The General Council Paper A: Report by the Principal

The General Council Paper A: Report by the Principal

The University continues to move forward in line with its strategic priorities, laid out in Glasgow 2020: a Global Vision. We monitor progress against a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) which focus on our strategic priorities and are grouped under six headings which include research, the student experience and internationalisation. It is therefore very encouraging that over the last three years (2010–13) we have moved in a positive direction in 13 out of our 20 KPIs.

Under research, for example, the number of staff holding research grants has increased by 5%, and research income per academic has grown from £109k to £114k. We have the healthiest research order book in our history at over £210m.

In terms of student experience, our student satisfaction levels (as revealed by the National Student Survey) continue to sit above the Russell Group and UK averages. Undergraduate progression is now at 91.6% compared to 83.4% three years ago.

And if we look at some indicators for our international activity, we have doubled our international student population over the last four years; we are top in the Russell Group for student satisfaction at 89.2%; we have increased student mobility – the opportunity for students to have an international experience – by over 400 students and we are growing our international research income by £5.4m.

These are important trends, for I am sure success does breed success. Let me illustrate the point with some examples.

We were allocated an additional £2.5m per year through the Global Excellence Initiative instituted by the Scottish Government to accelerate research performance in areas of strength. We were one of the top two beneficiary universities in Scotland, as it was allocated on the basis of the volume of 4* (top international quality) research taking place in the University.

Our success in securing leadership in two Scottish-wide Innovation Centres – Stratified Medicine and Sensor & Imaging Systems – has led to even further success. We won a bid to the UK/HEFCE, UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) and received £10m. This will boost our own University’s capacity in stratified medicine, and our capacity to support the Stratified Medicine Innovation Centre, enabling it to be based in the South Glasgow Hospital and at the centre of a hub in relation to chronic and infectious diseases. It will link physically to the planned Clinical Research Facility (clinical trials) and state-of- the-art imaging suite and will add significant value to the linked infrastructure projects including the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research. It will build on our collaboration across universities, business and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. The total value of the project is £58 million.

Three separate research projects led by Professor Andy Baker (Institute of Cardiovascular & Medical Sciences), Professor Jon Cooper (School of Engineering) and Professor Miles Padgett (School of Physics & Astronomy) have recently received major grants from the European Research Council totalling more than €6 million (£5 million). To have secured three significant grants out of a total of 2,400 applications with a success rate of 12% is outstanding and testament to the world-leading research being conducted at Glasgow.

But success is not confined to biomedicine and science. We are, for example, leading a consortium of Scottish universities which has just secured funding of £14m from the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for a new Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). This will support 200 funded postgraduate studentships over the next five years. We are also the coordinating institution for a UK-wide centre for a DTP involving a consortium of 12 institutions focused on Celtic languages.
There are two other critical elements to these successes.

The first is our staff. The combination of the reversal of the SFC cuts together with strong international recruitment has allowed us to invest significantly in new staff. Between April 2012 and July 2013 we have invested over £16m in new talent in the last year alone, and considerably more in the period 2011–14, and it’s already having an impact.

The second is down to the invaluable role of our donors and supporters. They are vital in giving impetus to the cycle where success breeds success. Recent events capture the point graphically.

Without the generosity of individuals, trusts and foundations, without the success of such appeals as the Beatson Pebble Appeal for the Translational Research Centre, we would not have been able to secure the UKRPIF funding. Without our capital investment on the South Glasgow site, which leveraged investments by the SFC and the Health Board we wouldn’t have had the infrastructure in place to attract the Stratified Medicine Innovation Centre. Without both we would not be in the powerful position we are in today to realise our ambition, one of international significance, for stratified medicine. Philanthropic giving, critical for specific projects, has this ripple, multiplier effect and therefore the potential to impact on the success of future opportunities and projects further down the line.

We are therefore continuing to look at ways to increase the involvement of our alumni and not just in terms of support for projects but in supporting our students. We launched an initiative last year, for example, Glasgow Careers Alumni Network (GCAN), which is aimed at bringing our graduate community together to support the career development of our students. Our alumni have a wealth of knowledge and experience and are ideally placed to offer insights, raise aspirations and even provide inspiration for life after graduation. GCAN offers practical ways on how this can be delivered. Your generous contribution to scholarship funds is also critical in helping the future generations of Glasgow students.

The international nature of this alumni community was brought home to me even more vividly recently. My last report noted some of our international collaborations and among them our links with Singapore Institute of Technology. On Friday 18 October I had the pleasure of graduating over 70 students in Singapore, our very first cohort of University of Glasgow Singapore Engineering students. This was history in the making, both for the graduates and for the University. It was a special moment and underlined the fact that we do indeed have a global community stretching across some 160 countries. That’s a great community, one that we can call our own and which over the years I hope will come to play an increasingly important and significant part in the support of our University and our students.