Principal's Report for the for the year ended 31 July 2017

Principal's Report for the for the year ended 31 July 2017

2017 marks the tenth anniversary of our relocation to our campus in East Lothian, and also of our achievement of full university title.The last decade has seen a continued positive trajectory at QMU. Our student numbers have grown and we now have a rich international community with representation from over 90 countries.As well as expanding our international partnerships, we are deeply engaged locally and are seen as a real community asset in East Lothian.We have leapt up the national research rankings and have greatly expanded the range and depth of such work.We are well on our way towards fulfilling our vision of being recognised as a university of ideas and influence.

The 2016/17 financial year has seen further positive developments that bring us closer to achieving the objectives of our ‘QMU 150’ strategic plan. For example, at 92.8%, we now have the highest graduate employment rate of any Scottish university and the third highest employability rate among all UK higher education institutions. Behind this lies our focus on producing creative thinking, problem solving, confident and self-reliant graduates: we prepare students for a career, not just their first job. Also this year, we installed our new Chancellor, Prue Leith CBE.Taking over from our founding Chancellor, Sir Tom Farmer, who served QMU so well, our new Chancellor has already proven herself to be a great ambassador for the University.

We continue to focus our work on our flagship areas of health and rehabilitation, creativity and culture, and sustainable business. In research, this is achieved through our nine research and knowledge exchange centres, which have a steadily growing impact and profile. One of them, our Institute for Global Health and Development, has been awarded a £3.5m grant to promote health services in fragile settings.This, the largest single research grant that QMU has ever received, is focused on strengthening mental health care and treatment of diabetes and heart disease in countries with weak health systems. Other significant research and knowledge exchange projects across the University are tackling issues and providing solutions in speech science and speech therapy, food innovation, consumer dispute resolution, memory, and person-centred care.

The tenth anniversary of our relocation encourages us to reflect on the positive relationship that we enjoy with East Lothian Council,and with our local communities more broadly.Working in partnership with the Council, we have put forward proposals for developing land around the campus to support economic development, and to add to the vibrancy of the campus and the local community. These proposals, centred on an innovation park based on activity in food and drink, and an associated commercial hub, have the potential to transform the economic landscape in East Lothian. We passed a significant milestone in this project this year with the UK and Scottish governments’ announcement of £600m ‘City Deal’ investment in Edinburgh and Lothians, part of which has been earmarked to support our proposed innovation park development.

Alongside this, partnerships with organisations in the Lothians go from strength to strength.

An example is the memorandum of agreement that we signed in March with Leuchie House, a respite care facility based in East Lothian. As well as benefitting both organisations, this partnership will help Scotland achieve its vision for an integrated health and social care workforce.The partnership joins similar agreements that we have with organisations such as Cyrenians and Alzheimer Scotland

Committed to de-mystifying higher education and widening access to it, we are playing a full role in the higher education sector’s response to the recommendations of the Scottish Government’s Commission on Widening Access. Our approach to widening access is distinctive in that we work with younger children as well as senior school pupils. Over 4,000 children have participated in our Children’s University, which is aimed at 5-14 year olds. Our acclaimed Academies project is continuing to deliver educational and work experience opportunities for senior school pupils across South East Scotland, despite reductions in external funding.

As an outward looking, internationally focused institution, we have been active in initiatives to show that ‘Scotland welcomes the world’ following the Brexit vote.We have been celebrating the crucial contribution that our European and international students and staff make to our cultural richness and academic outputs.

We have made new academic appointments that have introduced different perspectives and ideas, and which are helping to facilitate delivery of the ideas of existing staff.These appointments include a new Dean in Arts, Social Sciences and Management and a number of new heads of academic divisions. Our ongoing course portfolio review will allow us to ensure that the programmes we offer are in line with the changing environment in which we operate. Beyond this, our developing online strategy and further expansion of our transnational education programmes will enable us to ensure that our operations remain sustainable.

There is no denying that this last year has been a difficult one for the higher education sector, including QMU. Uncertainty following Brexit,along with financial and economic challenges more generally, is reflected in our financial out-turn for the year.The next financial year will be no easier than the last one, and the challenges we face around future sustainability are set out clearly in the strategic report, but the strategies that we have in place are designed to allow us to respond effectively to our operating environment. As an institution with the confidence and vision to relocate ten years ago, we have always adapted to the changing world with agility, imagination and confidence.This university of ideas and influence is ready to face the challenges and opportunities of the next year, decade and beyond.

Professor Petra Wend PhD FRSE

Principal and Vice-Chancellor