Blog: One year in

In my last blog post, I wrote about ‘My First 100 Days’ here at the University of Surrey. Well, I can now say that I’ve spent my first full academic year here. And what a year it’s been!

I’ve met more of our fantastic colleagues, students, and neighbours, and I’ve greatly enjoyed getting a more detailed picture of all that goes on at the University. My first impressions, I’m pleased to report, were correct: this is a University populated by talented staff, motivated by a ‘can-do’ attitude, and exhibiting a fine collaborative spirit.

All of these qualities were on display during our 50th anniversary celebrations – and particularly at the Festival of Wonder in May. This event was a tremendous success and really made me proud to play a part of a University with such a buzz.

With Brian Blessed and Jim Al-Khalili at the Festival of Wonder, May 2017 (Photo by Jason Alden).

We’ve had a strong year for teaching and learning, capped off with our Gold award in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and our four subjects in the Shanghai Ranking’s global top 100 by discipline. The latest Shanghai Ranking also saw Surrey leaping 86 places to be positioned around 362 in the world, in what it is the most prestigious and competitive international league table. All these accolades reflect the great effort and achievements of our staff and students.

Our research continues to be innovative and impactful: recent highlights include our cutting-edge work on 5G technology, our world-leading collaboration on air pollution, and our impressive new facilities in the Innovation for Health building.

With alumni in Malaysia at the High Commissioner’s Residence, Kuala Lumpur, March 2017.

At the same time, we’ve been strengthening our international links. We had a high profile visit to China, which included our first overseas graduation ceremony, and I’ve met with alumni groups in the United States, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia.

As philanthropy comes to play a greater role in our future, at senior management and Executive Board levels we will increasingly be looking at how we attract and maintain our alumni and supporter relationships. We’re an outwards-facing institution, already engaged in many fruitful partnerships with industry and government, so I’m confident that this will be a success.

With Ma Kai, Vice Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the 5G Innovation Centre, November 2016 (Photo by Paul Stead).

But the year has not been without challenges. The meningitis vaccination campaign that followed the tragic death of John Igboanugo tested our ability to respond rapidly and effectively to an event of unprecedented scale. I’d like to thank everyone who worked so hard on the campaign, which Public Health England commended as an example of good practice.

There are challenges in the longer term too. We need to attract students within an increasingly competitive and internationalised sector. We need to push forward our ambitious plans even while there are uncertainties around immigration numbers, research funding, and fees. And we need to overcome constraints of our own: further investment in our campus, for example, to provide more study spaces and more accommodation at Manor Park.

Over the last few months, the Executive Board and I have been developing a new strategy for the University as we move into the future. To be published early next year, he strategy will set a clear direction for the future. It will highlight our priorities and the ways in which we will ensure resilient, agile, and sustainable growth in order to become a prominent global university. Our excellent graduates and impactful research make us a leading contributor to society.

Underpinning the strategy will be five core values: respect, ambition, collaboration, integrity, and excellence. As we move into the next 50 years of the University of Surrey, these values will guide us to success.

I hope everyone enjoys their summer breaks.

At Guildford’s Holy Trinity Church for the University’s 50th Anniversary ceremony, October 2016 (Photo by Paul Stead).