January 15, 2016, by David Greenaway
Looking Forward to the Year Ahead
I have not posted a blog since October last year, an unusually long gap between posts, but for good reason.
November was something of a wipe-out. Between visits to UNNC and UNMC we had to pack in everything possible because of what was coming in December. And what was coming for me was my first ever experience of surgery, in the form of a total hip replacement. I had known for about 18 months that surgery was necessary to deal with the impact of 50 years of football on my left hip, and managed to clear December to have it dealt with. Fortunately I had our Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Karen Cox, to hand over to.
So, now I am back, what do we have on the agenda for the coming year?
In the national arena the first thing to be dealt with was responding to the consultation on the Government’s higher education Green Paper, an extensive document proposing a new Teaching Excellence Framework, changes to the regulatory environment (including the replacement of HEFCE with an Office for Students), and quite radical changes to the research environment.
The latter includes creation of a new body (Research UK) to oversee the activities of all seven Research Councils, the distribution of REF related funding (QR), and distribution of Innovate UK’s funding. There are risks here to the research ecosystem, as well as possible risks to University autonomy.
The other national development which will gather pace is geography. At one level that is obvious; we operate in an increasingly internationalised environment. But geography in a national context is becoming ever more salient, amplifying the importance of strong regional partnerships.
We of course have our bilateral Collaborative Agreement with the University of Birmingham, and a number of strong regional partnerships like the Midlands Physics Alliance, Midlands Energy Consortium and AHRC Midlands 3 Cities DTP. These and other new initiatives will be enveloped in the Midlands Innovation partnership, comprising Aston, Birmingham, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham and Warwick. This partnership (with the British Geological Survey) realised its first major success with the confirmation of a £60 million commitment in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement to establish the Energy Research Accelerator. We will see a formal launch of Midlands Innovation in April.
Turning to more University focused priorities; we will continue to drive delivery of our ambition in Strategy 2020. Our core strategies of ‘Excellence in Education and the Student Experience’ and ‘World Changing Research’ are under new leadership, in the hands of Professor Sarah O’Hara and Dame Jessica Corner respectively. Both will be working with the community more broadly to deliver innovation and enhancement.
Supporting the core strategies we have a suite of enabling and underpinning strategies, at the leading edge of which is Project Transform. This huge investment in new technology, new systems, and new ways of working has been very challenging for all of us. But as new structures are embedded and new ways of working adopted, we will drive a radical improvement in the quality and consistency of the services we provide to our students, and with much more joined up systems. (My next blog will focus more fully on Project Transform).
2016 will also see some major enhancements of our physical infrastructure. On Jubilee Campus, the Carbon Neutral Laboratories will be complete in June, a remarkable recovery after the catastrophic fire in September 2014. What an asset this will be in underpinning excellence in research and knowledge exchange in Green Chemistry.
On University Park, the David Ross Sports Village is well advanced and due to open in September. This is three time the size of our old Sports Centre, and alongside other investments in Riverside, Highfields, Jubilee Campus (and of course the rather fearsome looking fitness trail on University Park) will completely transform the sports and recreation facilities offer to our students and staff.
There is much I could say about other priorities, such as our internationalisation agenda, and the Impact Campaign (which has already passed its £150 million target) but I will save these for separate posts.
So, to end on a personal note, aside from the day to day responsibilities of my own role as Vice-Chancellor, and the even more important responsibility of working with colleagues to build resilience and sustainability for our future development, two things are currently front of mind.
First, this is my teaching semester, and I have a 20 lecture module on ‘Current Issues in Economics’ to deliver to a class of 300+ Economics students. That is always stimulating and invigorating, even if some ‘current issues’ play out in real time.
Second, in August I will set off on Nottingham Life Cycle 6, my final Life Cycle! This will be an endurance challenge of over 1,300 miles to raise £1 million for breast cancer research. I have been out of the saddle for the last six weeks, and have been advised by my doctor to remain that way for another six weeks. From the beginning of March I have some serious work to do!
Professor Sir David Greenaway