For Staff

Reflecting on a year of achievement - December 2009

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As the term draws to a close and with the fallout from the recession casting a shadow over seasonal celebrations, we can reflect on a year of great progress and achievement.

Critical to our future, our refreshed strategy has recently been launched following extensive consultation. This will continue to guide us through the stormy waters ahead.

The Research Assessment Exercise restored the University to its rightful and indisputable place as a leading intellectual powerhouse, and although success was not matched by increases in core funding, we saw an increase in research grants by more than 10% to over £112 million at the year end.

Research income this year is well on track, with a success in Europe the result of a concerted effort to diversify income. Professors Gill Valentine (Geography) and Edmund Linfield (Electronic & Electrical Engineering) have each won €2.5 million advanced investigator grants in recognition of their strong track record in leading high quality research. We are almost certain to more than double last year's European income of £8.7 million, a fantastic achievement in the current climate.

Transport Studies' Queen's Anniversary Prize was a well-deserved recognition of 40 years of cutting edge research and as leaders in the drive for cleaner and more efficient transport.

Strategic investment in the creative potential of leading research teams through the transformation fund has brought us great success. water@leeds is the now the UK's largest academic water research group, and still growing, with more than 100 experts across five faculties, and over 50 PhD students. Since its formation to link research more strongly to applied innovation in the fine chemicals industry, the   Institute of Process Research and Development has secured around £5 million of government and industry-funded projects, and last month opened a new £4 million process laboratory.

The rollcall of personal honours would fill a whole column, but a few individuals stand out. Student inventor Emily Cummins was acclaimed Barclays Woman of the Year for the 'sustainable' fridge she is trialling in the development world; her citation named her an 'exceptional and selfless woman of determination of vision who has made an impact on the lives of many'.

Triathlete Alistair Brownlee became this year's world champion and Paralympics swimmer Claire Cashmore won two golds in the individual medley and relay; both have their sights firmly set on London 2012. Congratulations also to Leeds Student journalists who triumphed in the Guardian Student Newspaper of the Year, and to the Leeds Baroque orchestra, led by Professor Peter Colman, for their outstanding performance of Haydn's The Creation in the Great Hall last month. As soloist soprano, Sarah Kelly, one of our postgraduate students in Music, was simply superb.

I recently met some very enthusiastic mechanical engineering students who raved about the feedback they received on their professor's module, so it's no surprise that Professor Martin Levesley has become our 16th National Teaching Fellow, keeping us at the top of this league table. It was also uplifting to meet arts and humanities   second year scholarship students; their passion in pursuing research at undergraduate level is supported by the annual (development) fund.

A number of schools have thrived this year having surmounted major difficulties with the help of reviews. I have written before about Process, Environmental and Material Engineering (see April Reporter 542); Design, Performance and Cultural Industries and Civil Engineering can be added to the list. Our Faculty of Biological Sciences has tremendous strengths and world-class expertise in health and disease affecting the heart, brain, limbs and joints, and in plant sciences, and some of the most 'satisfied' students on campus. Unfortunately, its success is not sustainable, with monthly losses at the start of this year in the region of £400,000.

The Faculty's future has been mapped out by a new academic strategy endorsed at the end of last month by the University's academic authority, Senate. We would not wish or choose to be in dispute over how that strategy is implemented. The process - now some nine months long - is incredibly unsettling for staff, and we would like to secure agreement on how we can bring the review to a successful and speedy conclusion.

In his pre-Budget report, Chancellor Alistair Darling confirmed what many expected - major cuts in public spending loom. We now know that in 2011-12 and 2012-13 at least £600 million will be axed from the £13 billion higher education and science and research budgets (on top of next year's £120 million cut). As government tries to restore the country's battered finances, it's clear more cuts are on the way. A Conservative government may well turn the screw tighter still, with David Cameron now promising another budget within 50 days of election success. The bottom line is that no politician (or analyst) has given us any cause to think again about the need to prepare now for reductions in our income and other known pressures, including pension costs.

The response across the sector is clearly emerging; I am not aware of a single Russell Group university that has not embarked on economy measures and planning   for significant reductions in their income.

Staff have responded enthusiastically to our appeal for campus-wide savings, with some 200 ideas - everything from turning down the heating to railcards for the over-60s - and creative suggestions about pay and working patterns, economies on parking, printing, IT, catering, travel, student support, graduations, propectuses and shared services. Head of Procurement Tim Brannon has already identified over £1 million of potential savings every year in furniture, stationery and printing alone. All will be considered - the more we can save here, the more jobs we can safeguard.

We will keep control of our finances and our destiny in these difficult times by working together to protect and preserve all that is great about Leeds, by adapting to new circumstances, and by doing what academics do best - solving problems through new thinking and new ideas.