Principal's Report for year ended 31 July 2019

Principal's Report for the year ended 31 July 2019

I am delighted to take this opportunity to reflect on a challenging, but nonetheless successful, year for Queen Margaret University, and to thank everyone who has made me feel so welcome since taking up my role as Principal and Vice-Chancellor on 1 October 2019.

I recognise that I am joining Queen Margaret University at a time when all universities are experiencing significant financial challenges, as government funding stands still or reduces whilst costs continue to rise. In order to address these financial challenges and to protect our long-term financial sustainability, we undertook a transformation exercise during 2018/19, which resulted in an overall reduction in the size of our staffing complement. This exercise took place in parallel with the development and launch of new courses addressing the current and future needs of the creative industries, business and health sciences, following on from the major portfolio review project we undertook in 2017/18. This has enabled us to ensure that our courses continue to be focused on the changing needs of students, employers and society.

We also spent much of the year planning for our significant new venture into teacher education. From September 2019, we have offered a new undergraduate degree that will produce the next generation of primary school teachers in Scotland. We are also offering a postgraduate diploma in education in home economics, which will develop teachers who can fill vital posts in secondary schools and positively influence young people’s knowledge and skills relating to food, nutrition and health. Over time, these developments will result in a significant (c.15%) increase in the number of students that we teach.

Having been awarded 30 graduate apprenticeships in Business Management last year, we welcomed our first cohort of students to the BA (Hons) Business Management course in September 2018.

Building on this success, Skills Development Scotland awarded us a further 30 places for 2019. Skills Development Scotland, the national skills agency, has developed Graduate Apprenticeships in partnership with employers, universities and colleges. Under this scheme, students come to us through their employers and - combining work and study - will achieve a degree in four years.

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 research and knowledge exchange centres, which have a steadily growing impact and profile. One example is Professor Alastair Ager’s work on the use of ‘child friendly spaces’ in humanitarian crises, which was conducted in partnership with World Vision and Columbia Mailman School.

Professor Brendan McCormack, working in collaboration with leaders from Life Changes Trust, Age Scotland and the University of Edinburgh, has played a central role in securing a £2.5million grant to fund work to empower people affected by dementia. The funding will be used to create a School of Leadership in Dementia and a National Forum for Dementia Policy and Practice. And in April 2019, as a result of work carried out by Professor Kirsty Forsyth and her research team, the Scottish Government announced that it will be increasing support for people with autism and aiming to improve public understanding of the condition. In partnership with QMU, a National Autism Implementation Team will work with children and adult services to improve the diagnosis process and care pathway for autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions, such as ADHD.

The keynote speaker at the “Biting Back” conference in March 2019, organised in collaboration with Children in Scotland, was our Chancellor, Prue Leith CBE. The Chancellor also spoke at our ‘EntreprenHER’ event which, timed to coincide with International Women’s Day, celebrated female entrepreneurs including our own graduate start-ups. We are lucky to have a Chancellor who is so willing to get involved in the life of the University and who is an impassioned advocate on a wide range of issues that resonate with our vision and values.

We moved up 15 places, to 82nd place, in the Times Good University Guide 2020, and are now ranked as the top modern university in Scotland. We are also ranked 29th out of the 73 modern universities in the UK. We were also ranked top modern university in Scotland in the Complete University Guide 2020.

National statistics show that 97.1% of our undergraduate leavers go on to work or further study within 6 months, placing us third in Scotland on this measure. Early in July 2019, we received our National Student Survey 2019 results, and were pleased that there was further improvement in our scores in most questions.

The survey includes subject level as well as institutional results, and we were delighted to score 100% satisfaction in a number of course areas I wish to take this opportunity to make mention of my predecessor, Professor Petra Wend, who led the University with distinction for
the last ten years. Petra leaves behind a university which has grown, not just in size, but in diversity and in confidence, and I am determined to work with colleagues to build upon her legacy.

Our activities over this last year demonstrate how Queen Margaret University is focused both on preparing for society’s future needs and addressing pressing issues in the here and now. Through our various specialisms, and our teaching and research, we work to address inequalities, promote health and wellbeing, advance ethical business practices and develop cultural capital. This work, bolstered by our ongoing focus on change and adaptation, will ensure that we fulfil our potential as a university of ideas and influence – in Scotland, Europe and across the world.

Sir Paul Grice
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
November 2019