I have now been at Bristol for just over two months. I remain constantly impressed with what I see every day but also very aware of many of the challenges we face collectively and individually going into the winter.
I’ve really enjoyed meeting so many of you, including hearing about our University Research Institutes and research groups, attending Faculty Assemblies, speaking to students, and attending a Global Lounge Diwali celebration hosted by the India Society (below). The staff long-service event was another real highlight, celebrating the contributions and service of over 25 and 40 years of more than 50 colleagues.
I know how committed Bristol staff are to our students and our community, and that the decision to take strike action is always a difficult one. UCU has announced three days of strike at the end of November. This is a national pay dispute and we will do our part to try to achieve an affordable outcome that works for our future and that of our sector.
Universities need friends more than ever, and I’ve also spent some of this time telling our Bristol story to partners and supporters. These include politicians such as Thangam Debbonnaire MP, in whose constituency we sit, and the Shadow Universities Minister, Matt Western MP. Matt is a Bristol graduate and enjoyed seeing our Temple Quarter site, visiting the Bristol Digital Futures Institute, and meeting our student officers. I introduced the Mayor’s Annual State of the City Address in Wills Hall, and I or one of our senior team now join his fortnightly City Partners call to co-ordinate our approach to Bristol’s urban challenges. One of the results has been our contribution to the city’s ‘welcoming spaces’ initiative where we are supporting young people in the Barton Hill area through after-school clubs on our micro-campus at the Wellspring Settlement led by IntoUniversity.
Partnership is key to our 2030 vision. I very much enjoyed meeting with the CEO of the SS Great Britain to look at how we can build on our long-standing collaboration and was very excited to meet ‘Brunel’ (right) when I spent an evening on the ship as part of our public engagement event, FUTURES 2022 – the largest showcase of research and innovation in the region. I sat down with the CEOs of the Bristol and Weston NHS Trust and the North Bristol Trust to discuss how much more we could do together to tackle health inequalities in the city. I’ve been out to the National Composites Centre and spoken about the entrepreneurship we see at Bristol and the contributions we make to our broader area at the Western Gateway Development Conference.
We will shortly be publicly launching our Strategy – your Strategy – to 2030. I’ll be back next month to ask for your views on how you want to contribute to achieving our ambitions. Meanwhile, I’ve done a short video from the robing room in the Wills Memorial Building as I get ready for my first week of graduations.