What's new this academic year?

Professor Gill ValentineProfessor Gill Valentine, Interim President and Vice-Chancellor, outlines what's happening over the coming weeks.

As we welcome new and returning students to our campus for the start of the academic year, I wanted to provide you with an update on what has been happening and tell you about some of the exciting new initiatives taking place.

We recently said goodbye to our President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Keith Burnett who has been an inspirational leader for our organisation for the past 11 years. Keith has helped lay some fantastic foundations for our University and will continue to support University partnerships in China in particular, and I know that Professor Koen Lamberts is looking forward to joining us in November and building on this work. Koen, Keith and I will continue to work together over the coming months to ensure a smooth and seamless transition.

We begin the academic year in a strong position in terms of student numbers. However, more importantly we have attracted a large number of high-achieving students, which is essential in order to help maintain our reputation and quality. I would like to thank all colleagues who were involved in the recruitment cycle throughout the year and during the crucial time of clearing.

Earlier this year we launched our new Academic Career Pathways framework. The new career framework for academics provides greater clarity, transparency and flexibility and will help ensure that excellence and ambition continue to be recognised and rewarded. We are holding a number of information sessions starting this month and running throughout the rest of the year. These will be an opportunity for academic staff to hear more about the framework and ask any questions.

We recently welcomed the Joint Expert Panel's independent report on the USS pension valuation and are hopeful that this will lead to a resolution to this complex and difficult issue. In the meantime, the USS member consultation on the proposed changes under the 'cost sharing process' with affected employees continues until 2 November.

This week sees the start of Black History Month where we will be celebrating our black colleagues, students and alumni. We will also be releasing our new strategy later this year aiming to address the under-representation of Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff and students.

I'm also delighted to announce that our first sustainability strategy will be launched on Monday 15 October. This strategy will be based on five of the United Nation's sustainable development goals and will set out our approach to sustainability over the next year. There will be a range of sustainability events and activities happening across campus. Please do get involved and find out more about the small things that we can all do to make a real difference. There will also be an opportunity for colleagues to help shape the full strategy, which will be published in 2019.

There of course continues to be uncertainty and challenges facing the sector but I firmly believe that by being ambitious, striving for excellence in everything we do and working collectively as one university we can continue to deliver research and teaching of the highest quality.

This feature is part of a staff update.

Also in this edition:

A quick guide to our priorities for supporting research

3 key areas for education