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From the Vice-Chancellor – June 2023

30 June 2023

7 mins

In my June newsletter: international Special Envoy appointments, the THE Impact and QS World University rankings, Policy Unit event, Design and Creative Arts degree shows and the Netball Super League.

International Special Envoys

Last autumn we announced the appointment of our first Special Envoys for India, Dr Kirti Ruikar and Professor Bala Vaidhyanathan. Subsequently, they have both played an important role in delivering the International Engagement and Impact Core Plan that underpins our Strategy.

Following this success, I am pleased to announce that we have now appointed a further nine Special Envoys who will be responsible for leading the University’s regional strategy for other key countries and will work closely with me in those areas to develop relationships with partners. They are:

  • Dr Sola Afolabi (Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering) and Dr Hibbah Osei-Kwasi (Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences) – Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Ally McDonald Alonso (Professional Services) and Professor Kurt Barth (Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering) – North America
  • Dr Mey Goh (Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering) and Professor Eef Hogervorst (Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences) – South-East Asia
  • Professor Ksenia Chmutina (Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering) and Professor Wen-Feng Lin (Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering) – East Asia
  • Dr Ali Bilgic (Social Sciences and Humanities) – Middle East and North Africa

One further appointment is still to be made, which we hope to announce soon.
Congratulations to all the new Envoys on their appointment. I look forward to working with them as we drive forward our global ambitions in those regions.

THE impact rankings

As one of our three strategic themes, Climate Change and Net Zero is at the heart of the new University strategy. I was pleased, therefore, to see our work recognised in the 2024 Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, published this month. Loughborough was the top-rated UK university and ranked 15th globally for advancing Affordable and Clean Energy – the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7. We were also in the top ten of UK universities for SDG 8, focused on decent work and economic growth.

The THE Impact Rankings are an international assessment of universities’ performance in moving forward the United Nations’ (UN) 17 SDGs. These were adopted by the UN in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure shared peace and prosperity for all people by 2030.

The Affordable and Clean Energy measure takes into consideration our research and innovation, as well as the way we manage our campus, buildings and operations, and our results in the rankings is testament to the progress we’re making.

For example, our Centre for Sustainable Transitions: Energy, Environment and Resilience (STEER) is working with partners across the world, from decision-makers to energy poor communities, to make SDG 7 a reality. We have recently hosted a hugely influential conference on campus on behalf of the World Bank, one of STEER’s key partners, at which academics from STEER and CREST (the Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology) were key speakers.

Academics are also working on the design and development of a four-wheeled electric vehicle for research, teaching and outreach in India. It’s hoped the collaborative international project will help the country increase clean vehicle uptake, improve urban air quality and meet carbon emission targets.

In terms of our campus development and management, we will shortly open the National Facility for High Resolution Cathodoluminescence (CL) Analysis at the University, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), to increase our understanding of the workings of solar cells and other electronic devices that interact with light. The facility will be the first of its kind globally and open to researchers from around the world.

The recently completed Pavilion 4 of the SportPark on the Loughborough University Science and Enterprise Park building has achieved Passivhaus Accreditation, widely regarded as the most challenging energy efficiency and comfort standard in the world. 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.

Loughborough was also one of the founding members of the new Nature Positive Universities Alliance of 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. 

These are all excellent initiatives, but we must maintain the momentum to play our part in addressing the climate emergency.

Policy Unit event at House of Lords

Last month, senior colleagues and I met with a select group of MPs and Peers at the House of Lords to mark the establishment of the University Policy Unit. The Policy Unit – which is led by Professor Graham Hitchen and is based at the London campus – has been set up to help us augment, better coordinate and amplify our engagement with those involved in policy and legislation development.

During the evening we were able to update the invitees on the extent and impact of our research and innovation strengths, centred around our three pan-institutional themes. We also explained the role the Policy Unit will take in helping us to engage with policy makers and shared some of our proposed activities for the coming months. Some of the MPs and Peers who attended knew the University well and have had involvement in our work over the years; others we hope will be willing to work with us in some way in the future. It was a great opportunity to meet them all, share our work, and learn more about forthcoming opportunities for Loughborough to contribute to policy discussions.

QS World University Rankings

The QS World University Rankings 2024 were published a few days ago and I was delighted to see that Loughborough has risen to 212th – our highest ever position. The league table is a ranking of more than 2,960 institutions around the world.

Breaking into the top 200 of this table is one of the performance indicators linked to our Strategy, so it is pleasing that we have made progress. This year we improved our position in two key measures. We have risen in the ‘International Faculty’ category, which assesses the proportion of international academic staff we have, and is a measure of how attractive the University is to academics from around the world. We have also improved in the ‘Academic Reputation’ category; this is derived from the QS Academic Reputation Survey undertaken each year to determine which universities are demonstrating academic excellence, according to academics at other institutions worldwide.

Design and Creative Arts Degree Shows

A couple of weeks ago I attended the annual Design and Creative Arts Degree Show, our students’ annual showcase of their final year projects. We really do have some incredibly talented students.

The show provides the students with the chance to share their work with the public and also, crucially, with those who work in the design and creative industries. It’s a great way for the students to show potential employers the breadth of their talents and what they could contribute to their company. Many of the students’ projects have also been developed in liaison with national and international companies.

Four of the students who are exhibiting their work were commissioned by LU Arts to put together short videos charting their progress as they installed their collection for the 2023 exhibition. The videos give a fascinating insight into the processes involved and the range of skills and techniques the students have used to complete their collections. The students’ work really does embody so many of our strategic values: it’s adventurous, creative and collaborative. I very much hope you were able to go along to see our students’ outstanding work.

Second Netball Super League title

Loughborough Lightning rounded off a superb season earlier this month when they won their second Netball Super League (NSL) title in three years. The NSL is the UK’s top-level, elite netball competition featuring ten teams from England, Wales and Scotland.

I was delighted to attend the Grand Final which took place at the Copper Box Arena, just a few minutes’ walk from our London campus on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The game was played in front of a sell-out crowd that included Loughborough staff who’d won tickets in our Grades 1 to 5 draw. I hope you all enjoyed watching Loughborough come from behind to beat London Pulse 57-48. A very deserved victory.

Vice-Chancellor's Communications

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

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