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From the Vice-Chancellor – July 2023

3 August 2023

9 mins

In my last newsletter of this academic year: CRSP celebrates its 40th anniversary, three new senior staff are appointed, summer degree congregations, research on show at two prestigious science festivals, a summer of sporting success and reflections on the past year. Have a good summer – I hope you’re able to have a break. 

40th anniversary of the Centre for Research in Social Policy

This month, the University’s renowned Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) celebrated its 40th anniversary with an event at RSA (Royal Society of Arts) House in London, attended by funders, research partners and policy makers, as well as University staff and students. 

Since its establishment in 1983 by Professor Sir Adrian Webb, CRSP has improved people’s lives through social policy change. Its work covers a range of areas, from the cost of raising a child through to poverty at the end of life, and includes the Minimum Income Standard (MIS) – perhaps its flagship research initiative. 

CRSP researchers published the first MIS report in 2008, setting out a basket of goods and services – agreed by members of the public – that people should be able afford in order to live in dignity in the UK.  

MIS is now used to calculate the Living Wage, which is paid by more than 13,000 UK employers, including Loughborough University. Its application to life in rural Scotland has a direct impact on how the Scottish government monitors fuel poverty and MIS has also been adopted by countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia and other parts of Europe. 

In September, the team at CRSP will be one of seven organisations worldwide that will work together to establish a living wage number for every country. The initiative will be launched at the UN General Assembly in New York. 

All CRSP’s research, and especially the MIS project, is built on long-term collaboration with partner organisations and demonstrates how our cutting-edge research can have a direct impact on the quality of people’s lives. It’s a great example of the interconnections between a number of the University’s strategic aims and values and the Vibrant and Inclusive Communities theme. 

Staff appointments 

Three new senior members of staff will join us at the University this September. 

Jo Mayer has been appointed as the University’s first Pro Vice-Chancellor for Sport. A University alumna, and currently Principal and CEO of Loughborough College, Jo is a member of the FA Council and its National Game Board, Chair of the English Colleges Football Association and has more than ten years’ experience as a sports psychologist. In her role at the College, Jo has built on its sporting success supporting 15 national sports governing body partnerships with over 2,000 elite athletes per year.  
Alongside her role as Pro Vice-Chancellor for Sport, Jo will take up the post of Professor of Practice in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences.  

Jennifer Johnson will join us as Director of Research and Innovation. Jennifer, who is currently Director of Research and Innovation at Northumbria University, has worked in higher education for over two decades. She is Chair of the Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA UK), and prior to her role at Northumbria she held a number of positions at the University of Leeds, including Head of Performance, Governance and Operations and Head of Research Operations and Reporting.  

Dr Sally Wilson has been appointed as Commercial Director, with responsibility for the continued development of the University’s commercial strategy and our key partnerships that are strategically aligned with our values, business goals and culture. Currently Commercial Advisor at Harper Adams University, Sally began her career as a Marie Curie Post Doctoral Researcher in the Michael Smurfitt Business School, University College Dublin, before moving to deliver business and commercial leadership in the private sector. She then went on to lead and deliver transformation and growth at Surrey University, University College London (UCL) and Surrey Police.   

I look forward to welcoming Jo, Jennifer and Sally in the autumn. 

Summer degree ceremonies

More than 2,000 Loughborough graduands, their families and friends gathered at the University this month for the summer degree congregations. It’s always a delight to see everyone enjoying such a special occasion that marks the culmination of several years’ hard work. 

Throughout the week we also marked the work and contributions of several notable people by presenting them with Honorary Degrees and University Medals. 

Honorary Degrees were awarded to Ebony-Jewel Rainford-Brent MBE, the former England International Cricketer and 2009 Cricket World Cup Winner; Deborah Cadman OBE, the Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council; Warren East CBE, the former Chief Operating Officer of Rolls Royce Ltd; and Professor Bob Allison CBE DL, the University’s former Vice-Chancellor and President. 

University Medals, which recognise services to the University, were presented to three members of staff – Professor Neil Budworth, the Director of Health, Safety and Wellbeing; Julie Turner, the Strategic Scientific Technical Lead; and Professor Donald Hirsch, former Director of the Centre for Research in Social Policy. 

We also presented University Medals to four Loughborough students – Ladi Ogunmekan, Samuel Ola, Faith Oluwaremi and Emmanuel Shittu – who established the Black in Sport Summit. By providing a forum to share positive stories, celebrate achievements and 

raise awareness of the issues and challenges faced by those in the industry the students are really helping to change the narrative around Black people in sport.  My congratulations go to all those who were presented with degrees, honorary degrees and University medals. Thank you too to the many staff who worked so hard to make our degree ceremonies such wonderful occasions for all those who attend. 

Science exhibitions

For the second successive year, Loughborough was selected to display its research at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in London, which took place earlier this month 

The Revolutionising Rehabilitation exhibit, one of just nine displays, showcased the work of scientists and clinicians from Loughborough University, the University of Nottingham and the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, who are working together at the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC), a major new NHS rehabilitation facility being built on the Stanford Hall Rehabilitation Estate near Loughborough. 

The exhibit featured the science that underpins the NRC’s vision for personalised rehabilitation, including how muscle can be bioengineered in the lab to rebuild damaged tissue and the way prostheses and implants can tailored to individuals. 

Last month, our researchers also took part in the Cheltenham Science Festival. Dr Roger Newport from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences revealed how the mind’s perceptions of our bodies can feel very different to how they appear on the outside, and Loughborough’s SlowCat team – led by Professor Sandie Dann from Chemistry and involving academics and Doctoral Researchers from Chemistry, Automotive Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Materials – showed visitors how they are transforming biomass into fuel and many everyday items with the help of special new catalysts.  

Dr Newport also joined a panel of fellow scientists to host ‘Pain: All in the Brain’, which explored what happens to the brain and body when we experience pain, and Professor Andrew Chadwick from the School of Social Sciences and Humanities was part of a panel of experts exploring AI-generated videos of fake events, otherwise known as deepfakes. 

Through events such as these we are able to showcase our research and innovation to a broad audience of thousands, as part of our public engagement commitment in the University strategy.  

Sporting achievements 

The summer has seen some amazing sports achievements for Loughborough, with victories in the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Championship, at Wimbledon and at the UK Athletics championships. 

Earlier this month, six Loughborough students won 11 medals at the UK Athletics Championships in Manchester – six gold, one silver and four bronze. Almost 60 current Loughborough students and 90 alumni or Loughborough-based athletes competed at the event. 

On 13th July, Loughborough was presented with the BUCS Championship title for the 42nd consecutive year, with a final total of 9,311.5 points – a sector-leading score that eclipses last year’s result of 7999.1 points, another record held by the University.  

Then, on the closing day of Wimbledon, Henry Searle, who is part of the Loughborough University National Tennis Academy, produced a stunning performance to end Britain’s 61-year wait for a boys singles champion. Henry, who didn’t drop a set during the whole tournament, is the first British boy to win the trophy since Stanley Matthews – son and namesake of the former England football great – in 1962. 

Although we are accustomed to Loughborough’s sporting success, to continue to perform at such a high level, year-on-year, is exceptional. My congratulations go to all those involved – the coaches, all the support staff and, of course, the athletes themselves, who are the living embodiment embody our strategic aim of Sporting Excellence and Opportunity

Summary of the year 

For some at the University, the summer is an opportunity to take a moment to reflect on everything we have achieved over the past 12 months, before we turn our focus in earnest to the new academic year. 

At the annual Senate and Council dinner this month, I shared with the guests my reflections on 2022-23. It’s certainly been a busy year and we have achieved so much.  

From a personal perspective, it had many highlights, not least my first overseas trips as Vice-Chancellor of the University to India, the US and latterly the Middle East. That visit enabled my colleagues and I to explore opportunities around sport in Saudi Arabia and Qatar and potential links with Princess Nourah University, the largest women’s university in the world. It is several years since I last visited these countries, and it was interesting to see the positive changes that are occurring there and to meet some of the people who are proactively driving forward better opportunities for those within their country.  The preparations for the next academic year are already well underway and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2023-24 brings. However, in the meantime, I hope you all have a lovely summer. 

Vice-Chancellor's Communications

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

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