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VC Bulletin – 10 December 2014

  • The University's Vice-Chancellor surrounded by graduands at the Shanghai ceremony

    The University’s Vice-Chancellor surrounded by graduands at the Shanghai ceremony

    This month I had the pleasure of visiting China where I was delighted to officiate at my first graduation ceremony in Shanghai. This event was very well organised and attended and had the same air of excitement as the ceremonies here in Portsmouth. I was accompanied by Joe Docherty, International Director, and Gioia Pescetto, Dean of Portsmouth Business School. I was once again impressed by the quality of our graduates and the range and seniority of the jobs they had secured. I was particularly jealous of our business school graduate who is now leading a new section of Ferrari focused on individualised cars for customers, something she studied for her dissertation!

  • During the visit I had the opportunity to meet staff at our China Office as well as some of our partner institutions, including Shanghai University, Shanghai Maritime University, Hebei University of Engineering in Handan, then on to Beijing for a dinner with the China Scholarship Council and visits to Canvard College and Beijing Technology and Business University. It was clear in my University discussions that there are many opportunities not only for articulation agreements but also for staff and student exchange with some of our excellent partnerships in China. Our ten international business students studying in Beijing seemed to be having a great time and are trailblazers in demonstrating the value of overseas exchange. Considering the opportunities for us in China, I am very pleased that we are opening an office in Beijing to complement our existing office in Shanghai.
  • Our telephone fundraising campaign took place here in the University from Monday 27 October through to Sunday 16 November in St Andrew’s Court. The campaign ran in the evenings from Monday to Thursday, and during the day on Saturday and Sundays. The fundraising team employed 30 current students to work as Telephone Fundraisers calling our UK alumni. I was delighted to drop in and see the Fundraising team hard at work on the evening of 3 November.
  • The results from this year’s campaign are looking very good with over £67k of donations pledged and £47k of this already received. The giving rate was up on last year and we have 223 new donors. It is hoped that more pledges will be fulfilled over the next few weeks. I am very grateful to Emma Deabill and the Fundraising team for their enthusiasm and efforts over the course of the campaign and also to all the donors for their support.
  • I was delighted to present to the current cohort on the Supporting Positive Change programme on 4 November. I presented a session on ‘Understanding the University Context’ particularly focusing on the opportunities we have in making our mission, vision and values a reality over the coming years. It was great to see such a range of participants from across the University, clearly enjoying the programme and the interaction with each other.
  • On 5 November I attended a round table meeting at the Saudi Embassy Cultural Bureau in London with the Saudi Cultural Attaché, the Saudi British Joint Business Council (SBJBC UK) represented by Baroness Symons (Chairman of SBJBC UK) and Mr Innes-Hopkins (Director of UK Trade & Investment), some SBJBC UK member companies, such as BAE Systems and Trowers & Hamlins, as well as vice-chancellors from a selected group of universities. The agenda for the event included discussions on the UK employer/investor perspectives on what skills are in demand; internship opportunities, with reference to how schemes with other countries have been financed and organised; visa, legal and tax implications and possible next steps. To build on existing links with the Saudi Embassy, the Faculty of Technology has drafted a proposal for a summer internship scheme which has been forwarded to the Embassy for consideration and further discussion.
  • With Bernie Topham, Chief Operating Officer, Paul Hayes, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education and Student Experience), Tara Dean, Dean of Research, and Alistair McDermott, Director of Innovation Services, I attended meetings arranged by the Isle of Wight Council on 19 November. The first meeting of the day was attended by local business leaders. Their demand for skills and commitment to having Higher Education more easily accessible on the Island was clear, and we explored together a range of possible opportunities for joint working to support the growth and development of their businesses. Alistair will be working with them to link their needs with individuals in the University who could work with them in a range of ideas from Knowledge Transfer Partnerships to student placements and bespoke educational programmes.
  • The second meeting was with leaders of Isle of Wight secondary schools to consider how the delivery of new learning opportunities for young people can be aligned to the skills needs of Isle of Wight employers and to explore opportunities for joint working to encourage young people to enter higher education. Again, there are opportunities, but there are some complexities in working out the most useful and effective way for us to interact with the FE and Schools sector on the Island.
  • On Friday the 21November I was very pleased to have the opportunity to meet with the panel visiting the School of Civil Engineering and Surveying as part of a two-day accreditation event examining our civil engineering provision, and to be able to confirm the University’s support for this subject area. The accrediting body is the Joint Board of Moderators, which operates under license from the Engineering Council, and represents the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Institution of Structural Engineers, the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation, and the Institute of Highway Engineers. The team were clearly very impressed and pleased with what we do, and I am very grateful to all in the School of Civil Engineering and Surveying for their hard work on this visit. I am sure that there will be a positive outcome.
  • A significant element of activity this month has been around recruitment of senior staff. As many of you know, after an external advert and search, we held the final assessment of shortlisted candidates for the Dean of Science at the end of November and I want to thank all of those who contributed to what I think was a very thorough process. Although we had four good potential candidates at the final stages, no appointment has been made and we will re-commence the search as soon as possible. Although this is disappointing, it is important that we appoint the right person for this key role in the University. The Faculty of Science remains in safe hands with David Franklin, who will continue his temporary appointment as interim Dean whilst the search continues.
  • Our search for a replacement for Sally Hartley has begun and we have reflected on the evolution of her role over recent years in a new title for the position of Director of Corporate Governance. This is a Board of Governors appointment and we are being supported in our search for a suitable candidate by the search agent Minerva, and will hopefully be in a position to hold interviews at the end of January.
  • The Board of Governors met on Monday 24 November and considered a number of important items, including an open discussion on Halls of Residence and the challenges we will face in the future in ensuring that we have affordable and high quality residences available for all of our new students. It was clear that next year will need careful consideration and I am grateful for the Student Housing and Estates and Campus Services teams who are working together to investigate options. We also had an excellent pre-board briefing from Bernie Topham, who reflected on her first 10 months in post and the future potential for her role.
  • I am pleased to report that as a token of thanks for your commitment to the University and its success over the last year, staff employed during that time will be receiving a £100 gift voucher which can be redeemed in a variety of high street stores. You will have already received details through an all-staff email and direct correspondence to your home address. I have already received many messages of thanks from across the University and this is very pleasing – it is good that staff recognise that they are valued and I can only reiterate my thanks to all staff and hope you enjoy the gift cards.
  • The University Executive Board (UEB) held an away day on 3 and 4 December where discussions were held on how, a year from its inception, UEB is working to achieve the objectives set at the last away day as well as our new University statements on the way we work. We also considered how we can take forward actions from the Shaping our Future conversation, who will lead on them and how we can better communicate with and involve the wider University community. Detailed feedback from this event will be cascaded through line managers to all staff in the University.
  • One important outcome of the event was the recognition of the importance and centrality of the role of our Heads of Department – both Academic and Professional Services – so we have decided to consider carefully how we can enhance the contribution and effectiveness of the various heads groups. To assist in this, we plan to hold a conference of all Heads in the new year which will be a facilitated event to consider with them the implications of our new vision statements and to agree the best way to support, develop and engage our Heads as pivotal for the success of the University. Bernie Topham has kindly agreed to lead the organisation of this event with more details being communicated in the new year.
  • This will be my last bulletin until the new year, although I will of course send an all-staff communication to relay the news on our REF 2014 results when these are published on the 18 December. Hopefully this will be good news to share for Christmas and New Year!
  • I would like to take this opportunity to offer you my best wishes for the festive season and I hope that you all manage to have a well-deserved, relaxing and enjoyable break.

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