Message to all staff from the Vice-Chancellor

Dear colleague

First and foremost, I want to say thank you to all of you for making this such a wonderful University to study, teach and do research at. This thanks goes to each of you, in whatever part of our University you serve.

When I look at the world around us, I have to say that we have had one of the most depressing academic years in my lifetime and even I have found it hard to keep ‘up’ at times. By contrast, seeing the wonderful work you do has been a true inspiration to me.

I know that, at times like this when things are uncertain, it is crucial to keep doing the things you do best. To keep making yourself the very best you can. In the end, that is the greatest protection against the dangers of this world.

Here I see real reasons for hope. In our University, the two things we do supremely well also happen to be of the utmost importance to the future of communities across Yorkshire, the UK and the world. We work to understand this world around us, and then teach our students about it.

At this time of graduations, I am always reminded that the greatest impact we have on the world comes as those who study with us, at all levels, leave and pursue their own lives, prepared and enthused with what we have taught them. When I stand and speak some words of encouragement to our newly-minted graduates, I know that the work that went into their whole lives here at Sheffield was worthwhile. I also see their families and friends arranged on the seats around the Octagon. I often think of the time I sat in those very seats to watch my own daughter cross the stage, and I know how big a deal it really is.

I could also recite a long list of achievements across all of our research activities and that would be wonderful, but perhaps a little tedious, so I will not do that. But you should be assured that we are pursuing many of the most intriguing and important aspects of the world in all its fascinating and challenging aspects. You should be particularly clear that our research is well-placed to make a substantial contribution to virtually all the problems you hear discussed in the media, and some of those you don’t but perhaps should.

Together we are working to make this a more prosperous, safer, healthier, more civilised and inclusive world. And what is more, people of our city, our government, and around the world see this more clearly than ever. I am deeply proud of our hard earned reputation for work which is insightful, relevant and which truly changes lives, and I’m sure you are too.

But don’t think for a moment that I am complacent about the problems ahead. We have many tricky issues to face in an environment in which our work as universities is often underestimated or misunderstood, and my thoughts and efforts will be focused on addressing them. Changes we are making to the operation of the University, led by our new Chief Operating Officer, Andy Dodman, are a crucial part of this preparation for the future.

As with our triumphs, our challenges are also legion. The area that concerns me most, and on which we await news with deep concern, is the outcome of the talks on the proper rights of non-UK European citizens.

We must continue to be clear about what is simply the right thing to do. Our dear colleagues should be given the full rights that they deserve and to continue to live with us as our valued fellow scholars and professional staff, our neighbours, family members and friends. So I will continue to do my best to make the case for our greatest and true treasure, our students and staff from around the world.

I am confident that we are doing the right things for our institution, looking outwards even as the politics around us may focus on the party political, petty or parochial. We are not perfect, but we are indeed bloody marvellous.

This is why I wanted to finish this academic year with my thanks. We are keeping fully true to the mission in which this truly great institution was founded over one hundred years ago. Let’s work together for those who come here to study, for the communities that we serve and for ourselves.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett FRS
President and Vice-Chancellor