Message from the Principal

Message from the Principal

Dear colleagues,

I’m very pleased to say thank you for everything you’ve done for the University during 2022. Our entire staff and student community can be very proud of our many achievements in the last year.

Once again there has been no shortage of external pressures over the last twelve months, including the continuing consequences of Brexit and Covid and the impact of the cost of living crisis. Despite these challenges, work has continued to address the commitments made in Aberdeen 2040 which outlines how we’re continuing to fulfil our foundational purpose of being open to all and dedicated to the pursuit of truth in the service of others, through education and research that are inclusive, interdisciplinary, international, and sustainable.

Student Recruitment

Work is ongoing to recruit as many students as possible to start with us in January 2023. This has involved a lot of additional activity across various University departments and Schools, and I’d like to thank everyone who is working hard to maximise our January intake. Work is also at an advanced stage to strengthen our recruitment and admissions processes so that we can make the most of the rising number of applications that we are seeing again for the September 2023 intake.

Research and Education

In May the University learned the outcome of our submission to the national Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise. The REF results provided an important opportunity for learning and reflection, and for making plans for improvement which include an institutionally-funded research leave scheme and a visiting scholar scheme to augment the current provision in Schools. We are also continuing to rebuild our research capacity and incentivising and rewarding research quality through revisions to our academic workload model and promotions criteria. We will also be undertaking a REF stocktake in the Spring to assess where additional support may be required.

External recognition of our research quality this year included our third prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize, this time for research and teaching in Soil Science. At the Herald Higher Education Awards 2022 there was further recognition for research to tackle greenhouse gas emissions in food production with the Cool Farm Tool (CFT) winning Research Project of the Year.

The University community has excelled in the delivery of education this year with Aberdeen ranked 4th for overall student satisfaction in the National Student Survey out of 122 UK higher education institutions, a further rise of one place on last year’s survey, reflecting our absolute commitment to delivering an excellent education and student experience. This sustained improvement in our NSS results was reflected in upward shifts in our UK league table rankings, most notably the position of 13th in the Guardian University Guide which is the University’s best ever rank in a UK league table.

Regional and Global Partnerships

Throughout the year the University has continued to support our region and its ambitions around the energy transition and wider economic diversification. For example, the National Energy Skills Accelerator (a partnership with RGU, NESCol, Energy Transition Zone Ltd and Skills Development Scotland) is engaging with employers to understand their future workforce plans and green skills requirements. The importance of this work was acknowledged by the award of £1M from the Scottish Government’s Just Transition Fund.

New global initiatives this year included the expansion of our strategic alliance with Curtin University to include the University of Calgary which will strengthen our opportunities for collaborative work, especially in the area of energy transition.  Our Joint Institute in Data Science & Artificial Intelligence with South China Normal University (SCNU) is now in its second year and has grown significantly, with over 460 students in computing science, artificial intelligence, business management and information systems.

International recognition of the quality of our work included a new QS sustainability ranking which placed us 64th in the world and 17th in the UK for our contribution to the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Looking after ourselves, each other, and those around us

This has undoubtedly been another challenging year for many people in our community. I’m keenly aware that, in addition to the pressures in our working lives, there are often difficulties in the personal and family lives of the colleagues that we work most closely with. The support we provide to each other at difficult times is a consistently impressive part of our University culture, and I’m deeply grateful to all of you for maintaining this.

Of course, there are many people and communities beyond the University who are less fortunate than we are. I’m therefore making a donation to Aberdeen-based charity Befriend a Child which supports school-aged children who are growing up in troubled and disadvantaged circumstances. The charity matches the children with a trained volunteer who supports them and helps them develop resilience, self-confidence, and self-esteem, and to experience more of what life has to offer. If you would like to join me in donating to this very worthy cause, you can do so via the charity’s website.

I hope that you all have a peaceful and enjoyable winter break, and that you have plenty of opportunities to meet with family and friends. I want to add a special thank you to those who need to work over the coming weeks to provide essential support to the University and our students. I strongly encourage everyone to make full use of your entitlement to annual leave so that you get the rest from work that is essential for our collective well-being.

I look forward to seeing and working with all of you in 2023.

With best wishes,


George Boyne
Principal & Vice-Chancellor

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