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From the Vice-Chancellor – May 2023

7 June 2023

8 mins

In my May newsletter: the Education and Student Experience core plan, our facilities on campus, a first-of-its kind digital decarbonisation tool, the strategic theme Associate Pro Vice-Chancellors, and a staff survey update.

Associate Pro Vice-Chancellors appointed

Earlier this year we announced our intention to recruit two Associate Pro Vice-Chancellors (APVCs) for each of the three institutional themes in our Strategic Plan – Sport, Health and Wellbeing; Climate Change and Net Zero; and Vibrant and Inclusive Communities.

I am delighted that we have now appointed to each of these positions. Professor David Fletcher (School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences) and Dr Diwei Zhou (School of Science) will be APVCs for the Sport, Health and Wellbeing theme; Dr Kathryn North (School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering) and Professor John Downey (School of Social Sciences and Humanities) have been appointed to the roles for Climate Change and Net Zero; and Professor Rebecca Cain (School of Design and Creative Arts) and Professor Emily Keightley (School of Social Sciences and Humanities) will be the APVCs for Vibrant and Inclusive Communities.

The three themes encapsulate our significant strengths and over the coming years will influence our curricula, research and strategic partnerships, and drive our international reputation. The Associate Pro Vice-Chancellors will coordinate, champion and drive forward the interdisciplinary activity taking place across the Schools and Professional Services. Congratulations to our new APVCs on their appointment and I look forward to working with you to maximise and further enhance our strengths in each of the three theme areas.

Education and Student Experience core plan

Loughborough has long been renowned for the quality of its education and student experience, but we must continue to innovate and enhance our provision if we are to remain at the forefront in an increasingly competitive marketplace. An innovative academic experience will inspire, empower and enrich the lives of our students and enable us to create a culturally vibrant and diverse community – an ambition that aligns closely with our aims for both international engagement and equity, diversity and inclusion.

The provision of a sector-leading education and student experience is one of the six aims of our University Strategy. The Education and Student Experience Core Plan, which will underpin the development and delivery of our activity in this area, has now been approved by Senate and Council. 

The core plan has four key objectives:

  • To create a sector-leading and innovative academic experience 
  • To create an equitable, inclusive student experience which ensures all students (from all backgrounds, at all levels) feel they belong
  • To create a future-fit learning and living environment which enhances the student experience
  • To deliver a life-long learning offer which aligns with Loughborough’s strengths and engages students/ learners beyond our usual reach

The plan’s development has been led by Professor Rachel Thomson (Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education and Student Experience) and Dr Manuel Alonso (Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Student Services), following extensive consultation with groups and individuals across the University, alumni and Loughborough Students’ Union. Thank you to all those who have helped to shape this important work.

Our facilities on campus

The Whatuni Student Choice Awards (WUSCAs) are one of the highlights in the higher education calendar, as they are based on the views of students across the UK and give us crucial feedback on the areas where our students think we’re doing well. The students’ reviews also give prospective students genuine insight when they’re making decisions about what and where they would like to study.

I was delighted, therefore, that Loughborough was named the Best University in the UK for Facilities at the 2023 WUSCAs event, held late last month. This is the third time Loughborough has taken the top spot in this category. The University also received silver in the Halls and Student Accommodation category. Congratulations to all those who are involved in the development and maintenance of our outstanding campuses.

It is clear that our buildings, facilities and outdoor spaces, and increasingly the sustainable way in which we develop and manage them, are important to both our current and future students, as well as to our staff. This month we achieved another sustainable development milestone when Pavilion 4 of the SportPark building achieved Passivhaus Accreditation, widely regarded as the most challenging energy efficiency and comfort standard in the world.

The building will utilise state-of-the-art heating and cooling mechanisms to enable the building’s carbon footprint to be minimised. The project is the first Passivhaus development on the University campus and a step towards our goal to decarbonise the University estate to meet our zero carbon target by 2035. SportPark Pavilion 4 will also be a unique living lab that will enable our researchers, as part of our Climate Change and Net Zero theme, to take detailed measurements of the building’s performance and its energy efficiency to inform the design of the next generation of zero carbon buildings at the University.

World-first for Loughborough in digital decarbonisation

While our move to a more digital way of life, both at work and at home, can help to reduce our environmental impact, the resulting increase in the use of electronic devices, and importantly the generation and storage of data, are all contributing to a significant digital carbon footprint.

Each day, for example, the average person creates ten DVDs-worth of data via their phones, fitness trackers and emails. All these bytes are collected by companies and stored at various data centres around the globe. By 2025, there will be an estimated 180 zettabytes of stored data – one zettabyte equals one trillion bytes.

Identifying and capturing data CO2 footprints is essential to organisations’ future decarbonisation strategies. With this in mind, Professor Ian Hodgkinson and Professor Tom Jackson from Loughborough Business School have created a new carbon calculator tool that allows businesses to measure the CO2 emissions of all their stored digital data. The data carbon ladder calculates the CO2 output based on a number of factors, such as the kind of data being analysed, how and where it is stored, and how often it is accessed.

This is the first-ever publicly available tool that enables organisations to assess the environmental impact of their data projects and, crucially, make informed decisions about operational changes they could make to minimise their environmental impact while still achieving their business objectives. In their research paper published last year in the Journal of Business Strategy, Professor Hodgkinson and Professor Jackson highlighted that Government policy and technological innovations to date had focused on tackling traditional carbon emission, without addressing digital decarbonisation. This new tool, therefore – which aligns with both the Research and Innovation aim and the Climate Change and Net Zero theme of our University strategy – has the potential to be a game changer, and should be part of our own planning.

Staff Survey update

Towards the end of last year we ran our most comprehensive Staff Survey since 2016 to gain a better understanding of your experience at Loughborough. The survey had a positive response rate of 66% and showed where you think we’re performing well, compared to the sector benchmark, and where further work is needed. A set of actions – both at University and at School and Service levels – is now underway to address the issues you raised with us in the survey.

One such area was support for your wellbeing. At a University level several strands of activity are underway as a result. For example, staff in Occupational Health are working with one of our academic Schools to pilot a stress and wellbeing diagnostic tool to identify and support the delivery of targeted support for specific issues, and they are liaising with Organisational Development to explore how wellbeing can be integrated into the leadership training we provide.

Within the Schools and Professional Services, Deans and Directors have been working with their senior management teams to develop a set of actions to address the issues their staff raised. Loughborough Business School, for instance, held an away day for all its staff to consider and prioritise the actions they should take in response to the survey. In Marketing and Advancement, a conference focusing on development for all staff with line-management responsibilities will take place next month to help colleagues to develop consistent leadership behaviours within the department. I look forward to hearing how the actions are developing. We plan to run a survey every November so we can ensure we’re receiving feedback from staff on a regular basis on their experience of working here. We are also identifying ways in which we can obtain feedback from people who work for the University on a more casual basis and more information on this will be shared in due course.

Vice-Chancellor's Communications

Opinions and comment from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nick Jennings

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