The past academic year has been extremely successful, with our three-year strategic priorities implementation plan (2015-2018) coming to fruition, delivering outstanding achievements for both our students and the University.
Building upon our performance and last year’s Gold TEF rating, this year has seen us being placed in the top 30 of the Guardian University Guide, and in the top 250 modern universities in the world in the Times Higher Education’s Young University Rankings.
These achievements recognise the high levels of commitment of staff and students. In particular, our students have continued to impress us with their tenacity and ambition; receiving national and international recognition for their work, securing external funding to further develop their academic skills, and embarking upon challenging, high-calibre work placements, including overseas opportunities. The increasing uptake of such opportunities assures us that our students are exploring new cultures, gaining invaluable knowledge and developing new skills.
Our continued commitment to delivering excellence in teaching and learning was recognised in the prestigious annual Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards (THELMAs), where we won the Teaching and Learning Strategy of the Year award. This is a coveted accolade that we believe truly reflects the significant work that has been undertaken over a three-year period to ensure that our strategy has been lived, and has impacted upon both student performance and experience.
In June, we launched our Strategic Framework 2018-2030; setting out our ambition, and laying the core foundations on which we will plan, perform and succeed in a changing and globally dynamic environment. This has provided staff and stakeholders with clarity of purpose, identifying where we are heading and, as importantly, how we are going to get there.
A key focus of our approach is increased development of research and innovation. Our Institute for Innovation and Sustainable Engineering (IISE) has broadened its approach, working more closely with our academic Colleges. This has repaid significant benefits, in relation to funding and influence, with both our technology and health partners. Moreover, our work with global companies and institutes, including Roche and CERN, is going from strength to strength.
We are proud to be a modern university, and the only university in the county, and take seriously the role we have to play in raising aspirations and improving the education, skills, health and wellbeing of current and future generations across the region. Therefore, a core ambition remains to be a significant force, creating opportunities and championing social mobility, through our ability to influence the breaking of barriers to accessing high-quality further and higher education. The work of the University’s Equality and Social Mobility Unit, Widening Access and Schools and Colleges Liaison teams, has enabled us to engage with over 35,000 students, through the delivery of 700 activities. However, our region continues to be challenging, with low expectations and outcomes for many of our young people, so this work will continue at pace in partnership with the City of Derby Opportunity Area.
A key success for the University has been that many more of our students are gaining graduate employment within six months of completing their degree. This demonstrates a 13% increase in graduate employability outcomes over the two-year period; outcomes that were supported by a range of focused and challenging activities with our student body. In recognition of our commitment to developing and supporting enterprise and entrepreneurship, we won ‘University of the Year’ at the Midlands Business Awards – a key success for the collaborative working of our professional and academic teams.
Graduation is the most important time for the University, and this year we welcomed a record number of students and their families at our celebrations in both Derby and Buxton. Our Derby celebrations in July were especially momentous as our Pro Chancellor and Chair of our Board, Chris Hughes, stepped down after 17 years of continued commitment. Chris has demonstrated visionary leadership throughout this period, providing the challenge to deliver excellence for both our staff and students. Our new Chair of Governing Council, Stephen Smith, has taken up the position, and we are excited to be working with him on our new Strategic Framework.
This year saw the inauguration of a new Chancellor, Lord Burlington, who stepped into the role when the Duke of Devonshire officially retired in March. The Duke played a significant role in the development of the University over his 10-year period and we hope to maintain strong links with his regional work.
It is important to reflect upon our successes and, within a dynamic and changing sector, recognise the commitment of our staff, students and partners, who continue to work with us to effect positive change to achieve our collective ambitions for the University, city and region.