Vice-Chancellor’s message – May 2018
I hope you all enjoyed the Bank Holiday weekend, a welcome short break in a busy semester.
I’m very happy to begin this message with the news that we’ve maintained our eighteenth position in the Guardian league table ranking - and that we achieved number one position for added value. Added value refers to the progression our students make during their time with us – achieving good degrees and gaining employability skills. It’s a mark of the excellent teaching and opportunities we offer, and I thank you all for the contribution you’ve made to this great result.
I’m also delighted that our new Chief Operating Officer, Jenny Baxter, joined us on 21 May and is, I know, keen to meet as many people as possible. I’m very much looking forward to working with her as we deliver our plans for the University. Ian Callaghan also took up his new post as Chief Resource Officer on 21 May and, at the end of this week, we’ll welcome our new ICTS Director, Mark Barry, filling another vital post for the University.
As many of you will be aware, Prof Jacqueline Collier is shortly stepping down as Pro Vice-Chancellor for Social Sciences, having made a huge contribution in this role – happily, she’s remaining here at UEA. Her successor, Prof Frances Bowen, will join us on 1 September in time for the new academic year. She’s currently Dean of the School of Business and Management and Professor of Innovation at Queen Mary University of London, and I look forward to welcoming her to the Executive Team.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of Jim Dickinson as Chief of Staff at the Students’ Union. He made a significant impact during his time at UEA and I look forward to working with Toby Cunningham until a permanent replacement is found.
Very sadly, we learned of the tragic death of one of our students earlier this month. Jonathan Walker was a very popular second-year Psychology student, whose loss is keenly felt by everyone who knew him across the University. My thoughts are with his family and friends. A memorial service is being planned, and I know that many of us will want to remember Jonathan and celebrate his life.
I’d also like to remind anyone who was affected by his death and would like help to get in touch with Student Support Services. The team provides invaluable support throughout the year, and demand is never greater than now, when pressure on our students is at its highest. Same-day appointments are available for urgent cases every week day from 9.30am-3pm, which means that, in almost every instance, a student can see a member of the Wellbeing team for 30-minutes if they feel this would be beneficial.
After working with the Students’ Union on how to spend the money, we’ve also now invested £200,000 from the fund created by withheld wages from staff who took part in industrial action in further strengthening our service. We’ve increased the counselling services available over the exam period, and will be hiring additional full-time counselling staff for the next two years.
If you see signs of anxiety, stress or any other issue affecting one of your students’ mental wellbeing, please don’t hesitate to recommend the team’s services to them – we want everyone who needs support to benefit.
I’m proud of the many ways we offer support to our students here at UEA, and one important way we do this is by helping them to prepare for their future careers.
I’ve recently returned from a busy visit to Spain, where I attended the International Vice-Chancellors’ Meeting at Salamanca University, a valuable opportunity to share knowledge and experiences of current issues in our fast-moving sector, including lively debates on training and learning in a digital world and the place of research.
The visit included a Santander Universities UK meeting. As a partner in this organisation, we’re about to renew an agreement in which we receive an annual donation of £50,000 for three years to help us support enterprise, education and employability, alongside additional funding opportunities. I’m delighted that Santander chose us as one of the UK universities they wanted to work with back in 2012, and our relationship has continued to develop, offering enormous benefits for our students, including internships and support for entrepreneurship. One such opportunity was a competition to win up to £25,000 of equity-free funding for two new business ideas in their Entrepreneurship Awards - and I’m delighted that two UEA entrants, Daniela Paiva and Aaron Thomas, have made it to the semi-final.
Other successes were also celebrated this month in the Students’ Union’s two annual awards ceremonies, the Transforming Education and Student Transformation Awards and Recognitions (STAR) Awards. It was fantastic to see so many of our wonderful staff and students recognised for the incredible and inspiring work they do here on campus and in the wider community. And I know that it means a lot to staff to be acknowledged in this way by students. Well done to everyone who was nominated or won an award.
There was a celebration of a different kind when Universities Minister Sam Gyimah visited Norwich Research Park on 14 May and announced a £40 million Government investment in the Quadram Institute Biosciences (formerly Institute of Food Research), which opens later this year. We’re a key partner, alongside the former Institute of Food Research, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the BBSRC, and the investment demonstrates not only that science and innovation are at the heart of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, but also it’s belief in the importance of the work we’ll undertake researching the links between food science, gut biology, human health and disease.
I want to end my message this month with two reminders. Firstly, I’m sure it won’t have escaped your attention that, last Friday, the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) finally came into force. We’ve spent months preparing for its arrival and take the need to protect individuals’ data that we hold – including our own – very seriously. To help ensure that we do this, we must all complete our online data protection training. Thanks to everyone who has already done so and, if you haven’t, please make some time.
You will also by now have received your invitation to complete our Staff Survey, which is open until 22 June. It’s anonymous, takes no more than 15 minutes to complete and I can’t emphasise enough how important your feedback is in helping us all, as part of the UEA community, make our campus an even better place to work by highlighting where improvements are needed and measuring progress on the work we’ve already started. Please use this opportunity to help make a difference.
Prof David Richardson