Principal's Report

For the year ended 31 July 2023

The pace of change in the world shows no sign of letting up – demographic shifts, geo-political
tensions, advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), the climate crisis, inflation and fiscal belt-tightening
are all having a real and present impact on people and institutions. As with all universities, we are
having to manage substantial real terms reductions in funding from government, and greatly
increased costs arising from inflation, including staff pay costs. A specific consideration for the
University is the scheduled renewal of our long term borrowings, required by December 2024, a
matter for consideration in Management’s assessment of Going Concern. The reality is that across
Scotland and the rest of the UK, universities are having to make some difficult financial decisions
arising from this very challenging financial environment.

Our student numbers continue to increase, though not in the expected pattern. Although high
employment and inflation has dampened the market for home students, demand from international
markets has been high, bringing new opportunities, while we continue to protect our home markets.

We have successfully launched QMU Online, our suite of postgraduate online courses offering
students a step on and off ‘carousel’ model of learning. Our work in this form of delivery is setting
us up well for a future in which quality of digital delivery is of greater importance than ever before,
and with students increasingly seeking more flexible ways of participating in higher education.

We have also expanded our range of transnational education partnerships in this last year, with
more than a third of our students now studying with us through such partnerships. Our involvement
in this type of educational provision extends over nearly two decades now. Along with fostering an
international perspective, this has supported efforts to grow and diversify our income.

More broadly, analysis shows that despite the fluid and rapidly changing policy and financial
environment, our underlying business model continues to provide the opportunity to grow income
further. To enable this and ensure we continue to achieve our strategic ambitions we are
considering measures we could take to understand, and where identified, make our current
operating model more effective

Alongside focusing on growth, we continue to work hard to optimise the experience of our existing
and future students. Central to this is our Learning Enhancement and Academic Development
(LEAD) centre, established two years ago. One of LEAD’s innovations is employing a team of
‘Student Champions’ - paid, part-time roles - to work collaboratively with students and staff in the
co-creation of initiatives associated with our Student Experience Strategy.

In the National Student Survey 2023, several of our courses achieved 100% overall satisfaction;
and our Students’ Union was ranked second top in Scotland, with students agreeing that QMUSU
represented students' academic interests well.

We are one of the top five climbers in the Guardian University League table published this year,
and we have also moved up in the QS University World Rankings. Furthermore, our work
supporting student wellbeing has won accolades this last year, with our Thank Goodness It’s
Thursday (TGIT) initiative winning the Supporting Student Wellbeing category of the Herald Higher
Education Awards and being shortlisted in the Watusi? and CUBO awards.

This last year saw significant progress on the CityDeal funded Innovation Hub to be built on land
adjacent to our campus. A joint venture between QMU and East Lothian Council, the hub will be a
catalyst for economic development throughout the Edinburgh City Region,and provides
unprecedented opportunities for us to foster our innovation capabilities and an entrepreneurial
culture. The Hub has full planning permission, construction is due to begin at the end of this year
and the facility is scheduled to become operational in August 2025.

Our focus on innovation was boosted this year with the launch of Start for Future at QMU. A
European wide project, SFF supports early-stage start-ups and entrepreneurial spirited individuals
looking to join a start-up in its early days. It provides members with expert coaching and start-up development, bringing together an alliance of European higher education institutions (HEIs), incubators, research and business development centres, start-ups, and industry partners.

Following REF 2021, work has already begun on REF 2028, and our research continues to make
a difference in the here and now. We supported Creative Scotland this year evaluating cultural
policy, with a particular focus on approaches to employment for freelance creative practitioners
engaging people in shaping the future cultural life of their local community. Another example is
the work of our speech scientists developing the use of ultrasound technology to help improve
early detection of swallowing issues associated with conditions like stroke, Motor Neurone Disease
(MND), Parkinson’s, and head and neck cancers. This could allow earlier medical interventions
and improved quality of patient care. Researchers in our Institute for Global Health and
Development, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, are making a significant contribution
to discussion on how we equitably share the inevitable harms from global heating across the world
protect the most vulnerable.

Those QMU staff involved in preparing for our 150th anniversary in 2025 have had the pleasure of
delving into the archives, finding out how this institution has played its part in national and
international moments of need and transformation, for example during the two world wars. In that
same spirit, we have this year been twinned with a university in central Ukraine as part of the UK-Ukraine Twinning Initiative, which is seeing UK universities twinning with a Ukrainian partner to
help provide immediate support, as well as longer term strategic engagement.

So as we continue to deliver on our commitment to act as a force for good in the world, our
achievements in the last show that at QMU we have the drive, focus, and vision needed to ensure
that this University fulfils its potential for many years to come.

Sir Paul Grice, FRSE, FAcSS
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
13 December 2023