From the Vice-Chancellor – December 2022
In my last newsletter of 2022: the Nature Positive Universities Alliance, two new sports partnerships, the Social Mobility Pledge, sport and the metaverse, winter graduation, and a look back on 2022.
Nature Positive Universities Alliance
Through research, innovation and education, universities contribute so much to the global sustainability agenda and are real drivers of positive change. But we cannot be complacent. Everything we do – from the way we manage our buildings and open spaces to the goods and services we source – has an environmental impact and we must ensure that it’s positive.
This month, at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal, Canada, Loughborough became one of the founding members of a new network, the Nature Positive Universities Alliance, of more than a hundred universities around the world that have pledged to work together to promote nature on our campuses, in our supply chains and within our cities and communities. The network is part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a movement to avert climate catastrophe and mass extinction.
As a member of the Alliance, we have pledged to assess the impact of our activities on biodiversity, to set ourselves and work towards measurable targets and to make transparent annual reports on our progress.
With Climate Change and Net Zero one of the themes of our strategy, I am incredibly proud that we have committed to this new and hugely important initiative. The East Midlands campus, which has held Green Flag status for the last five years, has extensive green spaces that include wildflower meadows and grasslands, fruit trees, ponds and woodlands, providing habitats for a range of wildlife; the London campus is based on one of the capital’s newest emerging parklands, which has been awarded Green Flag status for the last eight years. Our sustainability research and innovation are becoming more prominent, in areas such as clean energy and the circular economy.
We’re taking good steps forwards, but we need to maintain the momentum. Our membership of this new global Alliance underlines our commitment to advancing our positive impact on biodiversity and the wider environment.
New sports partnerships
This month we announced exciting new partnerships with two leading sports organisations – West Ham United Women and England Athletics.
The University is now the official higher education partner of West Ham United Women. The partnership, the first of its kind in the Barclays Women’s Super League, will bring multiple benefits for the Club, its players and our own staff and students.
The University and Club will work together on cutting-edge research projects, using performance analysis to shape and enhance the future of the women’s game. We’ll offer elite athlete education programmes and scholarships through our Loughborough University London campus to support the players’ post-football careers. Our sports performance experts will share their knowledge and experience with the West Ham coaches and support staff on supporting dual-career athletes. Our own students will be able to apply for internships in a range of sport support areas at the Club.
Lastly, but by no means least, West Ham Women will play a first-team fixture on our Loughborough campus at the University Stadium, giving staff, students and members of the community the opportunity to watch, in my opinion as a West Ham fan, the best team in the country!
Under our partnership with England Athletics, the University will become a national Talent Hub, providing coaching support, coach education, mentoring and a range of sports science and therapy services to athletes and coaches on the England Athletics Talent Pathway. As well as creating a training and educational environment for pathway athletes and their coaches, the Hub network aims to develop links with local clubs so they become an integrated part of the England Athletics structure.
These two partnerships align strongly with so many strands of our University strategy. We’re using our pre-eminence in sport to spearhead new opportunities and to develop new, exciting partnerships associated with our sport, health and wellbeing theme.
Social Mobility Pledge
Social mobility is a much talked about issue. Essentially it looks at where we start out in life and the opportunities afforded to us as we progress through the years. As major institutions within their communities, universities have a key role to play in enabling social mobility, in helping people to overcome the barriers they face and in driving equality of opportunity at key life stages.
This month the University partnered with the Purpose Coalition and former Education Secretary Rt Hon Justine Greening to sign up to an innovative framework, the Social Mobility Pledge, that will measure Loughborough’s social impact. Our activities and social impact will be mapped against a series of 14 Purpose Goals. These cover a number of areas, such as education and training opportunities, career progression, and good health and wellbeing, and provide a universal benchmark against which organisations can measure their impact.
The Social Mobility Pledge demonstrates our clear commitment to ensuring that everyone has opportunities for development and progression throughout life, and chimes clearly with the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion aim of University strategy, as well as the Vibrant and Inclusive Communities theme.
The future of sport and the metaverse
On Monday Loughborough and the MIT Sloan School of Management will co-host an event on the future of sport and the metaverse. We’ll bring together academics, entrepreneurs, policymakers and business leaders to explore the emergence, and potential applications, of one of the most exciting technological innovations of recent years.
The event will aim to demystify the metaverse concept and define what it is and what it’s not. We’ll examine its early applications in sport as well as the emerging implications and issues around health and wellness, data privacy and security, and sustainability. We’ll be asking whether we can build a better version of the Internet, and whether sport can lead the way and show what is possible. It promises to be a really exciting day.
The metaverse will provide businesses and organisations with opportunities that we are only just beginning to understand, and it’s exciting that we’re at the forefront of discussions about how the metaverse could transform the world of sport, health and wellbeing.
Today we host the second of our two days of winter graduation ceremonies. Last week we welcomed students from our London campus to celebrate their academic achievements; today we share the day with our East Midlands graduands, their families and friends.
At one of today’s ceremonies, we will award an honorary degree to the rugby union player, alumna Sarah Hunter MBE. Sarah has represented her country since 2007 and is the most capped England player of all time. She is now captain of the England women’s team, currently ranked number one in the world, having led them to World Cup glory in 2014 and to the World Cup final in 2022.
At club level she has played for our own Loughborough Lightning team since its inception in 2017 and currently holds a player-coach role. Beyond the pitch, Sarah is passionate about the growth of women’s rugby and gender equality within the sport. Her success to date has been outstanding, and she has undoubtedly contributed significantly to the University’s sporting reputation.
We will also present Professor Steve Rothberg with a University Medal. Steve has played a key role in the success of engineering at Loughborough and more broadly in research and innovation across campus. In his 32 years at the University, he has held several senior positions, including Dean of Engineering, Pro Vice-Chancellor (PVC) for Enterprise and most recently PVC for Research.
As PVC for Research, Steve was a driving force behind Loughborough’s excellent performance in the Research Excellence Framework; in the last round more than 90% of our research was classed as world-leading or internationally excellent. His own research in noise and vibration contributed to our Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Optical Engineering and High-Value Manufacturing. Steve also led the University’s first ATHENA Swan award submission and is Panel Chair for ATHENA Swan nationally. I’m sure many of you will join me in congratulating Steve on his University Medal.
Our graduation ceremonies are always special occasions for everyone who attends. As always, thank you to everyone at the University who works so hard to ensure that all our graduates, their families and friends have a memorable day.
Reflections on 2022
As 2022 comes to a close, I want to thank you for everything that you have contributed to another successful year at Loughborough. We have achieved so much over the course of 12 months, a summary of which is captured in this video that we will release at the end of the year.
Whatever you are doing while the University is closed please enjoy the holiday, relax and take a break from work.
I wish you a very Happy Christmas and look forward to seeing you in the new year.
Opinions and comment from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nick Jennings