December message to staff
As we come to the end of the year, we can look back on a very memorable 12 months for UEA, and I’d like to thank each one of you for the contribution you’ve made to the many successes we’ve achieved in 2017. It began with the Queen’s visit to the Sainsbury Centre, ended with a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Environmental Sciences – and saw many achievements in between, such as our highest-ever league table ranking and TEF Gold award.
We’ve plenty to be proud about – but there are also significant challenges ahead in 2018. Last year was one of the most eventful I can remember in the higher education sector, with more focus than ever before on what we do and how we’re doing it. This will not stop, and we must continue to demonstrate the value we offer.
One of the exciting ways we’re doing this is by launching our initial degree apprenticeships, a Senior Leadership Master’s apprenticeship course based on our existing Executive MBA which will be delivered by Norwich Business School, and our Registered Nurse degree apprenticeship, based on our current Nursing degree. After discussions with employers, we hope to begin both in February, and there’s great potential for more over the next few years, particularly in the health professionals sphere.
Work on their development is being led by our Degree Apprenticeships Manager, Sharon Davies, and strategic and working groups chaired by Ian Dewing, Academic Director of Partnerships, and it’s a testament to the hard work of our teams in NBS and HSC, alongside RIN and others, that we’ve been able to launch these complex programmes in such a short space of time.
Two-year degrees are another initiative that the Government is keen for universities to explore, one that is yet to receive strong support from the sector. While they could be an attractive option for some types of student, it’s an area that we’ll examine thoroughly and carefully – taking both teaching and research requirements fully into account as well as potential student demand – before coming to any decision.
Listening to our students and responding to their needs is, of course, fundamental to everything we do – and they will get the chance to express their views when the 2018 National Student Survey is launched on 1 February. I encourage all teaching staff to ensure that final year students are aware of the importance of having their say by bringing up the topic in classes. And it’s equally important to highlight the value of completing the UKES survey to non-final year undergraduate students and, for taught post-graduate students, the PTES survey.
Student wellbeing is one of the most crucial areas of support that we offer, essential in helping to ensure their time with us is both successful and happy. Jon Sharp and his team are in the process of introducing a number of initiatives aimed at providing students with the support they need, when they need it, including daily one-hour drop-in sessions, an online referral form, more same-day appointments and extended opening hours. That’s in addition to an expanded team, with two Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners and two CBT Therapists.
We’re also taking a holistic approach to student welfare through, accessuea, our joint scheme with the Sportspark that offers six free activity sessions for students bring supported by the Wellbeing service to encourage them to use exercise to relax and improve their mental and physical wellbeing. All great steps forward.
I’d also like to highlight the success of our research colleagues, whose achievements in winning international funding for their projects was celebrated last week at a reception in the Council Chamber - no mean feat in a very competitive environment. One recent funding success I’d like to pick out is the BMA Foundations for Medical Research Award won by nurse researcher Dr Jackie Buck and her Cambridge University colleague for their work looking into multiple health conditions in the older population. Elderly care is one of the biggest challenges facing the NHS and research like this helps our health and care services plan how best to treat an ageing population – and highlights the great contribution our nurses are making to research.
Well done too to our colleagues at INTO UEA for the “excellent” rating they received in their first Independent Schools Inspectorate report, alongside the overall judgement that they exceed expectations for the quality of education they provide. We warmly welcome our overseas students to UEA and I’m delighted that we’ve been invited by the Home Office to take part in their Tier 4 visa pilot, aimed at simplifying the visa application process for international students applying for a Masters’ course of 13 months or less and extending the leave period following their study to six months.
Sadly, this message is too short to mention by name all the great things that we’ve achieved in 2017. Now we must ensure that the next 12 months are equally successful.
Developing our learning and teaching spaces is a significant part of this agenda, and our investment programme is laid out in our UEA 2030 Vision and Plan. I’m happy to report that we’re on schedule and making good progress, with planning permission granted for Building 60. Reinvesting in our campus, including essential refurbishment of the Lasdun Wall, is key to ensuring that we continue to provide the best possible environment for teaching and research, and that’s why we’ve launched the Align project to keep us on target. Over the next four months, a team from across UEA, supported by PwC consultants, will examine potential opportunities to improve efficiency in our professional services, keeping us fully on track to deliver our ambition.
For all the challenges we face – including ensuring we’re fully prepared for the new data protection regulations (GDPR) coming our way in May - I’m excited about the opportunities that next year will bring, and hope that you are too. I also hope that you enjoy a restful break. If you have time, take a moment to listen to “Saving the Blue” a delightful play on Radio 4 written by Steve Waters, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, about one man’s quest to save butterflies. It will be broadcast on 29 December, later available on iPlayer, and makes perfect listening during the Christmas break.
Enjoy the holidays – once again thank you for your hard work in 2017, and I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.
Prof David Richardson,