March 2014

Monday 31 March

A major part of the university experience is the chance for students to live away from home for the first time. We aim to give all of our first years the opportunity to start their independent life in a hall of residence and, as student numbers grow, so too must the number of hall places we offer.

For this reason, we are planning to build an additional residence, with 500 to 700 bedrooms north of the A30, and we hope that the first 200 will be ready for the 2015-16 session. This new stock will increase our overall accommodation to just over 3,500 beds, so we should be able to improve our guarantee of accommodation to all first year and international students, and accept more returners. 

The benefit of halls of residence for first years, over privately rented rooms, is the support on offer from our dedicated team of residential support assistants, as students adjust to their new found independence.

Having had responsibility for a student residence in another university, I cannot over-emphasise the importance of the role played by this team, supporting students on a range of issues from settling in through to striking a healthy balance between study and social activity.

Residential support assistants can be undergraduate or postgraduate students, so long as they have the confidence, emotional stability and mediation skills to manage challenging and sometimes sensitive situations, often out of hours. These Assistants, and the many others who play a similar role in supporting students, make a real difference to new arrivals, setting them up for success and continuing to support them through their time with us. 

Finally, as the last outstanding element of the rebrand, we will be moving to the URL from tomorrow, Tuesday 1 April. From then, will appear as  Any links or emails using will continue to reach their destination. Staff email addresses will also be updated to  For more information,follow the link.

Paul Layzell

Monday 24 March

At its meeting last week, College Council gave approval to move to the detailed design phase for the new Library and Student Services Building.  Council recognised that this was possibly the single most important development for Royal Holloway since the Founder’s Building itself. 

For those of you who missed last week’s staff meeting, here are some more details about our plans.

The new building will be at the heart of campus, opposite our iconic Founder’s Building and adjacent to the Windsor Building.  An improved, landscaped area will be created between the new building and Founder’s.

The library will be accessible 24/7 for most of the year, and will provide a mix of social, group and individual, silent study zones.

The Careers Service will be relocated to the new building and will have a dedicated space for student enquiries, coaching, employer presentations and alumni networking, and to showcase employability activities.

The Student Service Centre, which has dealt with 14,000 enquiries so far this year, will move to the ground floor of the new building, from its present location in the Windsor building and will act in addition as a reception for the building.

Catering and retail provision will include a purpose built shop and bank, alongside a café, which will provide a range of services to match the library service’s opening hours.

We expect the new building to be handed over between January and May 2017 and plans are being considered as to how best to transfer activities into the new building, without disrupting students during teaching and assessment periods.

Once the migration is complete, we will benefit from the vacated space in the old Bedford Library and I have asked the Deputy Principal, Professor Rob Kemp, to consult with academic departments to identify the best possible use of the vacated space.

The presentation from the recent open meeting is online here (link); you can see detailed designs of what the building could look like from inside and outside. We are particularly excited about the proposal to create a living ‘green wall’, designed to make the building feel part of the woodland landscape.

Let us know what you think of this important and exciting development for Royal Holloway, by emailing your comments and suggestions to or providing feedback via our project pages.

Paul Layzell

Monday 17 March

Last week saw an event that will become a landmark in the history of the College: the visit by HM The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, to mark the award of our Regius Professorship in Music.

The visit was a great success and enjoyed by the Royal party, students and staff alike; helped by the excellent weather and relaxed atmosphere.  I would like to thank all those involved in the preparation of the visit – both front of house and behind the scenes.

Although there is no official conferment ceremony for the Regius Professorship and no requirement for the Queen to attend, it is pleasing that she chose to visit the College, during which she heard a selection of the high standard of music we have to offer, as well as meeting past and present music staff and students.

The visit provided also the opportunity for staff to talk about the many other significant developments found across the wider College ranging from drama, with our new theatre, to information security and the search for dark matter.

For all of us, the occasion is a reminder of the very high standard of academic achievement in the College, made possible by excellent academic and support staff, as well as first class students and for which we should be rightly proud.

Our academic achievements mark us out as a university of choice for many students and the Royal visit was quickly followed by the first of our Open Day for prospective students joining in 2015.  Again, the day benefitted from lovely spring weather and enthusiastic staff and student ambassadors, showing the College at its best.

Finally, in the week ahead we have two important events.  On Monday, we are joined by Professor Stephanie Marshall, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Academy (HEA).  The HEA is the main professional body to recognise university teachers and the visit is designed to explore ways in which we can increase membership of the HEA, particularly at its more senior levels.

And on Tuesday, the Staff Open Meeting (1-2pm in the Main Lecture Theatre), which is being extended to students as well, will be unveiling current plans for the Library and Student Services Building. 

Paul Layzell

Monday 10 March

Across our academic disciplines, the quality of our research can be enhanced through partnership.  For many of us, such partnership starts with colleagues who can offer the benefit of their experience or provide critical appraisal of a research idea or publication. 

For many of the big research questions of our time, partnership takes the form of working with a much wider range of people and organisations that bring knowledge and skills from other disciplines. 

The most obvious of these has been the ways in which the UK Research Councils have encouraged doctoral training consortia to form in order to provide better support for research students.  Our membership of the London NERC Doctoral Training Partnership joins us to 375 academics along with businesses, policy-makers, public and third sector organisations for the benefit of our research students and research work at Royal Holloway.

Other partnerships occur between academic groups and companies, large and small.  The Information Security Group has a long tradition of working with businesses to tackle the problems of information and cyber-security.  Most recently the Group has partnered with PricewaterhouseCoopers to strengthen the company’s cyber defence team.

In the arts and humanities too, the ethos of collaboration is becoming more established. The recently formed AHRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnership combines academic research with placements at 13 arts and cultural organisations in London. In the third sector, our historians have developed close relationships with the Imperial War Museum through the Holocaust Research Centre.

Partnerships can result in direct funding of research.  Colleagues in the Department of Computer Science are working with British Gas to develop a set of algorithms and models that could lead to a better understanding of their customers and improve forecasting of energy and services demand. And in the School of Biological Sciences, several organisations are interested in working with researchers to develop a biofuels-producing tobacco tree, which could have a significant impact on fossil-fuel based energy consumption.

Whether it’s working with a colleague on campus or an organisation on the other side of the world, partnership working can multiply our achievements and make us stronger than the sum of the parts.

To help develop greater partnership working, we have a range of services run through the Research and Enterprise office to help grow and cement partnerships, as well as an individual who is targeting the development of new relationships.

At a more local level, we are developing ways for us all to get to know one another’s research better and to find new opportunities for collaboration.  One of these initiatives will be a dedicated research awareness day on Friday 27 June 2014 where you will be able to learn more after the wide range of exciting research undertaken on campus.   Save the date: more details will be available soon.

Paul Layzell

Monday 3 March

A characteristic feature of Royal Holloway is the substantial calendar of events that takes place over the course of a year.  These events vary from opportunities to showcase our research to celebrating achievement.  The annual What’s On brochure summarises the key events and our web site lists all events.  A new addition you will see around the campus is a monthly poster listing events around campus.

Most recently, the College has put on a series of events designed to promote and celebrate Science at Royal Holloway.  The range of activities associated with our Science Week included Rare Disease Day (ideally on the 29th February, but this year on the 28th) and on Saturday 1st March, the ever-popular Super Science Saturday.  This year the weather was kind to us and a large number of visitors came to the campus to discover more about science.  I would like to take this opportunity to take all the staff and student volunteers who helped make the day such a great success.

Looking forward, on Saturday 8th March, we will be celebrating International Women’s Day, which has been observed around the world since the early 1900s.  The occasion gives us cause to reflect on the outstanding contribution our own female staff and students. Early former students of Royal Holloway and Bedford colleges include the novelist George Eliot, who assumed a male pen name so that she might be taken seriously in the literary world; Emily Wilding Davison the prominent Suffragette whose political campaigning contributed to the legislation of the vote for women; and Elizabeth Blackwell, who overcame deep-rooted prejudice to become the first woman doctor.  Today, the legacy continues with outstanding achievements by more recent students, such Baroness Cathy Ashton, EU Foreign Minister, Janice Hadlow, Controller of BBC 2, and nursing pioneer Jean McFarlane.  And many of our female academic staff are themselves leaders in their field.

As well as events like our Science Festival, designed to encourage young people into science, all our science departments are working hard to support women in their scientific careers.  They do this by promoting the principles of the Athena SWAN Charter.  Every department elects an Athena SWAN champion and together their involvement has resulted in the award of Silver status to Physics and Psychology, while Earth Sciences and Computer Science hold Bronze status.

We would like to celebrate all these achievements by inviting you to pop in to our own celebration for International Women’s Day on Tuesday 4th March from 4pm in the Windsor Building, where light refreshments will be available.

Paul Layzell 

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