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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 ofthe History of Slavery.
Professor Olivette Otele, the UK’s first female black history professor, will take up her new role from 1 January 2020 and will be based at the University’s School of Humanities and Centre for Black Humanities. This new role provides us with a unique and important opportunity to critically interrogate the University’s historical links to the transatlantic slave tradeand 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 andto 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.
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.
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.
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.
On the 26 September 2019 we had our first Provost Celebration of Academic Achievement of the new academic year, where we celebrated the hugely successful Horizon 2020 Awards.
If you aren’t already aware, Horizon 2020 is the European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. It’s worth €80 billion and has been running since 2014 (ends 2020). The programme is unique in its size and scope and gives us the opportunity to not only engage in blue sky research across all research disciplines, but also to bring the brightest early career researchers to Bristol and to collaborate with the best researchers around Europe and the world.
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of leading a University delegation to Brussels were we hosted two very differing but complementary events.
Not to negotiate a withdrawal agreement, I hasten to add – quite the opposite – but of course the ‘B’ word was mentioned on a regular basis!
In the morning we welcomed guests from a variety of EU, European Commission, UK and other member state bodies with interests in research and innovation policy to an interactive event to highlight the University’s strengths in research and underline our commitment to ongoing collaborations in Europe.
Headlined ‘Combining R&I capabilities in Europe to meet the world’s challenges’ it was a chance for our seven Specialist Research Institutes (SRIs) to showcase their world-leading specialised research programmes. I was delighted that we had representatives from each to lead a speed-networking session with guests to explain more about their cross-disciplinary work – aligning research fields with regional, national, and international priorities and ambitions to meet the demands of government, business and society.
The morning also included a fascinating panel debate on the EU Research and Innovation landscape with guests from the European University Association, Swedish R&D sponsors Vinnova, the European Commission and Brussels-based Science|Business all joining me on stage.
The event ended with an update by Inga Benner, Deputy Director of the UK Research Office (UKRI’s agency in Brussels), on the current arrangements to facilitate continued UK engagement in EU Research and Innovation in the context of Brexit.
Despite the continuing twists and turns of Brexit, the workshop felt timely, and it reassured all present that, irrespective of the current political turmoil, we at Bristol are totally committed to building on our research relationships in Europe and continuing to work with the very best researchers from across the continent and beyond.
I made the point to a number of Brussels audiences that we have a key role in Bristol at this time to enable and grow partnerships and cohesion, both locally and internationally. We must seize the opportunity to be bold and embrace new ways of working together. And of course, as well as continuing to develop our collaborative research endeavours such as our SRIs, we are building a new University campus in the very heart of Bristol in partnership with our city, its communities and businesses.
This was the theme for our evening event for Brussels-based alumni which was kindly hosted by Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, at the European Parliament.
It was great to meet a wide range of alumni of all ages to talk about our exciting future plans as well as reminiscing about the past.
It reinforced to me how lucky we are to be located in a city as progressive, outward-facing and independent as Bristol.
It also reinforced that whatever the outcome of Brexit, we must, and will, continue to be internationalist, civic and collaborative in our approach to research and teaching.
I was delighted to co-host an event last month alongside the Vice-Chancellor to celebrate the recent promotion of new Professors within the University. A full list of those promoted to Professor and Associate Professor, formerly known as Reader, appear at the end of this post: congratulations to all who have achieved these much-deserved promotions.
I cannot think of a single issue in my lifetime that has so rapidly achieved a dominant position in the public conscience and the media discourse than the current climate emergency movement.
Significantly, at the end of a summer which was dominated in equal measures by record temperatures and the seemingly endless political stalemate surrounding Brexit, a Christian Aid survey showed that a majority of Britons feel that climate change is a more important issue for the future of the country than Brexit, and two-thirds of the public feel that it should be the government’s top policy priority.
This Friday’s climate strike, which the University fully supports, is the latest expression of the public’s (and in particular the younger generation’s) anger and impatience with what is perceived as a lack of urgency in dealing with the causes of climate change.
The University of Bristol was the first British university to declare a Climate Emergency, and we have been taking a broad range of actions to ensure that we demonstrate real leadership in the university sector in responding to the climate crisis. This response will be overseen by our new Sustainability Council (which I will be chairing), composed of staff and student representatives, which will hold its first meeting during the week of 23 September. The Council’s terms of reference and work plan will be made available to staff and students, and there will be opportunities for the University community to engage with and advise the Council throughout the year.
A significant amount of engagement with our student community is already under way, and specific discussions have been held with the Extinction Rebellion group to create a forum which will generate ideas, create agency for change and involve constituents across the University. One outcome is the upcoming ‘People’s Assembly’ scheduled from 1 to 4pm on 23 October. Further details will be circulated nearer the time.
Over the summer, over 900 staff members took part in our ‘Be the Change’ initiative, and together saved an estimated 59 tonnes of CO2 by making behavioural changes that included travelling more sustainably and adjusting their consumption habits. During the course of the 2019/2020 academic year we will be working with all of our academic Schools in the development of School-specific climate action plans. The University has already allocated £5 million of expenditure for its Sustainable and Efficient Buildings programme, supporting low-energy lighting, greater efficiency in our laboratories and the use of renewable energy on our estate. In addition, the new BREEAM Plus environmental building standard will be applied to all our new projects.
Other key initiatives under way include the exploration of carbon offsetting opportunities and a critical review of our business travel behaviours. As someone who regularly travels overseas as part of my role, I will of course need to take a critical look at my own behaviour as an individual and as a leader within the University.
Throughout this process we are eager to share our experiences with the rest of the higher education sector both nationally and internationally, and recently our Head of Sustainability, Martin Wiles, held a webinar with 20 other universities explaining our decision to declare a climate emergency and outlining the steps that we are taking as a consequence.
Finally, as ever, a wide range of research groups across the University continue to progress hundreds of projects that have the potential to lead to a more sustainable future for all of us. Much of this activity falls under the auspices of our own Cabot Institute.
I encourage all of our staff and students to participate in the climate strike this Friday. Standing together in our resolve to see real change affected will put us in the strongest possible position to make a real contribution to the sustainability movement.