Looking back through these emails (as I often do when I sit down to write another) I notice that during the latter part of the last academic year I barely mentioned Brexit, and when I did do so, in May, it was in rather a hopeful tone concerning the potential not only for the UK to take part in Horizon Europe (the successor programme to Horizon 2020), but perhaps even to remain influential in its design. I’m afraid that the prospect of exercising meaningful influence now seems a distant hope, and indeed we have reason to be concerned even about the possibility of remaining part of Horizon 2020 once we have left the EU. You don’t need me to explain that whatever the desire for a negotiated exit — which certainly exists in influential quarters on both sides of the channel — the chances that we will leave the EU at the end of March 2019 in a relatively disorderly manner do now seem higher than they ever have. The White Paper submitted to Cabinet at Chequers last July has not received the kind of support that the Prime Minister would have hoped for, either at home or in Europe, and indeed the Salzburg summit ended in nothing short of diplomatic disaster for the UK. As is the case with so many political developments in recent years, this turn of events was not necessarily obvious last spring.
Over the past two and a bit years I have spent a considerable amount of time on a range of Brexit committees both here in Wales and in London helping to shape the debate on how to protect universities, research collaboration, and the interests of our staff and students as far as possible through the process. More specifically, recently I chaired a group carrying out detailed work on possible scenarios in relation to student mobility and exchange (Erasmus+).
It is now apparent, however, that we must plan in detail for the possibility of an abrupt exit from the EU next year which could prove disruptive not only to students and staff, but to the general business of the University. To that end I have asked Ms Jayne Sadgrove, our Chief Operating Officer, to chair a group that will plan for as many eventualities as we are able to predict, so that we can be prepared to take mitigating actions should that prove necessary. If, as we must continue to hope, an agreement is successfully negotiated and ratified both by our Parliament and the EU27, this preparatory work will doubtless stand us in good stead as we approach the end of the transition period that would then come into force.
Alongside this work we will also be accelerating the process that we have dubbed Transforming Professional Services. The objective is to look for opportunities to improve transactional processes in ways that will free up colleagues to deal with some of the difficult issues that may be facing us rather than dealing with more routine matters that could be streamlined and/or automated. During the course of this year we will also need to review our academic activity to ensure that in this time of unprecedented disruption and financial constraint we can achieve our strategic aims as set out in The Way Forward 2018-23. We must be able to assure Council that the size and shape of the University is fitted to our mission, and that we are able to operate successfully within the budgetary parameters that were agreed at its last meeting of the academic year in July. Along with our Chief Financial Officer, Mr Rob Williams, I set out some of these issues in my three all-staff addresses earlier this month, and in due course there will be opportunities for all colleagues to put forward ideas for how we might improve our efficiency and effectiveness as well as take advantage of new opportunities.
Talking of July, in my email that month I made a point of thanking everybody who has contributed to our successful Graduation week. Unfortunately it was not quite everybody; subsequently I learned that I had omitted the Residences staff and Conference Office staff that co-ordinated, provided and managed accommodation for guests attending graduation. This includes of course the domestic and maintenance staff, many of whom worked overtime in the evenings and at the weekend to ensure that accommodation was ready and serviced.
I am very happy to put the record straight on that matter. Many of those same staff will have contributed to the work undertaken by the Conferencing and Events team in hosting the prestigious Royal Geographical Society at its annual conference over the summer. We catered for 1700 delegates from 51 countries, which is the largest attendance at the conference outside London and possibly one of the largest conferences ever hosted by the University. The conference was a great success and a credit to us at Cardiff and shows to the wider world what we are capable of here.
In other news, huge congratulations are due to Professor Justin Lewis, Ms Sara Pepper and all members of the team from Cardiff University that led on a successful bid to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for an unprecedented multi-million pound research investment into the UK’s creative economy. Partnering with Cardiff Metropolitan, the University of South Wales and the Welsh government, our £10m collaboration Clwstr Creadigol focuses on screen industries. The Creative Industries Clusters Programme, which is part of the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, will allow us to use our research talent and expertise to catalyse innovation in industry and help foster creative clusters at nine locations throughout the UK including, of course, here in Cardiff. As I’m sure you’re aware, investments of these dimensions are rare in the Arts and Humanities, so we can be immensely proud of the achievements of our colleagues and I wish them every success.
Staying with the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, I was delighted to see that Emmajane Milton, who is a Reader and Co-director of the Masters in Educational Practice based in the School of Social Sciences, has secured a National Teaching Fellowship from The Higher Education Academy (now part of Advance HE). National Teaching Fellowships are prestigious and highly-valued awards that illustrate our commitment to this extremely important part of our mission, and a real accolade for the person concerned. Many congratulations to Emmajane.
We remain committed to taking part in the Stonewall Top 100 LGBT Employers process in which we did so well last year, becoming the highest-ranked university in 14th place. As part of this I should like to encourage you to take part in the feedback survey that is open to all staff and goes directly to Stonewall. It forms part of our profile for the Top 100, but more importantly gives us an indication of how our LGBT staff and allies feel about working at Cardiff University. To complete the survey you need to enter the unique code for Cardiff University which is 1106. Links to the survey (in English and Welsh) can be found here:
Finally, this month we say farewell to Post Graduate Medical and Dental Education (the Wales Deanery) and the Wales Centre for Pharmacy Professional Education, both of which will be leaving Cardiff University on 1st October 2018 to join Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW). Both have been with the University for many years and I should like to offer my thanks to the colleagues concerned for their longstanding loyalty, dedication and commitment and the very positive part that they have played in the life of the University and in our engagement with the NHS. Fortunately we will continue to work together closely into the future through HEIW, which will be a crucial stakeholder in our partnership with the NHS and the Welsh government.
With best wishes