November 2013

25 November | Developments in the Science Faculty

Last week, many months of hard work culminated in our submission to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, the five-yearly expert review of the quality of our research. The outcome will have a significant impact on our reputation, as the score is used to rank universities in national and international league tables, and on our funding, as research funding is linked to REF outcomes.

As a research intensive university with strong links between research and teaching, our achievements in research are a critical contributor to our future success across all disciplines.  This week I wanted to highlight two examples in the Science faculty.

In the School of Biological Sciences, Professor Simon Cutting is part of a group of leading scientists from across Europe pioneering the use of an oral vaccine in the treatment of Clostridium difficile.  The aim is to tackle a major public health threat that kills almost four times more people every year than MRSA.  Simon’s work is supported by a European Union grant of 6 million Euros.

Research in our renowned Information Security Group has led to new technology designed to protect people from ‘phishing’ cyber-attacks and online password theft. As well as safeguarding personal identity, the Uni-IDM system will also provide a secure space for users of Government services such as tax and benefit claims.

From 2014, research in information security will feed into undergraduate teaching for the first time, when a new specialist Computer Science degree in Information Security will launch. Students will receive training in core Computer Science principles, as well as studying cyber security courses taught by academics from the Information Security Group. The programme will continue the department’s excellent tradition of building links with industry through the option of undertaking a year in industry.

A key strategic aim set out in the College Strategy is to become a top 20 UK university by 2020. With record grants being awarded to researchers in the Science and Arts faculties, on-going investment in teaching facilities, and the launch of innovative undergraduate programmes, we move closer toward realising this ambition. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank everyone across all three faculties who has involved in our REF 2014 submission.

18 November | Developments in the Arts Faculty

I was delighted to attend the formal opening of our new theatre this week, in the company of the family of Katherine Worth and of Caryl Churchill, in whose honour the complex and the theatre respectively are named.

Katherine Worth was the founder of our Department of Drama and Theatre, and the country’s first female professor of Drama, so it was very appropriate that she should be remembered at a time when the department is taking another significant step forward.   Caryl Churchill, as one of the UK’s most eminent playwrights, was pleased to lend her name to one of the UK’s best university theatres, where future successful playwrights will cut their teeth.

As we add to our physical space for the arts, so too are we expanding our intellectual capacity as we become the first College of the University of London to offer a BA in Drama and Dance.  We are also including Visual Cultures as a minor specialism for language and comparative literature students.  Our media arts programme will shortly be relaunched as the BA Film, Television and Digital Production, to make more explicit the valuable integration of teaching and practice in this top ten department.

These developments, on top of our recent success in the AHRC doctoral training partnership scheme, our Regis Chair in Music (the first in the humanities for over a hundred years) and the new, improved Boiler house facility, mean that we are continuing to break new ground in teaching, facilities, research and performance, at a time when arts funding generally, and arts education specifically, face challenging times. 

I hope that our resolute commitment to the arts will continue to produce generations of graduates who leave Royal Holloway ready to show the world the real benefits of an arts education, through whatever career they follow.

11 November | £100m DTP for Environmental Scientists

Hot on the tails of our recent success in securing funding for doctoral training in the arts and humanities, this week Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts announced a £100 million investment in doctoral training for environmental scientists and that Royal Holloway would be part of one of 15 partnerships set up to train the next generation of environmental scientists.

Our Doctoral Training Partnership brings together more than 375 academics working across most of the environmental sciences, from ourselves, University College London, Birkbeck University of London, Brunel University, Institute of Zoology, King’s College London, The Natural History Museum, Queen Mary University of London and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.

Both of these recent successes demonstrate not only the strength of our research and researchers and the scale of our ambition, but also our ability to work in collaboration with other world-leading institutions to access important funding streams and develop the next generation of talent.

It is successes such as these that reinforce my view that, whilst collaboration is a key part of our future as a university, we should be flexible about who we work with and in which areas.  As I have outlined in my announcement of the dissolution of the 1994 Group last week, we should be investing in our own strengths and qualities and working with others where it benefits us, rather than collaborating with a fixed set of institutions.

I am delighted that the range of institutions we work with on these key funding partnerships are as diverse as the Royal College of Art and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Roehampton and UCL, and that we are both free and able to develop new connections depending on the strength of the institution and the source of the funding and talent.  My thanks to everybody involved.

4 November | Active Lifestyle and Sports Investment Programme

Over the next 12 months, we will be investing £1.1 million in our outdoor sports and fitness facilities to improve our student and staff experience at Royal Holloway.

This investment has been made possible in part due to a generous bequest of £830,000 from Physics alumna Margaret Young. As well as being a successful woman in science, Margaret had a great passion for sport, particularly horse riding. I am pleased that her legacy will be better quality sporting facilities on campus.

Project leaders Bob O’Keefe and Mark Hyndman have worked with students in consultation to find out which areas should be prioritised for investment, and where we can make the biggest impact in a short space of time.

We have already made significant improvements to our indoor Fitness Suite reorganising club training, fitness classes and gym equipment and creating an additional 280 spaces every week in fitness classes. In October alone, there have been 14,298 visits to the gym and 2,138 fitness class bookings. There are also over 10,500 opportunities to engage in the popular be.Active programme.

Also in October, work began on the construction of an artificial AstroTurf pitch for hockey, football and lacrosse on the current sports fields and we are improving the natural turf on the Eastfield site (adjacent to Gowar and Wedderburn halls).  Later, we will be resurfacing courts for netball and cricket.

These developments will mean that money currently spent transporting students to use better facilities elsewhere can instead be spent on the resources that our clubs need on campus.

I hope that this investment will make a difference to everyone on campus, from world class athletes to staff and students who wish to pursue a healthy and active lifestyle. Investment in sport underlines our commitment to providing a well-rounded student experience where academic achievements are balanced by a wide range of social and sporting opportunities

Professor Paul Layzell