It was a great pleasure to meet so many proud, engaged and enthusiastic Bath graduates at last week’s reception in Shanghai. Our alumni community in China is by far our largest overseas, with nearly 600 alumni in Shanghai alone. As well as having the pleasure of speaking to many locals, I was also really pleased to see how many alumni had travelled hundreds of miles to join in the celebrations, particularly from Beijing. The encouragement to reciprocate was strong, and I will look into the possibilities of visiting soon; it’s great to be in demand!
With more than 150 alumni in attendance, it was the biggest alumni event our University has ever held outside of the UK – and hopefully a glimpse of the global scale of celebrations to come as we build up to our 50th anniversary in two years’ time. Certainly the venue was appropriate – the 93rd floor of the World Financial Centre, literally on top of the world, and quite right for a university like ours.
We currently host over 1,000 Chinese students, across all disciplines, on campus but, of course, we have been welcoming students from China since the University received its Royal Charter in 1966. Our alumni in the region are all part of the story of our first 50 years and it was gratifying to hear that so many retain fond and vivid memories of their time at Bath. I confess I was surprised by how many were interested in the marital status of their former lecturers; clearly the impact our academics are having is deep and long-lasting!
Over the course of the evening I met countless graduates who feel that their connection with the University is strengthening, even though their time on campus is now several years behind them. While I feel this is testament in part to our own alumni engagement activities – from the success of our ‘China Connect’ employability events to more formal occasions such as this one – I think the momentum lies with the tremendous networking efforts of our Chinese alumni themselves.
During the question and answer session, when asked about my ambitions for Bath, I said I wanted our University to be in the top five in the UK. As I write, the Guardian University Guide 2015 has us ranked fourth, which is a record position for this table, so I could hardly ask for more. We are now ranked consistently in the top 10 of UK institutions and our profile is also growing globally – this year we were named one of the 100 most international universities in the world.
These endorsements are vital, but it is important to remember that it is endorsements from our alumni that will also help to ensure our future success. You are our best ambassadors and the Shanghai event last week showed that – please continue your excellent work in spreading the word about your alma mater. We are proud of you, and I hope you are proud of us.
Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell DBE DL, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bath