April 25, 2017

Exams: support and good wishes

At universities and schools across the country, students are preparing for exams. We all remember that time and the hours of study, the nerves, the anticipation, the slight hysteria that creeps into most of your conversations with fellow students, the relief once it's over.

At Warwick, I've written to all our students taking exams over the next few weeks to wish them good luck. I want to reiterate that message publicly, and share a message from our Students’ Union team.

Through the University and Students' Union, we have much in place to support students. We have online guidance on managing revision, we have one to one advice, we have 24-hour study spaces so you can choose the place and time to study that suits you best. We have advice and workshops on keeping active, looking after your mental wellbeing, taking breaks. Through Creative Warwick, we are showcasing all the things our student societies do to actively improve students’ wellbeing through keeping their minds in gear, helping students to relax and connect with the outside world in a time where it is very easy to become more insular, providing events and performances to perform and celebrate.

chloe wynnHere’s a good luck note from Chloe Wynne, the SU Welfare Officer:

Dear Warwick students,

As you enter into this immense part of the year, we wish you the very best of luck with all of your assessments, and hope that you are living healthily and happily!

Remember, ‘self-care’ involves more than streaming a TV series and having a bath, so figure out what routine works best for you, and reward yourself with meaningful work breaks regularly. Self-preservation isn’t self-indulgence, so take care.

Look out for your friends this term, and if you want to start a conversation on their wellbeing, we have plenty of tips on how to approach it at warwicksu.com/areyouok

If you want some support with whatever it is you’re going through, the SU Advice Centre is here for you. We’ve got plenty of expert pages on our website at warwicksu.com/advice. Or if you need to speak with us, then booking an appointment is easy.

It’s been a pleasure being your Welfare Officer this year, and I truly hope that you each succeed in whatever it is that motivates you. You‘ve made it to this point, go that little bit further.

Best wishes,

Chloe Wynne (Welfare Officer), the Advice Centre Team, and all at Warwick Students’ Union x


We're proud of our student community at Warwick, and we are here with you every step of the way.

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March 28, 2017

Together

West Midlands together event






Last week I welcomed the first public meeting of West Midlands Together, which was held on the Warwick campus. West Midlands Together was founded as a cross-party campaign by Neena Gill and Anthea McIntyre, (both Members of the European Parliament for the West Midlands) to combat hatred and intolerance and promote social harmony in the wake of the EU referendum vote, in one of Britain's most vibrant and diverse regions.

The event was attended by a great range of people, including community leaders, local councillors, representatives from business, the Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands, and the District Crown Prosecutor.

I hope that our University, Warwick, is a place where we can debate, listen, find solutions together. Warwick is ranked the 17th most international university in the world by the Times Higher Education. This is a fantastic symbol of our success – that we are inclusive, open, supporting the best to be the best. It is a culture I’m proud of being part of, and inspired to engage in and to nurture this safe environment for study and research. But since the EU referendum last summer, we have seen an increase across our region in reported incidents of hate crime to a level we have not seen before. However people voted in the EU referendum, I am sure that not one of us voted for this worrying outbreak of hate being faced by members of communities on the basis of their race, culture, gender, sexual orientation or religious or social beliefs.

In one of the many, many articles written after the Westminster attack last week, a piece in the Daily Telegraph said we should deny the terrorists the disproportionate reaction they seek from us. Many interpreted this as a call to action from Government. But it is more than that. It is a call to action for each and every one of us. What can we do, as employers, public bodies, universities, community leaders, parents, individuals, to actively seek to stop hatred and to promote unity? West Midlands Together is one such positive example of taking action. Each of us must add our own individual effort to always challenge each prejudiced comment and every action that seeks to offend and to strive to find ways that unite rather than divide.

The West Midlands Together event came at the end of what was a shocking week for all of us following the Westminster attack. Those who perversely took the EU referendum result as a signal to spew more words and actions of hate and intolerance may sadly take the imminent triggering of Article 50 as further encouragement. This is a key moment for us to work to renew our determination to demonstrate our unity and our sense of community.

Best wishes

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February 27, 2017

Why Warwick in California; an update from project donors UDF

I was pleased that Michael Faust from the project donors, University Development Foundation(UDF), could join us at the staff briefing on Warwick in California project in December last year and since then both the Warwick team and UDF continue to work closely together on the project.

I would like to share Kyriakos Tsakopoulos, President of UDF’s views on the project and working with our university.

Best wishes

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UDF is thrilled to partner with Warwick to establish the first private, world-leading research university to be founded in California since Stanford in 1885.

With Warwick, we have found the right match. Warwick became a world leading university from literally nothing but green fields and a bold vision, in 50 years. Born and raised on the British countryside, today Warwick has international impact through its students, faculty and academic partnerships around the world. Warwick is a top 6 university in the U.K. and home to a Fields Medalist in Mathematics. Its faculties deliver teaching and research of the highest quality in an environment where technology transfer and industry collaboration ensure that ideas born at Warwick do not live solely in the classroom but thrive in the world and have practical and positive impact on the quality of human life and the natural environment.

In turn, California is the largest state economy in the US. It is a laboratory and a leader in path-breaking policies in clean energy, communication and culture. As California is the wealthiest consumer market in America, Sacramento, the state capital, is itself currently experiencing a $3.9 Billion urban core development renaissance.

Californians are largely characterized by creative energy and a pioneering spirit of innovation, and welcome people from all over the world who seek to contribute to our marketplace of ideas. We are keenly aware that in the US, 26% of Nobel Prize winners are immigrants and 70% of the most successful startups valued at $1 billion or more relied on immigrants as key players. Many of the best and brightest students in the world seek their higher education in California, and this makes it fertile ground for the University of Warwick.

And we are hard at the plow. Just last week, Sir George Cox and US Project Director Bob Hogg joined us in California to provide updates to local business and government leaders, potential philanthropic and volunteer supporters, as well as to individuals and families who were among the original land donors to this venture. This week I am excited to be back on campus hosting some of those very same people who have traveled here to experience first-hand the quality and spirit of the University of Warwick.

On a personal level, all involved on our end have found the people of Warwick – students, alums, faculty, administrators, members of Council – to be nothing short of wonderful. Brilliance without arrogance. Honest and straight forward. Passionate yet prudent. Among all involved there is a palpable excitement, perhaps from the knowledge that we have both the rare privilege of imprinting something of ourselves on a new institution and the solemn responsibility to set the values, organization and structure that will determine whether or not it flourishes. No doubt our efforts have been facilitated by friendship, which will surely augment and enhance our mutual enjoyment of the challenging work ahead.”

Kyriakos Tsakopoulos UDFKyriakos Tsakopoulos,

President, University Development Foundation







More information about Warwick in California can be found on the project webpages.


February 08, 2017

2017: The Year the West Midlands comes home

Birmingham skyline

Since becoming Warwick’s Vice-Chancellor a year ago, it has been my ambition to re-establish this University’s commitment to our region. On 10 February I’m delighted to be speaking as part of a Coventry and Warwickshire Champions event in Birmingham to highlight just some of the strengths Coventry and Warwickshire bring to the broader West Midlands region.

Simon Swain, our Pro-Vice-Chancellor for External Engagement, reflects here on some of the ways in which we seek to contribute and add value, and sets out our aspiration to play our part in making the region even stronger in 2017.

Best wishes

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2017 promises to be a big year for Coventry, Warwickshire and the broader West Midlands region. We’re fewer than 100 days from the vote for the first directly-elected mayor for the West Midlands; legislation that will turn HS2 from drawings to train tracks is set to pass in the coming weeks; Coventry will make its bid to be 2021 City of Culture later this year, and we’ve just seen the City Council formally adopt a 10-year cultural strategy for the city, which was led by Jonothan Neelands from WBS.

At Warwick, we strongly believe universities have a huge role to play in the regions in which they are located. We are drivers of innovation, productivity and cultural development through knowledge exchange, skills development and academic research, as well as the huge input our students and staff make on so many levels. We are crucial to making our region a better place to work and live. So how can we most effectively contribute to Coventry, Warwickshire and the West Midlands in 2017?

From Warwick’s inception, we have sought ways to positively impact the region’s skills base, cultural engagement, manufacturing and business development. Here are just some examples.

Looking at skills and apprenticeships, following the successful development of the first WMG Academy for Young Engineers in Coventry, we have opened a second Academy in Solihull. This equips even more of the region’s young people with the technical skills needed for either employment or higher education. We have also introduced the WMG Applied Engineering Programme aimed at higher apprentices looking to study for a degree whilst working, and a longstanding partnership with National Grid provides training for young people in the region who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs) to help them into work.

2017 will see the opening of the National Automotive Innovation Centre on our campus, a £150m investment as part of the long-term collaboration between WMG, Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Motors European Technical Centre. It’s the largest private sector investment in any UK university to date, building Warwick’s reputation as a powerhouse of automotive innovation, and cementing the region’s reputation as a hub for manufacturing.

Our Science Park is a hive of activity for the region’s small and medium-sized employers (SMEs). We host 135 businesses, providing advice on finance and incubation, research and development and knowledge transfer. In partnership with Warwickshire County Council and the European Regional Development Fund, we recently started Business Ready - a new support programme designed to help companies achieve and exceed their growth potential, boosting the region’s economy through the creation of highly-skilled jobs. We want to expand this work in the coming year.

We are also developing an exciting vision for a new Innovation Campus at Wellesbourne. We’re inviting inspirational businesses to join us for truly collaborative working and the development, demonstration and testing of genuine innovation that accords with our mission to educate and foster new knowledge, working with regional agencies to create jobs in a sustainable manner.

Warwick Arts Centre, the largest outside London, provides events, performances, schools engagement and community-led productions. Over three quarters of the Arts Centre’s audience come from within a 45-minute catchment area. With nearly one million visitors a year, the venue plays a crucial role in attracting people to Coventry. At present we are preparing for a major investment to make it bigger and better!

With the help of Nigel Driffield, our newly appointed Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Regional Engagement, we’ll be doing as much as we can in 2017 to work with our regional agencies and organisations helping to bring new jobs and expertise into our neighbourhoods. We’ll be thinking hard too about how we can give our students more opportunities for placements in regional companies and organisations, and how we can extend our input into excellent local initiatives like FabLab Coventry.

We’re also hoping to do more with our partners in schools across the region, building on our terrific teacher training and our student volunteers, and we look forward to working more closely too with the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, developing our key shared research to the benefit of everyone who lives in this area. And soon we’ll be taking the West Midlands out of itself: to London to officially launch the City of Culture bid and to the global gathering of planners and developers in Cannes where we’ll stand alongside Coventry City Council in trying to bring investment to our campus and our locality and play our part in the region’s vision for success and wellbeing.

Looking to the ambitious plans for growth and development across Coventry, Warwickshire and the broader West Midlands region, we are absolutely committed to playing our part and I look forward to seeing more to come in 2017.

Simon Swain







Simon Swain, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for External Engagement




February 01, 2017

My first year as your Vice–Chancellor

Stuart_graduationIt has been a year since my first day as Vice-Chancellor at Warwick. Incredible really – just a year. I want to take the opportunity to write to the whole Warwick community to reflect on that year, and to thank you all for all the successes we’ve achieved together, the challenges we’ve faced, and the amount that you have contributed and shown me.

Warwick is a large and hugely successful organisation. We continue to produce excellent research, secure important research income, and work well on impacting that research on society. We have recruited excellent students, and continue to develop and improve our educational offering. Our underpinning strategies are strong – we are financially sound, and continue to develop good national and international partnerships.

Yet to me, it seems much longer than a year. Nationally we have had Brexit. A new Government, with a new industrial strategy, a new schools strategy, and a stronger regional agenda. We have TEF. And throughout the period, the Higher Education and Research Bill has rolled on, with Government seemingly unwilling to listen to anyone about anything to do with higher education at all. Worrying times, in many ways.

But we have also had some really big positives at Warwick over the year. Many of you in the staff and student body put some big issues onto the agenda when I took over. I want to share my top ten of what we’ve addressed together:

  1. For the first time, Warwick has committed to pay at the levels set by the Living Wage Foundation. This is a rate higher than the national minimum wage. It does make things more expensive to run – for example, our cafes and restaurants. But it is an important commitment as a good employer and I’m proud we’re doing this.
  2. Each of the last few years has seen us struggle to provide accommodation for all our new students – usually those who have applied very late, for one reason or another. This is not the start of the Warwick experience we want these students to have, so I am pleased that we are increasing our accommodation offer close to 1,000 rooms on campus and in Coventry from 2017/18.
  3. The Students’ Union raised the ambition of opening the Library 24 hours a day in term-time. This is now agreed and the Library is now 24/7, enhancing the learning experience we offer to our students.
  4. As a tenet of the Government’s Higher Education reforms, the cap on home/EU tuition fees will now increase in line with inflation. We’ve seen many universities elect to impose that increase on their existing students as well as new. Warwick has not; our current students will not see any increase in the regulated fee.
  5. We were the first University to publicly condemn the outdated Zellick guidelines on processes for dealing with sexual violence. SU colleagues and I are now working with the Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre to seek to bring their services to campus to strengthen the support we can provide for victims of sexual violence in our community.
  6. Following changes to the electoral register, there is grave concern that a large number of students might be disenfranchised across England and Wales. With the SU and our regional Councils and the Electoral Commission, we are now working to ensure our student systems capture the data to ensure our eligible students are correctly registered and able to vote.
  7. The Disabled Students’ Allowance plays an important part in enabling access to higher education. But we have seen reduced state funding, leaving some students at a disadvantage. At Warwick, we have committed to helping those most affected and often not able to use our standard accommodation, by providing subsidised en suite and on-campus accommodation. In this way, we can limit the impact of barriers to disabled students in being part of our campus community.
  8. Following consultations with our community, all new buildings will now include gender neutral toilets, with all current single occupancy toilets to be adapted to become gender neutral across 2017, as we aim to provide gender neutral toilets throughout the campus. We are also currently running a consultation on converting two of the facilities in the main library into gender neutral toilets. I am delighted to say that, in addition, this has received very positive media coverage.
  9. Our Wellbeing Support Services team has expanded, with a number of new staff. We are also increasing our spend on mental health support by over £500,000 over the next three years, recognising the imperative of supporting this critical aspect of the student experience. In particular we have recognised the role of mental health support with the creation of a number of dedicated mental health specialists.
  10. Oculus buildingFinally, I am delighted with the opening of the Oculus, our dedicated learning and teaching building. There are also a number of really important developments coming to life on campus: a new sports hub, the extraordinary National Automotive Innovation Centre; the Wolfson-funded mathematical sciences building;a new biomedical research building; and an enormous redevelopment of the Arts Centre – all enhancing our campus for students, staff and visitors.

City of Culture - backing the bidLooking beyond the campus, we have recommitted to our region, and are playing a hugely important role in the work to secure the title of City of Culture for Coventry.

Our California campus plans move forward: we secured our first building, and progressed a significant amount of the complex legal and financial regulatory work to be able to create a new university in California. We became a founding member of the Guild of European Research Intensive Universities, and we renewed our partnership with Monash University in Australia for a further five years.

And our league table positions continued to prove the quality of Warwick externally. Let me highlight one that you might not expect: we rose to 34th place in this year’s People and Planet Green League. This reflected the enormous amount of work from colleagues in the Estates Office, and elsewhere across campus.

Last but most important of all, there’s more to say about our people: we now have the first woman Provost in this University, the first woman Registrar here, and the first woman Chancellor. We also, for the first time, have a woman in the role of Pro-Vice-Chancellor for research. These changes are an important rebalancing of our executive team hopefully helping in just one way to signal our commitment to equality at all levels of the University. All universities need to do more in terms of equality and diversity; and that includes Warwick. One of the most important aspects of this I would like to talk about with more people is how we become still more welcoming to students and staff from UK BME communities.

Looking at Warwick’s broader community, my executive team and I have tried to put in place channels that enable us to engage with you, to be open, to hear your views and share our thoughts. I’ve established this blog, and regular all-staff meetings and student debates. I’ve tried my very hardest to get out across campus, to meet staff and students and spend time speaking and listening to you.

If you have read this far, let me reiterate my thanks for your contributions, support and engagement this year. I’m proud of what we have achieved this year; I hope you can be too. There is a huge amount more to do; I’m not complacent. Strategically, we’re committed to action in the core pillars of our University strategy: for example, a new research strategy, a new education strategy, a regional engagement strategy, a new masterplan for the campus. In year two, you will see more outcomes in across a whole range of challenges. Amongst all the challenges, there are opportunities too, and I look forward to focusing on them with you. I hope that you feel that this has been a year in which the University as a whole has moved forward.


Best wishes


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January 30, 2017

Submission to TEF

I wanted to share a copy of the letter I’ve sent to the Times Higher about Warwick’s submission to the Teaching Excellence Framework to clarify our institutional position and concerns:

On 26th January, Warwick, like other English universities, put in its Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) submission. It was with mixed feeling. Mixed because, although we agree with the fundamental proposition that universities should provide high quality teaching, we don’t believe that TEF will measure that. We feel we have been backed into a corner.

This is very frustrating as we have good reason to be proud of our teaching. We attract very bright students: our teaching helps them to transform their thinking through in-depth engagement and challenge within their discipline, as well as offering opportunities to learn beyond boundaries. We put our money where our mouth is: we have just opened the Oculus, a new learning and teaching building at £18.5million, complementing our innovative Teaching and Learning Grids (£2.87m); invested £3.19m in our Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning to develop and embed innovative pedagogies and invested over £5m to run Warwick International Higher Education Academy to support our teachers. It is hardly surprising that we attract many international as well as domestic students, nor that our students are the most sought after by employers, and that our alumni exceed the average sustained employment outcomes five years after graduating.

But very little of this will be captured. This is because the metrics are flawed. This is not renegade opinion but the overwhelming view of those actually involved in Higher Education. It is why many of our staff and students at Warwick campaigned for us to stay out of TEF, setting out justified fears about the continued marketization of our sector. Yet the Government has us over a barrel. It has linked TEF to fees and potentially our ability to recruit international students. The risks are too high. We submitted in both senses of the word.

And it is not only the TEF which is of concern: some of the measures in the Higher Education and Research Bill threaten the very nature of the autonomy in Universities which has made UK education the global success it is. The proposed measures treat education as if it is a commodity, just like any other.

This is frustrating and it is puzzling. My message to the Government is this:

our sector, while not perfect, is the envy of the world...let's make sure it stays that way."

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Article originally published in the Times Higher Education.


January 24, 2017

A chance to celebrate

Last week we held the winter graduation ceremonies, an event I look forward to and thoroughly enjoy, the chance to see so many of our students reaching the end of this particular journey, congratulating one another, supported by friends and family and ready to start the next part of their lives is always a pleasure, I know how hard each and every one has studied to get this far.

We also, of course acknowledge the number of staff who have supported our students through their time at Warwick of course and those who make the ceremonies run so smoothly takes a great deal of hard work and commitment. Thanks to you all. And for the graduates who have now left Warwick, you are still part of the Warwick community and we hope you will keep in touch with us.

Another important aspect of the ceremonies, is the opportunity to celebrate and recognise individuals through awarding honorary degrees. Chief of Staff, Sharon Tuersley hosted those honorary graduates and has written about her experience:

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Graduation ceremonies really are the highlight of the academic calendar. It’s great to see the graduates and their families celebrating their hard work and their many achievements over the time they have spent at University but what does it mean for our Honorary Graduates?

This year I had the very real privilege of hosting the University of Warwick’s Honorary Graduates and their guests during the ceremonies and I can honestly say they were just as excited and proud to be receiving their awards as the students that were graduating that day.

Anne Wood with Helen Wheatley

As the week progressed I realised how important these people are to a wide range of activities at Warwick. Jill Lepore, the bad-ass historian, whose work was being taught to our current students the very same week she received her Honorary Degree, Stella Rimington who gave a ‘standing-room only’ lecture to students from PAIS the evening before her ceremony, Anne Wood who works very closely with academic colleagues in the Film and TV department (pictured Anne Wood with Dr Helen Wheatley), including the acclaimed Children’s TV exhibition, an eminent mathematician, Professor Dusa McDuff who broke the glass ceiling for women in this discipline and Mechai Viravaidya , or ‘Mr Condom’ as he’s known, who has transformed the lives of children in Thailand with his foundation. These people lead their fields and have achieved many things for many different communities and now they are forever connected to our community at Warwick.

Honorary Graduates are more than just a celebratory part of our degree ceremonies, they are cherished relationships, some well-established, some very new, but they should be nurtured. So next time you see a call for nominating Honorary Graduates, think of how they can be connected to the University community so we can encourage these relationships to flourish."


Sharon Tuersley , Chief of Staff







January 04, 2017

Relationships matter

As we enter 2017, still seeking to understand what the UK’s relationship with the EU will look like post-Brexit, I can’t help but reflect – like many of my higher education sector colleagues – on relationships more generally.

Relationships matter, and I can’t help but worry how the government’s continuing failure to reassure people like EU migrants, for example, that we remain committed to them as they already support the UK so effectively, will have a long-term negative impact on our relationships with these individuals, as well as with the countries they’ve come from, whatever legislative framework for the UK’s future engagement with the EU eventually emerges.

Arguably, in the higher education sector at least, we start the new year with a raft of national policy challenges of a scale, complexity and level of uncertainty I don’t believe we have seen for decades: the Higher Education and Research Bill, the Teaching Excellence Framework, regional devolution, the development of a national Industrial Strategy and the government’s schools, immigration and widening participation agendas...

So it may be understandable for some to simply forget the importance of relationships – be they with other universities, with other sectors, with Government and policy makers, with other countries, with our communities, whilst we focus our attentions this year on survival, or at least navigating this challenging period.

This would be a huge mistake. Relationships matter now more than ever. They matter because, if we do not nurture these relationships, we will not retain the expertise and global connectivity we have. We will not be able to attract a global and inclusive community of the best students and staff from all walks of life to drive genuine innovation in education and research. We will not be able to collectively provide solutions to global challenges.

I remember a particularly compelling argument on why universities, government and industry must work together – across sectors and across nations – if we are to make a true difference to society.

Gordon Waddington, the Chief Executive Officer of the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA), made the case for a collaborative effort to solve the global energy crisis in a speech at the European Energy Research Alliance conference. ERA is a key programme within the Midlands Innovation university partnership, of which our University is a part. It’s a cross-disciplinary hub which brings together our capital assets, data and intellectual leadership to foster collaboration between academia and business to develop new products and services, and highly skilled people and jobs, to ultimately transform the UK’s energy sector. I’m sharing Gordon’s comments here.

The reason the seven founding partners in the Energy Research Accelerator came together is exactly the same as the reason over 170 institutions are represented within the European Energy Research Alliance. We know that there is a massive problem in delivering the scale of transformation to the global energy system that is essential to reduce, stop and then reverse the global rise of CO2 from the current dangerously high levels. 2016 is well on course to be the hottest year ever. We are all aware of the extraordinary difficulty in delivering the climate change obligations of Paris.

We need to deliver solutions quickly, and the way we do this has to be acceptable to people, communities and nations all over our interconnected planet. The challenges of reducing our carbon footprint will not be met with one technology alone, or by one company or by one nation. Energy efficiency; energy storage; carbon capture and storage; renewable energy; nuclear energy; smart and integrated systems and many others all have their part to play in reducing our carbon footprint. So do economics and human factors. We know we must not focus solely on the clever and complex engineering challenges that inspire us; we must also focus on affordability and ease of use.

Technologies that are just too expensive or too difficult to use will always struggle to gain mass appeal. They will only ever play a specialist role in the market. Mass adoption needs mass appeal, and without mass adoption many of the best technological ideas will not make any significant difference to the global carbon agenda. This means we have to put as much effort into demonstration, cost reduction, incentivizing the market to take our ideas up as we do into making further improvements to the technologies themselves.

Researchers, industrialists, policy-makers: none of these groups can achieve this in isolation. Our chances of success in meeting the climate change obligations of Paris are far greater when we work together; we are so much more than the sum of our parts when we have a common cause.

Making us behave in the right way has many factors. Just one of them is the need for us all to see that relationships directly impact our capacity to meet a challenge effectively. The scale of the energy challenges we face as a planet go well beyond the Midlands or the confines of one sector, one country or one region of the world. I am a committed European because, simply, there is no choice but to work with each other for the common good.”

Gordon received a spontaneous outburst of applause when he told his audience that he was a committed European.

As challenging as the continuing uncertainty of Brexit and other policy changes undoubtedly feel to many of us in higher education as we kick off 2017, collaborative initiatives like ERA, designed for the purpose of addressing the global energy challenge - are an excellent and active demonstration of how our determination to work together will actually help us respond in the most creative and effective way, and will enable us – collectively - to find solutions which will genuinely improve our global future.

With best wishes for 2017

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December 16, 2016

Update regarding the recent occupation

We have reached agreement to bring a peaceful conclusion to the student occupation that has been taking place at the University of Warwick since 2 December 2016. Here is my letter to the protesters following engagement between the University, the Students’ Union and the protestors to reach this conclusion.

I am writing to confirm Warwick’s position on the issues on which you sought to mount a protest through your occupation of the Slate since 2 December 2016. I hope to continue to engage with you through the Students’ Union in order to further progress resolution to the issues we have discussed with you. As we reach a point in our engagement at which you agree to bring a peaceful conclusion to your occupation, I am happy to publish this letter online as a statement of our agreed intentions.

Teaching Excellence Framework and Higher Education and Research Bill

You have emphasised your opposition to the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). This is in line with the campaign in 2015/16 led by Warwick Students’ Union sabbatical officers and the University Assembly motion opposing HE reform.

I recognise that your opposition to the TEF does not arise from disagreement with the fundamental proposition that universities should provide high quality teaching. Indeed, we all agree with that principle. It is because the proposed metrics will not measure that. TEF will not do what it says on the tin; it will not measure teaching excellence. However, the University of Warwick, along with most other UK higher education institutions, will submit to TEF. This is because of the government’s proposal that the TEF might be used to decide which universities would be able to recruit international students. Failure to make a submission to the TEF represents an existential threat to the diverse and global contribution that our international students make to the very essence of our university. At Warwick, we do not believe that the two should be linked.

But TEF is not the only problem facing higher education. The Higher Education and Research Bill signals a far more significant threat. Key challenges within the Bill include who will be granted degree awarding powers and on what basis, and very real questions about the autonomy of universities.

This Bill has just started its progress through the House of Lords. In the initial debate, over 60 Lords argued against elements of the Bill. There is, I hope, the very real prospect of significant changes. I am currently meeting with key influencers and decision-makers to seek to secure some of those changes, as are many others. I am willing to publish a press release setting out my concerns on HE reform and increasing marketization, which will also reflect the concerns articulated by a wide range of staff and students to make public these views. Between now and January, as the Bill goes through its parliamentary stages, is a critical time for us all to focus on the Bill itself.

Hourly-paid staff

I recognise the genuine concern expressed regarding status of our hourly-paid teaching staff. We have been working to standardise the terms and conditions of hourly-paid teachers to ensure that they are treated consistently and fairly across departments. Our sessional teaching project has involved input from hourly-paid staff and from the Students’ Union Postgraduate Sabbatical Officer. We are also exploring models that have been adopted elsewhere for possible adoption at Warwick. We recognise there is more to do.

In order to ensure that the concerns of our hourly-paid teaching staff are most effectively heard I am happy to commit to organising a meeting with the Trades Unions during January to discuss formal TU recognition agreements for these staff. I hope that this will provide a formal mechanism to consider the specific issues that have been highlighted in relation to casualisation. I have also agreed to meet with members of Warwick Anti-Casualisation (WAC) in January to begin a process of dialogue on their concerns, which will involve the Students’ Union as well as the University and College Union (UCU) once the recognition agreement is in place.

December 2014

In December 2014, we saw incidents on campus, most notably those at Senate House on 3 December, where there were accusations, and evidence, of intimidation and violence inflicted on members of our community. There were subsequent court cases, and an examination by the Independent Police Complaints Commission which is still not fully resolved. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on those processes, but what I do want to comment on is the reaction of the University at that time.

I know that the formal statement issued by the University on 4 December caused enormous upset across our community, because it placed blame on one side of the dispute. There was ample evidence on social media of significant distress and concern amongst our students and staff, which continues to contribute to further demonstrations on our campus.

These events, and the University's initial reaction to them, caused significant shock. I do know that. I was on University business in Singapore at the time and was profoundly dismayed by the messages and reports I saw. The distress suffered by our community had a very real impact on me.

Given all this, as Vice-Chancellor, reflecting on those dark days, I want to express two points. First, I very deeply regret the violence that we witnessed and the great upset amongst the students and staff involved, and the community beyond. I never want to be in a situation again in which CS spray or a tazer is deployed on our campus. Second, I regret that in the University's communications that immediately followed what took place, the principle of neutrality fundamental to our University community was evidently broken.

We are now committed to removing the injunction put in place after the events of December 2014. In closing this letter I do hear the call for increased urgency for the resolution of these matters. I am committed to continuing to pursue deeper engagement and ongoing dialogue between the University, Students' Union and the breadth of our student body. There are lessons to learn, and I hope that we are collectively starting to do that.

Yours sincerely

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Stuart Croft


November 08, 2016

Kindness as a Strength

Christine Ennew Provost

For much of my academic life, I have been based in a Business School, so I’m familiar with the many fads and fashions of popular management writing. Much of this is transient, some has a basis in systematic academic research but often the greatest impact seems to come from the careful presentation of anecdotal evidence. So it would be easy to dismiss some of the popular writing around more compassionate approaches to management, concepts of servant leadership and notions of kindness within organisations. But my own experience suggests that such a sweeping judgement would also be an unwise one.

Without under-estimating the importance of a work-life balance, we should recognise that most of us spend a large part of our life at work. Who we work for and what we do usually makes a significant contribution to our identity and our sense of self. And our experience in the workplace will have a real impact on our broader well-being. Leaders and managers play a key role in defining that workplace experience but we all contribute through our behaviours and our interactions. So, as we look forward to marking our “Respect at Warwick” day on 16th November, I wanted to reflect on the importance of kindness in organisations.

A typical definition of kindness (courtesy of the Oxford English Dictionary) is “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate”. Treating others with kindness and being treated with kindness during out working lives feels like a very reasonable expectation. And yet, all too often it doesn’t happen. Sometimes we just don’t think or reflect on how our behaviour impacts on others, sometimes we’re just too focused on ourselves and sometimes we worry that kindness in the workplace may not be a desirable quality – especially for a manager or a leader! That may reflect a significant mis-understanding. Kindness is not weakness; concern for the well-being of others is not weakness. Kind people can still be analytical and focused; kind people are perfectly capable of exercising tight control; kind people can still take difficult decisions. They simply do so in a way that respects individuals, is supportive, constructive and compassionate.

I’ve always been keen to avoid creating stereotypes around management and leadership - there is no single right type of leader of manager – we’re all different and we all have our unique qualities. But one thing I am convinced of is that for all of us there is a real benefit from exercising kindness in the workplace. Individually we’ll feel better, happier, engaged and more highly motivated. And when that happens, we’re likely to perform better – individually and collectively.

Listening to the radio is one of my great pleasures and early one morning a few years ago I woke to a programme which referenced a quote from Kurt Vonnegut. It’s a quote that has stuck with me. And it’s perfect as my closing thought for this blog:

"Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind."
(From God Bless You, Mr Rosewater)

Christine Ennew Provost sig





Christine Ennew, Provost


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