I hope this message finds you well.
Growing our research is, of course, a fundamental goal in itself, leading to greater knowledge, new discoveries and often solving real-world problems. It is also an important part of the ‘virtuous circle’ of our strategy: growing our research requires investment, yet it helps us improve our global reputation and rankings, which in turn attracts the most talented students, staff and partners, sustaining a flourishing community with excellence in education and research at our core. Since the start of semester, it has been heartening to see so many positive examples of research impact and influence. A few highlights include:
- Sustainability is one of our priority institutional research themes. In the run up to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), we are showcasing some of the excellent research led by our academics to find sustainable solutions for the future.
- Local and global partnerships are key to supporting research with impact. Earlier this month, facilitated by Visiting Fellow Dr Chao Fang, colleagues in the Centre for Death and Society attended a conference organised by Shanghai University and Shanghai Community Health Association. This was a good example of the international and local coming together, in this instance with Dorothy House Hospice also taking part, to discuss End of Life Care with an online audience of more than 6,000 attendees.
- Crucially, we need to attract research income and manage overheads to sustainably grow our research. I have been highlighting examples of significant research grants over recent weeks, and this week I’d like to congratulate warmly Professor Davide Mattia on his £9 million EPSRC grant for his research into chemical processing technology that could save hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
Scenario planning for Plan B
The UK Government has set out its Covid response plans for autumn and winter, including contingency measures if the NHS is put under unsustainable pressure. At the time of writing, the Government is not indicating the imminent adoption of its ‘Plan B’ measures, but this could well happen over the coming weeks. My thanks to colleagues for beginning to scenario plan for ‘Plan B’ arrangements, including understanding what the implications may be for our research, education, professional services and extra-curricular activity on campus. We will, of course, update you in a timely way if we are informed that these plans are coming into force.
Progress on widening participation
Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, teams working on widening access and participation at the University worked hard to provide multiple outreach opportunities, including Discover Bath and Pathway to Bath. As a result, I was pleased to learn that almost 40% of incoming students who met the University’s widening participation criteria have come through our outreach programmes this year. You can read more about our progress towards our access targets online; my congratulations to the Widening Participation team and to colleagues across our University for supporting our successful outreach activities.
University Christmas closure
I know we are not yet out of October, but minds are already turning to the festive season and in the last virtual Town Hall, we were asked about plans for Christmas Eve. As many of you will be aware, we sometimes have an additional discretionary day if circumstances allow it. This year, we will be able to have Christmas Eve, Friday 24 December, as an additional discretionary day’s holiday. I hope it enhances your ability to have some rest and relaxation over the Christmas period, whatever your plans.
Finally, congratulations to postgraduate research student Vicky Bennett in the Department of Biology & Biochemistry on being named the winner of the 2021 Max Perutz Science Writing Award from the Medical Research Council. Her winning article on research into better treatment of urinary tract infections will be published by The Observer newspaper on 7 November. You can watch an interview with Vicky discussing her research prior to the announcement online.
With warm good wishes,
Professor Ian White
Vice-Chancellor and President