Principal's Update: September 2013

Principal's Update: September 2013

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

Dear Colleagues

Undergraduate Admissions

I hope that you will all have had an enjoyable summer and had an opportunity to recharge your batteries as we prepare for the start of the new academic year. I know, however, that the summer remains a very busy period for many across the University, not least in the area of undergraduate admissions. Here, I’m pleased to report that at a general level the University will achieve its admissions targets in the Home/EU undergraduate area and that we expect to increase our number of RUK students. This represents a good outcome for the University in a very competitive situation, particularly in England, and I congratulate colleagues across the community for their hard work not only during clearing but throughout the year.

Open Day

To underline the point that the student recruitment process never stops, late last month we held our Open Day for applicants for entry in 2014/15. It was a wonderful event and I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to a number of potential students and their parents and the campus was busy with a great atmosphere which I am a sure will have created a good impression on all who attended. Can I thank everyone who did so much to make the campus look so beautiful and also thanks across the board for making our visitors feel so welcome.

QS World University Rankings and The Times/Sunday Times Rankings

Colleagues will have read the very welcome news last week that the University has been ranked within the Top 150 universities in the world. This is an important set of rankings which attract global attention amongst universities, academics and potential students, so it is very encouraging not just to see us moving up the rankings but to see us moving into the Top 150.  As ever, rankings, however robust, need to be treated with a degree of caution and they are but one of many indicators of success. Nonetheless it is welcome to see the reputation of our academics endorsed in this way and the impact that our investment in our faculty and facilities is making on our global reputation.

The now combined Times and Sunday Times Rankings have just been published over the weekend and the University remains ranked at 40th in the UK. While we would wish to see the University improve its ranking, our static position has to be considered in the context of our Scottish competitors, the majority of whom have dropped down the table this year. Nonetheless, we will continue to focus on how we can improve upon our absolute position in these and other rankings.

Personal Tutors

This month marks the start of our new Personal Tutors system for all undergraduate students (with the exception of Medicine where the Regent scheme will continue). 

There is further extensive detailed information regarding this available on StaffNet at:

I would encourage colleagues to take some time to read the information that has been provided. In addition, however, I would like to emphasise just how important a contribution I believe that this system will make in continuing to enhance the student experience at Aberdeen and, for our new students, helping them to feel part of the Aberdeen family, both in general terms and in addressing more specific issues such as student retention. I would like to thank all academic colleagues for giving their full support to the successful introduction of the new system.

Teaching Awards

It was a great pleasure to host a small event recently for the winners of the University’s excellence in teaching awards. These student-led nominations represent a small way that we can help to celebrate both individual excellence in teaching and the importance of high quality teaching across the Colleges. Reading the citations from the students was a privilege as they covered all aspects of education.  Congratulations to all the recipients of this year’s awards.

University in the Community

The University has a big role to play in supporting the wider community and making Aberdeen a vibrant and exciting place to live and work and there have been several reminders of the important and very different ways that we do this over the summer. Events like the International Youth Festival and the Denis Law Football Tournament, in which we are key partners, took place in July, and the wonderful Fabric of the Land exhibition, which was recently organised by colleagues in the Geology & Petroleum Geology Department. We have also just received news that the May Festival has been shortlisted in the Scottish Event Awards in the ‘Best Large Event’ category, which, given this is the first year that the Festival has ran, is great news indeed.

Offshore Europe and Energy Visits

I took the opportunity during Offshore Europe to participate in a number of events and to promote the offshore related teaching and research that the University is engaged in to a range of industry and other audiences. As colleagues will have seen, we also used this major international event to launch our Energy Institute which will help us to significantly increase our profile as a key academic hub for all aspects of energy. In this regard, I am delighted to welcome John Scrimgeour to the University as Executive Director of the Energy Institute. John has had a long career in the oil and gas industry and will be working with colleagues to enhance our work in energy.

It is also worth highlighting to colleagues that over the course of the summer we hosted a number of Energy related visits to the Campus, for example, one from the President of Mozambique, and one from the Colombian state oil company Ecopetrol, both of which we hope will in time help to open up new opportunities for the University.

University Awards

There has been a flurry of awards activity recently in which the University has figured prominently. The University has been short-listed in four categories at the Times Higher Education Awards being: Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers, Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community; Most improved Student Experience and Outstanding Employer Engagement. This represents a great achievement and it is obviously good to see Aberdeen featuring so much in these national awards that will be widely reported within the UK higher education sector. I hope that all colleagues in the University will take pride in this success but particularly those colleagues who are in our researcher development team, the public engagement team and those involved in the Making the Most of Masters initiative.

In my last update I highlighted the success of the Aberdeen Sports Village and this superb facility has been recognised again, this time seeing off stiff competition from the likes of Surrey and Sheffield to win best university sporting facility in the UK in the UK Active and Matrix Flame awards. Colleagues will also have noted the rapid progress that construction of the new Aquatics Centre is taking and which will make the Sports Village an even more remarkable facility which the University and the City should be hugely proud of.

In another, if somewhat different set of awards, the University has been short-listed as a nominee in the 2013 Green Gown awards which recognise excellence in sustainability initiatives within UK universities. We are short-listed for our initiative to develop a shared IT data centre with RGU, Aberdeen College and Banff & Buchan College, with the winners being announced in November.

Staff Successes

A number of colleagues have recently seen their academic achievements being recognised by their peers internationally. These include Professor Marion Campbell, Director of the Health Services Research Unit, who has been made a Fellow of the Society for Clinical Trials; Professor Christian Haerpfer, Politics, who has been elected President of the World Values Survey Association; and Professor Chris Soulsby, Geosciences, who has been made a Fellow of the American Geophyiscal Union. I’m sure colleagues would wish to join me in congratulating them on their respective successes.

Student Successes

The mark that our students and graduates make on the world is one the strongest  endorsements for the quality of our University. Colleagues may recall the interesting story of Blair Bowman, who whilst a student at the University came up with the idea of World Whisky Day. Blair’s success continues after he recently won the Scottish Institute of Enterprise’s Young Innovators Challenge and £50k in business funding support for him to continue to develop World Whisky Day.

I was equally pleased to learn recently that a group of Aberdeen students have been nominated for an Aberdeen City Education Award for their innovative approaches to engaging children in the arts at Kittybrewster Primary. Congratulations to them and to their tutors in the School of Education.

Ian Diamond

Principal and Vice-Chancellor

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