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Vice-Chancellor's summer message 2014

April 2014

Dear Colleagues and Students,

As the new term begins, the University will shortly be making public the six goals that it is proposing will form the core of the draft strategy and vision to take us beyond 2015 and I would like to take the opportunity to ask you all to take the time to consider those proposals and then give us your feedback. Further information will be shared with you via insite next week.

Our strategy will have to help us to meet a number of challenges over the coming years. Chief amongst these will be our core purposes of producing the very best teaching and research that we can.

To deliver that, there will be some very practical challenges to be faced and overcome and the principal amongst those will be the deteriorating financial environment all universities face.

The next five years will be a period of significant financial challenge, probably more so than our community realises at present. That financial challenge is typified by the latest financial settlement for universities. England’s universities have seen a further significant reduction in funding focused almost entirely on undergraduate support. For us at Warwick it means £1m has been lost from our planned surplus for the current year and at least £0.3m from our planned surplus for 2014-15.

It is of course tempting to rely on a surplus to absorb funding shocks like this. But that argument fails to engage with the fact that we need to achieve the levels of enhancement and reinvestment that staff and students are all calling for over the next five years, which commits us to a £250m investment programme that will need to be underpinned by an average annual surplus of around £30m.

I am convinced that we can rise to the financial challenge. Warwick is about to celebrate its 50th Anniversary and one of the key themes of our history has been our consistent ability to be even more innovative during difficult periods. Doing things differently is what we do. Just battening down the hatches is simply not in Warwick’s genes.

We will however need more than Warwick’s long history of rising to the challenge of innovation to carry us through. We will also have to be firm in our resolve to ensure that individual departments are living within sustainable budgets and that any plans they have for growth are firm and deliverable.

I am convinced, however, that together we can meet all of these challenges and begin to invest now in new research and teaching spaces to enable our disciplines to grow, to continue to provide an excellent environment for learning and to facilitate opportunities for interdisciplinary working.

Our Warwick Business School extension will be finished soon, and the £93m National Automotive Innovation Centre, funded by both industry and government, will begin construction shortly, as will the new £15m Teaching and Learning Centre at the heart of the campus. We are also planning a new building to house interdisciplinary laboratory space, a new building for our Arts and Humanities and extensions to provide more space for Law, Engineering, Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science.

Work will also take place over the summer to enhance the transport infrastructure on campus and to improve our nearby roads and junctions. We have chosen the summer to minimise the inconvenience to our undergraduate students and, in particular, to ensure that no work takes place until the summer exams are concluded. Details on that work can be found at www.warwick.ac.uk/roadworks and will be updated as further information becomes available.

But let me return to where I began. Yes, we have an ambitious proposed strategy which clearly involves more investment. Yes, we are asking the whole Warwick community to help us to deliver that programme. But, yes, you have the opportunity to give your views on the draft strategy, views which will be taken into account. I encourage you once again to look at the proposed goals for the draft strategy when it is made live next week and to tell us what you think.

With best wishes,

Nigel Thrift
Vice-Chancellor

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