Vice-Chancellor news

Vice-Chancellor’s May all-staff email

Dear colleague

The General Election result has given us a good deal more clarity than anybody expected. For one thing, we now know that there will be a referendum on continued membership of the European Union. Of course there will be different views within the academy, but I am certain that the interests of this university, and those of the sector as a whole, are best served by staying in. Universities UK will be stepping up its campaign on those lines and I want Cardiff to play its part. As a UK sector we will need to build an alliance with like-minded other organisations so it was heartening to see that at its recent conference the NUS voted in favour of supporting the Yes campaign.

The election of a Conservative government also means that we can expect a continued tightening of the policy on student visas, while the removal of student number controls in England will surely lead to heightened competition for home and EU students. The importance of maintaining and improving the student experience hardly needs to be stated, and it’s important that we invest in student facilities as planned. Finally on this topic there is to be another budget on 8 July and a comprehensive spending review in the autumn. The prospects for the public finances look rather bleak, so we will have to proceed with caution until we know more.

As you know, one of the main lines I have taken since arriving in Cardiff has been that we must act strategically and marshal the resources of the whole University to the maximum benefit of the institution as a whole. You may have heard that as a part of this process the School of Medicine has undertaken its own strategic review under the title Medic Forward, and we are currently in a period of consultation.

The aim is to ensure that the School can keep pace with the rapidly evolving needs both of the medical profession and of patients, and to place the School firmly among the top 10 Schools of Medicine in the UK. In tandem with the pioneering new undergraduate medical curriculum C21, the Medic Forward project will help us to achieve this aim. As part of a thoroughgoing review of current areas of strength, the School has determined that it needs to create cohesive teams with critical mass in order to be able to compete at the highest level in research terms. This does mean making the difficult choice to focus on particular areas of strength and significance. In particular, the focus needs to be on research where we do have sufficient expertise and capacity to address the grand challenges of today so that we can have a clear impact on public health. Part of the aim of the project is to improve the recruitment and retention of doctors to Wales; focussing on areas where we can make a real difference will support that aim. If you want to know more or express a view you can email MedicForward@cardiff.ac.uk.

I’m delighted to say that we have just been able to make our second Sêr Cymru appointment. This prestigious programme, generously supported by the Welsh government, is designed to attract research stars to Wales. Professor Diana Huffaker joins us from the University of California at Los Angeles, and her expertise in advanced engineering and materials will provide a real boost for our research in compound semiconductors. Diana’s appointment is a great step forward in our partnership with industry; in this case with semiconductor company IQE. The partnership aims to bridge the gap between fundamental scientific research and real-world commercial applications and is just the sort of thing that we want to build on through the Cardiff Innovation System.

In other news, we have now completed the staff survey in which many of you took part; the results are being analysed and we will publicise them via Blas in the near future. Finally, I made a mistake in my last email when I placed Professor Kevin Morgan in the School of Social Sciences rather than the School of Planning and Geography where he actually is. Apologies to Kevin for the error.

With best wishes

Colin Riordan

Vice-Chancellor