Vice-Chancellor's Office

Updates and events both on and off campus

VC sees Careers Service in action


📥  Visits to departments

The Vice-Chancellor and Tracey Wells, Head of the Careers Service, started off the VC’s latest visit with a look at the Service in action. The Sprint programme, which builds students’ confidence and helps them achieve their professional ambitions, had attracted 43 female undergraduates who were now filling the room in The Chancellors' Building.

Dame Glynis watches female student make presentations as part of the Sprint Training Programme

Dame Glynis watches female student make presentations as part of the Sprint Training Programme

After observing groups presenting to a panel made up of sponsors including Axa, Microsoft and Arup, Dame Glynis said: “It is wonderful to see so many talented and determined young women together in a room moving forward.”

First-year Psychology student Noor Khatijah Zafirah said: “I don’t like giving presentations, so it was good to be made to do it. The community that has been created here is really good.”

Then it was off to the Careers Service in Norwood House to meet the team.

The VC meets members of the Careers Service who are now based at our building in Manvers Street

The VC meets members of the Careers Service

Dr Ghislaine Dell, Careers Adviser, said: “There is so much to talk about that we’re proud of, from the big events like Employer Fairs to personal moments like a student coming to us feeling very anxious and leaving us confident.”

Tracey spoke about the future work of the team and highlighted some new activities including the pilot GW4 Careers Fair in Shanghai last year and the aim of holding an additional one in Beijing this year.

The team also discussed their ideas on how they wanted to support the new University Strategy and contribute their expertise, especially in growing the postgraduate offer.

Dame Glynis congratulated the team on their successes in helping students secure careers with a wide range of employers: “We have a high calibre of students at Bath but, of course, this wouldn’t be possible without you.”

“In the short term the move to Manvers Street will mean the challenge of keeping the show on the road, but the facilities there are great and you will be at the forefront of significant change for us as a university.”


Visit by the Chilean Ambassador

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📥  Internationalisation, Representing the University

On Monday 8 February we welcomed the Ambassador of Chile in the UK to campus. The Ambassador visited us to learn more about our current collaborations with Chile and to establish how the Embassy and the University work together in the region.

Ambassador Rolando Drago was welcomed by Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Internationalisation) Professor Colin Grant and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching) Professor Peter Lambert, both of whom have a keen interest in Latin America.

Colleagues from SAMBa, Bath IMI, CSCT, the Milner Centre for Evolution, IPR and PoLIS met with the Ambassador to discuss their current links with Chile.


Bath academics discuss their links with Chile with the Ambassador.

Professor Andreas Kyprianou and Dr Gavin Shaddick from the Department of Mathematical Sciences talked about their recent trip to Chile on behalf of SAMBa.

Dr Leslie Wehner and Dr Juan Pablo Ferrero discussed their research interests in Latin America, Dr Wehner expects to launch a Latin America Centre on campus this year.

Following a meeting with the Vice-Chancellor, the Ambassador met with students from Chile. It was a great chance for His Excellency to talk to them about why they chose to study in the UK and what brought them to Bath.

Professor Grant led an International Unit delegation to Chile and Argentina in 2014 to explore collaboration possibilities with other UK higher education institutions.

He commented: “On our visit to Chile in 2014, we were treated to warm hospitality and a series of very productive meetings, so I was pleased to be able to repay the Ambassador by hosting his visit to us.

“Chile is a rapidly growing country with a vibrant academic community, so to cement our existing relationship and discuss developing it further at such a senior level is very gratifying.”


The Vice-Chancellor meets Ambassador Rolando Drago


Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching) Blog


📥  Learning & Teaching, Messages

As Semester 2 begins, it still feels strange not to be welcoming students on to new units and recovering from late nights tackling seemingly endless piles of marking of Semester 1 assessments (occasionally at the same time). For the past 20 years this has been a time of final changes to handouts, last-minute photocopying and then that electric moment of walking into a large lecture theatre to meet the new class.

This year, however, the experience of the start of semester has been very different for me.

I came to Bath in 2000, first organising the launch of Spanish and Latin American studies across our undergraduate programmes, and then in 2010, becoming Associate Dean for Learning & Teaching in the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences.

Last summer, I started something quite new when I moved into the role of Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Learning & Teaching. It has a vast remit – covering the student experience from induction to employment, all aspects of learning and teaching, and specific departments such as Student Services, the Skills Centre, Careers Service, Academic Registry and the Learning & Teaching Enhancement Office.

Over the next four years I have a fantastic opportunity to work with academic staff, professional services, and students, and to build on what we have already achieved. It’s a steep learning curve, but one of the joys of this job is being surrounded by intelligent, creative, and dedicated colleagues who are willing to share ideas, views and visions – and of course point out when things are going wrong!

Today’s students are engaging with a higher education sector that is changing rapidly.

The Minister for Universities & Science (on a learning curve of his own) is now considering the results of the consultation on the Green Paper, which included the idea of a Teaching Excellence Framework. Some of the proposals – such as an emphasis on student experience and engagement – were welcome; others, including the use of metrics such as ‘learning gain’, the promotion of new (private) providers, and the possibility of universities ‘failing’, are cause for some concern. There is also uncertainty over fee levels and funding.

As we approach our 50th anniversary, we are confident that effort we put into excelling in our learning and teaching and our world-class research will bring continued success.

Yet there is certainly no room for complacency. Amid so many changes at national level we need to ensure that we remain at the forefront of the sector.  And to do this, we need to be agile, ambitious, innovative and – crucially - true to the collegial and student-centred approach that has long been at the core of the University’s shared philosophy.

Maintaining our high standards of learning and teaching, our commitment to our students, and our creativity and inspiration will be vital. So too will our continuing explorations of what we do best, of what makes us unique, how we approach learning and teaching, and what kind of university we want to be in the future.

Welcome to my Learning & Teaching blog posts. I’ll be using this space as a sounding board to share my thinking as it evolves in these ongoing discussions.



VC to identify eminent scientists for Science Council

📥  Celebrating successes

In 2014, our Vice-Chancellor was named one of the 100 leading practising scientists in the UK by The Science Council.

She was recognised for "leadership in UK higher education and championing the role of universities in scientific and technological innovation, exploitation and economic regeneration".

This year, Dame Glynis has been invited to join the advisory panel of The Science Council identifying eminent scientists for the 2016 list.

The annual list of 100 practitioners reflects a rich and diverse landscape of scientists working to research and develop our future knowledge, others who are teaching and mentoring future scientists, some who shape policy and campaign on science-based issues and those who communicate about science and explain complex scientific issues.

This appointment follows the recent announcement that the Vice-Chancellor has been appointed to the Science & Technology Honours Committee, which reviews nominations made for national honours (such as knighthoods and damehoods) in the fields of science and technology.


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.”


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



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.