Moving forward with REF 2021

By Professor Paddy Ireland and Professor Tim Peters‌, Interim Pro Vice-Chancellors (Research and Enterprise)

This week, the national REF team based at Research England wrote to all institutions to outline their position in relation to contingency planning for coronavirus (COVID-19) and REF 2021.

In light of this ongoing unprecedented situation, the team has taken the decision to postpone REF 2021 until further notice. This means the REF submission deadline of 27 November 2020 will no longer apply and a new submission date will be announced no later than eight months prior to the next deadline.

This move represents a welcome recognition from the team that the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis will continue to divert staff resource to other critical areas for some time to come, something particularly true of staff working in clinical and health-related areas.

However, the team is clear that the staff census date (31 July 2020) remains unchanged and work is underway to develop an amended framework that takes account of the impact of COVID-19 on universities. This suggests that eligibility dates around outputs and impact could be extended, although this not confirmed. Instead, the team will consult on the details of the amended framework once the impact of COVID-19 disruption to universities is more widely understood.

How then should we adapt our own REF preparations in response? Following consultation with Faculty Research Directors and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor/Provost, we have decided to continue as planned, adhering as far as possible to the various internal deadlines we have set. There are several reasons for this.

Firstly, it remains unclear how long the delay will be. Secondly, we are aware that when things return to something resembling ‘normal’, many colleagues involved in REF preparations are likely to be very busy.

In these circumstances, it would be wise to get as much done now as we can. For example, if the outputs and impact deadlines are extended, we might have a lot of new work to do (reading outputs, assessing and calibrating them, engaging in new, post-July 2020 impact evidence gathering etc.) when the new 8 month window is opened – just as colleagues are having to grapple with new modes of teaching delivery for possibly delayed 20/21 UG and PGT entries.

In short, it is important that we are in as strong a position as possible when the new deadline clock starts ticking.

We are acutely aware that for some colleagues, meeting these deadlines might not be feasible. Clinical colleagues, for example, may well be engaged in more urgent matters. There may also be significant constraints on impact evidence gathering between now and the 1 May deadline.

We will of course keep these matters under constant review in what is a very volatile environment.

Needless to say, we have been delighted with the progress that colleagues have made with their submissions in recent months, and are very appreciative of the effort you have all made to date.

We want to do everything we can to ensure our submission is as strong as possible and accurately reflects the world-class excellence of Bristol research that you all enable.

International Women’s Day Celebration of BAME Women

This year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrations at the University have been bigger and better than ever. I’m incredibly grateful to staff and students who’ve shared their personal experiences at IWD events across campus this week – your stories have been an inspiration to us all.

Attendees at the International Women’s Day celebration of BAME women in Royal Fort House

As a University, we’ve been working hard to improve gender equality. The University Strategy sets out an ambitious commitment to eradicate the gender pay gap in the professoriate, and we also set a target of increasing the percentage of female professors to 33 per cent by 2023. Since announcing these commitments in 2016 we’ve made real progress, with new initiatives to support women’s career development and a new academic promotions framework. We are on track to meet our 2023 targets. Our latest organisational Gender Pay Gap has reduced by 2.5% since 2017 and I’m particularly proud that we are the first UK University to issue a landmark Collective Agreement outlining the next key actions which will be taken to address the academic gender pay gap. All of our work in this area has earned us a shortlisting for the Guardian University Awards in the Staff Experience category.

The senior team is determined to address all areas of inequality across our University and create a level playing field for everybody, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity or cultural background. Acknowledging there is a problem is an important first step. We must also listen to and learn from fellow colleagues.

It was my pleasure this week to host Professor Olivette Otele and Dr Jane Khawaja for an International Women’s Day celebration of BAME women in Royal Fort House.

Both Olivette and Jane shared candid accounts of their lives and career progression to date. At times deeply poignant, with grace and good humour both women talked of the highs and lows (including racism and other forms of prejudice) they’ve experienced as BAME women pursuing a career in academia.

The need for perseverance was a common theme for overcoming the challenges they faced, as was the importance of celebrating and reflecting on success. However, both women were clear they would not have achieved their success without the support of a close network of family, friends, colleagues and (crucially) mentors.

With this in mind, I would encourage eligible colleagues to sign-up to our Bristol Women’s Mentoring Network. Here, female staff at grades K, L and M can receive mentoring support, advice and guidance from female colleagues in senior roles. It’s been wonderful to see the network already making a real difference to the progression of our female staff and I was particularly pleased that Professor Esther Crawley won South West Public Sector Mentor of the Year for her participation in the scheme. I look forward to seeing it continue to develop.

While we are making progress to tackle gender and racial inequality at Bristol, as a leadership team we recognise there’s still a long way to go. That’s why we’re examining our recruitment practices, our institutional cultures and our reward and recognition systems. We’ll also shortly be publishing our first-ever ethnicity pay gap report alongside our statutory gender pay gap report. While this isn’t yet required by law, we believe it’s the right thing to do to and it will help us understand and address the challenge head-on.

I’m confident that together we can bring an end to both gender and racial inequality at Bristol and I hope this year’s IWD provided an opportunity to both reflect on and celebrate all the incredible women in our university community – it certainly has for me.

Introducing the Perivoli Africa Research Centre (PARC) and welcoming Professor Isabella Aboderin

By Professor Judith Squires, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost

It has been a great pleasure to welcome Professor Isabella Aboderin, Professor of Gerontology and our Perivoli Chair in Africa Research and Partnerships, who will direct activities in the new Perivoli Africa Research Centre (PARC).

Professor Isabella Adoderin, Professor of Gerontology and Perivoli Chair in Africa Research and Partnerships.

The Centre is aimed at furthering interdisciplinary research and initiatives that are responsive to, and help advance Africa’s population and development and innovation agendas (e.g. in the fields of education, health, sustainable agriculture, social or governance issues) and at deepening collaboration between the University, African research, policy, civil society and private sector bodies, and international agencies.

PARC will seek to add value to, and build on the University’s existing broad portfolio of Africa-oriented research, and to offer a community and platform for exchange for all those engaged or interested in such work – in the University and the city, broadly. PARC aims to become a model hub for forward-looking, respectful UK-Africa cooperation in research and learning by:

  • fostering fresh, critical thinking on necessary frames and approaches for UK-Africa partnerships, and for the production of knowledge on and for the continent,
  • forging new, and consolidating existing focal partnerships with African and international institutions and networks (g. Worldwide Universities Network),
  • developing strategic ‘signature’ programmes of evidence generation, policy and practice engagement and innovation that speak to African priorities at regional, sub-regional, national or local levels and that bring together and extend existing clusters of interdisciplinary expertise within the University,
  • expanding student and faculty exchange, and supporting Africa-led research capacity strengthening initiatives, and
  • curating, and facilitating internal and external engagement with the evolving body of Africa-focused research at the University of Bristol.

Isabella has completed something of a round trip, returning to Bristol where she did both her undergraduate and doctoral studies. Prior to taking up the new Chair, Isabella held a dual appointment as Senior Research Scientist and Head of the Aging and Development Unit at the African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC), Nairobi, and as Associate Professor of Gerontology at the University of Southampton.

The Centre has been funded through a generous donation from the Perivoli Trust, which has funded key projects in the University over the last decade. The Trust has a philanthropic focus mostly on the Emerging World and especially Africa. Its Schools Trust has transformed nursery education in Namibia, Malawi and Zambia, training 5,500 nursery school teachers and positively impacting the lives of an estimated 150,000 children. The £1m gift to establish PARC is emblematic of our shared ambition to work on innovative approaches to benefit generations for years to come in Africa.

We will be hosting an internal networking event on Monday 23 March, ahead of PARC’s anticipated full launch, expected to take place on Tuesday 20 October. I’m sure that you will join me in welcoming Isabella and wishing her and the PARC team well in establishing this exciting new part of the University research ecosystem.

Celebrating Global Challenges Research Fund successes

By Professor Judith Squires, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost

It was a great pleasure to mark the first in the 2020 series of Provost Celebrations of Academic Achievement by welcoming colleagues to Royal Fort House to celebrate our Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) successes on 16 January.

Provost Professor Judith Squires celebrates our Global Challenges funding success with colleagues
Professor Judith Squires (Deputy Vice-Chancellor & Provost) and Professor Paddy Ireland (Interim PVC Research) celebrating the GCRF successes with award-holders and colleagues from RED.

The GCRF is an initiative driven by the United Nation’s ‘2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, which has at its heart 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These goals represent a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. In response to the 2030 Agenda, the Government published its aid strategy which aims to:

      • address global challenges through disciplinary and interdisciplinary research;
      • strengthen capability for research and innovation, with developing countries and the UK; and
      • enable an agile response to emergencies and opportunities.

      All GCRF research projects must also focus on delivering benefits and outcomes which promote the welfare and economic development of Lower and Middle Income Countries (LMICs).

      We have been extremely successful in securing funding via this scheme here at the University of Bristol.  This success was facilitated by the early development of Bristol’s Global Challenges strategy, which Research England commended to other higher education institutions (HEIs) to encourage best practice, acknowledging the excellence and effort demonstrated by Bristol’s approach. The strategy was been expertly supported by our Global Challenges Steering Group, composed of experts in Official Development Assistance, with representation from Bristol’s Research Institutes and Faculty Research Directors.  Their guidance has been invaluable – and is much appreciated.

      As a result of our strategy, the University has been incredibly successful in attracting funding from the GCRF, with a success rate above 40%, and around £2 million a year coming in via QR funding (quality-related research funding, determined by the periodic assessment of HEIs) to support the activities outlined in the strategy. Since 2016, we have secured over 130 external awards worth more than £30 million.  Two examples include:

      • Professor Matthew Avison received £1.8m to lead the One Health Drivers of Antibacterial Resistance in Thailand (OH-DART) consortium. Working with colleagues at the Universities of Exeter and Bath, Mahidol University, Chulabhorn Research Institute and the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. The consortium’s aim is to define and prioritise the drivers of antibacterial drug resistance in humans in the community in Thailand, taking a multi-disciplinary approach.
      • Professor Leon Tikly and partners from India, Rwanda, Somalia and South Africa have received £4.65m to Transform Educations Systems for Sustainable Development. The aim of this research is to develop an understanding of how education systems can act as drivers of sustainable development.

      Many congratulations to everyone – academics and professional services – involved in these projects, and all the 130 projects, secured since 2016.  Congratulations too to Professor Helen Lambert, who has been appointed as Global Challenge Leader for Health on a part-time secondment to UKRI to March 2021.

      The event last week was held as a small ‘thank you’ to all those colleagues who have worked so hard to obtain these important GCRF funding awards and to help pursue the sustainable development goals. May our success in addressing the global challenges identified in the 2030 agenda for sustainable development continue.

Celebrating continued ALSPAC success – Provost Celebration of Academic Achievement

By Professor Judith Squires, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost

The Vice-Chancellor and Provost celebrating with the ALSPAC team
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Hugh Brady and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Judith Squires, celebrating with the ALSPAC team and study participants at the November Provost Celebration of Academic Achievement.

Since I started my monthly series of events to mark the highest levels of academic achievement across the University, we have had no shortage of people and awards to celebrate – and November was no exception. For our latest Provost Celebration of Academic Achievement held on the 21 November, we celebrated the fantastic news of the £8.2 million renewal award received for the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) over the next five years from Wellcome and the Medical Research Council (MRC). This funding, along with University support, will enable ALSPAC to continue its vitally important international research into health, wellbeing and social science using data and samples collected from thousands of families at a key time in the lives, marking a whole series of life events which have often been understudied.

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Living Wage Foundation – one year on

Marvin Rees speaking at the Living Wage Foundation event at City Hall during Living Wage Week (11-17 November)

The wellbeing of our employees is particularly important to me, and I understand that this often can be impacted by financial circumstances. So I was proud to represent the University at a city-wide Living Wage event a year ago, at which we become an accredited Living Wage Foundation employer.

Being a Living Wage employer means that we have committed to paying all of our employees the real Living Wage, a rate higher than the minimum wage that is based on the cost of living. We also encourage all in our supply chain to do the same.

Last week marked the first anniversary of the University of Bristol becoming an accredited Living Wage employer. This was marked on 15 November by a Living Wage Week event at City Hall. At the event we heard from other Living Wage Foundation-compliant organisations who reported increased employee wellbeing, reduced absenteeism, greater productivity and longer service attributed to receiving the real Living Wage. We also heard from employees receiving the real Living Wage who said their wellbeing had improved due to increased financial stability, which in turn had led to a reduction in financial pressure, more family time and greater financial freedom. The Mayor, Marvin Rees, also spoke about the city’s aspirations to become a Living Wage city and what we can all do to help towards achieving this goal.

As part of our Living Wage employer commitment, the Procurement Team has carried out an audit of its primary supply chain over the last year to ensure our suppliers pay their employees the real Living Wage. The team is also reviewing our tender documentation so that it reflects University values and encourages suppliers to pay their employees the real Living Wage. In addition, the Human Resources team has launched apprenticeships paying in excess of the Living Wage. I am proud to say that these measures have positioned us as a leading Living Wage employer in the city.

Provost Celebration of Academic Achievement – Advance HE Awards and NSS success

By Professor Judith Squires, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost

For the next in the series of Provost Celebration of Academic Achievements on the 24 October 2019, we moved from celebrating research grant successes to celebrating significant successes in teaching and learning and student satisfaction.

Special congratulations went to Lucy Berthoud, Professor of Space Engineering, and Professor Ki Cater, Academic Director of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CfIE), who both received Advance HE awards at a ceremony in Manchester on the 16 October 2019.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost Professor Judith Squires celebrating with Professor Kirsten Cater and Professor Lucy Berthoud at the October Provost Celebration for Academic Achievement.

Lucy, described by her students as ‘a fantastic lecturer’, ‘really enthusiastic and engaging’ and ‘motivated and motivating’, received a National Teaching Fellowship(?) in recognition of her outstanding impact on student outcomes and the teaching profession. Ki and the CfIE team received a Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE). The Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is educating the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs, helping them to develop the adaptability, transdisciplinary and innovative thinking to make positive differences in an ever-changing world. This is achieved through an innovative, collaborative, interdisciplinary team of academics and industry professionals, who passionately engage with students as co-creators.

Colleagues also gathered together to celebrate the University’s success in the 2019 National Student Survey (NSS) where the University of Bristol achieved a score of 85% overall satisfaction, which meant our overall student satisfaction score had risen by 3% compared to 2018 and was 1% above the national average.

The results show that the University has recovered ground compared to last year. 26 programmes at Bristol scored above 90% for satisfaction, with Veterinary Sciences scoring 99% and Biochemistry, Chemistry and Engineering Design achieving 100%. Subjects at the University featured in the top quartile of universities in every question set: for example, 10 subjects were in the top quartile for Organisation and management and six for Overall satisfaction. Areas that remained consistently strong were teaching on a student’s course (at 86%); students being able to contact staff when needed (at 89%); and the value placed on the University’s learning resources (87%).

More specifically, across the Teaching section, 23 programmes scored 100% with students commenting, ‘Staff are good at explaining things’ (Anthropology, Cellular & Molecular Medicine, Chemistry with Industrial Experience/Study Abroad, Childhood Studies, Engineering Design, Film and Television, French and Italian, French, Music, Pharmacology, Philosophy, Religion and Theology, Social Policy with Criminology, Theatre and Performance Studies, Zoology), or ‘Staff have made the subject interesting’ (Biology, Classical Studies, Engineering Design, French and German, French and Italian, French, Music, Politics and Sociology). Other remarks from students were; ‘The course is intellectually stimulating’ (Anthropology, Archaeology and Anthropology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Engineering Design, Pharmacology, Politics and Sociology) and ‘My course has challenged me to achieve my best work’ (Chemistry with study abroad, Engineering Design). A further 33 programmes received a score 90% or above in at least one of the four Teaching questions.

In terms of Academic Support, an area where we had asked schools to focus, 15 programmes scored 100% in response to a question, ‘I have been able to contact staff when I needed to’ and a further 21 programmes scored 90-99% for the same question. Assessment and feedback scores continue to be a challenge; the University performed less well in comparison to the sector but we are continuing to focus on this key area in order to bring about positive changes.

So thank you to everyone involved, from our National Teaching Fellows, CATE team winners, 2019 Best of Bristol lecturers and Bristol Teaching Award winners, to School and Faculty Education Directors and Education Services staff, for investing in our students’ learning and satisfaction to achieve these excellent results.

Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus: looking ahead

Visualisation of the view from Totterdown Basin (Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios)

With the academic year already in full swing, I wanted to provide an update on the latest developments for the Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus. We were delighted to secure full planning permission for the student accommodation, following a series of public consultations earlier in the year. This decision represents an important stage in the evolution of our plans to develop a world-leading innovation campus in the heart of the city of Bristol.

The planning application for the detailed designs of the academic buildings is due to be submitted in November and we expect the next phase of site preparation work to start soon. We have released the invitation to tender for the main construction contract, all on track for a target date for campus opening in September 2023.

In the meantime, we are continuing to work closely with our partners to develop a range of activities intended for the Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus. Most recently, we received a £20-million funding boost from the West of England Combined Authority to extend the scope of our Quantum Technology Innovation Centre to be piloted at 1 Cathedral Square.

It is heartening to see the impressive levels of support we have seen from funders and partners for the concept of the Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus such as that evidenced at the launch of our partnership in data science with LV=GI at the end of September. The work with LV=GI includes collaboratively designing and producing a new Level 7 Degree Apprenticeship in Data Science. The apprenticeship will be open to all companies and will bring vital benefits to its students.

The relationship with LV=GI embraces the spirit of Temple Quarter – bringing together world-leading experts in AI, data science, sociology and management to address some of the great challenges currently facing our society.

There will be more opportunities to develop together with business, community and governmental partners in the future. Watch this space!

 

 

Celebrating Black History Month – and examining our own past

I was really proud that the University marked this year’s Black History Month with such an exciting and varied programme of activities. Together, we celebrated the University’s connection to Bristol as a city and brought our students and staff into contact with the history and contribution of Black people to Britain.

The month’s events included:

    • a weekly heritage trail which took students and staff through the St Pauls community to see and learn about the painted murals of the Seven Saints;
    • the launch of the CARGO project, an immersive arts installation looking at Bristol and the African Diaspora’s histories and shared legacies;
    • a high-profile lecture from historian Professor David Olusoga on Windrush and its place within the context of Black British history.

These events were led by the Bristol SU BME Network in collaboration with the BME Success Programme; thanks and congratulations to both teams, and to all who took part. 

Our commitment to exploring our Black history mustn’t – and doesn’t – stop with the end of Black History Month. We need to continue to work with staff, students and communities in our city to help the University better understand its past and use that knowledge to shape our future. That’s why I am particularly pleased to announce that the University of Bristol has appointed its first Professor of the History of Slavery.  

Professor Olivette Otele, the UK’s first female black history professor, will take up her new role from January 2020 and will be based at the University’s School of Humanities and Centre for Black HumanitiesThis new role provides us with a unique and important opportunity to critically interrogate the University’s historical links to the transatlantic slave trade and to consider with communities in the University and the city how best to address its legacy. 

Professor Otele’s research examines the various legacies of colonial pasts, understanding trauma, recovery and social cohesion, but also amnesia and reluctance to address various aspects of colonial legacies. She has been working on these complex and sensitive questions for nearly two decades. She aims to produce a rigorous and extensive piece of research that will be relevant to the University and to the city, and something that will be a landmark in the way Britain examines, acknowledges and teaches the history of enslavement. One of her first tasks in her role as Professor of the History of Slavery will be to undertake a two-year research project on the University of Bristol’s and the wider city’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade.  

The role complements the work of our BME Success Programme, which seeks to ensure that our teaching and learning are more inclusive, and our Race Equality Charter work, which seeks to foster a more inclusive workplace for our staff. Together, these initiatives promise to bring about real and lasting change and to create a truly inclusive university community. 

 

The Global Lounge is here (and also popping up over there)

It’s a confusing time to be an advocate for internationalisation. Our societies, our economies and our popular culture are irrepressibly international, but the political discourse around us is intent on maligning it. As someone who has lived in nine countries (for an average of five years each!), multiculturalism is so ingrained in me that I stare agape at efforts to contain it.

From where I sit, safeguarding the provision of an international and multicultural educational experience for all of our students is an absolute priority. That’s why I’m so pleased that, earlier this month, the Anson Rooms came alive with a distinctly international flavour when over 300 students and staff helped to launch the University of Bristol Global Lounge, a central component of our internationalisation strategy. For those who were unable to attend, a summary has been published on the staff and PGR intranet.

Although the University of Bristol has had a fundamentally international outlook since its establishment over 100 years ago, recent years have seen a more purposeful focus on internationalisation as a strategic priority at the institutional level. The Global Lounge concept speaks to two of the objectives in the current internationalisation strategy: to provide all students with an international and multicultural campus experience; and to ensure that our international students are well supported and integrated into the overall campus community. Having seen Global Lounges used to great effect at a number of universities around the world, most notably at University College Dublin, where I had the opportunity to open one in 2011, I have been convinced that Bristol, too, would benefit from having such a resource.

Members of the audience at the Global Lounge launch

Ahead of the opening of its permanent home in Senate House in 2021, the Global Lounge will for now operate in pop-up mode from a variety of locations. This ‘moveable feast’ approach will not only allow the Global Lounge’s activities to become familiar to students and staff across the campus, it will also allow us to refine our understanding of the types of activities and physical infrastructure that we want to prioritise in due course in Senate House.

Far from being simply targeted at international students, the activities run under the Global Lounge umbrella are designed with the entire campus community in mind. A significant schedule of events will be developed with a view to celebrating diversity and multiculturalism on campus – events such as national day celebrations, major international events (including sporting competitions!) and religious holidays. It is a platform that can be used any anyone who wishes to promote or share globally themed activities, and it will also play a very important part in welcoming our growing international student population to the University and making sure that they have a home on campus. Please do contact our Global Lounge team if you have any ideas for events or initiatives that they could support.

Event posters at the Global Lounge launch

The Global Lounge will also work with the wider Bristol community, charities and local organisations to provide an opportunity for the public to get involved in University life, and for our students to become more involved with their city.

This new resource can only exist through a strong collaboration with our Students’ Union. I’m delighted to see that Bristol SU and the Global Lounge have already established a strong partnership and are working together brilliantly on this initiative.

The Global Lounge website is now live. Take a look, book yourself a ticket to one of the exciting events that are lined up, and come and find out what Global Lounge is all about.

At a time when some of the loudest politicians advocate our becoming more insular, I stand firm in my support for an unashamedly international campus. The Global Lounge is a powerful expression of that intent.

 

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