VC's week - 3 December 2012 - open meeting with students, Strategy refresh, the Confucius Institute and Council

A regular update from Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Arthur.

Professor Michael Arthur

Our students got a chance to grill me face to face last week, when Leeds University Union invited me to attend an open Q&A session in the Union building. It was billed as a chance to ‘Ask Michael Arthur anything you like’ and the students certainly took the opportunity to do just that! The range of questions really reflected the myriad issues currently concerning students and the higher education sector in general. Areas we discussed included sources of funding, the quality of teaching, student recruitment – including boosting the number of postgraduate students – the future of ERASMUS, the independence of the students complaints produce and our Top 50 ambitions.

Quite a few of the same subjects came up later in the week during a two-day Strategy refresh meeting which I and members of the senior team attended at Weetwood Hall. Essentially, our task was to reflect on the changed HE environment and review feedback from the consultation held in October, and discuss how these might be incorporated into our proposals for a refreshed Strategy. The next issue of the Reporter gives more details about the feedback received, together with an overview of next steps.

I was delighted to open the Leeds International Business Confucius Institute (LIBCI), together with Professor Shi Jianjun, President of the University for International Business and Economics (UIBE), one of China's leading universities. The opening event was a great success with superb entertainment from our students and members of Chinese community groups. LIBCI is based in the Centre for International Business and is the culmination of years of work led by Professor Peter Buckley. We join just two other business-focused Confucius Institutes in Europe, so we are delighted to host the institute at Leeds. It will boost trade by running training courses in Chinese language and culture for companies seeking to invest in China, and orientation courses for Chinese businesses hoping to invest in the UK. As part of the partnership with UIBE, staff and student exchanges will study in Leeds, and vice-versa.

The last Council meeting of 2012 was a lengthy session with much to debate. On the agenda was the 2011-12 Annual Report & Accounts; the just published results show that whilst income has declined slightly year on year, our reported surplus of £67.5million is an increase against prior year. Some £30m of the surplus is due to a number of ‘one off’ benefits such as the profit on the sale of a student residence and reductions in the level of provisions previously required for specific repairs and maintenance costs and local restructurings. It’s a good result which strengthens our balance sheet, and it’s particularly helpful to have posted a strong surplus given the volatility and uncertainty of income in future years.


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