Spring break 2024: message from our Vice-Chancellor and President

Dear colleagues,

As we approach the spring break, I wanted to thank you all for your extraordinary efforts this term. It’s been an incredibly busy time and we’ve achieved a great deal together.

I’ve recorded a short video message, in which I celebrate our many recent successes, including the award of nine Centres for Doctoral Training, progress on the Reparative Futures programme, our new logo, and the outstanding response from you all to the Our Voices Matter, the 2024 Staff Experience Survey, with over 4,000 responses.

Elsewhere, work continues on the University Structures 2030 programme; on our transition from six faculties to three, ensuring our Professional Services are the best they can be under the Professional Services Transformation Programme, and preparing colleagues for the new structure of the academic year.

Under the Structure of the Academic Year project (SAY), we are looking in detail at key areas including assessment, international students and the start of the 2024/25 academic year. I am very grateful to all colleagues who are carefully planning how we transition from the current structure to the new one which will mean compressed time in August for many teams.

As we look ahead to our final term, I’m looking forward to this year’s Bristol Teaching Awards and celebrating our shortlisted nominees and their incredible efforts. We also look forward to welcoming our new Pro Vice-Chancellor for Global Engagement, Professor Michele Acuto, in early June. Meanwhile, the search for our next Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation is well underway.

Finally, the next ‘In Conversation’ event will take place on Wednesday 8 May at Langford Campus, hosted by Professor Jeremy Tavaré, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean for the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences. I hope many of you can join us; more details to follow soon. And as always, if there is anything you would like to discuss with me personally, do please book a slot at my next surgery on Monday 22 April.

On a more sombre note, I am acutely aware that this is a very hard time for many, and I would like to express the importance of looking after one another. The continuing Israel-Gaza conflict is being felt across the world, and it’s important more than ever that we stand together as a community and uphold our shared values of mutual respect, care, compassion and inclusivity.

For now, the spring holiday is a perfect opportunity to take some time out, rest and reflect on the past few months. I particularly love this time of year, with our campus in bloom and the promise of warmer and lighter days in the air.

For colleagues observing the holy month of Ramadan, I wish you Ramadan Mubarak! And my best wishes for colleagues celebrating Easter this weekend and Passover next month.

Thank you again for your hard work, and a huge thank you to our brilliant colleagues who will be working over the closure days – the University could not function without you, and I hope you manage to take your own break very soon.

Best wishes


Professor Evelyn Welch

Vice-Chancellor and President

International Women’s Day 2024: inspiring inclusion for a better world

The year’s International Women’s Day theme is #inspireinclusion. I find this exciting and challenging because it is a reminder that, while we have done so much to increase women’s representation, it is not evenly distributed. I am acutely aware that women of colour, women with disabilities and trans women have had fewer opportunities to demonstrate their leadership skills than white women like myself.  

As a leader, I’m very conscious of my responsibility to inspire others as well as to acknowledge those who have inspired me. I want to ensure we nurture a culture where everyone feels they belong and can fulfil their potential. International Women’s Day provides an important opportunity for us all to consider these questions and reflect on the journey we have undertaken towards fostering a more inclusive and equal world.  

This day has always been an excellent way to recognise the significant achievements of women, but we must also use it to highlight continued inequities and barriers that prevent women from feeling seen, heard, valued, and empowered to fully participate. 

Let’s start with the positives.  

I’m proud to lead a university that was the first in England to admit women on the same basis as men. Our fifth Chancellor, Dorothy Hodgkin, was the first British woman to win the Nobel Prize. More recently, our former Chancellor, Baroness Hale, made history by becoming the first female President of the Supreme Court.   

I’m pleased the University continues to make progress in reducing our gender pay gap. We’ve seen a reduction in both median and mean gender pay gap metrics. The median gender pay gap of 10.6% in men’s favour is below national average and has reduced by 5.6% since our first report in 2017, while the mean gender pay gap in men’s favour of 14.4% is below sector average. This has reduced by 6.7% in the same period.   

Elsewhere, 34% of our professors are now women, compared to just 13% in 2013. The success rate for female applications in our latest round of promotions was 85% (compared to 72% for male applicants) and University Executive Board is currently evenly split, male and female.   

Our excellent staff networks, including the Women’s Staff Network, serve as catalysts for change, providing a platform to share experiences, amplify voices, raise awareness, provide mentoring and advocate for the rights and recognition of women. 

We offer a range of fantastic programmes to support women’s progression, such as the Female Leadership Initiative and the Bristol Women’s Mentoring scheme, and the University’s broader progress to advance gender equality was recognised last year with a highly commended institutional Athena Swan Silver award. This comes alongside the increasing number of faculties and schools achieving their own Athena Swan Awards. 

When we look at our efforts to enhance the diversity of our enterprise and entrepreneurship activities, I’m pleased that women made up 49% of our SETsquared Bristol companies’ founders or C-Suite execs last year – far higher than the UK average of 15%. As a research-intensive university, we can all take pride in the fact that our research is actively informing and shaping the outside world, providing an evidence base for public policy and practice. For example, the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, commonly known as ‘Clare’s law’, gives people the right to find out about an individual’s prior domestic violence offences and was a direct result of work done by Professor Marianne Hester and her team at the Centre for Gender and Violence Research. Likewise, we can celebrate academics like Professor Roberta Guerrina, whose work examines the politics of gender in the EU, and Dr Sumita Mukherjee’s exploration of the role of Indian women in the global suffrage movement.

But we still have a way to go…

While there are many positives to point to, and more to come, we also need to be clear about how much more work there is still to do, particularly to be truly inspired and inspiring in terms of our approach to inclusion. As we see greater gender parity, we need to ensure that we are similarly supportive of colleagues from global majority backgrounds. This is something I and my senior executive colleagues are determined to address here at Bristol.  

We are, for example, bringing onboard HR-Rewired, who specialise in supporting racial equity and are partnering with 100 Black Women Professors NOW – a pioneering systemic change programme aiming to increase the number of Black women in the academic pipeline. This is only the start of a very determined programme to ensure the success of all our staff of colour, male and female, at the University of Bristol.   

Every day belongs to women 

Finally, by coming together on International Women’s Day, we reaffirm our collective commitment to dismantling barriers to equality and inclusion, and creating an environment where every individual can thrive. But I am clear that every day, not just one day of the year, belongs to women around the world.