October message to staff
I must begin my message this month by paying tribute to Brian Summers, Registrar and Secretary, who retires this week after 18 years’ service. During his time at UEA, both the higher education sector and the university itself have changed dramatically and, under his valued stewardship, we’ve expanded both our staff and student numbers and the size and scale of our campus.
As his retirement approached, I gave serious thought to how we meet the many challenges that lie ahead. I attended the HEFCE Annual Conference recently, where Universities Minister Jo Johnson and Nicola Dandridge, the Chief Executive for the new Office for Students, were speakers. What I heard underlined that, whether we like it or not, we operate in a much more fast-moving and market-driven environment than ever before, with ever-growing regulatory and governance demands.
This means that the role of Registrar and Secretary can no longer be fulfilled by just one person, so we’re creating the roles of Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Resources Officer (CRO) – both members of the Executive team, reporting to me.
We’re currently recruiting the COO post and, in the interim, Ian Callaghan, Director of Finance and Planning, will take on the role of Acting Registrar and Secretary.
Both roles will be instrumental in ensuring that we meet the strategic objectives of our UEA Vision 2030 and UEA Plan 2016-20. The COO will be responsible for the leadership, development and cost-effective delivery of Professional Services and drive our partnership work with the Students’ Union. Our CRO will take on the strategic leadership of our financial resources, be central to delivering business planning, implementation and intelligence, serve as Secretary to Council and Senate and have oversight of corporate governance and compliance.
I would also like to take this opportunity to place on record our thanks for all Brian has done and wish him a happy retirement.
I’m confident that these appointments will help us move forward with our ambitious plans and continue to go from strength to strength in both our teaching and our research.
I want to congratulate the School of Education and Lifelong Learning for their registration by the Department for Education to offer post-graduate doctorates in Educational Psychology. It’s a great achievement – only 12 universities in England offer the course and ours is the first new registration in a number of years to train these much-needed professionals.
This month we’ve also seen yet more significant funding awards across all areas of our research. Alan Finlayson, PPL, has received an Arts & Humanities Research Council grant of more than £390,000 for his project developing ways to understand political thinking and ideology in digital culture, while Norwich Medical School has received more than £760,000 of a £2m investment by Alzheimer’s Research UK. We’ve also shared a total of £1.4m in Medical Research Council funding with our colleagues at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. The School of Computing Sciences received £847,000 for joint research on dizziness and the School of Biological Sciences £560,000 to further investigate muscle tissue regeneration - both potentially life-changing initiatives.
Collaboration between universities and businesses is vital for the commercialisation of our research, so I’m delighted that Eastern ARC, our research consortium with the universities of Essex and Kent, has been awarded £4.7 million by HEFCE to establish a network to support business innovation in the eastern region – ours is one of only four major projects awarded funding.
It’s not only our excellent research teams who are winning awards. Tom Williamson, HIS, won an award of a different kind when he was presented with the British Academy’s Landscape Archaeology Medal for services to academia last month – a great achievement.
It’s in recognition of such achievements that the Research & Innovation team has launched the Innovation and Impact Awards - nominations are open until 19 November, so please take part.
One great way of making an impact is by demonstrating the value of our work through community engagement – our involvement in both the Norwich Science Festival and our sponsorship of a brand new exhibition at the London Science Museum, “Superbugs: the fight for our lives”, are high-profile ways of illustrating our great research on antibiotic resistance. The Science Museum exhibition will run from 9 November to Spring 2019, and I’m really looking forward to going along.
Closer to home, next month we’re once again hosting Sync the City at Norwich cathedral, bringing together student entrepreneurs, mentors and technology experts to pitch their ideas for start-up companies over 54 hours. Nurturing our students’ creativity and talent, helping them to develop the confidence, skills and networks that will help them towards success when they leave university, is a hugely important part of what we do, and this is an exciting way to achieve it!
Two other events to look forward to next month are the Eastern ARC and Aurora conferences, both hosted here and both important networks for UEA. Our European Aurora network will be increasingly vital as Brexit moves closer, putting programmes such as Erasmus, in jeopardy. This month, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of Erasmus, which has been a cornerstone of student mobility, benefitting more than 2,500 staff and students from UEA, with a further 4,000 participants welcomed here. I passionately hope that our Brexit negotiating stance is to maintain a strong commitment to continued engagement in Erasmus programmes, and at UEA we will certainly endeavour to create similar opportunities for students and staff post-Brexit.
Whether regional or international, our relationships are extremely important to us, benefiting our research and our students. One key relationship is with SUSTech University in Shenzhen, China, and I was privileged to be asked to join its International Advisory Council, along with the Vice-Chancellors and Presidents of 12 other leading universities from across the world, including National University of Singapore, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the University of Queensland. I attended the inaugural meeting this month, where we discussed topics including research, entrepreneurship and internationalisation. It was informative, inspiring and clearly illustrated the benefits of working together to enable us to achieve more.
Now that I’m back from China, I will be vising the two new Sainsbury Centre exhibitions marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution - Radical Russia, which was curated by Peter Waldron (HIS), and the stunning Royal Faberge collection. Many congratulations also to Peter for being elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Science.
Finally, there’s another event I’d like to ask you to put in your diaries – our Open Forum on 6 November. I’ll update on progress towards our strategic objectives and, importantly, it’s a chance for you to put me and some of my leadership team colleagues in the hot seat by asking us questions. If you can’t make it, you can send them in to the Communications team via email and we’ll answer them all, but I’d urge you to come along on the day – we want to hear from you!
With best wishes,
Prof David Richardson,