VC's week - 5 November 2012 - Chemistry, Research Excellence Framework, world-class education and Alt-J

A regular update from Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Arthur.

Professor Michael Arthur

My continuous trip around the University found me in Chemistry last week, talking to students and staff. Research-based education featured prominently in the conversation and the good news is that it was coming from the students, not me. It was so pleasing to see our strategic emphasis on the relationship between research and student education featuring so prominently in their dialogue. On a separate note, it’s not often I hear PhD students complaining (albeit tongue in cheek) that, if anything, they get too much supervision – so well done to Chemistry! Staff conversations focused around concerns over international PGT student recruitment and the strong desire for more PhD students – ‘funded by the University, please’. There is ongoing work on these issues that will emerge soon – both are, of course, a little more complicated than first meets the eye.

We have been taking a look at the first draft REF submissions in each of the panel meetings chaired by Professors David Hogg and Ed Spiers, but also attended by John Fisher and myself, amongst others. My analysis is ‘so far, so good’, but quite a long way to go and – in some Units of Assessment – a very long way to go. If anything, we are slightly behind the curve compared to this stage of RAE 2008. We need to redouble our efforts, whilst there is still time, to improve our environment and impact statements, as well as the all important impact case studies. Please contribute if you can – your UoA leaders need your help and support.

International reach, research-based learning and inward investment were key themes of a lecture I gave last week, entitled ‘World Class University Education Today’. I’d been invited to speak by the region’s RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) Fellowship and the event was held in our own Yorkshire Bank Lecture Theatre. The lecture was followed by a lively question and answer session which reflected many of the current concerns about the future of higher education in the UK.

Congratulations to our alumni Alt-J who have won the prestigious Mercury Prize for the best album of the year, An Awesome Wave. The band members - Gwil Sainsbury (Fine Art 2011), Thomas Green (Fine Art 2010), Joe Newman (Fine Art 2010) and Gus Unger-Hamilton (English 2010) – met at the University five years ago. Accepting the award, Gus said: "We will nearly pay off one of our student loans".  Well he was 'made in Leeds'. I wonder if being an indie band rock star is a graduate level job?


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