Principal's Update March 2013

Principal's Update March 2013

The latest update from the Principal, Professor Sir Ian Diamond.

New Chancellor

I’m delighted that HRH The Duchess of Rothesay will be the University’s new Chancellor. I know from her previous visits to the University how interested she is in the achievements of our staff and our students. I’m equally sure that she will be a wonderful ambassador for the University just as her predecessor Lord Wilson of Tillyorn has been. I am also very pleased that Professor Iain Torrance will return to Aberdeen to support HRH as Pro-Chancellor. As an internationally distinguished academic and latterly the President of Princeton Theological Seminary, Iain will also be a great ambassador for the University and well placed to support our efforts to raise Aberdeen’s profile with a range of audiences worldwide.

Student Applications

We are now at a stage in the admissions process where we can make comparisons with performance last year and I’m glad to report that there is good news concerning the numbers of applications we have received for 2013 entry. Applications for undergraduate entry have increased by 7% on last year, with RUK applications increasing by 20%. As well as this welcome increase, what is equally welcome is that we are seeing a significant increase in the entrance qualification of our Scots/EU applicants. We have also recorded a 32% increase in international applications for entry to postgraduate courses in September 2013. This is again very encouraging and an indication that the steps we have been taking to improve our competitive position in this crucial international market are bearing fruit. We are, of course, still at an early stage in the admissions process but in both these areas we should be encouraged by these increases in applications.

SFC Funding

In late December we received confirmation from the Scottish Funding Council of its funding allocations for 2013/14. For Aberdeen, the outcome is a 0.4% increase against a sector average of 1.2%. This is generally in line with what we expected, with the institutions with the smallest RUK populations seeing bigger increases as a result of their being less affected by the removal of RUK funding.


For the benefit of those colleagues who are not members of Senate, I can report that we had a positive meeting where we discussed our research strategy and the continuing preparations for the REF. I know that the REF is taking up a significant amount of colleagues’ time at present and I would like to pass on my appreciation of the hard work that is going on to make our REF submission as strong as it possibly can be. The meeting also provided an opportunity to update Senate with progress towards implementing the Personal Tutors Scheme by September 2013. This is an important initiative which will help us to significantly enhance the student experience and in turn also help to reduce the number of students who drop out.

Assessment and Feedback

We also reported to Senate the excellent news that for the first half-session 96% of assessment and feedback on course work was delivered on time. This has been a matter which students have raised with us as a key issue in recent years - so it is very encouraging to see such a positive response from colleagues and again thanks are due to all for their commitment in achieving this.

Long Service Awards

I had the pleasure of hosting this event to celebrate the contribution made by members of staff who have been with the University for 25 or 40 years. Such service is a remarkable commitment and the event left me feeling hugely proud of the contribution these colleagues have made to the success of the institution and to the enrichment of the University as a community over the years.

Visit of Cabinet Secretary for Education

As colleagues will have read, the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Mike Russell MSP, visited the School of Education in February to meet with student primary education teachers and staff and to announce the funding of additional places for teacher education in Scottish universities. I understand the Cabinet Secretary greatly enjoyed the visit and was impressed by the work of both the students and the School, which provided an opportunity to showcase the work of the University in this important area.

Founders’ Day Service

A quick thank you to those colleagues who took the time to join us at the Founders’ Day Service. It is an important event in the University calendar, being an opportunity to celebrate the founding of the University and to reflect on its many achievements over the past 518 years! We were blessed at the service by a wonderful sermon from the Moderator of the Church of Scotland.

Blues Ceremony

I recently hosted the annual Blues Awards Ceremony which is where students who have excelled at sport are recognised for their success. As ever, there were some really impressive stories of sporting success by our students. This is great to see. For me, one of the signs of a good university is the extent of student participation in sport which is an important dimension to the overall quality of the university experience that students enjoy. I cannot list all the wonderful achievements but we were able to celebrate a recent victory for the Archery team over the University of Edinburgh, the first time that University had lost a match since 2002!

Impact Awards

Colleagues may have also noticed that the University has been shortlisted in the final of the BBSRC’s 2013 Impact Awards which recognise the success of institutions in turning leading research into real life applications. Aberdeen has been shortlisted under a section of the awards for Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisations Teams. This is a great achievement and I wish our colleagues in Research and Innovation all the best for the final in March.

Staff Success

I’d also like to briefly congratulate two colleagues who have received external recognition of their excellence in their respective fields. First, Professor David Dumville, Celtic, who has been invited by the Royal Irish Academy to deliver the Proinsias Mac Cana Memorial Lecture series – a staggering 40 lectures in all. Secondly, Professor Neil Gow, Microbiology, who in recognition of outstanding service to his field has been invited by the Society for General Microbiology to give the 2013 Fred Griffith Review Lecture. Congratulations to both for this much deserved recognition.

Ian Diamond
Prinicipal and Vice-Chancellor

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