Vice-Chancellor's Office

Updates and events both on and off campus

Vice-Chancellor appointed to Science & Technology Honours Committee

📥  Celebrating successes

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell, has been appointed by the Cabinet Office to the committee which reviews nominations made for national honours (such as knighthoods and damehoods) in the fields of science and technology.

The committee is chaired by Professor Sir John Bell FRS – Regius Professor of Medicine, University of Oxford - and includes amongst its other members the Chief Scientific Advisers to the UK and Welsh Governments.

Commenting on her appointment, Dame Glynis said: “The national honours system plays an important role in recognising the people whose talent and commitment makes advances in science and technology possible.”

 

VC visits Finance in Manvers Street

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📥  Visits to departments

Martin Williams, Chief Finance Officer, welcomed Dame Glynis to 18 Manvers Street on a Monday morning, and something different for the department’s start to the week.

First port of call was the Payroll Office with Rob Coles, Payroll & Pension Manager; Simon Paul, Payroll Supervisor and the team.

Simon explained how the move to Manvers Street had been a catalyst for refreshing many of their processes and Rob showed how the foot-high pile of paper timesheets was shrinking as more staff came online with e-timesheets.

As Chair of the USS Policy Committee, Dame Glynis was keen to discuss the latest developments in pensions with our new Pensions Officer, Jo Brownlow.

Moving on to the Insurance team, Simon Holt, Insurance Services Manager, ran through the benefits of the UMAL (Universities mutual insurance scheme) with Dame Glynis congratulating him on his recent appointment as Deputy Chair of the scheme.

Tony Brett, Head of Procurement

Tony Brett, Head of Procurement

The Procurement Office then demonstrated the ease of using the e-marketplace with Tony Brett, Head of Procurement; Rich Backholer, Supply chain Coordinator and Greg Derrick, Contract Manager, ordering popular items including a 3D printer and an Oligo, a customised strand of DNA.

Staff then gathered in the staff room to hear from the Vice-Chancellor and ask her questions.

Dame Glynis said: “Thank you, it was interesting to speak to so many of you and to see the move has gone remarkably well.

“Our plans for the building will make it look really good and local residents and visitors will see it and the University as an integral part of their community.

“As the University occupies more new spaces, you are at the forefront of these developments and have shown what is possible by taking the plunge.

“Our new Strategy, which you may have heard about, articulates very significant change for us. To become an international leader in graduate education we must think outside traditional models of how we operate. The old idea is of the University up on the hill. The new one is a University in the City, in Jordan, in South Africa and across the globe.

“This means we will look to you to innovate and support this change, at speed, at a very exciting time for the University, and I have every confidence in you.”

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The VC speaking with the team

 

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

  

📥  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

Vice-Chancellor

 

Note from Amman

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📥  Representing the University

The Vice Chancellor and PVC (I) travelled from Abu Dhabi to Amman on Thursday of last week. That the note from Amman follows only now (a few hours after touchdown in Heathrow) gives you a sense of the intensity and richness of the programme so carefully designed by the office of Their Royal Highnesses Prince El Hassan and Princess Sarvath El Hassan. Amman ranks amongst our most memorable overseas experiences.

We met with sitting senators and former ministers, PhD alumni in education and political communication, the British Institute, the Princess Sumaya University of Science and Technology, the Royal Scientific Society and the Amman Baccalaureate School (ABS), of which Princess Sarvath is patron.

We had the immense pleasure of meeting Jeff Thompson and Mary Hayden at the launch of a University of Bath Study Centre at the ABS. Here, our colleagues will deliver units of our MA Education. Demand is very high and the school offers a world-class educational experience. The pupils were outstanding. And what’s more: over dinner the principal had placed a special order of my favourite salad – tabbouleh. That clinched it!

It is clear that there is a meeting of minds with all our new partners in Jordan – we spoke at length about our IMI, Water Institute, IPR and MENA Network and our international values (don’t forget: Rajani, Robin and Juergen from the School of Management are delivering the DBA in South Africa right now).

Our strength in science and engineering, in policy and education and our understanding of the urgent need to commit to the Levant places us ideally for a concrete engagement with real-world impacts for the benefit of Jordan and beyond.

It was an immense pleasure being in Amman. Tolerant, lively, open, multicultural. A lesson in co-existence. Oh: and very cold with snow forecast for tomorrow.

And yes – for those who have followed the other blogs – I was able to grab a rather cold espresso at 0430 this morning. All is well.

In sum: an amazing trip and a major opportunity to connect with our Strategy.

 

 

Note from Abu Dhabi

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📥  Representing the University

The University of Bath delegation left Dubai yesterday and travelled the short distance to Abu Dhabi. We arrived in sunshine. A cool breeze reached us from the turquoise waters of the Gulf and the sky was pale cobalt. Quite beautiful.

Our first meeting, with panoramic views of the Corniche, was with the University's most eminent alumnus in the region, His Excellency Khalil Foulathi, who is also one of our honorary graduates. We covered many issues, including entrepreneurship and the future development needs of the UAE. It is clear that our discipline range - and partnership ethos - offer some exciting opportunities here.

Our second meeting was with an alumna of our EdD programme, Dr Samia Al Farra. Dr Al Farra was the first Principal of Amman Baccalaureate School in Jordan and is one of our finest ambassadors worldwide. The VC and PVC(I) will be visiting the School with Mary Hayden and Jeff Thompson in the coming days.

Our final meeting was with HM Ambassador, Philip Parham and the British Council's country director, Marc Jessel. It was a similarly wide-ranging discussion about research training and innovation and the University's strategic aims.

Gavin Maggs left for the UK very early this morning. The VC and PVC(I) are about to depart for Amman which is why this blog is rather breathless. A 'Note from Amman' will follow but first we need to check out. And yes - grab that last coffee for the road.

 

Inter-institutional collaborations in doctoral training provision

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📥  Celebrating successes

Following the University’s successful bid for funding from the Higher Education Academy (HEA), a project is underway to assess our training for postgraduate research students within inter-university partnerships.

The project is considering ways to:

  • enhance the experience for doctoral training students from application to employability;
  • create more efficient procedures and more effective deployment of resources (benefiting both the University and our partners);
  • develop good practice applicable across the sector.

A series of face-to-face interviews is planned for the next phase of the project and Dr Susanna Martin will be joining the team on Monday 1 February to assist with the collation and analysis of data. Professor Jonathan Knight, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Project Manager said:

“Having completed her PhD at Bath, Susanna is well placed to evaluate the support available to doctoral students and the ways in which their experience might be enhanced. Her experience of working as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology will also be invaluable.”

It is anticipated that the project findings will help to inform the University’s new Strategy for 2016-19 and help us to achieve our ambition of being recognised internationally as a top university for graduate education.

 

Vice-Chancellor visits Department of Physics

  

📥  On campus, Visits to departments

From light streaming through medieval stained glass windows to young galaxies at the edges of the known Universe, the first Vice-Chancellor’s visit of 2016 took Dame Glynis on a wide ranging tour of the Department of Physics’ research, teaching, staff and students.

Professor Simon Bending, Head of Department, and members of the Department Executive and Research Group Leaders welcomed Dame Glynis with an overview of the department, from the rapid rise in entrance requirements from AAB in 2011 to A*AA, to the active PhySoc excursions.

Professor Carole Mundell then spoke about her vision for the new Astrophysics Group, drawing together physics, maths and computer simulation to understand the most extreme environments in the Universe.

Next up was a tour of the Centre for Photonics & Photonic Materials, with Dr Peter Mosley explaining how the two fibre towers generate temperatures of 2,000 degrees to create unique hollow optical fibres, while students drew lengths of the material that can be used to guide light for applications including precise surgical incision.

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The Vice-Chancellor with Dr Ventsislav Valev and PhD students in the new laser laboratory

Royal Society Fellow Dr Ventsislav Valev introduced the new laser laboratory and PhD students Joel Collins, Christian Kuppe and David Hooper spoke about their research, which included mixing the same coloured laser light to create a new colour and particles of gold creating the red panes of stained glass windows; and twisting light to reverse normal refraction – as when you see an object in water – to create negative refractive index. The latter is being investigated due to its potential for invisibility cloaking.

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Dr Carolin Villforth talks through images from the Hubble space telescope

A packed tour of demonstrations in the teaching laboratories then covered everything from the evolution of galaxies using Hubble space telescope images with Dr Stijn Wuyts and Dr Carolin Villforth and students building their own radioscopes with Dr Steven Davies, to water flowing uphill in the Leidenfrost Maze with Dr Kei Takashina, as seen on QI.

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Dame Glynis tries out the Leidenfrost Maze with Dr Kei Takashina

Dame Glynis then spoke to staff and students gathered for tea and coffee in the Physics square on level 3 of 3 West.

“Thank you for sparing your time; it has been fascinating seeing the big questions you seek to answer every day, and I wish I could stay for longer.

“The big question I am dealing with is how, as a university, we develop to become the graduate education provider of choice.

“It was very interesting to hear what you aim to achieve over the next five years, including growing your postgraduate programmes and improving the staff-student ratio.

“These are integral to some of the key elements we are developing as part of our new University Strategy - expanding our graduate offer and increasing the number of academic staff - and we will do all we can to support you turning your plans into reality.”

 

Note from Dubai

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📥  Representing the University

A University of Bath delegation, led by the Vice Chancellor and including the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Internationalisation) and Director of Development & Alumni, is currently visiting the UAE and Jordan. It is a trip that takes in three centres: the emirates Dubai and Abu Dhabi and also Amman.

We arrived late on Sunday evening from the UK and have had two days of meetings in Dubai so far. These included the UK Consul, our leading alumni in the emirate, the MENA HE Director for the British Council and leading figures from UK and UAE university education.

Two things perhaps strike the first-time visitor to Dubai: the ambition of its architecture (the ‘mega-tall’ Burj Khalifa, designed by US architects Adrian Smith, Marshall Strabala, George F. Efstathiou and structural engineer William F. Baker, rises 830m into the sky) and the diversity of its people (70 nationalities and 120,000 UK citizens among them).

Dubai truly is a gateway city to the Middle East, but also to Europe, the Indian sub-continent and northern Africa. There is a very real sense that history is being made here.

We have been very busy in a multi-dimensional trip and good coffee (the Sumatran was a particular hit) has certainly kept us going despite disturbed sleep. And the timing could not be better as the number of students studying at Bath from the UAE grows and we celebrate the strength of our alumni community there – our strongest in the region.

We are fortunate to have fantastically engaged alumni here who will support our international endeavours and build our profile as one of the world’s best universities.

Next stop: Abu Dhabi, with a note to follow (oh – and more coffee).

Professor Colin Grant
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Internationalisation)

 

Schedule of VC Visits in 2016

  

📥  Visits to departments

The Vice-Chancellor will be taking part in a series of informal visits to departments across the University in 2016.

The visits give Dame Glynis the chance to meet staff in their own workplace and find out more about their work and that of their department.

They are also an opportunity for the Vice-Chancellor and colleagues to exchange thoughts on the future direction of the University.

You can read about what happened during each visit in the write-ups that we post on the Staff Homepage shortly afterwards.

Date Department
12-Jan-16 Physics
01-Feb-16 Finance (Manvers St)
17-Feb-16 Careers Service
01-Mar-16 Marketing & Communications
12-Apr-16 Student Services
21-Jul-16 Faculty Office - Engineering & Design
11-May-16 Development & Alumni Relations
07-Jun-16 Academic Registry
14-Jun-16 Faculty Technical Services - Science
06-Jul-16 Academic Skills Centre
20-Sep-16 Student Recruitment & Admissions Office
12-Oct-16 Hospitality
02-Nov-15 Sports Development & Recreation
23-Nov-16 Computing Services
14-Dec-16 International Office

To read about previous visits, please see the posts below.

If you have any questions about the visits, please contact comms@bath.ac.uk.

 

New Year message from the Vice-Chancellor

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📥  Messages

To all my colleagues across the entire University,

As we start 2016, I wanted both to express my appreciation for all you have done to make the last year such a success and to look ahead to this year in which we celebrate our 50th anniversary.

Our University was founded by Royal Charter in October 1966 ‘to advance learning and knowledge by teaching and research, particularly in science and technology, and in close association with industry and commerce.’

Since then our success has helped to shape the success of the city of Bath and its surrounding area. Directly or indirectly the University is now estimated to support over 5,500 jobs in and around Bath. Within the Bath and North East Somerset area alone, our net economic contribution is over £300 million each year.

With our Sports Training Village and the opening of The Edge we make a significant impact on sporting and cultural life.

For the past three years we have been investing over £1,000,000 per week in improving our University infrastructure and we are committed to continue at that level for the next four years.

In the next few months, we will see the opening of new buildings: 10 West (which will be the home of the Department of Psychology, the Institute for Policy Research, and the Research Commons for graduate students) and 4 East South (for the Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering and Computing Services).  In addition, we will finally take complete possession of the building, previously known as the Police Station, in Manvers Street in the centre of Bath and we will re-front and refurbish it to provide a state-of-the-art centre for student study.

None of this would be possible without you. It is gratifying to see how our excellence in research, teaching and the wider student experience is being increasingly recognised not only nationally but internationally:

According to the QS international ranking, we are the highest placed University of our age in Europe and seventh in the world.

Bath alumnus Dr Jonathan Milner’s confidence in the quality and ambition of our research inspired him to give us £5 million to create a new Centre in Evolutionary Biology.

Our Bath Institute for Mathematical Innovation will help us shape thinking around the enormous potential of advanced data analytics to drive innovation and change.

We have recently announced a ground-breaking partnership for the School of Management with the Government of South Africa to provide doctoral level leadership training to senior South African Higher Education professionals at all 26 of their public universities.

Three of our colleagues have been funded as Future Research Leaders in social sciences by the Economic & Social Research Council.

Our Setsquared business incubation activities have been ranked number one in the world.

These are just a few examples of what made 2015 such a momentous year for our University community.

But this is no time to rest on our laurels.  The world of higher education is changing continuously. We must be ready to address the challenges and opportunities ahead with increasing ingenuity and agility.

Both the Senate and Council of the University have agreed that this is the right time to take our University forward towards our new strategic goal of being an international leader in graduate education and to provide the resources needed to grow the volume of research we conduct. We will be recruiting more researchers and investing to create a more vibrant environment for capturing the minds and money that make discovery and impact possible.  We will be ensuring that the professional and support services are developed in step with these changes.

We will be shifting the balance of our student population towards postgraduates whilst at the same time stabilising the number of undergraduates we recruit. As we take the steps needed to provide excellence in all aspects of our doctoral training and masters programmes we must also focus on enhancing the quality of the academic and extracurricular experience our undergraduates have here.

We must continue to improve our infrastructure - here and off-campus. This will allow us to provide the sort of facilities graduate students need while never losing sight of the requirements of undergraduates and our broader community of staff.

We must further strengthen our international profile. By establishing innovative joint teaching and research programmes with universities outside of the UK we will succeed in recruiting more of the most able international students and secure the collaborations needed to enhance the global impact of our research.

Our 50th year will be both a year of celebration and the year in which we lay the foundations of our future success.  As I look forward to working with you to realise this ambition, I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for your contribution to what our University has already achieved.  Without your commitment and talent we would not have come so far and would not be ready now to go so very much further.

I wish that 2016 is a vintage year for all of us.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell's signature

Dame Glynis Breakwell

Vice-Chancellor

January 2016