17 December 2010

Dear Colleagues,

As the Autumn Term draws to a close, the detail of some of the Government’s proposals for budget cuts and higher tuition fees have become clearer: the College’s disposable income will reduce and future students will carry a significantly increased debt burden. The implications for these changes are discussed in this update’s Comment column.

This term is traditionally the busiest for staff, made more challenging by recent severe weather. As the Christmas and New Year holiday approaches, I would like to thank everyone for their hard work over the past three months and to wish you all a relaxing and peaceful break, refreshed for the challenges of 2011.

Professor Paul Layzell

News updates

Departmental visits

During the course of this year, I am visiting each academic department and professional service groups. The aim of these visits is to see the work of each unit and to understand their strengths and challenges.

I have now visited all the academic departments and the range and quality of research and teaching innovation is impressive. As I said in my last update, the strength of our academic offering is a good starting point as we begin to address the dual challenge of funding cuts and higher tuition fees.

During these visits, there have been opportunities for colleagues to highlight areas of concern. I very much welcome these comments and it is reassuring to find that one or two themes predominate, eg the pressure on space across the campus, staff planning in the context of financial pressures and uncertainties, the need for greater flexibility in course and programme design and approval. As the issues become clear, I shall be asking members of the senior management team to draw up plans to address these concerns and will publish the progress being made in future reports.

Although heads of department have arranged my visits to meet as wide a cross-section of staff as possible, inevitably there are some that I have been unable to meet because of teaching commitments. I welcome any update on significant developments from any member of staff, but particularly those I have been unable to meet.

Senior staff changes

AdamTickell1Colleagues will be aware that we have now made appointments to a number of senior posts in the professional services.

The post of Registrar and Director of Operations has been filled by Simon Higman, who joins the College in January 2011. Simon is currently Registrar and Secretary at the University of Southampton and previously was at Imperial College.

The posts of Director of Development and Director of Corporate Communications have been combined to form a new post of Director of External Relations. The new post will report directly to me as Principal, reflecting the importance of building a better external image for the College. The new director is Helen Coleman. Helen currently heads up the ‘entitlements’ communications team in the Department for Work and Pensions, and will also join the College in January 2011.

Later in January, the College will be saying farewell to Professor Adam Tickell, Vice-Principal for Research. Adam has been appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Birmingham. Although a great loss to the College, I am delighted that one of our staff has been appointed to an important post in one of the country’s largest civic universities.

I am currently considering options for the future structure of the senior team and Adam’s replacement.

Open Access

Many of you will have attended my first staff open meeting on 3rd November where the main theme was Open Access.

Our Open Access Publications Policy came into force on 1st September 2010 and Professor Justin Champion and Dr James Sloam talked eloquently on the merits of open access and the benefits to researchers and academic colleagues.

The outputs from our open access policy can be viewed through Royal Holloway Research Online (the ‘institutional repository’) at http://rhro.rhul.ac.uk/.

Staff can submit research outputs by email to the Repository team using the address below or you can self-deposit using PURE. Outputs will automatically appear in the relevant Research pages of the new College website and will be indexed by the Library's new search system, LibrarySearch, (http://librarysearch.rhul.ac.uk) and by external search engines such as Google.

If you have any queries relating to Open Access, please email rhro@rhul.ac.uk in the first instance. For assistance with PURE, please email pure@rhul.ac.uk.

Links with companies and organisations

Ambassador launch dinnerIn early November, Royal Holloway was host to the launch of the Ambassador Business Club, an open innovation network for small and medium-sized enterprises and large corporates, run by the Surrey and Hampshire Innovation and Growth Team.

The Dinner attracted 120 CEOs, entrepreneurs and investors who discussed opportunities for big businesses and high growth innovative SMEs to collaborate to develop ground breaking products and services.

Included among the business attendees were representatives from GSK, Unipart Logistics, QinitiQ, Electronic Arts, BOC, Allianz, Mitsubishi, National Instruments, Motorola, Detica, Samsung and Unilever. The event gave the College an opportunity to promote its work with corporate businesses and SMEs, thanks to the sterling efforts of Tony Greenwood, Director of Research and Enterprise Services.

Links to companies and other organisations will become increasingly important as we strengthen the relationship between our programmes and the long-term employment needs of our graduates. Students studying some of our programmes already have work experience opportunities from summer internships to year-long placements and the College will need to expand these opportunities as we move into an environment of higher tuition fees.

Celebrating our history

3sopranos1This academic year sees the 25th anniversary of the merger of Royal Holloway and Bedford Colleges and the 125th anniversary of the founding of Royal Holloway College.

As part of the Silver Jubilee celebrations of the merger, a celebratory concert was held on 13 November, featuring the Choir of Royal Holloway, Chroma Chamber ensemble and three of our distinguished alumnae: Dame Felicity Lott, Susan Bullock and Sarah Fox. The sopranos were accompanied by pianist Malcolm Martineau.

The concert was an outstanding success, appreciated by all who attended and a timely reminder as to the quality of music at Royal Holloway.

Further events will take place during 2011.

Supporting our staff

athena image miniIn September 2010, Royal Holloway was awarded a Bronze Athena SWAN Charter, to recognise excellence in, and commitment to, the career progression of women in science, engineering and technology within Higher Education.

The Department of Physics has also recently been recognised by the Institute of Physics for efforts made to reduce gender inequality among academic staff, becoming one of only three Physics departments across the UK to attain Project JUNO Practitioner status. These awards are due to the hard work of the Women in Science Working Group and I am particularly grateful to Professor Mary Fowler for her leadership of this group. As we move into 2011, I shall discuss with colleagues how these schemes can be applied more widely across the College.

Also looking forward, February 2011 will see the start of a new leadership development programme. Initially aimed at supporting newly appointed or prospective heads of academic departments, the programme will be expanded later in the year to cover staff from the professional services. The programme is being run on behalf of the College by Ashridge Consulting, part of the Ashridge Business School.

Sporting stars

Deputy Principal, Professor Rob Kemp recently hosted an awards ceremony for elite student athletes studying at the College.

The Student Talented Athlete Recognition Scheme (STARS) provides a support network for elite student athletes at Royal Holloway who are competing or aiming to compete at the very top level of their sport. The scheme helps students reach their full potential in both sporting and academic life, whilst supporting them with the same level of effort, enthusiasm and dedication that they show in training.

The new influx of STARS students who have been welcomed to Royal Holloway this year all compete at an elite and performance level in a wide range of sports, including athletics, rugby, karate, golf and fencing. Since the initiative began, STARS has supported nine Olympians and Paralympians and over 100 athletes with world and national rankings.

Research success

bumblebeeCongratulations to Dr Nigel Raine, Senior Lecturer in Animal Behaviour in the School of Biological Sciences, whose recent work on the flying patterns of bumblebees and their relationship to the ‘Travelling Salesman problem’ appeared in more than 100 publications.

The Travelling Salesman must find the shortest route that allows him to visit all locations on his route. Computers solve it by comparing the length of all possible routes and choosing the shortest. However, bees solve it without computer assistance using a brain the size of grass seed.

As well as enhancing our understanding of how bees move around the landscape pollinating crops and wild flowers, this work has other applications. Our lifestyle relies on networks such as traffic on the roads, information flow on the web and business supply chains. By understanding how bees can solve their problem with such a tiny brain we can improve our management of these everyday networks without needing lots of computer time.

Comment column: Implications of the Government’s HE funding proposals

During December 2010, the Government has taken the first steps in implementing its new policy on reduced public funding for higher education and increased student tuition fees.

The Comprehensive Spending Review proposes that public funding for higher education should be reduced by 76% for teaching and 10% for research. Royal Holloway, through its trade bodies Universities UK (UUK) and the 1994 Group of universities, has vigorously opposed the disproportionate reduction in funding and has continued to lobby ministers about the negative impact. It is some comfort that research funding largely has been protected, but changes in teaching funding will have a long-term impact on the nature of  undergraduate provision.

Although the proposed cuts have not been regarded as a foregone conclusion, the direction of travel has been clear for some time and in a few days the Government will be writing to our funding body, HEFCE,  with details of its funding from April 2011 and at this point the cuts will be confirmed. HEFCE will write to us in March 2011 indicating our grant for the following year and we expect the overall loss in income to the College to be around £20m per annum by 2015.

In parallel, the Government has pressed ahead with its plans to increase home and EU tuition fees and these too are now a reality, following the vote in the House of Lords.

At the December staff open meeting, I summarised the impact these changes will have on the College and a copy of my presentation can be downloaded from the web site (campus access).  At this stage, we can only estimate the impact as there is considerable detail that needs to be agreed and further legislation required, however, the broad impact is clear.

From April 2011, we expect to lose between £2m and £5m in direct funding, without the prospect of additional income from increased tuition fees. For the following three years, we will continue to loose an additional £5m to £6m of direct funding per annum, gradually offset by additional tuition fee income (making up the total of around £20m by 2015).

From Summer 2012, the College will be allowed to raise its home and EU undergraduate tuition fees to a level between £6,000 and £9,000. These fees will be phased in progressively so that we will receive a full income stream around 2015.

Many institutions have already announced they wish to set fees at the upper limit, however the conditions to be imposed by the Government on institutions setting a fee above £6,000 have not been announced. Ministers have indicated that only a small number of institutions will be allowed to set higher fees and those seeking to charge more than £6,000 will be required to meet stringent conditions on widening access and supporting students from the poorest families. This will mean that a high proportion of fees between £6,000 and £9,000 will be used to fund scholarships, bursaries and other costs, thereby reducing income.

The overall effect by 2015 will be either a modest increase in cash of a few million pounds (if we set a fee of £9,000) or a cash reduction of around £6m per annum (if we set a fee of £6,000). On top of this, we will need to take account of increased costs arising from increased student expectations - the impact of which is likely to mean that we still have less cash, even if we were allowed to charge the highest permitted fee.

Council, the College’s governing body, considered the implications of these changes to funding at an away day in early December. Work on modelling various funding scenarios will continue, as details become clearer. During this time we shall continue with the current planning dialogue as we seek to grow income and live within our means. We shall also examine the changes we will need to make to the way we deliver our teaching, to better meet the needs of students in the future, focusing on strengthening our links with employers and improving the student experience.

It is regrettable that the face of higher education funding is changing fundamentally and that students of the future will be required to carry a significantly higher debt burden. Although the debate on fee levels is reaching a conclusion, it will be important that we support the student community to ensure that the terms and conditions of the student loan system are reasonable and proportionate - there is still much to be decided. We must now work to ensure we deliver the highest quality curriculum and an excellent student experience, not only to future students but also to those currently studying as we go through a period of considerable turbulence.

As I said at the staff open meeting, our academic strength and modest financial reserves give us a good starting point, but the year ahead will have its challenges.

Paul Layzell
17 December 2010

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