From the Principal's Notebook

Published: 5 March 2012

An update from the Principal 5 March 2012.

I thought I might briefly share some of our recent investment plans and encouraging news on our most up to date application numbers.

The SFC indicative grant letter for 2012-13, issued in December 2011 enabled our financial forecasts to be updated.  In summary, the net impact of this information on our budgets was an extra £3.4M of income in 2012-13, over the forecast developed in late November 2011.  This together with the savings made against the University’s budget plan, and the growth in international recruitment has enabled the SMG to agree a range of investment proposals in areas of strategic importance.  This includes all four colleges, as well as investment in our infrastructure and, importantly, these investments are being implemented immediately.  These cover investments in some key and developing areas of research,  resource to support the REF process, investment to promote and enhance research leadership through chair appointments (at least 20), to support recruitment of new staff and continuing investment in our estate infrastructure.  A substantial proportion of that infrastructure investment will be directed to our teaching facilities.

We will also be investing in two fellowship schemes: Leadership Fellows and Lord Kelvin & Adam Smith Fellowships.   Leadership Fellows will aim to encourage researchers to choose the University as host for their externally–funded fellowships and our aim is to provide financial packages for up to thirty external fellows.  Our successful Lord Kelvin-Adam Smith fellowships,  which were established in 2006 to support the recruitment of outstanding early career researchers, will continue with investment in twenty,  3-year fellowships this year.  We plan to launch both fellowship schemes and packages formally on 26 March.  Again, these will benefit all of our four colleges. I believe these will provide further impetus to our strategic aim to strengthen the breadth and depth of our research profile, and will also help to grow the next generation of academics.

Our ability to invest in this way moving into the future is of course predicated on some important variables: that the external funding landscape will not suddenly change; that  we will continue to work to achieve our budget plans; that research income will grow and that our fee income will remain strong.  While the external environment can have an impact beyond our control, it’s also true to say that we do have considerable scope to shape and control these variables, through clear and focussed activity,  and as ever, through the excellence of what we do. 

One of the possible threats we faced for example was the potential drop in income following changes to the fee status for Rest-of-UK (RUK) students.  The latest admissions report for January 2012 provides, however, some encouraging news.  It indicates that Glasgow’s RUK applications have increased by 9.2%, compared to our benchmark institutions which have seen a reduction of 3.6%.  As a consequence of this, Glasgow’s share of applications from the UK has grown from 14.2% to 15.9%  year on year, and from 12.3% to 14.2% for applications from England.  This promising performance may in part be down to the decisions we took on fee levels and arrangements for RUK students which were more welcoming to rest-of-UK students than the decision taken by some other Scottish universities. It may reflect the additional resources and more focussed marketing we have targeted at recruitment in England over recent months or it may be the impact of the success we continue to show in student surveys and league tables.  No doubt it’s down to a combination of all these factors, and more.  But what is encouraging is the success in RUK applications is replicated in our Undergraduate numbers – a 6% growth; in our Postgraduate numbers - a 28% growth (24% PGT, 91% PGR) and in international applications - a 23% growth across all categories (UG 14%; PGT 23% and PGR 48%) and all Colleges.  We know that we have to work hard to convert applicants into students, and these are still early days in that process, but these figures suggest that the University is moving in the right direction in terms of its appeal both at home and internationally and our capacity to attract talent seems undiminished.

I believe that as our investment plans for this year kick in, and our student numbers remain strong, we are already taking decisive steps to influence these variables I mentioned earlier and for the future success of our University.

First published: 5 March 2012

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