking part in sporting activities and around 2,000 in arts activities, making the most of the exceptional facilities we have at the University.

Continuing the record of sporting success, it was a delight to see University of Bath-based athletes winning medals at the 3rd European Games, FINA World Aquatics Championships, Manchester 2023 Allianz Para Swimming World Championships, International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation World and European Championships, Netball World Cup and a host of domestic and international competitions. As the home of Pentathlon GB’s National Training Centre, we were also honoured to host the UIPM Laser-Run and Pentathlon World Championships 2023 here at the University and witness four more medals awarded to Bath-based athletes.

In order to support our community to thrive, wellbeing remains of critical importance and this year we have launched our whole-institution approach to wellbeing, ‘Be well’, as well as a series of supporting initiatives, including a male mental health campaign. We have made advances in relation to equality, diversity and inclusion, launching our new Statement of Equality Objectives which identify priority areas for action. We are delighted that, building on our Athena Swan Institutional Silver Award, every academic department at Bath now holds an Award, which is something only a few universities in the UK have achieved.

More broadly, we have focused on staff engagement and we have invested in a new staff hub on campus. I’m pleased that our regular staff surveys demonstrate an increased sense of pride in working for the University and we continue to listen carefully to feedback and find new ways to enable collaboration and support and recognise achievement.

Finally, I am delighted that we have made a range of excellent senior appointments this year, including Professor Duncan Craig, the new Dean of the Faculty of Science, Dr Ghazwa Alwani-Starr who was appointed as our new Chief Operating Officer, Professor Philip Ingham FRS who is Head of our new Life Sciences Department, and Ryan Bird who joined the University community as Chief Executive of the University of Bath Students’ Union.

Enhancing strategic partnerships

Over the last year, we have taken further steps to forge even stronger relationships locally and regionally. We have sought to go beyond economic contribution to finding new ways to harness our knowledge and skills to create positive impacts. In addition to joint research projects with key local organisations and our work through the Future Ambitions Board, we supported the cultural life of the City through sponsoring Bath Festival’s main programme and Children’s Literature Festival. We also worked with our Students’ Union to create ‘Cosy Wednesdays’ a warm space and activity programme for residents in Bath over the winter months.

We have a vibrant enterprise and research ecosystem at the University, and our partnerships contribute hugely to its success. We were delighted to celebrate SETsquared’s 20th anniversary this year, and the 10th anniversary of the GW4 Alliance and launch of its new strategy.

We are also deeply grateful to our network of supporters and donors, not least those who have helped us support students, widen participation and further research. It was a real honour to receive a £2m gift for a life sciences chair from alumnus Professor Raymond F. Schinazi, an eminent scientist, pharmaceutical entrepreneur and philanthropist who has developed effective drugs for HIV, and hepatitis B and C.

Underpinning our strategic pillars, we have been undertaking crucial work, often behind the scenes, to invest prudently in our digital capability, sustainability and infrastructure to support the future success of the University. It is now clear to me that while we recognise that the Higher Education sector continues to face challenges as well as opportunities, the year has seen the fundamental milestones now made to fulfil our 2021-2026 strategy; my sincere thanks therefore to all those who continue to help us navigate a rapidly changing world to deliver our mission and achieve our vision.

Professor Ian White
Vice-Chancellor and President

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