QMU Strategic Report and Financial Statements 2022 - Principal's Report


For the year ended 31 July 2022

There is no escaping the fact that these are challenging times for all organisations, nations and individuals, as we live with global instabilities, unprecedented economic and fiscal pressures, the legacy of COVID, and climate change. All that said, this has been a productive year for QMU.

I feel real pride at how my colleagues have adapted and enhanced their ways of working as we have learned to live with COVID. This year has seen a growing buzz on campus, with staff and students re-connecting, sharing ideas and re-building campus life. We now have a hybrid working model for staff that is designed to allow us to achieve the optimum balance of on-campus and remote working, ensuring that the QMU sense of community, which is so central to who we are as a university, is nurtured and sustained.

Overall student numbers for 2021/22 were above target. Whilst our full-time undergraduate EU numbers reduced, reflecting the post-Brexit reduction in EU applications across the sector, this was offset by an increase in undergraduate international, rest of UK and part-time home student numbers. At postgraduate level, we are seeing pleasing growth in international and part-time student numbers. The home market for postgraduate study is more challenging post COVID but we are fortunate in that our courses are well aligned with employer needs. We continue to grow the number of students who study for QMU degrees at partner institutions overseas. We are working hard to ensure that our courses continue to be attractive to the evolving needs of students and employers, and we have been addressing the growing demand for skills-focused microcredentials, for online provision and for ‘bite-size’ part-time learning.

Significant achievements this year include our success in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF), which is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK universities. Representing the culmination of many years of shared enterprise across the University, REF 2021 results show that QMU is delivering research with a strong reach and impact globally. It confirms that we have world-leading or internationally excellent research in every part of the University, encompassing hugely important themes ranging from refugee integration to transforming healthcare cultures. Gratifyingly, our REF 2021 results have led to an increase of nearly 14% in our Research Excellence Grant from the SFC, which acts as a welcome boost for us as a university committed to research, alongside offering excellent teaching.

In June, we learned that we have moved up in the QS World Rankings, for the third year running. Soon after that, we received our National Student Survey 2022 results. The results showed that our student satisfaction rate is 4.1% above our benchmark and also above the UK average. We performed particularly well in the 'Learning Community' and 'Student Voice' categories of the survey, ranking 5th and 6th in Scotland respectively. In addition, we scored 2nd in Scotland for Students' Union representation of students' academic interests. Together, these results reflect the emphasis that we put upon community at QMU, and the focus in our refreshed Student Experience Strategy on students as partners and on providing a transformative student experience.

This year saw further significant progress towards delivering an innovation park on land adjacent to the campus, in a joint venture with East Lothian Council, and with funding from the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal. A design team has been appointed to take forward the delivery of an innovation hub that will form the heart of the park, with construction due to commence in the summer of 2023, and with completion scheduled for 2025.

We also continue to deliver on our social justice agenda. One example is work to create an outdoor learning hub, the plans for which take account of the growing understanding of the value of learning in, and about, the natural environment, in light of the climate emergency, people’s experience of COVID, and research on wellbeing. A further example is our expanding suite of partnerships with colleges that allow students on HND courses to progress onto a degree from Queen Margaret University, without having to transfer from their college to the University campus. This important work responds to local demand, addresses skills gaps, and helps to close the educational attainment gap by providing greater equality of opportunity to access higher education. Through these partnerships, we are harnessing the potential of more talented young people from different socio-economic backgrounds across Scotland. A third example is the appointment of Professor Paul Miller as Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) & Anti-Racism Adviser to the Principal. We recognise that to create an anti-racist culture throughout the university requires concerted, concrete action, not just words. We aim to ensure that not only does every staff member and student, whatever their background, feel they belong and can thrive at QMU, but that through them we can help propagate anti-racism practices across society more widely. A final example is our pioneering Enhanced Learning Tutoring Initiative, which was shortlisted in the Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community category of THE Awards, the ‘Oscars of higher education’.

Alongside all this, we continue to build on our work enhancing the employability of our students. We are strengthening our resources in our Student Services area, particularly in the areas of disability and mental health support, to reflect increasing demand from students. We are also introducing a dedicated staffing resource to help us to move forward our sustainability agenda.

Despite the volatility in our operating environment, we have managed to generate a positive result during the year to 31 July 2022. We are managing our resources well and delivering on our mission to act as a force for good. What is more, the relevance of our work to the current and evolving needs of society means that there will be substantial opportunities ahead for us to help shape a better world through education, research and innovation.

Sir Paul Grice, FRSE, FAcSS

Principal and Vice-Chancellor