Principal's Update December 2013

Principal's Update December 2013

The latest update for staff from Principal, Professor Sir Ian Diamond

Dear Colleagues

Appointment of Secretary to the University

As I mentioned in my message to staff last week, I am sure that colleagues will wish to join me in congratulating Caroline Inglis on her appointment as Secretary to the University. Caroline has made an impressive contribution to the University in her previous role as Director of Human Resources and I very much look forward to working closely with her in taking forward the University’s ambitious plans for the future.


The final Court meeting of the calendar year had a number of significant items on the agenda including approval of the financial statements for 2013, internationalisation, health and safety culture in the University, and our priorities for improving the student experience. However, the major item for discussion was our £288M capital plan for the further development of campuses over the next ten years. 

The plan sets out our vision of continuing to develop our Estate so as to maximise our students’ experience, provide the infrastructure for research, enhance the University as a place to work, and increase the beauty and ease of access of our campus. The plan is a holistic one and will integrate fully with our current and future strategic plan. Importantly it seeks to be very much more than simply a set of projects.

And of course it is already underway with our significant investment in a new building for the Rowett Institute which is rising quickly at Foresterhill and for which I am looking forward to being part of the topping out ceremony early in the New Year.

The plan also includes funds for the development of our research equipment, something that we will need to learn to replace and improve in a new way as our major funders have to make efficiencies over the next few years. But, of course, the plan does include new buildings and at its heart is the development of a new Science Building, a new Students’ Union on the site of the current Butchart Centre, improved teaching space on King’s College, and the extension of our student accommodation refurbishment programme to make more  affordable family accommodation available for junior staff and students with families. Other projects include modernisation and refurbishment of staff accommodation in King’s College, the Edward Wright Building and the Taylor Building; the redevelopment of the King’s Pavilion as a Cultural Centre with performance space; and the redevelopment and extension of the current Chaplaincy Centre and adjacent building as a Multifaith/Interfaith Centre.

The plan will, collectively, see us transform the standard of facilities available to staff and students. I know that our governors share my enthusiasm for this major investment in our Estate but Court also agreed that while the supporting financial plan requires us to continue to meet some challenging targets, it is an investment programme that is affordable while also being ambitious.  I look forward to sharing more details regarding each of the specific projects with colleagues as the plans move forward.


The University’s submission to the REF is now complete and while we now eagerly await the results in around a year’s time, for now I just want to record my appreciation for the huge effort that colleagues across the Colleges and Professional Services, led by Phil Hannaford, have made, not only in terms of bringing the submission together but in undertaking the very research that the exercise is assessing. With the submission complete, we are now starting a series of conversations with Schools about their future plans and development.


Our Enhancement-Led Institutional Review (ELIR) visit, the teaching equivalent of the REF, concluded late last month and the initial feedback is extremely positive. Peter McGeorge has led the ELIR process for us and I know that he would want me to acknowledge our appreciation of the considerable time and effort that the process has required of staff across the University. That commitment of staff to high quality teaching was further underlined by the excellence in teaching awards ceremony we held recently where there were outstanding examples of the kinds of innovative and inspiring education that colleagues provide.

Investors in People Re-Accreditation

A number of colleagues recently took part in interviews as part of the process for re-accreditation of our Investors in People status. The outcome of the re-accreditation won’t be known until January but the informal feedback has extremely positive. I am delighted with this as I am committed to this being a great place to work.   It was also encouraging that the feedback noted that colleagues considered the University to take health and safety culture very seriously. We will keep colleagues informed of the outcome of the re-accreditation.


As the OneSource Programme moves into 2014 there will be even more efforts by a greater number of colleagues to drive forward the improvements we all want to see.  For now, however the focus is on the projects due to deliver in the summer of 2014 which for students are: MyCurriculum (Online Course selection) and the provision of a Personal Timetable; and for the Institution is the launch of a new Finance and Procurement system.

Could I take this opportunity to thank colleagues for the work they have put in by providing information, particularly on courses, which is enabling these projects to progress. I know this has added to colleagues’ burdens but will, in the long term, enhance our working lives and our students’ experience.

In 2014 we will start to develop the Research part of OneSource. In some parts of the University colleagues tell me that they would welcome some further help with the bureaucracy of grant applications and their subsequent management and I believe this part of the project will enhance opportunities in this regard.

I would encourage all staff to take some time to look at the information that is available on StaffNet about these projects and to consider what the projects involve, how they will affect their work, and whether they can contribute or need to engage with those close to the project. The OneSource team would value that engagement and have reminded me that it will be in everyone’s interest to consider and prepare for the delivery of these first two projects, the first of many exciting developments to be delivered through the programme.    

Recent Awards

I was very pleased to see the University named recently as Education Provider of the Year in the African Achievement Awards Scotland – a very welcome recognition of the work we are doing with institutions in Africa and with African students, including issues such as sustainable development.

The Sir Duncan Rice Library has picked up yet another accolade, being named the overall winner in the Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning in recognition of the University and City Council’s approach to the project.

Not to be outdone, the Aberdeen Sports Village has also picked up yet more national recognition by being named Scottish Gym of the Year and National Gym of the Year at the National Fitness Awards.

Winter Graduations

Our winter graduation ceremonies went very well and the joy of the occasions helped to brighten the short winter days. It is always important to remember that these are celebrations where the University is on show and once again, thanks to the hard work of all staff involved, I know the new graduates and their families and friends will have left Aberdeen with some great memories to cherish. I particularly enjoyed hosting three inspirational honorary graduates, the Archbishop of York, Karen Darke and Juliette Paton, all of whose experiences made us all feel very humble.

Winter Graduations were followed by the social occasions which mark the onset of the festive season. I should here mention the University Carol Service where the choir were their normal outstanding selves and where, reminding us of our place in the North East of Scotland, there was a wonderful lesson read in the Doric by Greg Gordon.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to pass on my thanks to all colleagues across all areas of the community for their continuing commitment to the University over the past year. I send my best wishes to all of you and your families for the coming festive season and for 2014.

Ian Diamond

Principal and Vice-Chancellor

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