Continuing to make a difference to students' lives

Published: 11 September 2017 at 09:34

We are just about at the start of the new academic year, and I would like to update you in a number of areas.

The summer has seen a raft of news stories about universities, which do not reflect the reality of the work we carry out – transforming the lives of our students and the communities we work with through our education, research, innovation and wider engagement activities. To maximise our impact we must focus on the issues that matter most to the ARU community and our region, which are outlined in our new university strategy.


We are coming to the end of this year’s semester 1 admission cycle, and whilst it is too early to understand fully where the commencing numbers will land, I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard throughout the admission and Clearing process.

It has been a very different year with a variety of new challenges and opportunities. At this stage I suspect that overall we will land reasonably close to our planned numbers – I will update you further as the numbers become clearer.


Canvas, our new Learning Management System, is being rolled out for our students this week. There has been a vast amount of work carried by many across ARU to get this point, and it has been really exciting to see the enthusiasm for this initiative.

This is a really important project that forms the backbone of our plans to ensure we bring an educational experience that blends the best of face-to-face and digital delivery. The initial roll-out will be followed with further developments, in the coming months and years, but I would like to thank everyone who has worked on the Canvas project.


Whilst we all have a love-hate relationship with rankings, they are an embedded feature of the current higher education environment. Last week saw the publication of the 2018 Times Higher Education World University Rankings and I am delighted that ARU has maintained its position in the 301–350 group which, when you consider the number of global universities, is a major achievement. In addition, we are the top performing post-92 institution this year – an outstanding achievement, and something we should all be proud of.

Over the summer The Economist published a detailed ranking based on student earnings, focussing on what they determined as the value add that a particular university provides. Whilst I do get somewhat frustrated with the reductionist approach that assesses the value of a degree largely through its impact on earnings, it is a measure that matters to students and their parents in making a career choice. In this ranking we were 46/125 universities across the UK – one measure that shows we are indeed making a real difference to our students' lives.

School of Medicine

The School of Medicine project is progressing well. At the end of August we were visited by the GMC, the next stage in the process of approval. The visit went very well and a very positive report will be considered by the GMC Board in the near future.

The building is proceeding on schedule and we are likely to see the bidding process for funded places open in the autumn. At this stage we are very much on schedule for a September 2018 start to teaching our first cohort of medical students.

There is so much more happening across our university, and in finishing I return to the opening paragraph – we will be judged on the difference we make to our students and the wider community, and our efforts must focus on this. We are well placed to do this and I look forward to the new academic year.

Best wishes