Retirement announcement: thanks and next steps

Professor Sir Keith Burnett

Dear colleagues,

Following the announcement that I will be retiring around my 65th birthday, I have been asked to write a few words to add to those from the Chair of our Council. He is a man whose commitment to the University and its city is unbounded and I am most grateful for his generous words in the announcement he circulated on Monday.

As you might expect, I have been thinking about my retirement for some time. It will be a wrench to leave Sheffield, but I know I'm leaving our University in good shape, with great senior leadership and talent, and dedication to scholarship and teaching at all levels. I am under no illusion that we are perfect, but I have been strengthened to know that I represent such a strong international community of staff and students who share a belief in the difference education can and does make.

Looking back, I am truly grateful that this University chose me to be its Vice-Chancellor more than a decade ago. People told me then that it would be unlike anything else I had experienced and they were right. It has been a blast!

At that time in 2007, I knew most about the University from my daughter who was then an architecture student here. Now working in London and married to another Sheffield architect, her affection for the University that gave her a start in her career is undimmed. And I have come to know this place fairly well. Not as well as a local, but well enough to know and love its byways. Almost every week I have walked through Endcliffe Park and along Ecclesall Road into the city. I bought old books and pictures from Rare and Racy until it closed recently. That is a place I already miss! I am a regular visitor to the Sheffield Market and I have got to know the Peak District's beauty through the seasons and the wealth of heritage in its historic buildings.

The University of Sheffield that I have come to know is not only a collection of buildings or a crest, but people whose work reflects years of effort to live up to the vision of the University's founders.

Professor sir keith burnett

I have also met and spoken at length to many of our wonderful alumni who, filled with affection for their University and what they learnt here, have given me tremendous support. They have never let me forget the lifelong impact of good teaching. And I have worked alongside and for students who, year after year, have inspired me with their courage and determination to use their talents and privilege to make the world a better place.

The University of Sheffield that I have come to know is not only a collection of buildings or a crest, but people whose work reflects years of effort to live up to the vision of the University's founders. People who persist in the face of challenge to discover and understand, and who apply that understanding in local hospitals, in model factories, in Sheffield schools and in a refugee camp in Jordan.

So before I retire, I have work to do for you. It is, of course, my duty to ensure that the things that need to be done this year really get all the support I can give. At times like this, we cannot suffer from planning blight. Particularly as higher education and indeed the whole of the UK try to work out the challenges of constrained public funding and relations with the rest of Europe. I do not doubt that we will have our share of challenges. It demands that we ensure the best and smoothest possible transition.

I am determined to do my very best to help with that. I will be working in close partnership with colleagues on the University's Council, University Executive Board (UEB) and Senate to make sure I actively support the various important projects we have underway at the moment. We discussed how we'll do this at the UEB meeting this week. There was a shared determination to secure and progress the opportunities I have tried to develop on your behalf in the UK and overseas, to celebrate areas of strength in our University and highlight the ideas we believe must be heard.

It has been my honour to be your Vice-Chancellor and to carry the baton of a university founded in the public good more than a century ago. I will continue to work and sometimes fight for this University, our work and our students in the year ahead, and I will do all in my power to continue to promote its strengths once that time is done.

With my sincere thanks,

Professor Sir Keith Burnett CBE FRS FLSW
President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield