August 16, 2017

Beyond A levels

My thoughts over the next few days are with our prospective students who are – nervously - waiting for the A level results they hope for to be able to join the University community. It is very hard to be able to see beyond academic results at this point in time!

One of the many (many) things I hope you’ll learn when you do join us at Warwick, is that it isn’t all about your academic activities. Naturally, there are a host of excellent education opportunities, with close academic and personal support. Beyond that though, there are some fantastic opportunities for you to look beyond your studies and to really make the most of your time once you are here.

I’m fortunate in my role to see so many examples of what our students achieve outside their studies.

Just this year, we celebrated two students who founded an enterprise to trade agricultural commodities between developing regions across the world – making almost $2m in revenue, and helping ensure fair pricing. They created internship opportunities with Unicef in Morocco, as well as organising volunteering opportunities in Madagascar and in the local Coventry community.

Another group of students had a dream of starting up a youth football team for local children. They raised the money the team needed through charitable donations, and the club went on to become a Charter Standard FA Youth Development team. They were was promoted through two divisions, reached the cup final, and invited to an awards ceremony to celebrate the best teams around.

And another student dedicated over 300 hours of her time to volunteering, including for a club which be-friends residents in a local care home, and another where able and disabled children are encouraged to take part in activities which develop their confidence. She led our volunteering society to create a guide on using extra-curricular experience for your employability, collecting stories from alumni about how volunteering made a difference to their career development.

What binds these diverse activities is that the students did all of this outside their studies. So, if you’re waiting for your A level results, you’ll be nervous – of course. Remember that these are just a step into the next stage of your life. When you join us at Warwick, we will be there to do all we can to help you make the most of it.

Good luck!

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August 14, 2017

Did our undergraduate numbers change overnight?

Last Saturday I went to bed as Vice-Chancellor of one of the world’s top 100 universities, with UK full-time undergraduate numbers up 11% (to 9,720) and international undergraduates up 41% (to 2,570) since 2008. Our achievements in research and teaching attracted the very best students from the UK and beyond, but that appeared to change overnight. The Sunday Times now claimed “at Warwick the number of undergraduates doing a first degree fell by 28% while non-EU undergraduates rose by 15%” and “British A-level students” were being discriminated against as universities took “more lucrative overseas students instead often with poorer qualifications”.

Had the world changed radically while I slept? No, there was still no cap on undergraduate numbers therefore no need to choose between countries’ students, rather undermining the story’s whole premise. We still insist on the same high academic standards from every part of the globe. Had our UK full-time undergraduate numbers tumbled overnight from being up 11% to down 28%? No, they are still up 11%. The journalist had used the wrong statistics and had not checked with us.

Warwick continues to offer great degrees to the very best students, from wherever they hail. Our data science BSc might be of particular interest to that journalist.

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July 14, 2017

Race Equality Charter Mark submission

I am pleased today, 14 July 2017, to submit the University of Warwick’s application for a Race Equality Charter Mark award.

At Warwick, we are dedicated to ensuring we are an inclusive institution, with fair and equal representation, progression, and opportunity for all through the continuing advancement of equality throughout our practices, policies, culture and plans. We do this both to attract and retain the most talented staff and students in a globally-competitive market, and to ensure our community and visitors’ experience of Warwick is fair, positive and equal. We seek to do this in a number of ways; in moves towardsbetter conditions for staff, we have adopted the Living Wage foundation rate of pay and have a 'no zero-hours contracts' policy; we are partners in Coventry’s bid to become UK City of Culture and celebrate, nurture and enhance the cultural diversity of our region’s arts and cultural organisations, neighbourhood communities, schools and businesses; we retain silver status in the Athena Swan Charter, with commitment to the further work we must do in this area across our disciplines, we are developing a Social Inclusion strategy as a core element of our newly formed Strategy and Policy group, and the coming months will see us launch new education and research strategies placing diversity and inclusion at the heart of our core mission in teaching and the creation of knowledge.

Over the last eighteen months, the issue of race has been openly debated within our community. I have listened closely to the views of our staff and students about their experiences. We have learned of the very real concerns and experiences members of our community have about racism. It is very clear to me that there is much more work for us to do. Making our first RECM submission is an important indicator of how far we have got, and how far we still have to go in our commitment to promote inclusion and make the unequivocal statement that we have zero tolerance for racism here at Warwick.

The action plan we have produced for the RECM gives proper focus to issues of race within this context. We have had input from all parts of our community – through the academy, professional services and Students’ Union to identify and commit to improvements across our processes, structures and culture and I thank them for their continuing commitment and support on the work to date and future developments.

There are three specific aspects to this plan that I would like to highlight:

  • We will undertake continued research to evidence and inform our approach;
  • Equality, diversity and respect will be incorporated in the training and performance objectives of our executive team and heads of department to ensure we understand and apply inclusive leadership practices at the highest levels of the University’s management;
  • We will develop proposals for race equality practices and anti-racism training for all our teaching staff, drawing on the existing good practice in some departments, to ensure inclusive curriculum and teaching methods become standard across our taught programmes.  

I am committed to monitoring the progress of our action plan with the support of a Race Equality Working Group, and to sharing this progress with our governing body and the broader community to ensure the agenda remains at the forefront of our institutional values.

Warwick’s RECM submission is just one part of a very large endeavour. But it is a critically important commitment that I am personally, and on behalf of the University, very pleased to make. I am sharing this letter publicly with the Warwick community, as a reiteration of that commitment.

For more information please see our RECM pages or contact raceequality@warwick.ac.uk

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July 03, 2017

Business as usual

Last week saw the majority of Warwick’s undergraduate students leave campus for the summer vacation. And, although there may be a feeling that things are somewhat quieter, as we know, the reality is that it’s business as usual for the many staff and postgraduate students who remain on campus throughout the summer.

Campus montage

Provision continues for our postgraduate student community, many of whom are entering the final phases of dissertation-writing. We have students embarking on exciting and important pieces of work – for example, those on the Warwick in Africa programme. It’s a period of intense research activity too, with many working to complete the writing-up of projects, or first drafts of new initiatives. Colleagues are planning research funding applications, and impact activities as well.

There is also much to do through exam boards, event organisation, liaison with award nominees and more to ensure our summer degree congregations go to plan as we welcome back over 5,000 graduands, and their families and friends, to celebrate their achievements.

We have a packed programme of campus improvements to fit in – building new residences, refurbishing teaching and service buildings, and improving our social study spaces ready for the autumn. Our conference park and centres are at full capacity, hosting a range of international events that bring new potential partners to campus as well as much-needed income to enable us to re-invest in the University. Academic and administrative service teams are incredibly busy preparing for all the things our new (and returning) students need to be able to make the best possible start to their lives at Warwick in the new academic year.

For our final-year students who are about to graduate, and our future students who have just finished their pre-University exams, and prepare to start the next phase of their lives, time to rest, reflect and take stock is essential, and extremely well-deserved. But my thoughts are also with all my colleagues at Warwick, for whom the summer is very much business as usual.

Recognising the contributions of our staff is one of the many reasons why our University Awards are so important. Just reflecting on the coming weeks in particular though: it makes me proud to be part of an institution where our staff make such fantastic contributions to continue to ensure Warwick is world class – and, for you, it’s just business as usual to deliver it all. Thank you.

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June 19, 2017

Standing together

The UK is going through terrible times at the moment. This morning, we held a minute's silence for the horror of those lost in the Grenfell Tower fire.

Over the past few weeks, we have seen terrorist attacks in Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge, and now on worshippers at Finsbury Park Mosque. All these actions are repellent; they seek to divide us.

Many of these recent attacks sought to kill randomly. The attack at Finsbury Park sought to kill specifically - a deliberate attack on the Islamic community, in the Holy Month.

I want to register my solidarity with those affected in London and Manchester, and members of Muslim communities everywhere. For our own community here at Warwick: let's stand together.

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Warwick staff and students can access support and guidance from Wellbeing Support Services


June 12, 2017

Unconscious bias

We’re holding a day to Showcase Diversity at the University of Warwick on 14 June. I hope staff and students join us to play their part in celebrating and advancing our commitment to equality and diversity at Warwick.

Christine Ennew, Provost at Warwick, comments here on how our unconscious bias can impact inclusion, and how our understanding of ourselves and others can drive a willingness to discuss our diversity in a respectful way.

Last weekend, I found myself watching “The Imitation Game” – for a second time. If you haven’t seen the movie it’s a biopic of pioneering computer scientist, Alan Turing. It documents the work he did during the Second World War, breaking the Enigma code - an achievement which may have shortened the war by as much as two years. That in itself makes for a good story but it’s all framed by his sexuality and the way he was treated as a consequence – treatment that ultimately resulted in his suicide a decade later. Aside from the moral dimension of this tragedy, his early death was a massive loss for the UK in terms of the development of digital technologies.Similarly, when Dorothy Hodgkin was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964, the Daily Mail allegedly recognised her achievement with the headline "Oxford housewife wins Nobel prize".

The bias that Alan Turing and Dorothy Hodgkin experienced was very open and explicit bias; indeed it was embodied in the legal frameworks of the time. But we’ve moved a long way since those times. We are getting so much better at recognising and celebrating diversity. We know the moral arguments for equality and we know the economic case for diversity.

We continue to confront challenges in relation to bias; not the overt and explicit bias experienced by Dorothy Hodgkin or Alan Turing, but the unconscious bias that emerges in causal, daily actions and behaviour. It’s the bias associated with stereotyping, with rules of thumb and with all of the shortcuts that our brains make to help us cope with the intensity and complexity of our daily lives.

Along with some of my colleagues from the Warwick’s executive team, I recently joined a training session on “unconscious bias”. The session was designed not to eliminate biases, but to make us more aware of how our judgements of individuals and our behaviours may be influenced by our backgrounds, experiences and cultural environments. As well as raising awareness of our own individual and diverse biases, the training session also sought to help us to understand how our biases impact on others. Often those affected by unconscious bias are those who are in a minority and perhaps more likely to feel vulnerable because they are different. But all too often, we simply don’t know how others will react, how they will feel when they experience unconscious bias.

We are all likely to be affected by unconscious bias – because we may display it through our actions or because we experience it in our interactions with others. Because unconscious bias is an almost instinctive or automatic reaction, it can be difficult to eliminate. But we can mitigate its impact – through our awareness and understanding of ourselves, through our attempts to understand the experiences and feelings of others and through a willingness to discuss in a respectful way.

I hope colleagues and students at Warwick join us at our day to Showcase Diversity on 14 June.

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May 31, 2017

Campus Developments

I have just read our Students’ Union President-elect’s blog about how Hope and student representatives are working with University service departments to make improvements to study spaces on campus.

Everyone who has been to Warwick over our fifty-year history will be able to remember the construction, the roadworks, the refurbishments that signify improvements on campus. This year alone, we’ve completed the Oculus, our fabulous learning and teaching building, and the Slate, our conferences venue; we’re working on new student residences, a new sports hub, the extraordinary National Automotive Innovation Centre; the Wolfson-funded mathematical sciences building; a new biomedical research building; and we’re soon to start an enormous redevelopment of the Arts Centre, periphery car-parks and our new Arts Faculty building. I’m not sure there has ever been a time when we haven’t had a crane on campus somewhere.

It can be easy to forget about the impact of smaller, localised or ‘business as usual’ improvements when we see such major new buildings, spaces and infrastructure. But, actually, as Hope says in her message, we need to continue to listen to our students to ensure we’re continually enhancing the campus in all the ways that genuinely meet their needs. This is just as important.

As a world-leading University we seek to attract the best staff and students from around the world. And we need a superb, dynamic campus to do this: buildings that support excellent teaching and research; facilities and public spaces to make it a unique and welcoming destination, refurbishment to refresh older facilities, supporting changing expectations and requirements.

Constant change, improvement and renewal means occasional disruption for the community, no matter how much we seek to mitigate it. But, it makes for a world-class campus too.

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May 15, 2017

Make sure your voice is heard – register to vote by 22 May

Register to vote

SU Democracy and Development officerWith Becky Gittins, Warwick SU Democracy & Development Officer, I’m sharing a call to action to students, at my University, Warwick, and across the UK: register to vote by Monday 22 May to make your voice heard in the General Election.

Students occupy what can often be a precarious position in politics. Despite falling under the same generic label of 'student', this is an extremely diverse group made up of many demographics, nationalities, motivations and desires. Students do not always choose the same route to making their voices heard, nor do they always co-ordinate efforts. Being at University for a fixed period of time means they are also a transient population in the region or city where they’re studying. There are also many misconceptions around who is eligible to vote, and frequent misunderstandings around voter registration processes. There is a wealth of guidance online, but engaging in elections, and voting itself, is not an obvious, straightforward experience for many members of this community. When you consider that 75% of 18-24 year-olds voted to remain in the EU, there could well be feeling within this generation that voting also doesn’t actually get you what you want, or at least that voting doesn’t impact what happens in the end.

But. This generation can have impact. And that is turnout. Not only do students represent a significant proportion of local constituencies, but an increase of just 30% in the 18-24 vote could be enough to influence the entire General Election. If our 18-24 year olds use their vote, they become a priority for politicians and, indeed, a key interest group in national decision-making. This generation can play an active role in the decisions that they care about and that affect them.

At Warwick, the University and Students’ Union share a belief in the power of students to be active participants in our democracy, and key players in the decision-making processes of our communities, our region and our country. From the new academic year, we will enable our eligible students to register to vote as part of their University enrolment process. This will overcome the impact of changes to Individual Voter Registration made in 2014 which wiped thousands of students off the electoral register overnight. It will also make it easier, quicker, simpler to register to vote. We genuinely hope this step will help encourage our students to use their vote.

Until then, students need to register to vote the old-fashioned way. Please do. The decisions taken this June will have far-reaching implications. Our student community has the power and knowledge to influence decisions and should play its part in our future. The biggest threat to the strength of that generation is not realising the power it has in the first place.

For the upcoming General Election on 8 June, the deadline to register to vote is Monday 22 May. Please do.

Best wishes

Becky and Stuart

More information on how to register and eligibility can be found on MyWarwick


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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August 2017

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  • Yes, an excellent answer from our Vice–chancellor Professor Stuart Croft on this. It is infuriating … by Dr. Gerard Sharpling on this entry
  • From the Unversity of Warwick website: Total Number of Students 25,615 Undergraduate 14,967 Postgrad… by Dr Martin Spillane on this entry
  • Very well–said (written) Stuart. There is complete failure to distinguish between hearsay and fact i… by Pam Thomas on this entry
  • Thanks to both Mairi Ann and Gerard – appreciate you taking the time to comment and thanks for your … by Chris Ennew on this entry
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