Vice-Chancellor's Office

Updates and events both on and off campus

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching) blog

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📥  Learning & Teaching, Messages

August is a strange time of the year on campus, with many colleagues away from the University either doing research or enjoying a well-earned break.

However, for a number of colleagues, August on campus is a very busy month – including admissions, pre-sessional classes, Moodle updates, teaching room refurbishments, timetabling, and of course, for some of us, analysis of the National Student Survey (NSS) results.

Whilst NSS scores are certainly not the ultimate aim of our learning and teaching, the survey is important in terms of our external profile and reputation, and providing us with valuable and helpful feedback from our students.

The introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the metrics of which will include certain elements of the NSS, is an added incentive to continue to focus on enhancing our learning and teaching provision.

A real team effort

I was delighted to see that we had once again achieved a very good result. 90% of our final year students were satisfied with their overall experience (the UK average for HEIs was 86%), placing us 14th in the overall satisfaction rankings, alongside Oxford and Cambridge among others.

Moreover, eleven of our programmes received a remarkable 100% overall satisfaction, and a number of our departments also received very high overall satisfaction scores, most notably Chemistry, which achieved a score of 99%.

The results are testament to the hard work of all colleagues involved in supporting our students – academics and professional services alike – and especially Directors of Studies. It is a culture of commitment of individual staff members that makes Bath so successful in learning and teaching.

No room for complacency

While I am pleased with the results, I am very aware that there is no room for complacency, there is a lot to be done and we must continue to listen to, and work with, our staff and students to make things even better.

This is especially the case in two areas: our scores on Feedback and Assessment were not good, despite the efforts by staff in recent years to improve the timing, quality and clarity of our feedback.

There are no quick-fix answers, but I will be expecting departments and Faculties to work with the proposed new Centre for Learning and Teaching, which will include staff with a specific remit of supporting colleagues with curriculum and assessment design, including feedback.

The results regarding Learning Resources were particularly disappointing, especially given how hard staff in the Library have worked to support students. This was highlighted in last year’s Students’ Union Top 10 and we have been working hard to improve and develop learning spaces, including developing a student learning zone at Manvers Street, transforming part of 6 West South into a student learning and social space and creating dedicated learning space in the recently opened 10 West and 4 East South.

More needs to be done, but we are working closely with the Students’ Union (SU), and further initiatives are in the pipeline.

Working in partnership with students

Talking of working closely with the Students’ Union, I was particularly pleased to find that the SU had improved their overall satisfaction score from last year, achieving 83%, which maintains their position among the leading Students’ Unions in the country.

I am very proud of the close and productive working relationship we have with our Students’ Union, which I think has been key to our success in learning and teaching, and hugely beneficial in terms of developing student engagement in all areas of the University.

While we promote student engagement for many reasons to do with academic, social and personal development, it should be good news for us, that from 2017 the NSS will include new questions specifically focussed on student engagement.

You can read more about the changes to the NSS online.

Much to be proud of

The slim margins between rankings in the NSS tables reflect such a fine line between the top universities that focussing simply on overall position is of limited value.

What our results do show, however, is an extraordinary consistency over the past six years in delivering high quality learning and teaching. The University can provide the support to staff and students, but the results are a testament to the commitment and efforts of all of those colleagues involved in learning and teaching.

Thank you for all your efforts.

 

 

 

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching) blog

  

📥  Learning & Teaching, Messages

With the scale of change facing the HE sector, this is a challenging time, but also one full of opportunity for Bath. It is in this context that we have been developing our new Education Strategy and looking at how we can best continue to deliver high quality learning and teaching.

I am therefore pleased to share our proposals for the establishment of a Centre for Learning & Teaching that will replace the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Office (LTEO) and be the dynamic focus for our learning and teaching support for academic staff and students.

Creating a Centre for Learning & Teaching

The proposed Centre for Learning & Teaching will develop the expertise of the former LTEO in four areas:

  • Academic Staff Development
  • Curriculum Development
  • Technology-Enhanced Learning
  • Student Engagement

A key feature will be the change to its leadership. It will have an Academic Director (0.5 FTE) with an Education and Research background to ensure that the Centre will be strongly connected to our education priorities, offering greater support for our teaching staff.

Greater alignment of services

We are also proposing that quality assurance functions and expertise be relocated to the Academic Registry so that Quality Assurance and regulation can be more productively aligned. Changes in the national quality assessment framework, the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), and the chance to introduce greater flexibility into our own practices within the University, give us the opportunity to refocus on new priorities, and take forward work which has already begun in the last few months.

A new strategic direction

Over the last ten years, the LTEO has supported learning and teaching in line with our institutional needs. Across the University there is a shared sense both of the important contribution made by LTEO colleagues and the need to enhance these contributions in a changing HE context.

The proposals include changes to staffing at some levels, primarily due to the changes in leadership and management roles and associated support. They also relocate some existing staff to other Professional Services where this will bring greater coherence to their work. Other roles will be created, mainly within new areas of activity to reflect the changing focus of our needs in learning and teaching.

Following a consultation process over the next month, I would hope to be able to give more detail about the final shape of the CLT in September.

 

VC visits Academic Skills Centre

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📥  Visits to departments

Dame Glynis joined Maggie Ward Goodbody, Director of the Academic Skills Centre, as they stepped into a teacher training session to see the Centre in action.

Twenty-three academics from Brazil were learning how to teach academic writing to their colleagues and students, led by Diana Hopkins, Academic Skills Course Leader. The course is a unique collaboration with Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp), an international partner and among the leading universities in Latin America.

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Dame Glynis meets colleagues from Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp)

Dame Glynis said: “It’s wonderful to see you here. I’m very pleased our two universities are working together and I know, having spoken to your VC, how important this training is for Unicamp.”

As well as studying hard, she encouraged the group to “get out and enjoy our great city”.

Moving along the 1 West corridor, Dame Glynis met with colleagues over refreshments to hear about other elements of the Centre’s work.

Dame Glynis chats to staff from the Academic Skills Centre

Staff from the Academic Skills Centre talk to the VC about their work

Jo Lewis, Head of Pre-sessional, spoke about the programme, which acts as a springboard to a range of courses, helping overseas students develop their academic skills and understand the expectations of study in the UK.

Miranda Armstrong, Head of Academic Skills Programmes, talked about the help students receive to attain the highest levels of academic achievement. Tom Reid, Academic Skills Course Leader, added that new sessions developed and delivered in conjunction with the Faculty of Engineering & Design were building students’ real world skills.

Jackie Dannatt, Writing Centre Leader, and Justin Alam, Teaching Fellow, outlined the Writing Centre’s provision for postgraduates and Dame Glynis encouraged them to contribute to the activities in the new graduate study space in 10 West.

Dame Glynis with Bev Howard, Finance & Admissions Officer

Dame Glynis with Bev Howard, Finance & Admissions Officer

Head of Academic Skills Resources, Sarah Turpin, gave Dame Glynis an advance look at the Reflective Writing e-learning project offering online learning that can be easily adapted to provide subject-specific resources.

Dame Glynis said: “Thank you, it has been fascinating. It is good to see such a commitment to ensuring students successfully manage the transition on to our courses, something we will need to further focus on as we welcome more postgraduate students.”

 

VC visit to the Bio Sciences Service Unit

  

📥  Visits to departments

For her next department visit, Dame Glynis visited part of the Faculty of Science Technical Services, and met the dedicated team who look after the Bio Sciences Service Unit.

After donning clogs and a lab coat and passing through the dust-free ‘air shower’, the Senior Technician guided Dame Glynis around the Unit which houses a variety of rodents to support health and medical research at the University.

The tour covered the purpose-built facilities designed to meet the very latest guidelines on animal health and welfare, showing where staff carry out their research work and the animals are housed, with each species given in its own carefully controlled climate environment.

A series of posters lining the walls demonstrated some of the ongoing research projects, including understanding a human disease gene using zebrafish genetic models and investigating early embryonic development using a mouse model.

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A five-day-old zebrafish embryo informs research into human disease genes

Members of the team, with over 100 years of animal care between them, chatted to Dame Glynis and explained how the animals are looked after.

As part of promoting openness on animal research, the Unit has hosted a number of 'getting to know animal research' visits by local schools and others and regularly supplies information on animal research in response to enquiries.

More information on some of the current research projects is available online.

Understanding earlyembryonic development using a mouse model and alternative methods

Understanding early embryonic development using a mouse model

 

President & Vice-Chancellor visits Academic Registry

  

📥  Visits to departments

For her latest visit, Dame Glynis headed to one of the most connected professional services – the Academic Registry.

Creating innovative and prestigious graduate programmes was the first topic up for discussion. As John Harris, its Director explained: “Colleagues ask us for basic information on starting new programmes, and because we have so much experience in what’s required we can help shape their ideas.

“Conversations like this early on means the more formal element of creating and delivering the programme is much more straightforward.”

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John Harris introduced Dame Glynis to members of the management team including James Arthur, Head of Student Records & Examinations, and Assistant Registrars Amy Cavanagh, Jon Davies, Lisa Isted and Caroline Turrell, alongside Rachel Sheer, Executive Assistant, and James Olver, Personal Assistant.

Lorna Joscelyne, Business Process & Systems Support, was first stop on a tour of the Academic Registry’s history of developments, describing how the Student Systems team works with both users and developers to extract maximum value from the SAMIS database.

Valerie Jukes, Administrative Assistant, then gave an insight into ensuring effective liaison between our students and the Student Loans Company, especially in the complexities of changing course.

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The jigsaw puzzle of timetabling was covered by Caroline Turrell, Assistant Registrar, who highlighted the My timetable app which lets students and staff customise and download their timetables and has seen 8,000 logins since it launched in September.

Dame Glynis was offered a peek behind the scenes at Ceremonies thanks to Liz Evans, Student Records Officer, and Ella Richardson, Examinations Assistant. They gave the Vice-Chancellor a chance to stamp her own official University seal using the original machine from the very first days of the University.

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Dame Glynis then met with the whole department: “This has been a real delight, thank you - I have learned a lot.

“With the new funding routes and changes in research councils, we are increasingly looking outside traditional routes for new opportunities.

“And when we look outside traditional models we innovate - in the people we talk to, the partnerships we create, and the delivery of our teaching.

“Your experience and knowledge is vital to making these new ideas happen.”

 

A message from the VC following the EU Referendum result

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📥  Messages

Dear Staff and Students,

As we consider the decision to leave the EU, we should remind ourselves that the strengths of our University community - our international outlook, the quality of our people, the excellence of our research and our academic programmes, and our robust financial status - are still what they were before the referendum result was announced.

Whilst none of us yet know exactly how the implications of the referendum will unfold, it is important to remember that we are entering what may be a prolonged period of uncertainty but from a very strong position.

Over the coming months and years we will need to work closely with the Government and others to represent the interests of our students, staff and the University as a whole. There will certainly be challenges but there will also be opportunities in this new reality and we must be agile enough to seize them.

I know that some of you have raised specific questions about what this means for your individual circumstances.

On Friday I met with the Minister of State for Universities & Science, attended a Board meeting of Universities UK and spoke with both the Chief Executive of the Student Loans Company and Head of Policy of HEFCE. The message they are all emphasising is that any change will not be immediate and for now the current arrangements with regard to participation in schemes such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+, and the visa status of staff, students and applicants remain as they were before Friday morning.

The Student Loans Company are assuring current EU students and current applicants that their associated fee status and access to student loans have not changed as a result of the vote.

The process of leaving the EU will not happen overnight. Universities collectively and individually will throughout this negotiation be seeking to secure the best outcome for our students and staff and for the future of academic endeavour in the UK.

There will inevitably be a period of uncertainty but we will continue to thrive together as a community if we redouble our efforts to show how our University remains a truly international centre of excellence for teaching and research.

Over the next weeks and months as the situation becomes clearer, we will keep you as up-to-date as possible on any changes that may affect you.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell's signature

President and Vice-Chancellor

 

VC visits Development & Alumni Relations

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📥  Visits to departments

It was the turn of Gavin Maggs, Director of Development & Alumni Relations, to escort Dame Glynis, the President & Vice-Chancellor, to the East Building for her latest visit, and a look behind the scenes of events where she is usually centre stage.

Martin Cornish, Alumni Communications Officer, introduced a discussion on how they manage an event from inception to finish.

With the purpose decided - be it fundraising, stewardship or engagement – Andreea Stangu, Prospect Research Officer, described how her team works with academic colleagues to help create the guest list, Sarah Kilgallon, International Events Assistant, covered managing invites and Zoe Whitten, Events Assistant, talked about the all-important details like seating plans.

Dame Glynis discusses event planning with staff in Development & Alumni Relations

Dame Glynis discusses event planning with staff in Development & Alumni Relations

Kirsten Buckley, Head of Corporate Partnerships, focussed on the post event follow up, such as the 15 new meetings arranged after the Department’s recent Windsor Castle event and Martin wrapped up describing how he publicised the event to our 100,000 alumni by email, on Twitter and in print.

Kirsten then offered Dame Glynis a virtual tour of Raiser’s Edge, the database of detailed information on alumni and donors. Every interaction with an individual is recorded alongside biographical information to build up a complete picture of their relationship with the University.

The power of this data was brought to the fore when Dame Glynis stepped into the Telethon call centre.

Liz Foot, Fundraising Officer, explained how Raiser’s Edge data was used to match student callers to alumni by identifying connections such as degree or society, to create conversations that as well as raising money, offer opportunities to make connections and for careers advice.

Alex Joseph, Senior Student Caller, described recruiting and training the student callers for the 303 shifts that raised £221,000 last year over, and Kit Stone, Data & Analytics Officer, unpicked how profiling and prediction modelling helped the most suitable alumni to approach.

Everyone then gathered for tea and cakes, with the Vice-Chancellor complimenting Chris Andrews, Departmental Administrator, on her outstanding orange polenta cake.

Dame Glynis said: “The £66million Look Further campaign fundraising target is ambitious. But I know you, and we, will achieve it. It is a clear demonstration of how you are enabling the Strategy and its transformational change of the University.

“I am asking you to maintain the momentum, not just to demonstrate the impact of the campaign but because it will build a platform for the next stage and where you go next.”

A useful Q&A session was rounded off by Dan Graves, Alumni Relations Assistant and fervent Leicester City FC fan, with the question of the moment - what does the University have to learn from their success?

Dame Glynis said: “I was just in South Africa with the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester so, as you can imagine, I heard a great deal about this.

“It shows what you can achieve by working strongly as a team and getting the whole community behind you. You need determination, consistency - and you can’t worry about what everyone else says about you.”

 

Launching our programme of events to mark our 50th anniversary

  

📥  Alumni event, Celebrating successes, Messages

Dear colleague,

Whilst our University formally received its Royal Charter on October 25th 1966, our celebrations of our 50th anniversary will continue throughout the new academic year and start in earnest this week.

The 50th anniversary planning group has put together an impressive programme of almost 100 conferences, events and other activities across the full spectrum of University life.

The very first week will see a talk on ‘Phosphatases and Signalling in Health and Disease’, the 25th Annual Conference of the Society for Risk Analysis and a special screening, at The Edge, of ‘Goal!’, a film about the 1966 world cup. We’ll be welcoming exceptional Bath-based athletes and coaches to our sports Hall of Fame and holding our summer graduation ceremonies in Bath Abbey from June 28th to 30th.

Bath Abbey will also be the venue for a special celebration on October 25th which staff, students and alumni will all have an opportunity to attend. More details of this and other forthcoming events will be communicated separately and published on the 50th anniversary webpages. The programme will include a birthday party on campus and also a festival day for the whole community on May 6th 2017.

The anniversary is both a wonderful opportunity to showcase all we have established together as a University community and a reason to ‘Look Further’ - our chosen theme for our 50th year.

In what will be – whatever the result of Thursday’s referendum - a momentous week for this country, it is perhaps timely to think that having started as a single building in a field overlooking Bath, we are marking the start of our celebrations as the highest ranked University of our age in Europe, with a global network of strategic partners and a worldwide community of over 100,000 alumni.

Achieving our goal of becoming an international leader in innovative graduate education will require us to deliver the suite of strategic priorities outlined in our new University strategy. The theme of ‘Looking further’ is not simply an encapsulation of all our University has achieved in its first 50 years, it also articulates a continued shared ambition for future excellence, impact and influence.

I look forward to celebrating with you.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell's signature

Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell
President and Vice-Chancellor

 

Congratulations on our June Open Days

  

📥  Celebrating successes, Learning & Teaching, Messages, On campus

Dear colleague,

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate everyone involved in our June Open Days. We welcomed thousands of visitors over two days and I am delighted that we kept the show on the road through sunshine and showers to put on a very successful event.

Open Days give prospective students the chance to visit Bath to see for themselves the world-class courses and facilities on offer at the University. There is very clear evidence that our Open Days both help to convince prospective students to apply here and also that they are more likely to make Bath a firm choice should they receive an offer.

Our Open Days are a great opportunity to showcase our University and I’m sure you will agree that the atmosphere on campus was incredibly positive and uplifting.

If you have any feedback about the Open Days, you can either visit the drop in evaluation session next Wednesday 22 between 12.30-14.00 in 1 West North 3.11 or e-mail the team at opendays@bath.ac.uk.

Finally, I am always humbled by the sheer effort of so many people working to ensure the event goes smoothly. From the events team and organisers in faculties, to the hard work of estates and security and our many student ambassadors, it really is a team effort. So whether you were giving a talk, setting up in the early hours, leading a tour, staffing a stand in the Information fair or welcoming visitors to campus, a huge thank you for all you have done.

Many thanks,

Professor Bernie Morley
Deputy Vice-Chancellor & Provost

 

 

VC explores possible collaborations in Germany

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📥  Internationalisation, Learning & Teaching, Representing the University, Research

Last week, Dame Glynis visited Berlin for 48 hours as part of a Universities UK (UUK) delegation of five vice-chancellors led by Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow (President, Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor, University of Kent).

The delegation met with members of the board of the German Rectors' Conference or Hochschulrektorenkonferenz (HRK), a voluntary association of 268 state and state-recognised universities serving more than 94 per cent of all students in Germany.

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Dame Glynis in Berlin

Designed to identify further opportunities for the two countries to work together, the visit was influenced by the fact that, after the US, the UK and Germany are each other’s most important research collaborator.

Consideration was given to current collaborations in EU higher education and, in particular, those operating via the European University Association.   There was also discussion of Open Access/Open Science in the UK and Germany, and the possibilities for developing joint approaches.

In the final session, conversations focussed on the introduction of research impact assessment in German universities and lessons which could be learned from the UK system.

Dame Glynis also visited two universities.   At the Technische Universität Berlin, she met Professor Dr Angela Ittel (Vice President for International Relations and Teacher Education).

At the Humboldt University of Berlin, she talked with Professor Dr-Ing Dr Sabine Kunst (President) and Dr Ursula Hans (Director, International Office). Only two weeks into her term of office (having previously served as the Minister of Science, Research & Culture), Professor Kunst was generous in prioritising the meeting.

Both of these universities expressed a strong interest in working with the University of Bath and, in the case of Humboldt, to build on our existing collaboration on the MA Contemporary European Studies (Euromasters) programme.