VC's week - 29 October 2012 - US visit, benefactors, and the strategy refresh

A regular update from Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Arthur.

Professor Michael Arthur

A visit to New York took me away from the University for a week but I’m now back in the thick of things.  The trip was organised primarily so I could attend meetings with the North American Foundation for the University of Leeds and the Campaign Board, and it was a great success. I also attended an alumni reception at which Professor Tim Benton (School of Biology) gave an excellent, thought-provoking talk on global food security. The alumni group is thriving and has some enthusiastic and influential members; it was stimulating to spend time with people who are such great advocates for the University.

Donors and benefactors have always been extremely important to the University, and continue to play a vital role in supporting our students and our research. Recent revelations have, understandably, prompted questions from colleagues and students about the University’s position with regard to one particular donor, the late Jimmy Savile.

To clarify our position, we have not yet ‘drawn down’ all the funding pledged by Jimmy Savile and, although no decision has yet been made, we will have to look carefully at whether we accept any more money from the Savile Trust. The University has a stringent policy of gift acceptance that applies for all donations, and if new facts emerge about any gift that were not known at the time of the original donation, then that case is reconsidered. Within that context, the University’s Gift Acceptance Committee will be considering this particular case when it next meets. Likewise, the honorary degree awarded to Savile back in 1986 will be discussed when the honorary degree committee meets next month. I certainly feel that measured decisions taken with appropriate 'due process' is the correct way to handle such matters.

The Russell Group has now launched its report on The social impact of research conducted in Russell Group universities, which stresses the benefits for society and the economy of supporting long-term research in research-intensive universities. A video to accompany the written report features Dr John Forth (School of Civil Engineering) talking about a process that makes carbon-negative bricks from waste materials.  At the launch event last week in London the video made a great impression on the audience, which included Business Secretary Vince Cable.  You can read more and see the video at  It is well worth watching - I am really proud of just how much Leeds features in the piece, alongside Oxford, Edinburgh and Nottingham.

Last week saw the final open meeting of the first phase of the Strategy refresh, and I’d like to thank everyone who attended the sessions. They were extremely worthwhile and have given us an excellent starting point for the refresh. There’s still time to send in your comments via email, so please do take this chance to shape our future.


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