The past four months have flown by so quickly and it is hard to believe that we are almost at the end of term.
It has been a real pleasure to get to know the University of Bristol community, our city and our many friends and partners. I have been so impressed by the high calibre of our academic and professional services work. I have seen the depth of the shared commitment of staff, students and our city to solving long-term issues such as public health, environmental sustainability and social justice. I have participated in open conversations on difficult and complex issues ranging from contemporary racial inequalities to cost-of-living pressures.
I am committed to building on these foundations and it was great to launch the University’s new strategy, one that will take us to 2030. I was not here when the strategy was developed but it is a privilege to lead the delivery of its purpose-led, bold and uniquely Bristolian drive for excellence and inclusion over the next seven years.
The next phase is to move forward to meet our promises and put our strategy into practice. I have every confidence that we can do this, and more. Over the past months, I have visited schools, faculties and directorates and held two live-streamed conversations with staff. I have worked closely with our University of Bristol Students’ Union to hear their views on what we do well, and where we need to improve. I have met regularly with the Mayor of Bristol and the Metro Mayor of the West of England Combined Authority and caught up with what we do collaboratively through our SetSquared, GW4 and the Western Gateway Initiatives. Our University senior team have met with UWE and the University of Bath’s executives to explore areas where we can deepen our local partnerships. I have been out to see the National Composites Centre and Science Create where some of our most entrepreneurial work takes place and taken Research council, Research England and parliamentary visitors around the new Bristol Digital Futures Institute and our exciting emerging Temple Quarter site.
I have also been struck by the special place that the University of Bristol has in the life of the nation as well as globally. It was a privilege to represent the University at Her Royal Highness, the late Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral and to host the Mayor’s Annual State of the City Address and the High Sheriff’s conference on how to make the legal system more diverse. I have met numerous alumni in the UK and from across the world who want to help make the University as effective as possible. If we can deliver on our 2030 ambitions, we will be an exemplar of what it truly means to be a global-civic university.
Throughout these conversations, I have also been aware of the challenges that we face, both in dealing with our past and in formulating our future. We have an increasingly diverse student body but this isn’t reflected in our the make-up of our staff. We are seeing much higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression in both our student and staff bodies than ever before. Expectations about what we should provide are rising at the same time as our financial resources are being stretched to their limits. But I believe that Bristol will rise to these challenges today just as we have done in the past. I am very excited about what 2023 will bring and look forward to seeing you all again in the New Year.
I’ve recorded a short film for my University colleagues reflecting on my experiences this term and looking ahead to 2023 which you may like to watch.
Have a wonderful, restful break and a Happy New Year.