January message to staff
Belated Happy New Year to you all, and welcome back to campus. Sadly, over the Christmas break, we heard the dreadful news that one of our students, Sophie Smith, had gone missing from her home in Gorleston. My thoughts, like everyone else’s, are with her family and friends at this very difficult time.
Just a few days into January, Sam Gyimah replaced Jo Johnson as Universities Minister in the Cabinet reshuffle and takes on a sizeable in-tray, which includes tuition fees, post-Brexit staff and student cross-border mobility and the ability to participate in research programmes such as Horizon 2020, and widening participation in higher education. I am looking forward to a constructive relationship with him as we navigate some tricky waters.
We also began the year with the great news that Rebecca Stott, who teaches Literature and Creative Drama, won the prestigious Costa Biography Award for her book “In the Days of Rain: a Daughter, a Father, a Cult”. It’s an enormous accomplishment and a fascinating book - and I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing her well for the Book of the Year award on 30 January.
A success of a different kind is the launch of a joint programme between the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Norwich Business School and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Trust that will prepare NHS professionals across East Anglia for leadership through developing networks that address our major healthcare challenges. Partnerships such as this are one of the ways we use our expertise to help make a real difference to people’s lives.
I’m delighted too that next month sees the launch of our first degree apprenticeship programmes, the Registered Nurse course and the Senior Leadership MBA. Also important partnerships with employers, they represent an exciting step change in the study options we offer students, opening up the possibility of higher education to people who might never otherwise have considered it.
As many of you will know, another major initiative, led by ARM and ICTS, is under way to rebuild the website and the portal. It’s an important piece of work for UEA, because it means our website will reinforce our reputation and demonstrate our strengths to prospective students, business partners and other key audiences in a much more powerful way, and the portal will better support you in doing your job - and students in their studies - by delivering tailored content that’s both useful and informative.
It’s a considerable undertaking and we need the views of both staff and students to help inform the sites’ future design and content. To achieve this, a university-wide consultation begins next week – look out for “pop-ups” across the campus where you can give your opinion, or contribute through the online survey, which will also be coming. I’d encourage you to take part as your views will help us create a truly user-focused website and portal.
Consultation of a different kind will also take place when this year’s National Student Survey launches on 1 February. Please encourage your final-year students to respond and emphasise that we want to hear their views so we can build on what we already do to make the experience of future students even better and more fulfilling.
Do Something Different
Student experience is of huge importance, and one of the key ways we encourage students to try new activities during their time at UEA is through “Do Something Different”. A wide variety of events is taking place throughout the year, and will culminate in the “Do Something Different” Festival Week, which I’m looking forward to launching at 5pm tomorrow (24 January) in the Blue Bar. Please join us if you’d like to find out more – just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Festival Week itself runs from 19 February and promises to be a great event, with more than 100 different activities available, from academic sessions like “Building Under Pressure” led by Engineering to music and skateboarding. There’s always room for more so please sign up to run a session yourself, and encourage your students to get involved.
A piece of sad news to pass on - some of you may remember Michael Paulson-Ellis, Registrar and Secretary from 1978 to 1999, who sadly died earlier this month – I offer my condolences to his family and friends.
Finally, I’m glad to say that here at UEA, we enjoy one of the safest campuses in the country, where I hope we work in an atmosphere that makes us feel respected and valued. I’m personally committed to ensuring that everyone, both staff and students, is free from any kind of harassment, that the standards of behaviour we expect are clear and that anyone who needs help receives it. That’s why I’m supporting the next phase of our joint “Never OK” campaign with the Students’ Union, marked by a week of events from 5 February. We’ve invited external organisations such as Leeway, which supports people facing domestic abuse, the Harbour Centre, which provides counselling for people who’ve been sexually assaulted, and the police to take part, as well as support groups here at UEA.
One of the highlights will be a panel discussion on the point at which banter becomes unacceptable, which I’ll take part in, and I’ll also make a personal pledge, alongside other staff and students who choose to do so, to uphold high standards of behaviour across the university and take action if I see someone needs my support. More details will be out soon, so watch this space – I hope you will join me in supporting this important initiative.
Prof David Richardson