Principal's Update: July 2013

Principal's Update: July 2013

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

Dear Colleagues       


First a very big thank you to all colleagues who were involved in making the graduation ceremonies run so smoothly and for giving our graduates and their families a really great final celebration of their time at Aberdeen. I think it is also important to remember that the graduations represent not only the culmination of the hard work of students but the hard work of colleagues across the University who have educated or supported them. It is easy to lose sight of just how important and transformational an endeavour it is that all of us who work at the University are engaged in, but the ceremonies leave one in no doubt of that fact. Our new Pro-Chancellor Professor Iain Torrance presided over several of the summer ceremonies, and I want to add my congratulations to Professor Torrance on his recent appointment as Dean of the Chapel Royal.

As ever, we also presented honorary degrees to some outstanding individuals, including two former colleagues, Steve Cannon, former University Secretary, and Professor Dominic Houlihan, former Vice-Principal for Research and Commercialisation. Sadly, Karen Darke, the Silver Medal winning Paralympic Cyclist and Aberdeen graduate, was unable to receive her Honorary Degree having recently been involved in a serious accident while training. We wish her well and look forward to welcoming her to receive her degree at a future ceremony.

Sabbatical Officers

A word of thanks to Anne-Claire Deseilligny, the outgoing President of the Students’ Association, and her team of student sabbatical officers, for all that they have done to support the student community and to help the University improve the student experience at Aberdeen over the past year. Indeed, just the other day I heard from Anne-Claire that the Students’ Association had achieved Investors in Volunteering status which is great news.

I look forward to working with Megan Dunn, President Elect, and the new team of sabbatical officers, over the course of the next year towards our shared goal of making the University an ever better experience for students.


We had a very positive meeting of our Court on 25 June where a number of significant issues were discussed, including progress against the objectives in our Strategic Plan, governance budgets, our capital plan for the estate for the next ten years, and updates on academic recruitment, remuneration and the outcome of our equal pay audit.    

Research Awards 

At Court, I took the opportunity to highlight the encouraging success of colleagues in winning significant grants from Research Councils and Europe, success which I hope we can continue to build upon over the next year.

Commercialisation Success

As avid readers of the Times Higher may have spotted, Aberdeen has been ranked 6th in the UK for success in ‘spinning-out’ research into commercial company formation. This puts us ahead of Cambridge and sitting amongst institutions that are significantly larger than us.  

I don’t think it is widely enough known how well we have been doing in this area and I will be taking every opportunity I can to make our partners in industry and in the region aware of the major contribution we are making to developing the knowledge economy of the North-East and Scotland.

One example is Data2Text, a spin-out company around natural language generation technology developed by colleagues in Computing Science. It is an exciting company which is developing natural language generation solutions for a range of business applications such as automated summarisation of weather data, and a good example of how we are taking innovative research through to commercial application.

Scottish Funding Council

I was delighted that Professor Albert Rodger has been re-appointed as a member of the Scottish Funding Council. This is testament to Albert’s experience and knowledge of higher education and it will, of course, be helpful for the University to have a member of our senior management working closely with our national funding body.       

Visit By Cabinet Secretary For Rural Affairs & The Environment

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs & the Environment visited colleagues in Zoology last week to learn more about a short course being run by Dr Paul Fernandes and Dr Tara Marshall to train fishermen in sampling and measuring catches of fish. The aim is to enable fishermen to provide reliable scientific information to agencies such as Marine Scotland and to help increase the information available for scientific research and monitoring of fish stocks. It is a good example of how the University is working closely with other agencies and industry in an issue that is of continuing importance to the economy and environment of our region.

Library Awards

The Sir Duncan Rice Library continues to win praise both for its architecture and design, and for the professionalism of its staff. Over the past few weeks we have seen the Library named as one of the twelve best new buildings in Scotland by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland and one of only five Scottish buildings to receive a Royal Institute of British Architects Award. Just this week we learnt that the library has been shortlisted for an award at the prestigious World Architecture Festival (WAF) 2013.

This follows the success of Library staff in being shortlisted for the Outstanding Library Team in the Times Higher Leadership and Management Awards. I was very pleased to see the professionalism of Chris Banks and her team recognised in this way because, as impressive as the building is architecturally, it is equally if not more important that the Library ‘works’. The excellent Library service which has accompanied the new building is an achievement which I think Chris can be hugely proud of when she leaves Aberdeen later in the summer for her new position at Imperial College London. We wish her well.

ASV Award

I also want to congratulate the team at Aberdeen Sports Village who have received first class acclamation from Quest, the UK Quality Scheme for Sport and Leisure. ASV was highlighted as first overall in Scotland due to its wide range of state-of-the-art facilities and sporting amenities, and ranked 17th in the UK - surpassing 582 other sports facilities from across the country. It also received an ‘excellent’ rating – the only facility in Quest’s history to achieve this standard of rating in its first assessment. In just over three years ASV has welcomed two million visitors through its doors.     

Cuillin Ridge Traverse

Finally, I wanted to share with you the remarkable achievement of one of our medical graduates, Finlay Wild, who last month broke the record for running and climbing the Cuillin Ridge. He did this in a time of 3hrs 14mins – remarkable enough when you consider that it would take a very competent scrambler between 15 and 20 hours. What I found even more inspiring and admirable, however, was the fact that a few weeks earlier, in much better weather, Finlay had recorded an even quicker time but because he realised he had forgotten to touch one of the summit cairns he voluntarily ran the ridge again. I thought that spoke volumes about the integrity of our graduates!

Whether you plan on running the Cuillin Ridge or doing something more leisurely, I pass on my best wishes to you all for the forthcoming summer and my thanks for all your hard work and dedication over the past academic year.

Ian Diamond

Principal and Vice-Chancellor


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