My Week - September 2014 - the University going forward

Summer seems to have been all too short this year with only 13 working days between our last graduation ceremony and ‘A’ level results day.

Alan Langlands

That said, it is tremendously exciting to know that student recruitment for 2014 was very successful and that we are only two weeks away from welcoming a full complement of well-qualified students from every part of the UK and the wider international community to take their place in Leeds.

Despite local success, this has been an unusually troubled summer. In August, the world marked the anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War but, despite the poignant lessons of that time, it did so against the background of terrible conflicts in the Middle East and unresolved tensions between Russian and Ukraine. The spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa and the mounting death toll in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is no less harrowing as the international community strives to stop an epidemic becoming a humanitarian disaster.

The University has not been untouched by all of this and I was particularly saddened to hear news of the tragic and untimely death of Richard Mayne on flight MH17. Richard was an able student, quintessentially Leeds in combining his academic studies in mathematics and finance with wider contributions to the life and work of the University through his love of rugby and his commitment to Leeds RAG (Raise and Give). He was travelling to the University of Western Australia in Perth on a study abroad programme, showing the same spirit of adventure that characterised much of his young life when this tragedy struck. He will be sadly missed by the many staff and students at the University who knew him well and his memory should inspire us all as we look forward with a sense of purpose at the dawn of a new academic year.

Universities like ours must continue to be international gathering points for discussing and understanding the complexities and difficulties facing the world around us, places that encourage open and informed debate on the major questions of security, political upheaval, environmental change and global health, places where the creation, dissemination and application of knowledge remain at the heart of all that we do.

This is the context for the successful development of the University going forward. Prior to the summer holidays, the Senate and the University Council approved our strategic plan for the period to 2020. Without fuss or bother, I want to focus attention on the successful implementation of the plan – providing students with an outstanding education and opportunities for personal growth; confirming our place as a strong research university, securely placed in the UK’s top ten; supporting new initiatives in innovation, enterprise and cultural development; extending the University’s international reach and influence; ensuring that we live up to the principles of excellence, equality and inclusion and that staff have access to opportunities for personal and professional development; and investing in the campus in a sustainable way to enable our education and research ambitions.

Finally, the referendum on the status of Scotland and the UK general election loom large in 2014-15 and, whilst we might expect some policy and financial uncertainly, even turbulence, the University is resilient and resourceful enough to ensure that the vagaries of domestic politics do not knock us off course. The central tenets of our plan focus on what matters for students and staff and will also ensure that we play our part in supporting the economic, social and cultural development of the Leeds City Region and the country as a whole.  It holds no matter for the outcome of the elections, and I look forward to working with you in 2014 to ensure that the University continues to meet its responsibilities to students, staff and the wider community.

As I walked through campus this morning, I was conscious that a great many new staff and students are beginning to arrive in Leeds.  I welcome you all to this great University and wish you fulfilment and success during your time here.

Sir Alan Langlands_signature

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