December 26, 2021 6.50 am

Reflections 2021: Professor Neal Juster – A university leading the way to a sustainable future

Neal Juster marks his first Christmas as Vice Chancellor at the University of Lincoln

I am a very new member of the Lincoln community, and I am delighted to be here as the third Vice Chancellor at the University of Lincoln and a resident in such a vibrant and beautiful place. Since my arrival I have taken the time to absorb all that is unique about the University and the city. I have met many fantastic and committed people, including those providing business and civic leadership in the region.

One of the dominant themes this year has been that of the impact of human activity on the planet’s climate. I therefore feel great responsibility in helping the university write the next chapter in its successful history. We will continue being a university that is crucial to the economic and cultural growth of the region, a key player in global higher education and a thought leader in creating a sustainable planet.

We have some great foundations that we must build upon. We were the only English university asked by the UK Government to exhibit at COP26, showcasing our work on increasing the productivity of agriculture whilst reducing the sector’s carbon impact. Together with our National Centre for Food Manufacturing we will help change the shape of food production. Other researchers are also helping to decarbonise the heavy industries in the north of the county.

Since declaring a climate and ecological emergency in 2019, we have worked hard to enhance the energy efficiency of our buildings and to create low carbon and biodiverse campuses. We took occupation of the new Lincoln Medical School in April. This is the most sustainable building on our campus and is designed to be thermally efficient – generating the energy it uses. The building is an architectural feat, including solar panels and a ‘living wall’ to encourage biodiversity.

We have work to ensure biodiversity though activities such as an urban bee garden, wildflower meadows, and hedgehog friendly spaces. These and other interventions have helped us gain the Ecocampus Platinum Award.

Meeting our ambitious carbon reduction targets will not be easy. It will require the commitment of all of us reduce energy consumption, choose efficiency travel options and cut the amount of waste we produce. The attitude of our students and staff gives me real confidence that we can, and will, make a real difference.

To help the next generation we are embedding sustainability in our teaching and learning and have recently introduced a Master’s Programme in Sustainability.

We realise that we can’t address the climate crisis alone. That’s why we’re working with partners across the City of Lincoln and wider county to develop partnerships to enhance sustainability. We were a founding partner for the Lincoln Climate Commission, which is working to develop a Net Zero roadmap for the city.

I am excited about what the future will be for the University of Lincoln as we set off on the next stage of our journey. We are proud that our student population comes from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds and cultures. We plan to increase the diversity of our student body through the development of new models of learning. Short courses, earn as you learn, and digital provision will reach a wider, non-traveling, audience. We will also transfer the knowledge we create on sustainability and other research through licencing and transfer of intellectual property, consultancy assignments and company formation.

Much has already been achieved, notably we are rated among the UK’s top 20 universities for student satisfaction in the Guardian University Guide 2022 and the Complete University Guide 2022, and are placed among the world’s top 150 young universities in The Times Higher Education Young University Rankings 2021.

Just this month, it was announced by leading financial platform Tide that the University is in the top 10 in the country for producing business start-ups.

At subject level, Chemistry at Lincoln is now ranked 2nd in the UK behind only Oxford in the Guardian, and I feel this represents the high regard in which the University is now held.

I’ve been honoured over these past months to meet so many members of this amazing community. All of whom have been welcoming, inspiring, and a testament to how friendly Lincoln is. I wish all of our community and beyond a very merry Christmas, and a safe, peaceful and prosperous new year.

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Professor Neal Juster is Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln