Welcome to the start of another academic year
Welcome to the start of another academic year - one of my favourite times in the calendar, when our campus is once again alive with students. Thank you to everyone for making all our new students feel so welcome and ensuring that their introduction to UEA is a great experience for them.
I’m thrilled that our students are arriving in the knowledge that, for the sixth consecutive year, we are placed in the top 20 in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, achieving 15th position. Thanks to every one of you, as it’s only through our combined hard work that we are able to achieve such a great result.
After a very successful Clearing, I’m pleased to say that we have reached our recruitment targets and I am delighted that this year we’re welcoming more students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds than ever before, which is enriching for our own University community and for Norwich as a whole.
We’re also welcoming 1,500 new international students, who are joining a community of 4,000 overseas students on our campus. They are an incredibly important part of UEA, contributing new perspectives and ideas during their time with us.
That’s one of the reasons I fully support the call by Universities UK (UUK), following the Migration Advisory Committee’s report on the impacts of international students, for the Government to do more to encourage them to study in the UK by introducing a new graduate visa. This would also allow more employers to recruit talented graduates from around the world - putting us on a par with countries like the US, Canada and Australia. As long as the UK continues to count international students as long-term migrants in the net migration target, there will be pressure to reduce their numbers, even though polling suggests that international students are not seen as long-term migrants by the public, but valuable, temporary visitors.
Universities Minister Sam Gyimah recently wrote to all Vice-Chancellors recognising that we have one of the most open and inclusive higher education systems in the world – and he also asked for our support in one of our big challenges, student mental health and wellbeing.
Good mental wellbeing is essential if students are to fulfil their potential - and enjoy their university experience. I know that the support we have in place means that students requiring help and advice receive it, when they need it. It is always a top priority for us and I’m confident that, when the new University Mental Health Charter, led by the mental health charity Student Minds, goes live in the next academic year, we will demonstrate our excellence in supporting students’ mental health.
Starting university life is a time when young people can be particularly vulnerable, so we are ensuring that the support available to them is clearly signposted. You may already be aware of the OpenUp UEA app, aimed at new students and launched for the start of term. What’s particularly special about it is that it was designed for students by students in Computer Sciences, Psychology and Norwich Business School in a project led by Dr Laura Biggart, Senior Lecturer in Social Science Research, and Psychology Lecturer Kamena Henshaw. It’s aimed at helping students to understand their feelings and develop resilience, and highlights where they can find appropriate help. Please take a look and recommend it to any students who you feel might benefit.
Preparing students for their future employment is another increasingly important responsibility, and that’s why we held our first Employability Summit earlier this month. We do a tremendous amount to support our students in developing the skills and personal attributes, as well as gaining the work experience, that employers want. This event both showcased some of the best of these and marked the beginning of a strategic, University-wide conversation about how to share best practice and ideas across our Schools and Faculties to ensure that our graduates remain some of the most sought-after by employers and embark on rewarding careers. Next steps will include themed innovation workshops to develop distinctive initiatives in the areas of student-led enterprise, curriculum design, adviser support and employer/alumni engagement.
Supporting our researchers in carrying out the excellent work that strengthens our reputation as a world-class university is crucially important too, so I was delighted to learn that we have successfully retained our European Commission HR Excellence in Research Award at our six-year review. The award, designed to attract researchers from all over the globe, is evidence of our continued commitment to supporting our researchers’ career development.
We are always seeking new opportunities to support staff and students, and our new partnership with Norfolk Museums Service, formalising our long-standing collaboration, is particularly exciting. It offers many opportunities, including joint projects, co-supervised PhDs, further support for the PGCE and Early Years teaching programmes and student work placements, and underlines our important civic role in encouraging more people to enjoy our rich local history. We hope that the partnership will soon be further strengthened by us becoming the Academic Partner for the Gateway to Medieval England project, which is subject to the Heritage Lottery Fund confirming a £8.7m award for the redevelopment Norwich Castle’s Keep.
Recognition and global research
More good news is that Hazel Marsh, Senior Lecturer in PPL, and Prof Roger Few, Research Fellow in DEV, have secured £300,000 from the Global Challenges Research Fund for their innovative “Recovery with Dignity” project which, in partnership with colleagues in India and DEV, will examine people’s experiences of recovering from disasters there.
Congratulations also to David Andrews, Professor of Chemistry, on his honour of being elected as 2019 Vice-President of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics - he will serve as President-Elect in 2020 and President in 2021. SPIE is an educational not-for-profit organisation that advances light-based science, engineering and technology across 166 countries.
Davide Proment, Senior Lecturer in Applied Mathematics, has also been recognised, by receiving the Francois Frenkiel Award of the Division of Fluid Dynamics, along with co-authors Dr Alberto Villois (a former UEA postdoctoral research assistant) and Dr Giorgio Krstulovic (from CNRS in Nice) for a paper on vortex reconnections in superfluids, acknowledging his significant contributions to fluid mechanics - congratulations.
I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate Prof Tom Shakespeare on his new role at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where he will carry out disability and development work with the International Centre for Evidence in Disability. Tom has made a huge contribution to UEA during his time with us, which I thank him for and offer my very best wishes for his future career.
Our reputation as a university is hugely important to us all, so we have taken part in the World 100 Reputation Tracker project this year to understand better our reputation in the UK and globally – including among our staff. Please take a few minutes to complete this short, anonymous survey to give your views and help to shape our future reputation.
I wish you the best for the new academic year,
Prof David Richardson