I was delighted to receive the news this month that we have been awarded a £13m grant to create a Dementia Research Centre, one of six in the UK. The Centre, which has the capacity to generate a further £17m in research funding for Cardiff over the next five years, will be part of the £250m UK Dementia Research Institute headed by Professor Bart De Strooper, who is based at the Institute’s hub at UCL in London. Thanks and congratulations are due to Professor Kim Graham, who invested much time and effort into developing the bid, and to Professor Julie Williams, who will be the Director of the Cardiff Centre and will be returning to the University full-time to undertake this role, having completed her term as Chief Scientific Adviser to the Welsh Government.
It would be odd not to mention the forthcoming General Election, but in truth there is not very much I can add to what you will already know from the media. We are becoming rather used to all the pieces being thrown up in the air at regular intervals in recent years: perhaps at least this Election might provide a little more stability and certainty through to 2022, though the Brexit negotiations will, I fear, remain highly unpredictable and so as ever we will just have to wait and see. One consequence, apart from the likelihood of a rather changed political landscape, may well be a government reshuffle (assuming the present government is re-elected). I will of course return to this subject in my June email. In the meantime we should do whatever we can to encourage students to register to vote, and I would ask academic colleagues please to co-operate with any requests from the Students’ Union for help in getting this message across.
Earlier this month we received our annual letter from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), which, as expected, indicates a rather more constrained financial environment for Cardiff over the next year or so. We had anticipated this since the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams, had informed HEFCW of their funding allocation for the next financial year, which provided for a reduction of some £28m. We will find ways to manage in the knowledge that, as the Diamond Review reforms begin to take effect, revenues to the University will gradually become sustainable once more, and indeed by working closely with the Welsh Government I hope it will be possible to find as many ways as possible to ensure a smooth transition into the new funding and student support world from 2018/19.
You may know that we have appointed Mr Rob Williams as our new Chief Financial Officer, who takes over from Mr Mike Davies on 3 July. Rob is a highly respected figure in the sector, coming to us as he does from his deputy role at the University of Oxford. I’m very much looking forward to working with Rob as we face the challenges and opportunities over the next few years, and am very confident that we will come through the various uncertainties stronger than ever.
One other element in the Cabinet Secretary’s remit letter to HEFCW is worth mentioning: in it Kirsty Williams explicitly mentions her expectation that Welsh universities should become Living Wage employers. As you may know we have been paying the Living Wage since 2014 and have been an accredited Living Wage employer since September 2014. We have done this because we believe that it is important to ensure that those who need it most, and who work very hard on behalf of the University, receive fair compensation for their contribution and do not find themselves in a position where working for us, or for companies that contract with us, still leaves them unable to make ends meet. I would hope that this is or becomes a widely held view amongst employers in Wales, and indeed a report by our own Business School that was published earlier this month – The Living Wage – Employer Experience – finds that there are positive benefits for employers as well as for low-wage workers. The findings from the study show that the desire to act responsibly is one of the main motivations to become an accredited Living Wage employer, and I can certainly attest to this from my own experience.
With best wishes