Preview: VC's Report to Senate - 3 Feb 2016

Posted in: On campus

1. Research developments

1.1 Nurse Review of Research Councils

The review of the UK Research Councils by Sir Paul Nurse has proposed a new body called ‘Research UK’ to coordinate the seven research councils and take the lead in shaping and driving a strategic approach to science funding; it also suggested the body could allocate research funding currently administered by HEFCE. The Autumn Statement stated that the recommendation of the review had been accepted by Government.

1.2 Review of university research funding

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson launched a UK-wide review of university research funding on 16 December 2015. The stated aims are to cut red tape so that universities can focus more on delivering the world-leading research for which the UK is renowned and help ensure the government gets the most return from its investment. The review will be chaired by the President of the British Academy and former World Bank Chief Economist Lord Nicholas Stern. He will be assisted by a steering group of academic experts, including the Vice-Chancellor of Aston University, Professor Julia King, and the Past President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, Professor Sir John Tooke. Lord Stern is expected to deliver his review of the REF to the government in summer 2016.

1.3 Growth in our research power

Following the decision by the University to grow its graduate student numbers and research power, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) is working with Deans and professional services towards identifying research areas in which the University could increase its research base. This involves analysis of external need drivers, funding opportunities, and of our current and potential research strengths.

2. Green Paper ‘Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice’

The consultation period for the green paper published by BIS ended on 15 January. The University submitted a response which welcomed the focus on the quality of teaching and the student experience but raised a number of concerns, including:

  • the potential risk to the international reputation of English universities, and the differential bureaucratic burden, if the new regulatory system and Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) are not adopted by the devolved administrations;
  • the lack of reassurance regarding the governance/independence of the proposed Office for Students (OfS);
  • the mismatch between the focussed regulatory remit of the OfS and the broader research, social and economic roles of traditional universities;
  • the phased development of the new TEF and the relevance of some of the indicative metrics, particularly proportion of teaching staff on permanent contracts and ‘learning gain’;
  • the overall financial impact of the proposed regulatory system, TEF and contingency actions.

View the Green paper.

3. Reviews of Learning and Teaching and Quality Assessment

3.1 HEFCE Review of Learning and Teaching and the Student Experience

The University has submitted its response to the review by HEFCE and the other funding councils of information about learning and teaching and the student experience.

View the consultation document.

3.2 Quality Assessment Framework

HEFCE has published a summary of the responses to its consultation on quality assessment. The proposals to reform quality assessment were broadly supported. The BIS Select Committee, chaired by Iain Wright MP, heard evidence in early December and is expected to report in January.

4. HEFCE’s 2014/15 postgraduate support scheme

Our pilot project was one of 20 selected by HEFCE as part of a highly competitive process in order to test initiatives to encourage more students (particularly from under-represented groups) to undertake postgraduate taught study. The project, overseen by a steering group chaired by Professor Bernie Morley, developed a new 15 month Masters programme in MSc Modern Building Design in the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering. The programme was developed in close collaboration with industry and includes an integral placement component; it was only open to UK/EU students in the first year. Despite a tight timescale, 16 UK/EU students are nearing completion with 80% of the initial cohort receiving employment offers before the end of the programme. A mini-MOOC will also launch in February. As project funding was solely dedicated to the 2014/15 cohort, the programme is proving sustainable going forward with 19 students from 10 different countries recruited in 2015/16.

5. GW4

GW4 is co-ordinating a regional Expression of Interest into the BIS Call for Science and Innovation audits. Up to ten of the initial submissions (to be submitted by 19 January) are expected to be supported and will then go through to a regional audit process with an appointed analytical contractor. BIS expect to see submissions which demonstrate how universities are working with the regional economic strengths to improve competitiveness and raise productivity. It is expected that this will be the first of several such Calls from BIS leading eventually to national coverage.

6. University Strategy

As reported to Senate in December 2015 (paper S15/16-45), the University is starting to develop a new public Research Strategy and Learning & Teaching Strategy as part of the new University Strategy. The Research Committee and the Learning, Teaching and Quality Committee are considering the current articulation of our institutional strengths and our definitions of excellence in these two domains. On 13 January 2016, Executive Committee was briefed on the various work streams that are being undertaken in order to progress our goal of becoming an international leader in graduate education. A progress report will be made to Council on 25 February.

7. International Engagements

7.1 I visited the UAE with the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Internationalisation) (PVCI) and Director of Development and Alumni Relations from 17-20 January to engage with leading benefactors, Bath alumni, the British Embassy and key university leaders in Dubai. I and the PVCI then visited Jordan as guests of their royal highnesses Prince El Hassan and Princess Sarvath. One highlight of the visit was the launch of a partnership between the Amman Baccalaureate School and our Department of Education, represented by Dr Mary Hayden and Professor Jeff Thompson. Further discussions focused on our expertise in research in migration and social protection in SPS and the IPR.

7.2 The PVCI was invited by the Ministry of Education in Peru to give a keynote address on university autonomy and recent changes in the UK HE landscape (8-11 December). There is outline agreement to develop leadership capacity in Peru’s university system. The PVC also visited Peru’s leading university – the Pontifícia Universidad Católica – to promote ties with our political scientists. The School of Management DBA team (Professor Rajani Naidoo, Professor Jürgen Enders and Dr Robin Shields) delivered the first residential of the new 27-strong South African cohort at NMMU, Port Elizabeth from 23-29 January. The University Librarian visited Stellenbosch University with the International Partnerships Manager, Ms Katja Nieminen, in January with a view to developing joint doctorates and improving inter-library partnership.

7.3 The Agents’ Conference, 2-4 December 2015: The International Relations Office welcomed 29 of our international representatives from 16 different countries to Bath for a three-day event showcasing our departments and services. Our educational agents are responsible for over £8 million in overseas fee income into the University every year and are a key resource in promoting our programmes worldwide.

7.4 The Department of Chemistry hosted a delegation of ten researchers from Turkey working on Energy and Health on 12 January. Representatives from Izmir Institute of Technology, Middle East Technical University, Sabanci University and Baskent University, amongst others, visited the UK in celebration of the UK-Turkey Year of Science and Innovation 2015-16.

8. Academic Skills Centre

A new skills centre for the University has brought together the Academic Skills Centre (ASC) and the Foreign Languages Centre to operate as one independent entity reporting directly to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching). Maggie Ward Goodbody, formerly Director of the ASC, has become overall Director. It will allow us to enhance our provision of skills development for all our students, both undergraduate and postgraduate.

9. Visits to Departments

Since my last report I have visited the Department of Physics (12 January) and Finance at 18 Manvers Street on 2 February.

10. Other University news

I particularly wish to draw the attention of Senate to the following developments since our previous meeting:

10.1 Professor James Davenport has been awarded a Fellowship by the Software Sustainability Institute. The Institute has appointed 17 Fellows to take forward their plans to improve research software and make a difference in their research domains.

10.2 Two prestigious ESRC Future Leaders Awards were achieved in November by Dr Katie Maras in Psychology and Dr Michael Donnelly in Education, at a value of £225,000 each.

10.3 Recent significant grant awards include:

Description Funder Principal Investigator £Amount
Understanding the Evolutionary Origins and Molecular Mechanisms of Antimicrobial Peptide Resistance BBSRC Dr Susanne Gebhard 415,580
Augmentation of Alkaline Earth Reactivity: An FLP Analogy EPSRC Professor Michael Hill 739,054
SPARK - Spatial Augmented Reality as a Key for Co-Creativity EU - Horizon 2020 Dr Elies Dekoninck 270,358
Integrated Energy Efficient Microwave and Unique Fermentation Processes for Pilot Scale Production of High Value Chemical from Lignocellulosic Waste EPSRC Dr Chris Chuck 1,689,779
EvoGenMed European Research Council Professor Laurence Hurst 1,506,997
Investigating the Principles of Trans-acting Long Non-Coding RNA Genomic Targeting and Chromatin Regulation BBSRC Dr Keith Vance 514,161
Modelling, Computation and Analysis of Droplets Guided by Faraday Waves: A Complex System with Macroscopic Quantum Analogies EPSRC Professor Paul Milewski 316,872

10.4 The Duchess of Cambridge, Patron of Action on Addiction, visited the charity’s Centre for Addiction Treatment Studies in Warminster on 10 December to see its work providing training, education and professional development for those working in addiction and related fields and to help celebrate 10 years of the Centre’s partnership with the University.

Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell


Posted in: On campus