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VC bulletin – 3 November 2014

  • The month of September concluded with my attendance at the 2014 Hampshire Business Awards in Winchester Guildhall. The awards are in their 24th year and are the premier annual business competition in the region. It was good to meet a number of local businesses, including some who were shortlisted, and it was interesting that the award for Technical Innovation was sponsored and presented by the University of Southampton. It struck me that there is much scope for us to become more connected with such important events and to be recognised as a major contributor to the success of businesses in the region.
  • October has been another month that seems to have flown by. I was very pleased to welcome Pal Ahluwalia, our new Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), to the University. He is passionate about his portfolio and I am sure will lift our expectations and achievements in research and commercial activity. He has already started work on a University wide overview of our key leadership roles of Professor and Reader and he, together with Professor Tara Dean, will be having a dialogue with all our professors and readers. This is a very significant task but one which will help him and the senior team develop a better understanding of current activities and how the contributions from individuals can be maximised. I was also pleased to see that he has already recognised the important contributions of Tara and Alistair McDermott by renaming their roles to better reflect the work they do.
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    Annual address on 15 October

    For me personally, the highlight of the month was my first Annual Address on 15 October where I presented the new mission and vision for the University to students and staff.  This talk was recorded and for those that are interested, it will be available to view at shortly. The mission, vision and values were formed from your contribution to the Shaping our Future (SoF) conversation, which the University’s Executive Board (UEB) has used to create an exciting vision for our future and which I was pleased to be able to outline during my address.

  • It is important that the next steps on making our vision a reality involves as many students and members of staff as possible. Taking the opportunity to discuss the vision with colleagues is important as it is by working together that we can make things happen. Your continued contribution will shape how we take our plans forward and I, with colleagues from the senior team, have already attended three ’Meet the Vice-Chancellor’ sessions for staff and students. These are very much open discussions which I find very helpful in understanding next steps. There are still places available on the next two sessions, and you can book your place here. Please do come along, I am very interested to hear your views and already I have a clear sense that colleagues are keen to get started on the actions that will move us forward.
  • We recently published the roles and responsibilities of UEB. With new appointments and changes in reporting lines, I hope this provides some clarity on how, as a team, we will lead the University in delivering our new vision.
  • UEB will be having an away event at the start of December to assign clear leadership responsibilities and timescales against the development of operational plans. We will also set our strategic imperatives for the next planning round to help guide budgetary decisions. We are undoubtedly entering a very positive period of development for the University and, while we have much to do, there are also many opportunities for us to grasp. What is clear is that with so much to do and many key issues to address – with our estate and facilities, for example – we need to be purposeful but realistic on the pace of change that is possible and ensure that anything we do is carefully considered and planned.
  • On 1 October I attended the HEFCE launch of the new HE Cold Spots report which is a highly detailed collection of data on higher education provision and access across England. This report and associated interactive maps provide local information on HE subject provision, participation by social group and age, student mobility, graduate employment opportunities and research capacity. This was an extremely interesting event with some challenges for us considering the significant cold spots in our own region and around the University. As we decide on our strategy for outreach activity and partnership with colleges and FE providers, this information provides very useful context.
  • On Saturday 4 October, I was honoured to officiate at the commissioning of the Clanfield Observatory’s new 24 inch Ritchey-Chrétien Telescope. This was also a joint celebration of 20 years of partnership between the University and the Observatory. Members of Hampshire Astronomical Group (HAG) have been excellent partners of the University through supporting, encouraging and inspiring our students as well as providing project mentoring, visits, talks and demonstrations. In recognition of the support that HAG provides to the University, the Faculties of Technology and Science, as well as the individual departments of Mathematics and the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, contributed £16,000 towards the total cost of the new telescope. This new telescope is a great resource for both the astronomical club and our students and was possible through the generosity of many members and supporters of the group. Even in early evening before nightfall it was possible to see the craters on the moon with amazing clarity and to take a good picture using only a phone camera!
  • I was delighted to introduce the inaugural lecture for Professor Claudia Maraston on the evening of 15 October. Claudia’s work and international profile has played an important part in the development of the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation and she has helped assemble and train an international team of researchers at the University. It was indeed an honour to introduce this lecture and, as anticipated, her presentation was accessible to the audience and good fun, while at the same time demonstrating the quality of her research activities.
  • This month I also celebrated my birthday with much (too much) eating! Firstly the University Catering team very kindly made me a delicious cake which was quickly eaten by the senior team and our PAs. I was invited to lunch with Commodore Jeremy Rigby RN, Portsmouth Naval Base Commander, along with other key stakeholders in the city where we discussed the various opportunities to work closer together, including opportunities for greater coordination in estates developments within the city. The evening was spent at a dinner with Captain Trevor Gulley RN, Commanding Officer of HMS Sultan, and his guests where we discussed, among other things, the University Technical College development ….  Now I need to diet and exercise!
  • To keep you updated, we have now submitted the proposal for a University Technical College in the city, in collaboration with Portsmouth City Council, the Royal Navy and local schools, colleges and businesses. We will be informed of the outcome early in the new year and, if successful, the University will play a key role in developing technical education for 14–19 year olds.
  • I met with the new Vice-Chancellor of Southampton Solent University, Professor Graham Baldwin, on 17 October. It was good to share our experiences of being new VCs and to discuss the various areas where we already work together and where there may be opportunities for us to do more. He has only been in post for a very short time and I will meet him again in Southampton to continue our very positive initial discussions.
  • On 4 October, 18 October and 1 November we held three more successful Open Days where we welcomed around 5275 prospective students and their families, which represents an 18% increase on the same events year on year. I want to thank all those involved in making these days a showcase for the University and increasing the prospects of attracting a strong pool of new students for next academic year.
  • Along with a group of my colleagues, I visited the new Prayer Space that has been provided in Mercantile House. I know that this space is well used and very much appreciated by our Muslim students and staff.  This is an important part of the experience for many of our students and I am impressed with what we have been able to achieve as a temporary solution. We will, of course, consider a more permanent multi-faith solution as part of the wider Estates master planning that will be taken forward over the next 12 months.
  • On 24 October. I was invited to a meeting of the Solent Colleges Innovative Partnership at Totton College. Here I had an opportunity to talk to the Principals of Havant College, Itchen College, Portsmouth College, Richard Taunton College, St Vincent College and Totton College about the University and our vision for the future, and how we can build our relationship with these FE colleges. Paul Hayes will be considering how we can engage our local colleges more actively in our plans for the future.
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    David Willetts addresses engineers

    The IMechE ‘Future Engineers – Engineering the Future’ event took place on the evening of Friday 24 October with David Willetts MP and Dr Rhys Morgan, Director of Engineering Education at the Royal Academy of Engineering as guest speakers. With some senior colleagues, I had the opportunity to meet briefly with David Willetts before the event. Although he is no longer the Minister for Universities and Science and will be standing down as an MP at the general election next year, it was good to hear his views on the sector and on likely scenarios for the future. Although he does not have an engineering or technology background, he made some excellent points in his presentation and in the discussions that followed on the need for more women in engineering and the importance of engineering to our economic future. He emphasised the importance of the social sciences and technology working more closely together in tackling the big research challenges that we face.

  • On Thursday 30 October I attended an All Students meeting at the Students’ Union, to discuss with students our new vision for the University. The meeting was attended by Sabbatical Officers, student officers, course representatives and the Pure FM team and we had a useful conversation around many aspects of our plans, in particular challenges of not only ‘encouraging’ but ‘ensuring’ all students take part in career enhancing activities during their studies, as stated in our vision. It will be important to continue to involve our students in these debates as we take our vision forward.
  • As noted in my last bulletin, I will not be listing all the success stories from around the University, but links are provided below to all the areas of University communications where you can get updates on news and events taking place as well as our UEB meeting notes.

Staff Essentials news and events


Research and Innovation News

UEB notes

University news




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