Building on our success

The past couple of years have seen a dramatic change in fortunes within SAgE. We have rapidly moved from a faculty that was endeavouring to minimise an annual deficit, to one where we are enjoying a significant surplus. Of course, the external environment has had  a lot to do with this, but it’s important to acknowledge that it would not have been possible without tremendous hard work on behalf of  staff at all grades throughout the Faculty.

 Given this favourable state of affairs, it is an opportune time to look at how we can make this favourable financial position work to deliver on our aspirations. We discussed this issue at Faculty Executive Board this week. Mindful of the need to further strengthen our research in preparation for the next REF exercise, there was strong support for investment in a number of PhD studentships across the Faculty. Our finances are such that we should be in a   position to invest in 25 such studentships annually, and assuming that these will be for up to four years, this will result in a steady-state cohort of 100, four years from now.

 The proposal is to invest these studentships in the nine research themes that Faculty Executive Board identified last summer (see here), in which we either already have research quality and critical mass, or are in the process of building such. These will be in addition to the ‘DTG’ studentships that we allocate to support EPSRC funded projects, or studentships that are currently funded within schools. The Postgraduate Dean will be consulting with Heads of School over the next month to figure out the best mechanism to ensure that we recruit students of the highest quality. A substantial advantage in funding them ourselves is that there are no strings attached – we can search world-wide for the very best.

On a different note, Times Higher Education last week reported on ‘The Best University Workplace 2014’. It’s pleasing to report that with regard to recommending NU as a good place to work we came 4th, and we are also in the top 5 with regard to various other measures (see THE page 43). As I’ve said before if, in reaching for the stars, NU becomes an awful place to work, we will have failed. While we need to be careful about league tables (the sample size looks to be quite small from the limited data provided) this result suggests that we are continuing to move in the right direction.

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About stevehomans

Professor Steve Homans is a structural biologist with an international reputation in the study of biomolecular interactions. He obtained his first degree and DPhil in Biochemistry at Oxford University, and secured his first academic position as Lecturer at the University of Dundee. In 1998 he received the Zeneca award from the Biochemical Society and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Prior to his current appointment he was Dean of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds. Professor Homans brings extensive expertise of academic leadership and management, with a particular emphasis on organisational change.
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