December 28, 2017 7.00 am This story is over 70 months old

Reflections 2017: Mary Stuart – Looking ahead with optimism and excitement

Reflections from the University of Lincoln’s Mary Stuart.

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By University of Lincoln Vice Chancellor

The red letter day in the diary of most universities in 2017 was June’s publication of the outcome of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

The University of Lincoln was awarded Gold – the highest standard possible – in this national assessment. We pride ourselves on the quality of our teaching, the student experience, and our graduates’ outcomes.

Our TEF Gold award is national recognition of these qualities. Lincoln was in the top quarter of all higher education institutions entering the TEF to be awarded a Gold rating. The whole county can be proud that both the city’s universities received this prestigious status.

We had started 2017 in the closing stages of three major capital projects: The Isaac Newton Building, home to all our Engineering, Computer Science, and Maths and Physics students and staff; a brand new facility for our Schools of Health and Social Care and Psychology in the form of the Sarah Swift Building; and adding extra flats to our on-campus student accommodation through our Cygnet Wharf residential complex.

Investments such as these help us to create the environment where our academic community can continue to flourish by providing staff and students with the infrastructure – physical and virtual – they need for excellent teaching and research to take place.
We began moving into the Isaac Newton Building in the spring. Its completion represents the latest in a series of major new developments to support our growth in science and engineering capabilities, which started with the construction of the Engineering Hub in collaboration with Siemens eight years ago.

It is fitting that the Isaac Newton Building is named in honour of perhaps the greatest scientific mind of all time, and one of Lincolnshire’s own, and we hope to inspire future generations of pioneering thinkers to follow in Newton’s footsteps. The fact the official opening was led by the UK’s most senior scientist, Sir Mark Walport, is testament to the national significance of this strategic investment in our region’s science base.

The Sarah Swift Building is another significant new addition to our campus, and we officially opened that building earlier this month with special guest Dr Michael Mosley. It will further bolster our ability to teach the next generation of healthcare professionals needed in our NHS, provide state of the art facilities for all our students, and help us further develop our high quality health research.

The building has been named in honour of Lincolnshire-born Dame Sarah Swift, another visionary from our county, who made such a remarkable contribution to nursing education and professional standards.

Over the coming year, we will see a suite of new health courses rolled out, including an undergraduate degree in Paramedic Science and a postgraduate course in Physiotherapy, with more health related courses coming in September 2018.

We have also supported the development of the International Bomber Command Centre by seeking out, collating and digitising material that will be presented in the building, which will be available online as a digital archive later in 2018.

More than 3,000 of our latest group of undergraduates to complete their studies are now taking their next steps onto the career ladder after we said goodbye and good luck to them at our graduation ceremonies in September.

Just a few weeks later, we welcomed our largest ever cohort of first year undergraduates starting their university journey. This included the first entrants to our new School of Geography, which adds to the range of new science disciplines at Lincoln. The Royal Geographical Society called its creation one of the most significant investments in UK university Geography for a generation.

As well as teaching successes and development of our campus and facilities, 2017 has also been a celebration of arts and heritage. In November, we supported the latest instalment of Frequency Festival which showcased an extraordinary programme of digital art exhibitions, bespoke installations, live performance and energetic debate.

Frequency is now a highlight of Lincoln’s cultural calendar and this year’s Festival took the theme of Displacement, inspired by the 800-year anniversary of the sealing of the Charter of the Forest, the ‘sister’ document of the Magna Carta. The city of Lincoln was once again the focus of national and international attention on its remarkably rich heritage, as the only place in the world originals of both charters can be viewed side-by-side.

Our historians were part of the effort to tell this story and its equally compelling pretext – the Battle of Lincoln. This included describing the vital role played by Lady Nicola de la Haye, the female castellan of Lincoln Castle, proclaimed ‘the woman who saved England’ by some historians for her role repelling the invading French armies at this pivotal battle in our Medieval History.

This synergy of the ancient and the modern, and the pioneering and often buccaneering spirit of its people down the centuries, is what makes Lincoln and Lincolnshire such a fascinating place to live, study and work.

Constant change seems to be the only thing that stays the same from one year to the next – but even as we face up to uncertain times ahead – the distant and recent past suggests we can look forward with optimism and excitement.

Professor Mary Stuart is the Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln. She is a graduate of the University of Cape Town and the Open University, where she obtained her Doctorate in Social Policy in 1998. Her research interests are focused on life histories, social mobility, higher education students and community development.