VC Bulletin – 3 July 2015

  • Vice-Chancellor Graham Galbraith

    Vice-Chancellor Graham Galbraith

    The summer and the good weather seem to have suddenly arrived and with that comes the growing volume of things that we are all rushing to complete before graduation begins.

  • As part of my role on the Health Education Wessex Board, I attended a development day on 2 June which focused on the ‘Vanguard’ projects which involve piloting new ways of delivering healthcare across Wessex. There are very profound challenges for the health service and how to deal with the ever increasing demands on the system at a time when skills shortages are emerging. I was asked to lead a discussion around the interaction and contribution of Higher Education (HE), which was very useful but did highlight how difficult it is to change working practice within such a large and complex organisation. Our University has much to contribute in addressing many of the issues being faced and I am keen that we consider innovative ways of supporting our local needs in terms of staff development and training of health professionals. This will require some agility and flexibility in the kind of programmes we develop and some new thinking around how we can partner more effectively.
  • On 3 and 4 June the University Alliance (UA) Board meetings took place at the University of South Wales city campus in Newport. There were interesting discussions on supporting UK wide competitiveness: post-election planning and preparing for the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).
  • The most important and interesting aspect of the meeting was the presentation and approval of the UA’s new strategic framework and sub strategies covering Research, International, Teaching and Regional. It was interesting to see just how closely aligned our own new strategy is with that of the Alliance. I am sure that this much clearer presentation of what the Alliance stands for will make interactions with government more effective, and I am sure will lead to an increased membership for the Alliance. If you are interested you can find details on the alliance website www.unialliance.ac.uk/strategicframework.
  • At meetings like this it is the interaction with other Vice-Chancellors (VC) that is often most useful and it did strike me that many of our competitors are becoming very focused and clear on their approach to matters such as National Student Survey (NSS) and Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey. I think we will see their performance in these crucial measures improving significantly in future years. It brought home to me the fact that, in this competitive environment, we cannot afford to stand still as that will mean falling backwards in relative terms. What also struck me was the importance of cultivating external partnerships, whether at the local level or internationally. We are in many ways new entrants into the global education arena. The volume of trans-national education and international research and innovation partnerships within our competitors highlights the scale of the challenge for us but also the size of opportunity.
  • The second day of meetings highlighted the importance of international perspectives with a session with the Australian Technology Network (ATN) in which the ATN Executive Director, Renee Hindmarsh, and colleagues, talked briefly about the group and the current issues in Australia and also proposed ways in which the UA and the ATN could facilitate research collaboration to build a competitive advantage within the global HE market. I was unable to stay for the University Alliance Summit that afternoon. However, it was attended by a number of other staff from the University who provided input to the discussions. This included speeches, discussions and workshops around the new government and the changing HE landscape.
  • On Friday 5 June I was delighted to be invited to attend a dinner in the Portsmouth Naval Base hosted by Commodore Jeremy Rigby, the Naval Base Commander, and attended by Mark Francois the newly appointed Minister for Portsmouth, and our two local MPs Flick Drummond and Penny Mordaunt – who is also the Minister of State for the Armed Forces.
  • I have to say that I was extremely impressed with the new Minister for Portsmouth’s commitment to education at all levels and am confident that he will work effectively with us. I am looking forward to him visiting the University at some future date.
  • One of the issues under discussion was our estates master plan and the need to have certainty around the Royal Navy land adjacent to the University and the likelihood of land becoming available. This is always a difficult issue, but it would be a great pity to make our plans and then discover that land could have been available that may have influenced our campus layout. I have written to Mark Francois separately about this to see whether he can assist us in getting the right people around the table to facilitate some longer term planning.
  • Monday 8 June saw the annual visit by our Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Regional Consultant, Ed Hughes, and Higher Education Policy Adviser Jessica Turner. We covered a lot of ground including our new evolving strategy, our plans to reconnect with further education providers in the area, the development of the University Technical College (UTC), our estate master planning exercise, the Future Technology Centre, recruitment status for 2015/16 and our involvement with the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership LEP.
  • It was a positive meeting but we were keen to get as much information as we could on the recent £450 million cuts to the government Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the impact for us. Unfortunately it was clear that HEFCE had not yet received any information about the proportion of the cuts that will pass on to the HE sector. They did point out that the majority of BIS funding was related to HE and therefore we are likely to face the bulk of these initial cuts. What was said is that the effects will be immediate and will involve a revision of our grant letter and funding for next year. We are preparing for an impact to our budgets of between £2 million and £4 million.
  • On the 9 June, I attended the Solent Growth Forum (SGF). Not all local authorities are represented directly on the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Board and Portsmouth City Council (PCC) has responsibility for ensuring that a local assurance framework is in place. Hence the SGF has been established to enable collective engagement of local authority leaders in decision-making on growth priorities.
  • The most interesting part of the meeting was the update to the economic projections for the region, which showed some positive signs in terms of employment rates, but big challenges ahead in relation to the productivity of the region. A key issue identified was finding the skilled personnel from within the region to meet the projected future skills needs. The University has a significant role to play in this and I was pleased to see recognition by the LEP that while the marine and maritime sectors are important, the growth is likely to be in the creative industries and in the advanced engineering and technology sectors, which are areas where we have significant expertise. New growth money will be available to the LEP with much of that being for capital projects. Our challenge will be ensuring that the excellent areas for development within the University can be included within the forward plans for LEP investment.
  • UP for uniWith Paul Hayes and Bernie Topham, I was delighted to take part in some of the graduation ceremonies for the UP For It Juniors Year 6 this year. These visits have been taking place for the last 10 years and have been very successful. This year over 1,600, ten and eleven year old pupils will visit the University and engage in workshops, mini lectures and tours of buildings, with their day culminating in a graduation ceremony. This engagement with local schools forms part of the University’s Office for Fair Access (OFFA) agreement, and is an important part of our outreach activities. I have to say it is also great fun to see the children so engaged with the activities taking place and being able to see their excitement at the idea of a graduation ceremony, including the VC in the ‘Harry Potter’ robes!
  • In addition this month the University hosted the annual UP for Uni Year 10 residential week which provides a great introduction to the University for around 100 local school pupils. I am very grateful to all the staff around the University who work so hard to make all these visits and outreach activities enjoyable for the school pupils and would especially thank our Student Ambassadors and the Education Liaison and Outreach Team for their excellent organisation of the visits.
  • On Friday 26 June the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) made an accreditation visit to the School of Architecture. This visit resulted in our Architecture programmes being re-validated with no conditions and four commendations including the recognition of the collegiate nature of staff and students across the school and the provision of the new facilities in Eldon Building. This is an excellent result for the School of Architecture and the University and my thanks go to all concerned.
  • Jim House_featuredFrom 28 June to 3 July the University hosted the International Conference on Environmental Ergonomics (ICEE) at Action Stations in the Historic Dockyard. I was delighted to be invited to give the welcome to this conference which was held in the UK for only the second time. The conference takes place every two years and is the premier meeting in this subject area internationally. About 200 delegates were registered to attend, and in addition some extra
    delegates arrived unexpectedly, but were expertly welcomed to the Conference. Organising a conference is never easy, so thanks to Mike Tipton and his team who made this happen. I was particularly impressed by the fact that they involved local school children in individually decorating each of the conference bags with images related to the conference themes. As you will see from the photo, it was a great way to involve local children and to add a unique flavour to the conference.
  • I was pleased on the 29 June to welcome the Chief Executive Officer from the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), David Docherty. David was accompanied by Adriaan Commandeur, Director of Development and Membership. The University is now a member of NCUB as they are an organisation with significant influence with Business and Government, with the ability to draw together Universities and Business around key areas of national importance. They were taken on a tour of the campus and visited various research activities within the faculties and also met briefly with Deans. The visit ended with a valuable discussion with Paul Hayes, Pal Ahluwalia and Alistair McDermott and me. Of particular interest was their plans to set up a digital ‘dating’ solution for contract research activities to link businesses and universities, their ideas around a placement and work experience portal to support students getting business experience while studying, their project on The Food Economy where I think we can contribute, and their plans for a forum around the opportunities for the UK in the area of healthy living. We will follow up on some of these opportunities and connect with relevant colleagues to ensure that we have a voice in these important areas of development.
  • I would like to congratulate this month George Heir, Halls Manager for Rees/Burrell Halls, who was runner up in the Institute of Hospitality Awards for the Champion of the Year Award 2015. This is the most prestigious award of all categories so a brilliant achievement for George and the University.
  • Congratulations also go to Nick Leach, Head of Catering Services, and his team who have just received a 2 star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association for our on campus food. A lot of time and effort has gone into achieving this rating (3 stars is the top accolade) and recognises our recent Fairtrade status renewal and the Compassion in World Farming awards we already hold. Only two other restaurants in Portsmouth hold this accreditation and they are both very notable restaurants in Gunwharf Quays. Well done to all concerned and good luck with the challenge of achieving the extra star next year. Let’s not settle for second best!
  • I was delighted that a small team of staff from the third floor of University House, including Bernie Topham and Paul Hayes, participated in the very well attended and hugely successful Staff Sports Day. Unfortunately I was away from the University that day but am very pleased to find that a rosette for the highest fundraising is now proudly displayed in the third floor trophy cabinet.
  • Chancellor Sandi Toksvig will be running a 5k parkrun along Southsea seafront on Saturday 26 September, and members of UEB (including me!) will be joining her. Having recently discovered the importance of sport and fitness to her own health and wellbeing, Sandi is keen to encourage our University community to get active. It doesn’t matter whether you walk, jog or run, Sandi just wants to encourage others to get involved. To join us please register online beforehand and wear purple on the day! www.port.ac.uk/parkrun
  • Summer staff party 180x180This will be my last bulletin until the new academic year, since we will soon be starting our graduation period and then I will be taking some annual leave. I will of course be back in the University for the A level results and clearing activities in August. In this challenging first year without the Student Number Control, it will be crucial that we meet our recruitment targets. I do appreciate very much the hard work taking place across the University to bring us the students we need for 2015.
  • Thank you all for your dedication during this last academic year and I do hope that you too manage to find time for a restful break over the
    summer period. Don’t forget the Staff Summer Party on 10 July – I look forward to seeing many of you there.
1 comment on this postSubmit yours
  1. I hope you enjoy Parkrun Graeme, and become a regular participant, it’s a great and well organized event where plenty of University staff take part and volunteer.
    My son thoroughly enjoyed the UP for Uni year 10 residential.

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