VC Bulletin 7 May 2014

  • I hope that colleagues have had an enjoyable and restful bank holiday and I am sure, like me, you were ready for the opportunity of a time to recharge batteries.
  • I am delighted to hear that our national pay negotiators have moved towards a resolution, which will mean from 1 August 2014 there will be an uplift of 2 per cent on all scales, with some additional consideration on the lower pay scales. This is good news as it means that for the first time we have settled ahead of the implementation date, which avoids the disruption of industrial action and provides some planning certainty.
  • February seems like a long time ago when I was interviewed by Holly Else of the Times Higher, and you will see that this has resulted in an article about the University published last week. I do genuinely believe that we are, as a University, much better than we realise and I think we must take every opportunity of raising our profile externally and publicising the high quality and impactful work we do in research, business engagement and in transforming the life opportunities of our students. I would again encourage you to work with our Press Office colleagues to get your stories out there. You can contact the Press Office team at the generic address:
  • At the start of the month I attended one of a number of sessions run by Universities UK for new Vice-Chancellors, which was led by Sir Bob Burgess, the VC of Leicester University. We discussed the role of the VC including the challenges of managing the many conflicting demands, with some really helpful advice on how to effectively manage time, a difficulty which all of us face.  Particularly interesting were the discussions around fundraising. It was clear that while we are doing extremely well with the few dedicated staff that we have, there are many more fundraising opportunities. It was emphasised that to make this work requires very careful planning, agreed institutional direction and priorities, as well as a strong commitment of support from the VC. This is an area we must consider carefully as the results emerge from our consultations on our future strategy.
  • I had the pleasure of opening the University Research Conference on the 2 April 2014 and was delighted to see such great attendance by our academic, research and support staff. The Conference had a positive feel, and the sessions delivered by our early-career researchers and recipients of Research Development Fund awards were particularly well received.  If we are to continue to grow in success, it is vital that we continue to strengthen our research to inspire our students and shape their education. The session on plagiarism was eye opening and for me quite unbelievable. The lengths to which researchers have gone in copying other’s work for personal gain and promotion would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. It is so important that we are ethically sound in the conduct and reporting of our research, otherwise the credibility of our work is undermined. To give you a flavour of the research conference, you can view this video montage
  • The Ig Nobel lecture following the conference was not only highly entertaining and good fun but also touched on some really important work. It is great to see that our own research on water contamination by anti-depressants, while in one way very amusing in relation to the behaviours of prawns, is really challenging the political decision making around the use and disposal of prescription drugs.
  • As well as giving the introduction to the Staff Induction Conference on 3 April, I was also pleased to be an attendee as a new member of staff. I must say I really enjoyed the event, which was both well organised and, I think, very informative and helpful for new colleagues. The range of stalls in the marketplace was great and I was particularly taken by the notebooks provided by Design and Print Services for each participant, which had our names printed on the front cover.
  • It was very interesting to have attended the Regional Confederation of British Industry (CBI) dinner on the 3 April at Chewton Glen in New Milton, which was addressed by the Chairman of the CBI, Sir Mike Rake. It was good to have the opportunity to meet business leaders within our community and the evening has resulted in a number of follow-up enquiries, which can hopefully lead to some new partnership opportunities.
  • On 10 April I had a brief meeting at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in London with David Willetts MP and Matthew Hilton, BIS Director for Higher Education, along with a number of other members of his team.  This was a useful meeting which allowed me to raise a number of areas of opportunity for the University where ministerial support could be helpful. It was also extremely satisfying to be told that some of the processes of our Academic Registry, in liaising with the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) in terms of visa management and tracking of international students, are considered by government as an exemplar for the sector. Well done!
  • The Portsmouth Festivities announced its 15th festival programme at the press launch on 24 April. This event was hosted by the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries at the Eldon Building and was an excellent example of the University supporting the local community and making use of our newest University building. The Festivities grow in size every year and will run from Friday 20 to Sunday 29 June when Portsmouth will play host to one of the most vibrant summer festivals on the south coast. 
  • Later that evening I was invited to attend the Student Volunteering Awards organised by our Students’ Union and Department for Employability team. I must say it was a really great evening and I was humbled by the extent of our students’ commitment to engaging in volunteering activities for the University, fellow students, and for the City and beyond. They really do fantastic work and are a credit to our University. I was astounded to learn that our students have already raised over £150k this year through the Raising and Giving Society (RAG). This is an incredible success.
  • On 28 April Commodore Jeremy Rigby, the Portsmouth Naval Base Commander, hosted a supper for Sandi and Debbie Toksvig in the Portsmouth Naval Base. This supper recognised the strong links the University has with the Royal Navy and involved not only senior colleagues from the University but also a number of students studying at the University who are Naval Officers. The sense of pride among the Officers as students of the University was clear, as was their enthusiasm for the programmes they are studying. I want to thank the members of staff who work hard maintaining and growing our activities with the Navy and I believe there will be many opportunities in the future for us to grow our academic and training partnerships with them. As always, our Chancellor was excellent company and a great ambassador for the University.
  • The annual visit by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) took place at the end of the month and was an opportunity for Rebecca Bunting, myself, Bernie Topham, Emma Woollard and Fiona Loughran to discuss any matters related to HEFCE and funding. It was a useful meeting and, as would be expected, the volatile nature of funding and the impending elections means that there is limited certainty on future grant settlements. There remains some concern about Student Opportunity Funding and the way that Quality-Related (QR) resources will be allocated based on the Research Excellence Framework results when they are published. Overall, however, HEFCE are pleased with the progress of the University, particularly our management of student recruitment and our approaches to financial control and strategic development.
  • The University is hosting the Shakespeare Festival to commemorate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, with a wide range of public talks, workshops and film screenings on offer during April and May. The festival is organised by our Faculty of Humanities, Centre for Studies in Literature, in partnership with Portsmouth City Council and the Portsmouth Film Society.  This offers an excellent example of the contribution made by University staff to the cultural life of the City of Portsmouth.
  • A new £250,000 facility which revolutionises how teachers teach and students learn is to open at Portsmouth Business School in September. Scale Up (student-centred learning activity) was pioneered by Robert Beichner at North Carolina State University. It is a multi-disciplinary, enquiry-based, technology-rich learning approach in which students work together to solve problems. It has been shown to substantially deepen learning as well as improve students’ problem-solving skills. The champion in the Portsmouth Business School is senior lecturer in Operations and Systems Management, David Starkey. The formal opening of the first TEAL (Technology Enhanced Active Learning) studio will take place during May.
  • The Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) announced the winners of its Educational Trust Awards this month and it is great to see that a University of Portsmouth student, Huy Hoang Pham, is one of the winning students. The Awards are open to students studying postgraduate finance programmes, which are accredited by CISI as Centres of Excellence and seek to acknowledge high standards of work. Each winning student has been nominated for an outstanding essay, or exam result, identified by their own university, and receives £2,500 from the CISI Educational Trust.
  • A current MBA student, Danny Glavin, is to be given a Points of Light Award by the Prime Minister for the inspiring work he has done and continues to do to help others. Danny has raised thousands of pounds for services personnel charities and is inspiring a generation of children to discern true heroes from celebrities. In addition, Danny won a Portsmouth Business School Innovation Scholarship in 2013. The scholarships aim to encourage and foster creativity and innovation and to support future leaders. They are funded by Portsmouth Business School and supported by the city’s Cathedral Innovation Centre, and the Royal Society of Arts. 
  • Once again, I want to recognise and thank you for the amount of effort and time that has been contributed on the new Strategic and Financial Planning process. My particular thanks go to my Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Rebecca Bunting, and Director of Finance, Emma Woollard, who, with support from Fiona Loughran, Director of Planning, have managed the introduction of this new process in a highly professional way within a very short timescale.
  • I know that decisions from this first round of the new process are currently being discussed with faculties with follow-up meetings and similar arrangements for our Professional Services. With any new process there are always lessons to be learnt and we will therefore review how the process has worked so that it can be improved for future years. 
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  1. Thanks for update – I always appreciate it – it is good to be reminded that we are part of something bigger and something so excellent!

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