Vice-Chancellor’s June message
We’ve reached the end of another busy academic year, one that’s not been without its challenges but where, yet again, we’ve worked together to achieve many notable successes.
There’s been a strong recurrent theme throughout the year, which is the huge contribution that we, as individuals and a University, make to the community. As part of that community, I strongly believe that “giving back” is central to our role.
That’s why I welcome the UPP Foundation Civic University Commission’s examination of universities’ place in 21st Century society. It’s looking at whether we provide value for money and how we serve taxpayers and students. I’m confident about our contribution, so was delighted that Norwich topped the table in a YouGov survey on the Commission’s behalf, showing that our city’s residents are the proudest of their universities out of the 10 cities surveyed and are also the most frequent visitors to their local campuses.
Our recent Engagement Awards illustrate the huge amount of time and effort both staff and students put in to sharing their knowledge and inspiring others outside the academic world. This important contribution is also recognised by the Students’ Union, through their Transformation Awards and Recognitions (STAR) awards, celebrating the huge positive impact made by our students to the University and wider community.
It’s important to recognise this work, which is central to our mission, and there’s another chance to do so in the 2019 Innovation & Impact Awards. Nominations are open for staff and students who’ve made an impact through their work, highlighting the ways our research contributes to society.
External recognition is important too and helps highlight the breadth of our impact to a wider audience. Congratulations to Senior Lecturer Toby James, who was a finalist in the Economic and Social Research Council’s Celebrating Impact Prize for his work on improving electoral integrity and demographic participation. I’m also delighted that our Gig History project received a silver Circle of Excellence Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). As a punk rock fan, I’m very happy to see this initiative to engage gig goers past and present in sharing their memories has been recognised.
While UEA gigs are undoubtedly important events on the local music scene, our cultural reach is much wider, thanks not in small part to Prof Chris Bigsby who, I’m sad to say, is retiring this summer.
His contribution to UEA since he arrived some five decades ago are too numerous to list but his stewardship of the Arthur Miller Institute is of particular note. Among other things, it has provided essential support for English and American Studies students in their study abroad year, as well as graduate and staff research trips to the US. He was also instrumental in organising the annual Literary Festival, which enriches the cultural life of UEA and the wider community – I’m glad to say he will remain involved with the event. I wish him all the best for his retirement and my thanks for being such a big part of UEA.
We continue to reach out in imaginative ways – six Humanities academics and PhD students will attend the Latitude Festival in Suffolk next month in a special section called “Tomorrow’s World…it takes a village”. They’ll run workshops on the theme of “UEA’s Future Visions” and a Youth Speaker’s Corner will teach the art of rhetoric - a great way to engage with young people.
The Royal Norfolk Show is another important annual event in the local calendar and opportunity for us to share what we do with the public. This year’s topics range from the case for robust workplace wellbeing programmes to the fight against superbugs - it’s on tomorrow and Thursday and I’m looking forward to being there.
Another fantastic example of how we’re tackling real-life issues is the new partnership between the School of Health Sciences and Osaka University to investigate ways of improving the care of people suffering from dementia and help them live at home for longer – Japan’s demographics are very similar to Norfolk’s in that there’s a large elderly, rural population. Following the recent earthquakes there, I’m also glad to report that our four students based in Osaka are safe.
Inspiring the next generation
While engaging the public in our work and demonstrating how what we do contributes to solving problems on local and global scales will always be at the heart of what we do, inspiring the next generation to fulfil their potential is an even greater responsibility. I’m very proud of the huge amount of work we do to widen participation in higher education among children and young people from less privileged backgrounds, especially as we’re part of a city with the second-lowest social mobility in the country, according to the 2016 Social Mobility Index.
We’re involved in numerous programmes, from Norfolk Scholars to our work with our partners in the Network for East Anglian Collaborative Outreach (NEACO). And it’s not only about encouraging less privileged youngsters, we want to inspire all young people to love learning - and soon our next series of summer schools begin, to help do just that.
These strong social values are shared by our partners in the Aurora network, and we’ve a joint commitment to improve diversity and inclusion. We want to showcase best practice and learn from each other, and I’m happy that our second annual Aurora Diversity and Equality Award is now open for nominations – I encourage you to find out more on the website or apply using the web form.
Another dimension of our responsibility to others is our duty under GDPR to protect personal data. Thanks to everyone who has completed our online training - if you haven’t, please do so as soon as possible. The training alone is not enough, however – we must be vigilant in how we use such data, particularly in emails, in our everyday practices and report actual or potential breaches to Information Compliance team.
I’d like to end with two more pieces of good news. The welfare of our student community is one of our over-riding priorities and, if students need support, we want to ensure they receive it quickly. I’m delighted that the changes put in place by Jon Sharp and his team mean that our waiting times to see a counsellor are now among the best in the sector, at an average of just six working days. Well done to the team for achieving this.
I also want to congratulate Prof Gerard Parr, Head of Computing Sciences, who was presented by Prince William with the MBE he received in the New Year’s Honours for his services to developing the telecoms infrastructure in Northern Ireland earlier this month.
This summer, Prof Jacqueline Collier steps down from her role as Pro Vice-Chancellor for Social Sciences. She’s made an enormous contribution during her five years in this position, and I know that you’ll want to join me in offering her huge thanks.
Thank you too to every one of you for the contribution you’ve made to our University over the past academic year – enjoy the summer.