Vice-Chancellor's all-staff email - 4 January
As I walked in to work this morning, I reflected on how lucky I am to be joining you at the University of Birmingham as Vice-Chancellor.
Under David Eastwood’s leadership, Birmingham firmly established itself as an innovative and bold institution that performs strongly in both education and research. The University pioneered widely admired and copied initiatives, has invested in research talent, innovated in education and developed outstanding facilities and opportunities for students. It has created exceptional research facilities, has a professional services that demonstrably deliver, and has collaborated fruitfully with local partners in the city and region and with others all over the world. There is clearly a considerable amount of inspiring work taking place and I’d like to thank David for this, and for his support for me during the six months since I was appointed. Birmingham’s successes also, of course, have come from the efforts of everyone across the University. I am genuinely fortunate to have the opportunity to work with you all.
The new Strategic Framework has set the ambition for Birmingham to be amongst the best fifty universities in the world. Achieving any particular ranking isn’t a good thing in itself – it is an aim that seeks to ensure that the University is recognised as being a place where the best people in the world want to come to work and study, an institution that is characterised by intellectual energy and openness.
At a time when universities face uncertainty and challenge, Birmingham has the physical, financial and cultural resources to thrive. We must use these resources to stimulate and support creativity in both research and education and ensure that we can provide the very best environment possible to attract and retain the brightest academic and professional services people.
Over the coming months and years, we must become recognised as a University characterised by our actions to promote equality, diversity and inclusion - there is further work to do to embed inclusive practice and create a community with a diverse range of voices and experiences at all levels. We must also recognise our responsibilities to respond to the global environmental emergency, embedding sustainability into the way we operate as a research institution, as an educator and as a major institution in our own right: we host a generation that cares about the environment and its future because it is their future.
Some of you may know that I have previously worked for the University of Birmingham, holding posts including Provost and PVC Research, before becoming the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex five years ago. Much has changed over the five years I have been away. This is most visible in the development of the campus here, but this is matched by investments in the academy, extensive curriculum reform, and exciting initiatives such as the Commonwealth Games. During my time at Sussex, I’ve learned a lot about myself and about leading an organism as complex as a university.
The success of Birmingham, as of all universities, will ultimately rest on the people in its community. I have spent some time here over the past couple of months and have been struck by the ambition of the people I have met, and their belief in the future of the University. I am eager to understand the views of as many people as possible and plan to visit all Schools and Professional Services Divisions over the next few months to hear about what you do and what you think. I will hold termly open office sessions for staff and students that anyone can sign up for, and will write weekly with my reflections. I will also hold regular Open Forums, and you will shortly be able to sign up to attend the first of these, which is taking place on 19th January. If you would like to get in touch at other times, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org (but forgive me if I don’t respond immediately!).
There is much to do during this next term, and the uncertainty of the omicron variant means that we may have to balance our longer-term plans with shorter-term measures. I know how hard the last two years have been for so many staff and we will do as much as we can to support you and our students. These are not easy times, but I am confident that we will come together to deal with whatever we face and that we will emerge from the pandemic as a strong University with an exciting future.
With best wishes