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From the Vice-Chancellor – April 2024

30 April 2024

8 mins

Vice-Chancellor Professor Nick Jennings in front of stained glass windows in Hazlerigg Building.

In my April newsletter: the 2024 QS World University Rankings by Subject, this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Awards, Loughborough’s visit to the US, the student enterprise start-up fund and the Whatuni Student Choice Awards.

Loughborough ranked best in the world for sports-related subjects

The QS World University Rankings by Subject are one of the most well-respected international league tables and I was delighted to see Loughborough in the global top 100 in eight subject areas.

We retained our ranking as the best university in the world for sports-related subjects for the eighth consecutive year – an outstanding achievement.

Sports-related education and research have been central to Loughborough from the institution’s very earliest days and they remain a key part of our University strategy today. The School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences (SSEHS), the Sports Technology Institute and the London-based Institute for Sport Business are all renowned for the fundamental and applied research they undertake and the quality of the education they offer to our students.  

The QS rankings are based on the opinions of academic staff who have a speciality in the subject area, and employers who recruit graduates from those disciplines. They also take into account research output and impact, with both citations and paper output measured over a five-year period. Our performance in the rankings shows that our work in this field is recognised and valued by the international academic community.

Loughborough placed in the top 50 in two other areas. We were ranked 22nd in the Library and Information Management subject category, which reflects work undertaken in the School of Social Sciences and Humanities and Loughborough Business School, and we were 32nd in Art and Design.

The University secured top 100 rankings in five further subjects: Mechanical, Aeronautical and Manufacturing Engineering; Architecture and the Built Environment; Communication and Media Studies; Anatomy and Physiology, which reflects the work undertaken in SSEHS and the School of Science; and Petroleum Engineering, which is undertaken in the Schools of Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering and Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering.

Enhancing our standing in the QS rankings is a key objective in our strategy, and a significant driver for Project Reputation – one of the enabling projects that is addressing the organisational changes we need to make to progress our strategic aims. To have consolidated our international standing in all of these areas is an important step forward in our reputational ambitions.

A purple background with gold text reading 'Vice-chancellor's Awards' and gold beams surrounding it.

Launch of the Vice-Chancellor’s Awards 2024

From tomorrow you’ll be able to nominate your colleagues for this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Awards, which recognise and celebrate the ways that staff from all areas of the University have demonstrated their commitment to our strategic aims and values.

There are eighteen awards available across six categories, details of which are available on the dedicated webpage, alongside guidance on writing and submitting a nomination. 

 The University could not achieve what it does without the hard work, dedication and creativity of individuals and teams from across our campuses and these awards enable us to celebrate that. You can see a short video of our 2023 winners on the Vice-Chancellor’s Awards webpages, who reflect on how their work is contributing to the delivery of the University strategy. I would encourage you all to reflect on the past year and to nominate those who you think have made a real difference. 

I look forward to meeting all the shortlisted nominees at the awards ceremony in September. 

Lily Rumsey, Loughborough's Director of Global Engagement, and Professor Jo Maher, the University's Pro Vice-Chancellor for Sport, are pictured with colleagues from the University of Oregon next to a statue of the Oregon mascot.

Building partnerships in the US

This month I led a University delegation to the US to discuss research, innovation and sports partnerships, and to meet with some of our US-based alumni. Visits such as these are an important part of our strategic aims and also support the work we are doing under Project Reputation to raise the University’s global profile.

The visit was split into two tracks, with the first focusing on our Climate Change and Net Zero theme and the second on the Sport, Health and Wellbeing theme. 

Professor Kurt Barth (our Special Envoy for North America), Lily Rumsey (the University’s Director of Global Engagement) and I visited Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin to explore potential research collaborations in energy, the environment and engineering.

As part of the Sport, Health and Wellbeing track, Professor Jo Maher, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Sport, met with the NFL to explore how our relationship with them could be further enhanced and visited the Chicago Bears franchise to discuss potential collaboration opportunities.  

We met with the University of Oregon to plan the inaugural summit of the Global Sport University Network (GSUN), which will take place in September. The GSUN partners harness their combined knowledge of sport to address globally important topics, such as health and sustainability, that no one university could fully address on its own. 

We visited the Austin Technology Incubator, affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin, that supports staff and students in their exploration of deep technology solutions. In Chicago we met with student innovators at DePaul University’s Coleman Entrepreneurship Centre and at the city’s British Consulate General we were able to showcase the University’s expertise in climate change and net zero and the world-leading sports ecosystem we have.

The visit was a great opportunity for us to strengthen existing partnerships and explore potential new ones, and to be able to update some of our alumni on the exciting developments happening at the University.

Student enterprise goes from strength to strength

Providing our students with opportunities to develop their entrepreneurial spirit is one of the core aims of the Education and Student Experience core plan, and the Loughborough Enterprise Network (LEN) enables us to support our students to create the businesses, solutions and technologies of the future. Almost 10% of our students are now involved in entrepreneurial activity.

Within our LEN ecosystem we have three key stages – Skill-up, Start-up and Scale-up. Skill-up allows students to engage in activities and enhance the skills they’ll need if they run their own business. Start-up provides funding and support for the initial stages of students’ and graduates’ ventures. Scale-up enables students to gain funding for proof of concept and mentoring support to make their businesses ‘investment ready’. 

The latest round of Start-up funding closed last month, with 90 applications received in total. A longlist will shortly be asked to submit further information on their ideas, and then a shortlist of 16 students and graduates will be invited to pitch to a panel of experts for their chance to receive up to £25,000 of funding for their businesses.

Since LEN’s launch in 2019, we’ve seen a 20% increase year on year in applications for funding, with a 50% increase in female students applying – so far this year, 46% of funding applications have been from our female entrepreneurs. 

Graduate Kate Allan was an early recipient of Start-up funding from the University. In the final year of her MEng in Product Design Engineering, Kate set up Exphand Prosthetics from LUinc, the University’s incubator on the Science and Enterprise Park (LUSEP). Her company develops 3D printed, lightweight, adjustable and affordable prosthetic upper body limbs for children. Last year Kate won an Innovate UK Women in Innovation Award, which were set up in 2016 to boost the number of women entrepreneurs, innovators and business leaders in the UK.

A group of staff from Loughborough stood on the stage holding an award and smiling at the camera.

Top for facilities at the Whatuni Student Choice Awards

Last week Loughborough was named the Best University in the UK for Facilities at the 2024 Whatuni Student Choice Awards (WUSCAs). This is the fourth time Loughborough has taken the top spot in this category.  

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.  

Our outstanding sports facilities and pitches, the state-of-the-art labs and the modern, well-equipped teaching spaces all drew particular praise from our students. It is clear that our buildings 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. 

Congratulations to all those who are involved in the development and maintenance of our outstanding campuses.

Vice-Chancellor's Communications

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

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