My week - 27 July 2015 - looking ahead

Suddenly there is some relief in view following a summer of conferences and graduation mind is now turning to the year ahead and the implementation of the University’s strategic plan.

Sir Alan Langlands

Graduation was a joyous time and I take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed to its success, including the academic staff who provided colour and commitment to each ceremony and those who presented the students and our excellent honorary graduates.  Taking time to be at graduation matters and is greatly appreciated.

As always, Sharron Murphy and the graduation team who organise the ceremonies, produce all the degree and award certificates and the higher education achievement records made everything work extremely well – their unfailing support for students is much admired. I also thank the student mace bearers and marshals; the security team, porters, gardeners, our excellent nurse, cleaning services staff, estates services staff and the catering staff; and the University Secretary and all staff in the Secretariat. They all contributed to something very special and showed the University at its best.

Looking ahead, the University’s Strategic Plan 2015-2020 is now available in the form of a brochure – Investing in Knowledge and Opportunity – which is available for download on the Strategy website.

Above all, the plan commits to providing outstanding education that will attract, excite and retain high-quality students from diverse backgrounds, equipping them to succeed in a competitive global employment market; and to achieving a step change in the quality, volume and impact of the world-leading research carried out at Leeds.

It is a plan which recognises that cutting-edge developments in higher education, science and research will take place where disciplines intersect; and which promotes innovation, enterprise and a commitment to attract and retain the very best talent in Leeds.

It is also a fast-moving plan:

  • the first 80 of the 250 early career academic fellows to be recruited under our ‘Great Minds’ scheme will take up post in September 2015, with a further 80 in 2016
  • by the summer of 2016 our Research PhD numbers will have increased from 2,029 in 2012-13 to 2,539; our aim is to reach a target number of at least 2,800 by 2019-20
  • rapid progress is being made on the implementation of the new Leeds Curriculum, the Student Education Service and our new Institute of Teaching Excellence & Innovation
  • the Leeds Institute of Data Analytics supported by the MRC and the ESRC has opened and the EPSRC National Facility for Innovative Robotic Systems is also in place
  • the University’s £17m investment in nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry and electron microscopy which also has the support from the Wellcome Trust will be implemented in 2015-16; and new developments in medical imaging, culture and climate charge will also be taken forward
  • the new Laidlaw Library and the new boathouse for the rowing club have opened and Social Sciences, Geography and Mathematics have newly refurbished accommodation; £500m will be spent on the campus over the next five years.

As part of this £500m capital investment, Council at its meeting on 23 July, approved the case for major capital expenditure in Engineering and Physical Sciences including ambitious plans for the development and growth of the Schools of Physics & Astronomy and Computing; and the development of the Bragg Centre – a leading research platform for advanced functional materials, soft materials and the development of new clean rooms for nanofabrication. It also supported plans to develop the new University Innovation and Enterprise Centre and the expansion and remodelling of the Institute for Transport Studies.

This is the beginning of a sustained period of change and improvement in Leeds – a time when we will build on existing strengths and continue to respond to new challenges and opportunities which align with the needs and aspirations of our students, staff and funders.

I look forward to working with you all to realise the benefits of this approach in academic year 2015-16 and, in the meantime, I hope that you take time for a restful and restorative break over the summer. I will be away for a couple of weeks but back in time for the ‘A’ level results…

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