Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Rough ride to good times

Today our VC gave his annual address to all staff - well attended, and as usual very stirring stuff. A bit like a sandwich really - good stuff at the beginning, some challenges in the middle, and some positive stuff at the end.

Started with examples of our achievements over the past year - and this is just a sample:
The opening of SITraN
Project sunshine
The Sheffield Siemens Wind power research centre
The refurbished Student Union and Western Bank Library
Coming second in the Student Experience Survey
The Miracles database
The Women of Steel oral history project
The video of earth from space made by students

Then the changes we're seeing in the HE environment. The shift from  direct funding of teaching by government to funding through student loans. And not just this major change, but a very rapid change.
Changes to the fees, the effect it will have on student decisions, and student expectations.

A lot of criticism for the proposed changes to the international student visa system and the effect it will have on our ability to carry out international research, especially in engineering and science.  Quite valid criticism too - the idea is barmy, and based on some dodgy statistics. It's the number one threat to our international reputation and could destroy the research capability of the UK.

But, amongst all this, we can look forward. We have a future based on our values, as outlined in our Mission Vision and Identity and Strategic Plan.  Our vision is one of growth in a time of cuts, and we will build on our strengths. We'll build on our partnership with  the City and develop our civic and cultural engagement so that we are even more a University that the region is proud of. There's a lot of work to do in widening participation and raising expectations of young people, and again, we have a lot of good work already in this area, especially SOAMS.

So, a lot of reasons to be confident, and as the VC said, we can look forward to a good future, but it's going to be a rough ride.

I think everybody came out of the room proud to be part of the University of Sheffield, and I was  especially proud of our VC - it was a great, passionate, honest address.

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