Vice-Chancellor's Office

Updates and events both on and off campus

Vice-Chancellor visits ACE


📥  Visits to departments

VC Visit ACE 28 April 2015.

On a fine Spring morning, the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering (ACE) offered the Vice-Chancellor an unexpected mix of Roman chariots, starfish and hemp during her latest visit.

It was perfect timing for the visit, with the newly published 2016 Complete University Guide further cementing the department’s national position at the top of the tables as Architecture ranked first and Civil Engineering third in the country.

Professor Pete Walker, Head of Department, welcomed Dame Glynis and introduced her to the Department Executive before presenting an overview of the department and its recent successes, including its joint first position in the Architecture, Built Environment & Planning category of REF 2014 with 90 per cent 4* or 3* papers.

Looking to next year, Pete outlined how the new 4ES building, which is currently under construction, would offer 1,500 m2 studio space and a 300 m2 workshop to the growing department of 850 UG and 600 PG students.

Professor Alex Wright, Head of Architecture, ran through some of the Architecture Group’s outstanding achievements including being ranked first overall in the national media subject league tables, having the highest NSS overall satisfaction rating for any UK school of architecture between 2009 and 2014, and the fact that 92 per cent of students achieve a first or 2.1 class degree.

Dr Antony Darby, Head of Civil Engineering, then spoke about the Civil Engineering Group, where intake has doubled in six years, underlining the unique mix of a joint teaching environment, creative design focus and industry input.

Pete then escorted Dame Glynis into 6E, dropping by students’ studios to visit Dr John Tredinnick’s Dome Research Project. John, an EngD student working in both the Dept of Computer Science and ACE, transported Dame Glynis back in time to the grounds of Chedworth Roman Villa in a virtual chariot race which was projected planetarium-style inside the ‘Discovery Dome’.

It was then down to the Structures and Hydraulics Labs on Level 1 to see Dr Chris Blenkinsopp’s work with starfish, investigating how the creatures use natural marine engineering to improve their chances of reproduction by arching themselves during spawning.

Dr Antony Darby explaining fabric moulded concrete

Dr Antony Darby explaining fabric moulded concrete

The next unscheduled stop was in the structures lab to look at how fabric moulded concrete can offer improved strength and aesthetics, and the soils lab to talk to Drs Daniel Maskell and Andrew Thomson who are researching the health benefits of using natural wall linings such as clay, lime and hemp on building inhabitants.

Dr Daniel Maskell explaining the research on the health benefits of using natural wall linings such as clay, lime and hemp on building inhabitants

Dr Daniel Maskell explaining the research on the health benefits of using natural wall linings such as clay, lime and hemp on building inhabitants

Dame Glynis, who met with members of staff at the end of her visit, said: “Thank you for inviting me; I’ve enjoyed seeing your work and celebrating your many achievements.

“It is wonderful to see you at this level of success; what I want to know is where you go from here and how we can help because you have a senior management team that is 100 per cent behind you.”


Special alumni New York reception with the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor

📥  Alumni event

Nearly 100 alumni and friends from across the United States recently joined the Chancellor, HRH The Earl of Wessex, and the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell DBE DL, for a special reception at the Essex House Hotel, New York.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell presents at the alumni reception in New York. Also pictured is the Chancellor, HRH The Earl of Wessex Prince Edward

Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell presents at the alumni reception in New York. Also pictured is the Chancellor, HRH The Earl of Wessex, and Michael Ashworth

The Chancellor welcomed guests to the event and introduced Professor Breakwell who spoke about the University’s recent good news including our excellent REF results and topping the National Student Survey for student satisfaction for a second year running. Guests also heard about our plans for the upcoming 50th anniversary, and the important role of alumni within that, before enjoying the chance to chat with the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor over drinks and canapés.

As the first event in North America hosted by a University of Bath Chancellor, the evening also provided the perfect opportunity to celebrate two of our generous donors: Mike Ashworth (BSc Economics with Computing & Statistics 1986) signed the Chancellor’s Roll of Honour in recognition of his cumulative contributions to the University over a number of years and Honorary DSc, Professor Raymond F Schinazi (BSc Chemistry 1972 and PhD Chemistry 1976) formally announced his gift of $500,000 to the University of Bath Foundation. University fundraising in the USA has a long tradition, and it is encouraging to see signs that Bath is now beginning to benefit too.

New York Alumni reception

Denise and Bob Fisher, with the Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell

A selection of photographs from the evening are available on the Alumni Relations Flickr page. If you have any of your own please do send them to

If you live in the area and want to be kept up to date with activities happening in the New York Tri-State Area please feel free to join the LinkedIn group.


VC visit to Department of Computer Science

📥  On campus, Visits to departments

Staff and postgraduate students from the Department of Computer Science joined Dame Glynis in the light and open spaces of the refurbished 1 West for her first department visit after the Easter break.

Professor Eamonn O’Neill, Head of Department, started with an overview of the department’s recent high points. These included:

  • growing research income from £550K to over £20m;
  • national recognition for female representation;
  • and securing placements for two thirds of UG students, every one of whom was in employment six months after graduating.

He also touched on the challenges faced by the department - keeping the curriculum fresh and attractive in such a rapidly developing discipline, and the impact of being smaller in size.

Darren Cosker creates a live warrior using data from a tracker skinsuit

Darren Cosker creates a live warrior using data from a tracker skinsuit

Dame Glynis then went on a ‘snapshot’ tour of both the department’s applied and theoretical research, starting with the newly arrived tracker and 3D face scan facility where Maree Perkins, Marketing Officer, modelled the ‘surprisingly comfortable’ skinsuit with a live display of her as a warrior figure on screen.

Dr Darren Cosker explained: “This field started in biomechanics and was then developed further by the entertainment industry. Our aim is to release the benefits back to these origins to enhance athlete performance and accelerate injury rehabilitation.”

James Davenport demonstrates demonstrated the principles of Internet cryptography to the Vice-Chancellor with help from postgrads Ieuan Evans and Ali El Kaafarani

James Davenport demonstrates the principles of Internet cryptography to the Vice-Chancellor

Next up, Professor James Davenport, Hebron & Medlock Professor of IT, demonstrated the principles of Internet cryptography with the help of a metal box, padlocks and PGR students Ieuan Evans and Ali El Kaafarani. James explained that with current security standards increasingly easy to compromise, cryptography in post quantum computing was now a major strand of research.

The VC with (L-R) Gina Chow, Chien Yee Lim and pi the robot; Tom Murray, Aaron Rickard with thei robot, Steve

The VC with (L-R) Gina Chow, Chien Yee Lim and pi the robot; Tom Murray, Aaron Rickard
with their robot, Steve

It was then time for the Vice-Chancellor to judge the robot contest! Dr Joanna Bryson introduced the challenge, which involved robots, built to operate on their own by final year students, being introduced into a group ‘social’ encounter. The AI equivalent, Joanna explained, of taking a spider, perfectly developed for its environment, and putting it in a bathtub.

After letting the melee of robots race around, grapple and even knock parts off each other, the Vice-Chancellor singled out a winner and runner up. Their prize - to stay in one piece for the next Open Day.

Dame Glynis said: “It has been wonderful to see you in your refurbished new home; thank you for inviting me.

“I have been struck how James’ work links into the new cyber security theatre of war outlined in our latest MOOC ‘From State Control to Remote Control: Warfare in the 21st Century’ and the exciting potential Darren described for the new tracker facility.

“Both reinforced to me how intrinsically interdisciplinary your research is and how far reaching its impact.”


Vice-Chancellor's April message

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📥  Celebrating successes, Messages

Dear Colleagues,

With the General Election campaign in full swing, this is a period of much uncertainty for the Higher Education sector.  Whatever the complexion of the next government we should feel confident about our future. This is in light of our excellent performance in the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), last week’s news that we were ranked as the UK’s top university in the Times Higher Education (THE) Student Experience Survey 2015, and our robust financial position.

I therefore felt colleagues would welcome the opportunity to discuss the many challenges we will face moving forward and how we might respond during my presentation at next week’s Let’s Talk. I look forward to seeing as many of you there as possible and would welcome your questions, particularly on this theme. Questions can be submitted in advance to by 5pm today (Friday 17 April) or you can ask them on the day. If you cannot make it to The Edge in person you can of course watch live online or view the post event recording.

Looking further forward, May will as always be a busy month on campus with exams and assessments. I wish all of our students the best of luck and hope that everything goes smoothly for those concerned.

On Monday 11 May, The Edge will be formally opened by our Chancellor. As I am sure all those who have already visited would agree it is a truly impressive space and a wonderful enhancement to our facilities here at Bath.

Next month will also see us wish a very fond farewell to my Deputy, Professor Kevin Edge. You are all welcome to join Kevin at his ‘farewell party’ in the Claverton Rooms on Wednesday 13 May at 4.15pm. This is our opportunity as a community to thank him formally for his immense contribution to the University over many years.

From 1 May, Professor Bernie Morley will be our new Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost. The Senior Management Team will also be joined by Steve Egan as Vice President (Implementation) a new role created to focus on campus-wide policy and culture change projects. Steve, who joins us from HEFCE where he has been Deputy Chief Executive, has been profiled in this week’s THE magazine.

Finally I’d like to draw your attention to the other posts on these Vice-Chancellor’s Office webpages. These are intended to provide more information about my activities both on campus and further afield. I hope you find their content useful.

Best wishes

Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell's signature

Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell DBE DL


Preview: VC's Report to Senate - 15 Apr 2015


📥  On campus

The purpose of this report is to update Senate with recent developments which affect the University.

1.  Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey
The results of the THE Student Experience Survey will be released on 9 April. An update will be provided at the meeting.

2.  Senior Appointments
As members of Senate will know, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Kevin Edge will retire at the end of May.

3.  Senate Elections
Dr Wali Aslam was elected to Senate unopposed to fill a casual vacancy with immediate effect. Elections are also (more…)


Vice-Chancellor visits Department of Chemical Engineering

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📥  On campus, Visits to departments

The Vice-Chancellor headed to 9West, currently the most westerly point of campus, in her latest of visits to take in research featuring coffee butter, electric sweat and egg membranes.

Introducing the Depart  ment’s pursuit as ‘making better stuff from ordinary stuff without making bad stuff’, Head of Department Dr Tim Mays ran through an overview with the Vice-Chancellor, Department staff and PhD students.

Highlights included increasing numbers of undergraduate students and rapidly increasing quality of candidates, with Tim announcing that the department had raised the 2016 UG minimum entry requirement to A*AA.

He introduced a number of the Department’s new staff and research fellows and celebrated Dr Darrell Patterson and Professor Tina Düren’s recent successes in winning highly competitive European Research Council Consolidator Grants.

Darrell then invited Dame Glynis to don protective clothing and head into a lab busy with research staff and third year undergraduates carrying out semester two research projects.

Dr Chris Chuck, Whorrod Fellow and Lecturer, introduced his research in sustainable fuels, including yeast and palm oil and used coffee extract. His PhD students explained that coffee grounds produced the same biofuel the world over – except in Vietnam where the roasting means extraction instead produces a delicious coffee and cocoa-smelling butter.

Dr Mirella Di Lorenzo then talked through her team’s work on bioelectricity including creating energy from sweat using gold and enzymes.

Students also showed the lab’s research into membranes, using the tissue that sits just under the shell of chicken eggs. Just days later EPSRC announced the department had been awarded £1m to research and develop the next generation of ‘immortal membranes’.

Teaching was next up, with Professor Tina Düren taking the Vice-Chancellor down to a three-story undergraduate teaching lab where she met Dr Paweł Pluciński leading a session with students. Working in teams, the undergraduates were building up their practical chemical engineering skills by constructing pumps to generate kinetic energy using sodium hydroxide.

The Vice-Chancellor then re-joined staff and PhD students for tea and cake in the 9W seminar room.

“Thank you for inviting me, I want to congratulate you and also nudge you,” said Dame Glynis.

“When I joined the University, we were just about to open this building. Chemical engineering was new for us and we had a lot of questions: Where was the subject going to go? How was it going to face its challenges?

“Standing here today after the NSS and post REF2014, seeing your achievements and hearing you now ask for A*AA speaks volumes of your success and that of the University. You’ve done a very good job and from everything I’ve seen today I believe you can lift your three star research into all four star. I know you are capable of even better.”


VC visits Faculty of Science admin support staff

📥  Visits to departments

Her latest visit took the Vice-Chancellor on a tour behind the scenes of the Faculty of Science to talk to representatives of the admin support teams.

Dame Glynis is greeted by Simon Gane, Graduate School Manager

Dame Glynis is greeted by Simon Gane, Graduate School Manager

First up was the Finance & Research Office where Laura Hiscox, Finance & Research Support Manager, and her team showed how they help the Faculty’s researchers and other staff. Eric Wing gave the Vice-Chancellor a small demo of Calpendo, software being trialled to book shared research facilities.

Dame Glynis congratulated the team: “Your support means a lot to academic staff. As a young researcher I was always thankful to my finance lead Carol for keeping everything on track.” (more…)


Monthly message February 2015

📥  Messages

At the end of last year we received the long awaited news on the REF (Research Excellence Framework) exercise in which we performed outstandingly well. As I said at the time, these results confirm the excellence of our research and further enhance our reputation as a leading University.

The 2014 REF assessed the impact as well as the quality of UK universities’ research. On 19 January 2015, we received more detailed feedback on our impact case studies and it is now even clearer that our research is very strong in delivering real-world impact in economic, social and cultural terms.

An exceptional 96 per cent of our impact submitted to the REF was judged to be 4* (Outstanding) or 3* (Very considerable) and demonstrated the strength and breadth of our collaborations with companies, government departments and policymakers. The case studies we submitted were based on research from across the University and in order to be eligible for submission had to show a direct link to research that was at least internationally recognised. (more…)


VC visits Mechanical Engineering

📥  Visits to departments

Professor Tony Miles, Head of Department, gathered a group of staff including the Department Executive Committee and recent academic appointments to welcome the Vice-Chancellor on her latest visit.

VC visits Mech Eng

Dr Carl Sangan shows the VC the gas turbine rig

Tony gave a detailed overview of the department including the recent Industrial Advisory Board and staff awayday, which focused on meeting the department’s future challenges. These included the REF2020, teaching activities and priority areas such as increasing the number of women in engineering.

He emphasised that while the department was pleased with the outcome of REF2014, there was no room for complacency and staff needed to ensure that they remained focussed.

The Vice-Chancellor congratulated colleagues on such "an analytical view of the challenges and solutions for REF performance".

Two of the department’s recent academic recruits then put their research in the spotlight. (more…)