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VC's Blog

Stuart\

On his blog, Stuart will share his thoughts and the perspectives of University colleagues and partners on key issues at Warwick and in the Higher Education sector. He is keen to hear your comments on these topics too.

Please note: offensive or inappropriate comments may be removed by the administration team.

VC blog

We have known about climate change for decades, we’ve talked about it for decades but there is now a very real pressure on all of us to act. And a very clear message that it is the next decade that will be crucial if we are to stem the global rise in temperature. Back in September 2019, the University of Warwick joined other universities and organisations locally, nationally and globally in declaring a Climate Emergency, and highlighting the role we must play as an organisation, as a community and as individuals.

We’ve committed to zero net carbon from direct emissions and from the energy that we buy by 2030. We’ve also committed to zero net carbon from our direct and indirect emissions by 2050. Our new buildings are low energy and more space efficient and we recycled building materials where possible. And while it may not be very visible, we have already reduced our carbon emissions from energy usage by 33% per staff and students FTE, and by 40% by unit of floor area since 2005/6. We have also reduced water consumption by 27% per staff and students FTE over the same period. But we’ve also grown over that period and so the impact on overall energy and water consumption is less dramatic. As we look to 2030 our challenge is to reduce our carbon footprint while still enabling planned growth.

We are delighted to see so many staff and students changing behaviour and processes to support the University in reducing our carbon emissions, but there is much more we need to do. The next national Global Climate Strike is scheduled for Friday (29 November), and for members of our community that are motivated to get involved with others from around the world to combat climate change, there is much that you can get involved in.

We are taking part in an amazing new national recycling competition called Recycle League, competing against 11 different UK Universities to see which of us can improve our recycling rates the most during November. We’re reducing food waste through TooGoodToGo and trialling BorrowMyCup with the SU to reduce the waste from disposable cups.

Our ‘Cut the Flow’ ambassadors are running a photo competition on Instagram to raise awareness of water and energy consumption. You can take part by uploading an image or creative poster that illustrates your efforts to save water or energy (or, indeed, both!) using #CutTheFlow2019 and if you win, you’ll get £20 on your Eating at Warwick card.

And on Thursday 28 November 2019, staff and students from across the University that have a passion for sustainability are coming together at a sustainability Summit event. Joel Cardinal, Head of Energy and Sustainability at the University, will be joined by other groups at Warwick to explore different strategies – technical, organisational and behavioural – to underpin the carbon targets for 2030 and 2050.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate the volunteers that collected eight tonnes of food surplus from halls of residence as students moved out, and donated it to local food banks. The group also collected other leftover items and held a ‘pay as you feel’ sale at the start of term, which raised a fantastic £3,596 which was donated to a local environmental charity.

In addition to these student and staff led initiatives, we also have a responsibility in combating climate change through our research and teaching, and how we run and develop our university. We continue to work with partners and colleagues outside the university to embed ambitious innovative sustainable development into our region, utilising more efficient fuels, transport and energy generation methods.

Just this week, WMG welcomed industry speakers and academics to campus to attend the Very Light Rail Conference. Very Light Rail is a lower cost, zero emission option for sustainable transport, that we believe could create modal shift and encourage people to leave their cars at home.

And in September we launched our Institute for Global Sustainable Development; Warwick’s hub for transdisciplinary research on global sustainable development that will enable transformative change in global sustainable development. This Institute sits with our Global Sustainable Development degree programmes which offer a multidisciplinary curriculum that addresses sustainability in its broadest sense.

Sustainability is vitally important to the University, and that there is a lot of work under way to progress us towards the commitments we have made. But so much more is needed if we are going to meet the challenge we have set ourselves. Some actions may be easy and obvious (though not necessarily cheap) – buying green energy, reducing the use of cars, increasing use of public transport. Some interventions will be more of a challenge – changing consumption patterns or reducing the amount of space we use. And while it may sound clichéd it will be something that requires a commitment and a willingness to change from all of us.

Thanks

Christine Ennew Provost sig





Chris Ennew

Provost

As colleagues and students will know, we have been through a series of national ballots about industrial action. Legislation requires trades unions that wish to ballot about such action to achieve an absolute majority and a turnout above 50%. Both Unison and Unite did not achieve that threshold in terms of turnout, but UCU has done so over two separate issues: pensions and pay.

UCU has now confirmed that they will hold strike action on 8 consecutive working days from 25 November – all of week 9, and most of week 10. They will also take action short of a strike from the 25thon an ongoing basis, that is, without an end date. UCU also reserves the right to take further industrial action in the new year.

This national industrial action will affect 60 universities across the country at the same time. We at Warwick are not directly involved in the negotiations on any of the issues over which there is strike action. Over pensions, we are represented by UUK. On pay, we are represented by UCEA.

The pay issue is a wide ranging one. UCU nationally asks universities to take action on pay gaps – across a range of characteristics, including gender. At Warwick, we have a Pay Action Group that is working hard to find ways of closing gaps that have arisen around the country (and more widely) for long term structural reasons and this group has already engaged with UCU locally. UCU also ask for more work to be done on casual contracts. At Warwick, we are working closely with UCU and with Warwick Anti Casualisation on a framework which responds to this for implementation in 2020. Nationally, UCU asks Universities to do more on addressing differentials in workloads, and absolute workloads. Everyone acknowledges that this is difficult in the context of an increasingly highly regulated environment, where additional work is created by external bodies such as the Office for Students. At Warwick, we have begun work on a workload framework that is comparable across the university. On pay, UCU argues that levels are too low and that universities have not matched the cost of living rises. At Warwick, where we pay the Living Wage Foundation rates, we have argued for higher national rises than those that have been achieved in negotiations.

None of this is of course to say that at Warwick we are perfect. It is to say that there are shared agendas and that some progress is being made.

On pensions, we at Warwick have argued strongly for the maintenance of the defined benefit scheme in USS, and indeed our voice was a lone one for some time amongst universities in the last dispute. UCU now argues that the pension contributions that have been increased by USS in order to retain defined benefits should not be met on the long agreed formula of 65:35, employer to employee. Instead they argue that the totality of the increase should be met by the employer.

I have tried to set out all the issues openly and without any attempt at judgement. Industrial action has been called and has been called legally. I regret it greatly. It will impact on our students in a negative way. It will impact on staff pay in the run up to Christmas in a negative way. It risks bringing rancour to our campus.

We would all very much like to see a shared agenda, such as that I have set out above, become the basis of negotiation between UUK, UCEA and UCU. Industrial relations disputes always end at some point: it would be good to focus on that end point as soon as possible. We are constrained in what we as a university can deliver on our own; because we must work through joint bodies such as UUK and UCEA where there are a range of opinions, and where some universities are struggling financially. But also, because to act alone, to break out of national frameworks, would be also opposed by UCU. That does not mean that we are powerless. We can and must seek to work with all those involved, including UCU, UUK and UCEA to come to agreement. I hope that others will take that view seriously.


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I was in West Bromwich on Friday night for the football match. Quite appropriate really, as we are announcing our honorary graduands for the January degree ceremonies, one of which is the West Bromwich Albion great, Brendon Batson. A man of enormous footballing talent. More importantly, a man who has fought against racism his whole life with dignity and determination. The first black footballer to play for Arsenal, he went on to be one of the three superstar black footballers for the Albion at a time when Britain was an obviously racist place. He tells his own tale of being attacked, verbally and physically, because of his skin colour. As a child as well as a man. He tells of bananas being thrown onto the football pitch at black players to symbolise the rejection of their humanity. How things have changed. Half the Aston Villa team on Friday night was non-white. When my club won the European Cup over thirty five years ago, none of the players were black. Brendon has been at the forefront of that change, leading the ‘Kick it Out’ campaign.

Then again, that things have changed does not mean that they have all changed for the better. Bananas are rarely thrown at footballers now. But racist abuse has been written on bananas at this university in recent times. Our own students tell how other of our own students have made ‘monkey noises’ at them. And since the European referendum, a minority have used Brexit to again bring back racist language and in some cases, even attacks. Racist language has become more audible. We are undoubtedly going to be obliged to host a racist speaker on our campus, invited by members of the university, at some point in the future, because of our absolute legal responsibility to allow freedom of speech. Racist words weigh more heavily on their targets than on others.

This reality is important when we consider issues such as the BBC report on Friday that white academic staff at this university are paid more than non-white. We do have real issues to address, that I will discuss in a moment. But this report stems from a simple, and profoundly incorrect and damaging analysis. From freedom of information requests, the BBC created some calculations. They should simply have asked the question. The issue is around pay gaps. This is different to equal pay, where two people must be paid on the same scale for the same work. Pay gaps focuses on categories of people. This year the government introduced a gender pay gap reporting requirement. Warwick has one of the highest. This reflects some deeper truths. If you divide the 6600 staff at the university into quarter according to pay, two thirds of lowest paid colleagues are women (partly this is also a reflection that we do not outsource important work such as cleaning). If we look across our top level, grade 9, professorial equivalent, only one in five is a woman.

Using the same methodology, we can see that there is a gap of 15.5% for academic staff pay, and a gap 6.9% if looking at all of our staff. Again, it is important to remember that this is not an equal pay measure; rather a measure of who is where in the organisation concerned. For us, there are two deeper truths. First we have too few non-white colleagues at professorial equivalent level; currently around one in ten. Second, on the academic side, we have significant numbers of non-white staff paid at lower levels. But this is in fact good news. If we agree that we want to have a more representative professoriate, we need an active ‘pipeline’ of staff. Currently, 28 per cent of our early career researchers is non-white. Working with those colleagues, supporting and encouraging, what an extraordinary difference those colleagues will make to the look and feel of this university over the next ten years.

Brendon Batson has shown how to combat racism by his own career and actions; and so it is a great moment to be able to honour him. And to take that inspiration both to combat racism and the structural inequalities of our world.

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The last fortnight has seen two particularly notable occasions where we have come together with our local partners to talk about how our work together makes, or will make, a significant economic impact on Coventry, Warwickshire and the West Midlands.

The first occasion was on Monday 12th November 2018 when it was announced at the Coventry and Warwickshire Automotive Dinner in Warwickshire’s Coombe Abbey Hotel that we would be working with Jaguar Land Rover to establish a new multi-million-pound ‘Smart City Mobility Centre’. The new Centre will create ground breaking driverless and electric vehicle technology on our Wellesbourne campus. Our agreement with JLR will see 5G technology deployed on campus alongside prototype autonomous vehicles, with a plan to begin in 2019. When successful, this will allow us to move fully to autonomous vehicles on campus, and away from such reliance on petrol driven, single occupancy cars.

Then just over a week later Dr Ralf Speth CEO of Jaguar Land Rover and an Honorary Professor of WMG, joined with Andy Street CBE Mayor of the West Midlands, Abdul Khan Deputy Leader of Coventry City Council, Chancellor Baroness Cathy Ashton and myself for our Chancellor’s Dinner, to hear the very latest regional economic impact figures for the University.

The location of the dinner, the home of National Automotive Innovation Centre, was certainly impressive, displaying a very explicit and solid example of our campus economic impact in our region.

While sitting in that striking building, we were presented with some very impressive numbers from the latest analysis of the University’s economic impact on our city, county and region which have been covered by the Coventry Telegraph:

  • Warwick’s overall economic impact in the West Midlands is now almost £1 billion a year
  • As well as employing over 6,640 staff our university sustains a further 9,245 additional jobs in the West Midlands. 86% of The University of Warwick’s staff live in the West Midlands with 42% in Coventry and 21% in Warwick District
  • Warwick’s 5,000 international students contribute £250 million per annum to the region
  • Warwick Science Park supported 354 businesses, and Warwick Business School and WMG supported hundreds more
  • 29% of Warwick’s UK undergraduate intake are from the West Midlands
  • 84% of Warwick’s Newly Qualified Teachers secured employment teaching in Midlands schools

An impressive building, and some impressive numbers. However what made the biggest impression on me was the testimony of one young engineer. Omeah Hancox told us about her experience as a pupil at the WMG Academy for Young Engineers in Coventry, and how that opportunity has now led to her joining Jaguar Land Rover as a young engineer. To see the impact of our partnerships personified in this way was a memorable moment. You can watch the video that was shown on the evening here.

That moment reminds me and should remind us all that the positive impact we have on our region shouldn’t just be measured in pounds, shillings and pence. People make a difference and often these people are our own students and graduates and not just because of what they studying or researching. For instance, more than 1000 Warwick students volunteer and last year they devoted 12,618 volunteer hours in community focused projects in Coventry, Leamington, Kenilworth and Warwick.

Warwick was first established as a University because a great many community leaders, policy makers and businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire came together to campaign for its establishment and donate the funding and land to establish it. They believed that Warwick would be a major contributor to the economy, culture and life of the City and the County. They were proved right, and it is the impressive work and dedication of a great many individual Warwick students and staff that delivers that proof each and every day.

There was one more important highlight to the evening. On behalf of Coventry City Council, Abdul Khan announced that the Council has asked the University to rename part of University Road, Lord Bhattacharyya Way. I was then able to share that Lord Bhattacharyya Way would lead to the Lord Bhattacharyya Building. The Lord Bhattacharyya building, home of The National Automotive Innovation Centre (NAIC), a £150 million partnership between WMG at the University of Warwick, Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Motors European Technical Centre (with £15m from what was the UK Government’s Higher Education Funding Council England). The National Automotive Innovation Centre will be a beacon for automotive research bringing together the brightest minds from industry and academia, to develop future automotive technology. This announcement and the Chancellor’s Dinner was not the formal opening of the Lord Bhattacharyya Building or NAIC, that is to come, but the evening was an opportunity to recognise the enormous contribution of Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya to the University, the City, the region, and to the automotive industry, particularly Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Motors.

It's the individuals who make up every institution who truly make an impact. That evening marked the spectacular impact of Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, but it also marked just the very beginning of all that will be achieved by Warwick’s current students, and the pupils of WMG Academy for Young Engineers in Coventry such as Omeah.


best wishes

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Although we’re just finishing welcoming new students, and welcoming back our existing ones, the recruitment cycle for next year is already in progress. I’m looking forward to the forthcoming open day, although my role there is a small one – I give part of the welcome address to prospective students and their parents. These are important events; the numbers attending open days are going up, and we know that the open day experience makes a real difference to student choices.

Although students (and their families) are concerned about the outcomes of university education (and there are lots of ways in which we can measure these), they also know that the experience matters and indeed the quality of the experience will make a difference to the quality of the outcomes. And because experience matters, open days matter because they give insight into what it’s like to be a student at Warwick.

Of course, if we want to demonstrate the Warwick experience to prospective students, we have first, to persuade them to come to our open days. And that’s where marketing and recruitment activities come in. For this current recruitment round there has been a major redevelopment of our prospectus and other associated marketing materials with a focus on how best to talk about both student experiences and outcomes. We know that some of the hard metrics such as league tables, and graduate salaries will be part of student decision making and this information is widely available. So in our communications, we’ve focused much more on the experience side, using a story-telling approach.

Given that my own academic background is in marketing, I’m always interested to see how our marketing and communications activity develops. And for some time in marketing (particularly in the service sector) the focus of marketing has shifted from promoting the attributes of a product or service to concentrating instead on experiences. So it makes perfect sense that we should be working in a similar way.

If you look at the prospectus or at the website, you’ll see marketing communications that tell stories – stories about what it’s like to be a student and what our students will take away from their Warwick experience. These stories may be partly founded on our reputation, but they’re also about our people, our thinking and the place in which we’re based. We try to emphasise the positive outcomes that students are looking for - that their study at Warwick will enhance their wellbeing and their future, that it will offer better career opportunities, and that it will open up a wealth of possibilities.

It is an approach that looks to be making a difference; we’ve seen record attendances at our most recent open days, and despite the declining number of 18 year-olds, our UG applications have remained strong. Of course, this encouraging picture is the result of a number of factors. For example, the Student Recruitment, Outreach and Admissions Service (SROAS) has been hugely effective in advancing its student recruitment approach and in managing the open day experience.

Also notable is the increased collaboration between SROAS and our marketing teams. This has meant promotional materials used by our recruitment leads are both practical and persuasive…and storytelling is vital to making our marketing collateral compelling.

No one can know, in advance, what their experience will be like. But the combination of storytelling and open day activities gives prospective students a real insight in to what their University experience at Warwick might mean. That’s why open days are so important and that’s why we’re grateful to everyone who has helped to make them such a success.


Cheers

Christine Ennew Provost sig





Christine Ennew, Provost