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November message to staff

I write this shortly after returning from Hong Kong, where I enjoyed meeting members of our alumni community who have gone on to successful careers and want to give back to the University through scholarships and donations.VC

I was proud to hear them speak so fondly of their time here at UEA, and to tell them about the many ways their funding helps us to improve the facilities and experience we offer our students and, crucially, how their scholarships enable students who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to come to university to study with us.

Our relationship with our alumni has always been important to us and now, more than ever, is the time to strengthen our existing networks and build new ones. We’re still no clearer what Brexit will mean for us, and we can’t sit back and wait to find out.

Strong bonds

Just ten days ago, I took on the mantle of President of Aurora, the network of nine European universities we established last year. We all share a strong social conscience and a passion to make a difference by working together, and it’s my ambition to drive this collaborative spirit forward during my presidency. Whatever happens in March 2019, strong bonds with other universities will help to ensure that staff and students continue to have the opportunity to work and study with our European peers.

Our ties with one Aurora partner, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, have also been drawn tighter after we signed a Memorandum of Understanding which will open the way for many exciting opportunities to develop research partnerships and shared initiatives for our students.

While we can be sure of change, we must be optimistic because relationships such as these will help us shape our own future. The challenges we’re facing and the positive way we’re responding to them was, in fact, the theme of the talk I gave last week at a “Mancroft Dialogue” lecture at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich last week.

It was attended by members of the public and was a great opportunity for me to showcase the impact UEA makes on the local community, from our economic contribution to the educational benefits of sharing our knowledge through public lectures and events. I was heartened to receive a very positive response from the audience, who clearly value us as members of the community.

Making an impact

I also want to mention a specific example of our expertise making a big impact – and that’s the findings of our research team, led by Prof Corinne Le Quéré of the Tyndall Centre at UEA. They announced their discovery that global carbon emissions are rising after three years of little to no growth at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 23) in Bonn last week, making headlines around the globe. It’s a fantastic example of UEA’s world-leading research and the contribution we’re making to tackling the issues that affect all our lives.

Our researchers have played a leading role in understanding climate change ever since UEA was established more than 50 years ago, and we have a strong environmental conscience. I was happy to see this reflected in the latest People & Planet University League, which ranks environmental and ethical performance. We were awarded a First Class position, ranking 30th, moving from a 2:1 ranking and 48th position the previous year.

The environment is something many of our students feel passionate about, and I enjoyed a lively and informative breakfast with students last week to discuss a wide range of other topics they feel strongly about. It’s an important part of my role, as leader of this University, to listen to students and hear their ideas and feedback on what we’re doing well and what not so well. I value their views and opinions highly and what they say helps us to bring about positive change.

I’m pleased that we’re also announcing an exciting new initiative that’s focused on helping our students fulfil their potential. As I mentioned earlier, building links and relationships with other organisations and the wider community brings many benefits, so I’m delighted that Jacyn Heavens, the CEO of EposNow, has agreed to be our first “entrepreneur in residence”, offering advice and mentoring to students on their business ideas and ventures over the course of the next year. And the great news is that part of his role will be to support staff too, providing guidance on commercialising your research and expertise.

Finally, I want to congratulate Prof Andy Jordan (ENV) and Prof Phil Jones (CRU), who are included in this year’s Web of Science list of Highly Cited Researchers – a huge accolade. In total, just 3,543 researchers are recognised globally across all disciplines Phil is one of 140 geoscientists, and Andy features among 180 social scientists – well done!

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Prof David Richardson

Vice-Chancellor