I hope that you had a peaceful and enjoyable break. Christmas and New Year is a time of year I usually relish; I love the traditional food, the carol singing (a feeling never shared by those standing near to me…). And I enjoy the seasonal football rituals, topped off for me by a 5-0 win on New Year’s Day.
A New Year gives us time to reflect on the previous year. We have many successes to celebrate – including the enormous triumph of Coventry becoming the UK City of Culture 2021. So much effort has gone into this across the city and through both universities. The city of culture is about entertainment, culture, tourism; but it provides the platform for transforming educational, health, housing and employment prospects for the city and the region. That is a goal well worth working for over the next four years.
Also close to home, the Business Secretary announced just before Christmas that the new national centre on battery research will be in Coventry, with an initial investment of £80m. This represents the extraordinarily close working relationship between Coventry City Council, the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, and the University of Warwick -through the exceptional efforts of WMG. It gives us the opportunity to be truly world-leading in battery technology.
It has been a difficult 12 months too though, in many ways. On a personal level, my father has had a serious stroke, and that casts a long shadow. I think it has also been a difficult 12 months for the university sector. In so many conversations in London about critical policy decisions – Brexit, funding, TEF, the new Higher Education Act, USS pensions – all I seem to have heard is contempt for what goes on in universities. We have seen an extraordinary amount of negative press about the university sector – and about Vice-Chancellors in particular, driven in part by that institutional contempt. One mistake I made last year was spending too much time trying to engage with a government on issues where its mind was already set.
Looking ahead, we are working on our University strategy, and an essential part of this for me is a confident re-statement of our values. Everything we do is to support and advance excellent education and research. All colleagues at Warwick play their part in this, for which I’m extremely grateful. We also welcome two new colleagues shortly – Chris Twine will join as Academic Registrar and Richard Hutchins returns to Warwick as our new Strategy Director; both are very welcome.
We face challenges this year, of course, but we also have much to look forward to, and I wish you all good health in 2018.