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Loughborough University

Vice Chancellor's Speech

 

Friday 20 July at 10.30am

Chancellor, Pro-Chancellors, Loughborough Students, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure to welcome you all to this degree ceremony. I would also like to extend a warm welcome to those of you who are joining us via our webcast both here in the UK and overseas. Wherever you are watching from, London, China or Australia, we hope that you will feel fully a part of the ceremony.

I am also pleased to welcome our Honorary Graduates today:

The Right Honourable Tony Benn, Former Labour MP and Cabinet Minister (DTech)

and

Professor Dr Tao Zhan, President of Shandong University in China, (DSc)

We are pleased to be honouring your work and proud that you are joining our network of Honorary Graduates right across the world..

Celebrating Success

This is a very significant day for our students. We are immensely proud of their achievements and our prime purpose today is to celebrate the award of degrees to students from the departments of

Chemistry,
Information Science,
Human Sciences, and from the
Ergonomics and Safety Research Institute and from the
School of Mathematics

For the students, this graduation ceremony is the culmination of many years of hard work and represents a very significant moment. You did well to get to Loughborough, you have done very well while you have been here and we hope you enjoy the ceremony and all the associated celebrations. You really deserve it.

Today is also an opportunity to celebrate some of the University’s successes.
Loughborough University is going from strength to strength. We are now regularly ranked in the UK top 10. The 2007 Times Good University Guide places us 6th of all universities in the UK, the highest ranked university outside Oxbridge and London. This is a tremendous achievement and is a very welcome external validation of our quality. Our students are amongst our greatest advocates, and our finalists (who contribute each year to the National Student Survey) place us right at the top for student satisfaction. We were delighted last November to win the Times Higher award for “Best Student Experience” – anywhere in the UK - an award voted for by the students themselves. It is a bit like winning the higher education BAFTA and we are very pleased that our students express such positive feelings about their experiences here.

The University’s research activities continue to develop and expand. We are proud to be recognised as an outstanding centre for ‘research that matters’. The quality and value of our work is underlined by an outstanding record in attracting more than 30 million pounds in external funding over the last year across all faculties and departments. Right now we preparing for the forthcoming Research Assessment Exercise, in which the quality of all university research in UK is measured. We are very proud that 5 of our Professors have been asked to lead the assessment panels in their subjects. This is a level of representation in the process similar to Oxford – who have 5 and Cambridge who have 6.

The departments graduating today are a key part of our successes in Teaching and Research.

Human Sciences are playing a key role in a new £2M collaborative research programme aiming to improve the quality of sleep for older people.

Information Science has enjoyed a double success – being rated top in “Library and Information Management” in both the Times league table and in the National Student Survey.

ESRI, the Ergonomics and Safety Research Institute, continues its leading work. They have a Vehicle Safety Research Centre which makes a real difference to our nation’s driving safety. They have just secured a new £1.7M contract from the Department of Transport and Highways Agency to continue its vital work with Nottinghamshire Police in undertaking the forensic examination of all road accidents in the East Midlands and Nottinghamshire. In addition one of their senior members of staff, Professor Alistair Gale, has become the first psychologist to be elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Radiologists – this is a very significant distinction and is awarded in recognition of his 20 years’ work improving the effectiveness of the UK’s cancer screening services.

As a University, we have a particular commitment to the so called STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). These are subjects which have not been popular with school children and yet ones in which the future successful economy of the UK is dependent. We have continued to invest in those areas and are proud that we provide one of the most successful Sciences and Mathematics Departments for our students. Both Chemistry and Mathematics here today are part of that Science success.

Chemistry continues its outstanding success in the National Student Survey. In the category of Physical Sciences, it is not just first overall (for the second year running) but once again was rated top in each of the seven areas of assessment. That excellent student experience will be available to more students following the introduction of a new joint honours degree programme in Chemistry and Information Technology.

The School of Mathematics continues to grow in both staff and student numbers. A highlight of the year was the launch of the University-wide provision of Mathematics and Statistics Support when we welcomed Johnny Ball as the guest speaker. This initiative, know as SIGMA, is vital to the progression of students right across the campus.

Many other University-wide successes and developments give us great satisfaction. For example, our Careers Service continues to support the outstanding employability of our graduates. In recognition of the fact that our students join a global/international workforce, they have extended their links with employers in the global workplace through events in Singapore and China. The latest employability statistics show us in the top range of universities for graduate employment. An impressive 71.5% of our students get graduate level jobs following graduation.

Successes like these reflect consistently high quality performance by staff right across the University. It is not just the more visible teaching or research staff that influence our successes. It is also the support and administrative staff who make the difference and I am sure you will have noticed the passion and commitment to excellence that is prevalent right across the University.

This is nowhere more apparent than in the preparation and delivery of our degree ceremonies. Virtually everyone in the university has some role to play in these ceremonies and an enormous amount of work goes on behind the scenes to enable these days to be so enjoyable and run so smoothly. I would like to thank everyone involved for all they do – to make these such enjoyable and memorable occasions for us all.

Students Union

I want to turn now to the Students Union. Loughborough Students Union is a crucial part of the life of the University. The executive of the Students Union play a very responsible and central role in the success of the Union and I would like particularly to thank the President Gemma Godfrey for the tremendous job she has done this year. There have been some very significant challenges this year to which she has responded superbly, and I am personally very grateful to her. The partnership here at Loughborough between the Students Union and the University is very special and built on a mutual trust and respect and enables us to work together in a highly effective way.

It is clear that the students succeed at whatever they put their mind to.
Loughborough Students RAG has yet again beaten the previous years record. We thought last year’s total of £626,000 was unbeatable but the RAG team have achieved the outstanding figure of £693,398. Next years Rag have already started their efforts to beat this figure and you will see them after the ceremony persuading us to donate to the local and national charities that they support – so please give them a hand as they attempt to match this amazing success.

Another Annual Challenge relates to sport. We are the UK’s premier University for sport. Our students are a huge part of that. It almost goes without saying that we have, again, won the overall BUSA British Universities Championships. Loughborough women have won for the last 29 years – the men are lagging a bit behind having only won for the last 27 consecutive years! As you would expect we are deeply involved in the preparations for the 2012 Olympics – and of course Beijing in 2008.

Investing for the Future

Looking to the future, we are confident but not complacent. It is a competitive environment but we are determined to build on all these successes and ensure that Loughborough plays its distinctive role on the international stage.

To achieve this we continue to invest in both the fabric of the University as well as our staff. For example during this last year we started work on a £12M investment in a new Health, Exercise and Biosciences Laboratories, (the site is adjacent to this hall) and a £68M scheme to provide 1300 student bedrooms: You may also have noticed that the extension to the Business School is nearing completion. At the same time we have invested in additional academic staff across a range of Departments, with further investments to follow. This additional resource will keep us at the forefront of applied research and teaching right across the university.

Thanks

Today is a very special day, not just for our students, but also for all their friends and family. However able and independent we are, success is rarely achieved without the emotional and financial support of those close to us and I know that our students have valued that support. I invite all of you who are about to receive your degrees to show your personal appreciation by standing up, turning round and joining me in applauding all those who have helped you so much.

When you graduate today you will be joining a large and ever growing group of Alumni who live and work right across the world. The Alumni Association will keep you up to date with our developments but please keep us informed of your new life. We want to keep in touch and hope that you will stay actively involved with us. We will need your help to continue to improve the opportunities we offer our students.

As you face the future, our greatest hope is that what you have learned during your time here, both through your academic studies and in the wider ‘Loughborough Experience’, have provided a framework for your further learning and development which will help you in a rewarding career and satisfying life.

In a moment or two you will come, one by one, across the stage and we will celebrate each individual students achievements. Before we do that I should like to ask my colleagues and your supporters to join me in wishing you the very best for the future and to applaud your very significant success.

 

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