Vice-Chancellor's July message
Last Friday we received the results of the National Student Survey. The first thing I want to say is that, while our scores are lower this year than in 2017, they are still strong and demonstrate that our students are overwhelmingly happy with the amount of support they receive from us. Our overall satisfaction level of 86% remains above the sector average of 83%. As always, we will listen to what our students have told us and take action where it is needed, and I want to thank you for your role in ensuring that we have continued to achieve such positive feedback overall.
I’m continually impressed by how everyone here at UEA works as a team, and never more so than at this time of year, when such a huge collective effort is made to ensure that exams and assignments are marked – leading, of course, to the biggest celebration in our academic calendar – Graduation week.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the massive amount of work put in to making our first Graduation at Carrow Road such a tremendous success. The weeks of planning and creative thinking that went into organising the event were clearly evident, and I’ve received many plaudits from students, their families, VIP guests and honorary graduates who appreciated the effort that made it a truly memorable occasion. I’m delighted by what we achieved together and hope, like me, that you look back on the week with pride and pleasure.
Celebrating the achievements of our students is a moving occasion for everyone, but especially so for those who knew students awarded posthumous degrees. Sadly, we made two such awards this year, and both recipients were valued members of our UEA family who had bright futures ahead of them.
Tosin Olusoga’s passion for economics was evident right from his application to study here - his goal was to become an economist and make a difference in the world. He was both an exceptional student and person, who was committed to his studies and involved with the wider University community. Those who knew him tell me he was a natural leader who inspired and motivated everyone around him, warm-hearted and with a wonderful sense of humour.
We also remember Sarah Delf, a postgraduate student awarded a posthumous PhD who was almost at the end of her synthetic organic chemistry research project. She embraced life to the full, was highly motivated and had a very promising career ahead.
It was important that we were able to mark their achievements with the award of posthumous degrees.
With Graduation behind us, we’re focused on looking ahead to the next academic year and beyond. Thanks to everyone involved in the two hugely-successful Open Days held earlier this month, when we welcomed more than 2,500 prospective students and their guests to our campus.
Our next major event is Clearing, which begins in earnest (we’ve already completed International Baccalaureate and Hong Kong clearing) on A level results day, 16 August – again a massive team effort. UCAS is anticipating that a third of students who enter the Clearing process this year won’t have made a UCAS application before, preferring to wait until they have their results. Often these are high-quality students who we’re pleased to admit, as are many of the other students who will be contacting us.
Offering students the courses they want to study is something we’re continuously focused on, so it was fantastic to see the enthusiasm generated by the inaugural Area Studies workshop held earlier this month across the Arts & Humanities Faculty. Area Studies is multi-disciplinary research focusing on specific geographic regions or culturally-defined areas, and includes an inter-disciplinary approach to teaching. Susan Hodgett, our recently- appointed founding Professor of Area Studies, is developing this field in research and teaching for UEA. She’s bringing together our extensive expertise across the University on studying people and place in a bold initiative that sees us leading in the UK and internationally in the development of Area Studies.
Providing the right courses and research opportunities is, however, just part of the picture – we must also help ensure our students develop the skills and are offered the opportunities that enable them to embark on successful careers. In September, Prof Sarah Barrow, our Executive Team lead for Employability, is hosting our first UEA Employability Summit, an important opportunity for us to come together across the University to further improve our students’ employability. We’ll hear about changes impacting employability both inside and outside our University, as well as initiatives at course, School and Faculty levels. We hope that many new ideas and partnerships will develop that will contribute to our Employability Strategy.
It’s worth noting another landmark - we were recently notified that we’ve successfully registered with the Office for Students (OfS), the new independent body that regulates English HE providers on behalf of students - to do so we had to demonstrate that we meet their demanding quality standards.
I was delighted to learn that Prof Tom Shakespeare is now a Fellow of the British Academy in recognition of his work in disability studies internationally. It’s an enormous accolade to be elected to this exclusive group of 1,400 leading minds from across the world, who comprise the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences. Congratulations!
Other high points this month include the East Anglian Film Archive’s Archive Service Accreditation, the UK quality standard which just five per cent of UK archives have achieved. Well done to the EAFA team, whose work extends across conservation, engagement, student employability and support for research projects across the University. Particular thanks to Angela Graham, Tim Snelson and John Tully.
I was also excited to hear that our joint Never OK campaign with the Students’ Union is shortlisted in the Best Community Relations Campaign category of the prestigious Chartered Institute of Public Relations PRide 2018 awards. As a member of the UUK Taskforce that produced the “Changing the Culture” report setting out the need to challenge the unacceptable behaviours leading to sexual harassment, violence and hate crime, I’m very proud that we’ve been recognised for the way we’re tacking this hugely important issue in order to remain one of the safest and most welcoming campuses in the UK.
Finally, congratulations to Dr George Lau of the Sainsbury Research Unit, which is affiliated with AMA, who has just been awarded £526,000 from the Arts & Humanities Research Council for a four-year archaeology project in the Peruvian Andes on ancient polities and systems of authority. This fascinating project is an AHRC and National Science Foundation (USA) collaboration, partnering with a UEA alumnus, Dr David Chicoine, now based at Louisiana State University. In addition to excavations, they will work with local museums, universities and municipalities to help promote tourism, site protection and heritage outreach. The project will also create opportunities for students and researchers to build academic and public links between the UK, North America and Peru.
Thank you for your support over the past year and I hope that you enjoy your summer break.