Principal's Update: May 2013

Principal's Update: May 2013

The latest Update for staff from the Principal, Professor Sir Ian Diamond.

Dear Colleagues

Leiden Rankings

With the usual caveat about the unpredictability of rankings and that they are always an imperfect measure of a university’s quality, it was pleasing nonetheless to see the University ranked in the Leiden ranking of the top 100 universities in the world. This ranking is based solely on research and we should celebrate that recognition of our standing among the world’s best research universities although we should also recognise that we can always improve and look to better our position of 91st.

Alliance on Food Security

As colleagues who are involved may know, good progress is being made in developing a collaborative Alliance with the University of Dundee and The James Hutton Institute in the area of Food Security. This is an area which we have considerable academic excellence within the College of Life Sciences and Medicine, including the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, and it is, of course, one of our four research themes. The Alliance with Dundee and The James Hutton Institute aims to build on these strengths and offers us opportunities to share facilities and forge new collaborations which can only help to improve our international profile in this area.

Open Access Publishing

I’m sure many colleagues will have been following with interest the developing agenda of Open Access Publishing in research. Just a couple of weeks ago I gave evidence to the UK Parliament’s Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee on the subject , and so had an opportunity to present the view from Aberdeen on the issues that the Open Access agenda poses for research intensive universities.

The University through our Librarian, Chris Banks, and the Vice-Principal for Research and Knowledge Exchange, Professor Phil Hannaford, has been considering carefully the issues involved and we now have extensive policies and guidance in place at: I would encourage colleagues to look at these pages which include comprehensive information on both the approach Aberdeen is taking and guidance on what it means in practice.

Leverhulme Trust

We hosted a very useful visit to the University by Professor Gordon Marshall, Director of the Leverhulme Trust, who was able to meet with academic colleagues and to discuss the many funding opportunities that the Trust offers to high quality academics. We have had some successes with Leverhulme in recent times and the visit of Professor Marshall was an opportunity for us to showcase more of the exciting work that is going on across all three colleges to one of the biggest research funding bodies in the UK.

School Visits and Staff Achievements

In the past couple of months I have enjoyed visits to the School of Medicine and Dentistry, the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, the School of Language and Literature and the Rowett Institute. As ever, it is refreshing to talk with colleagues about developments in their disciplines and the great work that is going on. It’s also very helpful to discuss how colleagues perceive the opportunities and challenges that face the University.


Congratulations to all involved with the Sound Festival which has been shortlisted for the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award. This is a great achievement and by extension a welcome recognition for the contribution the University makes to the cultural life our community.

In that vein, we look forward to this weekend’s May Festival and, as I highlighted in my last update, it promises to be a busy but enjoyable weekend and one that will allow the wider community to see the University at its best.  As I write the Schools Festival is already underway and is proving a great success.

Times Higher Awards

Congratulations are also due to the staff of the Library who have been shortlisted in the Times Higher Awards. The fact that the Sir Duncan Rice Library is the great facility it is and the smooth and quick transition that took place from the old building to the new are because of the professionalism of the Library staff and I’m delighted that they are receiving national recognition.

Partnership with BP

The University and RGU have formed a new Energy partnership with BP to help address some of the skills shortages in the Oil and Gas industry.  As a result of the partnership, BP will provide sponsorship for undergraduates  in relevant disciplines together with internship opportunities. This adds to the sponsorship that BP already provides for some Masters students and for many of our public engagement with science activities. This extension of our relationship with BP is a welcome one which we hope will help to open up new opportunities for our students who are looking to begin a career in the Energy Industry. 


We continue to make good progress in growing philanthropic giving to the University and I had the opportunity recently to share that message in the United States at an event for alumni in New York and to discuss future strategies for fundraising in the US with the Trustees of our United States Development Trust.  Our alumni were incredibly supportive of everything we are doing.  The reception was followed by a magnificent performance, by the Westminster Choir College, of Paul Mealor’s new work.

Closer to home, I also enjoyed a Question and Answer session to help raise awareness of the new Aquatics Centre. On the panel was David Carry, Aberdeen’s Olympic and Commonwealth swimmer who helped to get across the message of just how transformational the project will be for both swimming and sport generally in the North-East. 

Student Sport

I’m always pleased to highlight success for our student athletes and teams, and I’m pleased to say it has been a successful month.  I was particularly pleased that after the disappointment of losing the Boat Race to RGU, we were triumphant in the Granite City Challenge with Team AU winning 19-12.

The Women’s Fencing and Volleyball team’s both won BUCS trophies, with the Men’s Volleyball team narrowly losing their final. The Men’s Hockey team claimed the Scottish Student Sport Conference Cup and the 3rd XI took the Plate.

I’d also like to highlight the marvellous achievement of Eilidh McLeod who retained her British Universities Overall title (BUSC) by winning the Giant Slalom and the Super Giant Slalom (Super G) in France recently. Eilidh broke both her legs in a skiing accident three years ago, so I’m sure colleagues will appreciate just how remarkable an achievement this is.

Staff Successes

I was delighted that Dr David Smith, School of Education, has been elected to the RSE Young Academy of Scotland, that Dr Svetislav Zaric, Dental School, had been honoured for his work by the International Association for Dental Research and finally that Dr Ken Skeldon has been awarded a Fellowship of the British Science Association. As ever, such recognition is richly deserved for the colleagues concerned and is good news for them and for the  profile of the University.

Ian Diamond

Principal and Vice-Chancellor