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Vice-Chancellor's start of term message

Robert Van de Noort

The message below was sent by Vice-Chancellor Robert Van de Noort to all colleagues at the University of Reading today

Dear colleagues,

As we start a new academic year, I hope you were able to take some time out to relax and unwind over the summer.

Last week, I was in China for the opening ceremony to welcome new students at the Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology (NUIST) - Reading Academy. The students gathered at the university stadium for the event seemed as excited about starting a new year term as the students on our UK campuses.  

New students enrolling at the Academy are now University of Reading students from their first day. They follow exactly the same programme and undertake the same assessments as their counterparts in the UK. This week marks an important milestone in this partnership as we welcome the first full cohort of environmental science students for the final year of their degree programme. Despite current questions around the future of the UK’s global engagement, the Academy is an excellent example of Reading’s strategic commitment to remaining an internationally connected institution.

New University Strategy

Over the summer, we have continued to develop the new University strategy, in particular thinking about activities to implement our strategic principles. The University Executive Board has reflected on the feedback from our whole community – students, colleagues and partners – and will now be seeking further input of Leadership Group colleagues, including the Heads of School and Functions, before presenting an update to the University Council in November. The upcoming strategic planning process will also be an important way for Schools and Functions to demonstrate how they will contribute to bringing the principles to life. The Council is looking to finalise the strategy, including how we will measure progress, by March 2020.

I am very grateful to everyone who has contributed to our open consultation last term and am keen to continue our conversations. My autumn information sessions are scheduled for:

  • Tuesday 22 October (10:00-11:00), National Grid, Greenlands, Henley
  • Tuesday 22 October (13:00-14:00), Madejski Lecture Theatre, Agriculture, Whiteknights
  • Thursday 24 October (13:00-14:00), LO22 (G01), London Road
  • Friday 25 October (13:00-14:00), G11, Henley Business School, Whiteknights

All colleagues are invited to attend, and you can book your place using this form

Conversations with colleagues

Starting this academic year, I will set aside time every month to meet colleagues on a one-to-one or small group basis. You will be able to book a 15-minute slot to discuss ideas or suggestions that are university-wide and which link to the four strategic principles of our new strategy – CommunityExcellenceSustainability and an Engaged University. More information on this and how to book a slot will be shared later in the term.

I will also be attending a selection of academic seminars and lectures that take place during the academic year.  Please let me know if you are running an event that you would like me to attend and I’ll do my best to join you.  I will continue to meet colleagues from across the University as part of fortnightly informal lunch meetings in my office, started last academic year. These sessions are an opportunity for me to listen to colleagues about their ideas, suggestions and concerns and I have received positive feedback from those who have attended.

Brexit

With the UK currently due to leave the European Union on 31 October 2019, there is continued uncertainty around what Brexit will mean for the higher education sector. A Brexit Working Group – led by Chief Financial Officer Sam Foley and including colleagues from different parts of the University – is coordinating our preparations for Brexit.

The UK government has already confirmed that current EU students (including new students enrolling in 2019/20) at English universities will continue to be eligible for Home tuition fee status and financial support as per the current rules. The UK government has established the underwrite guarantee to ensure that all current EU projects, including Horizon 2020, will continue to receive funding and that we can apply for the majority of current EU schemes in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

I am hoping that our colleagues from EU countries have already applied for the EU Settlement Scheme. If you are eligible and have not yet applied to the scheme, I encourage you to apply by 31 October 2019.

Library and Health & Life Sciences

Improving and enhancing the experience of our students is a major priority for the University. The Library refurbishment project is almost complete, with the finishing touches under way, and I hope you will love this new space as much as I do. The Library offers a comfortable and sustainable environment to study with a fantastic café, improved accessibility and better heating and ventilation. The refurbished Library will use 40% less energy and will have 30% less carbon emissions.

Next year, we will unveil our new Health & Life Sciences building. Colleagues passing by the site will have noticed changes to the exterior, but the main work is going on inside where the building is really taking shape. All floors now have their interior walls installed, creating rooms and layout of the building. The interior fit out is well underway  and the controlled environment rooms are being finished. When completed, the Health & Life Sciences building will bring together colleagues who work in different buildings for the School of Biological Sciences into a modern, sustainable and collaborative facility, and will contribute to reducing overall estates costs.

I will continue to keep you updated on the key developments at the University, and look forward to seeing you at the information sessions next month.

Kind regards,

Robert

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