Peter Neil

Peter Neil

PeterNeil

The Rev’d Canon Professor Peter Neil is Vice-Chancellor of Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln and a Canon of Lincoln Cathedral.


When I counted up the number of Christmas Markets I’ve attended, I just realised that I have been in Lincoln for seven years. For Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU) 2019 was the busiest of the seven by far. I am still enjoying every minute of living here and of serving both in BGU and in the magnificent Cathedral; it is great to see it illuminated again.

Last year we concluded our first BGU corporate strategic plan and prepared for the development of the next, which takes us to 2025. One of the comments made at our consultation events struck me which was that, although various aspects of our work were known throughout Lincolnshire, some stakeholders didn’t have a grasp of the full scope of our offering. They saw the individual projects but did not see them as part of an integrated whole.

Like all universities, our purpose is broadly to provide an excellent experience for our students encompassing high quality teaching and learning, underpinned by research and knowledge exchange. But the institution is also a resource for the community and the whole of the city. We continue to work in partnership with a range of organisations which share our values.

When BGU was established in 1862 it was to provide education for the people of Lincolnshire. This remains central to what we are about but our focus has broadened and our portfolio now includes a wide range of subjects covering business, the social sciences and the humanities.

During 2019 we saw the completion of several major externally funded projects that reflect the breadth of our ambition as an institution. They provide benefits for the economy, commerce and communities as well as adding value to the learning experience of our students. Through them BGU has engaged with over 1,000 different business partners.

The Specialist Teaching Programme delivered an accredited, fully funded intensive ‘train to teach’ course to 266 local industry experts. Designed to improve labour-market relevance, it equipped participants with the skills to deliver ‘masterclasses’ to students at local further education and independent training providers.

In June, the Lincolnshire Open Research and Innovation Centre (LORIC) came to the end of its period of support from the European Regional Development Fund. By providing bespoke data-driven business solutions and services, LORIC worked with small and medium-sized enterprises across the county. We have invested in the continuation of this work.

The Specialist Skills Programme was funded by the European Social Fund and the UK’s Education and Skills Funding Agency. It delivered training needs analyses to 670 businesses.

Finally the three-year European Social Fund and Big Lottery funded MOVE project has been extended to June 2022 to continue support for the long-term unemployed or the economically inactive.

So, as you can see, one of the main reasons that the past seven years have flown by is because of the variety of the work that we do. No two years, indeed no two days, are the same.

As I look forward to next year my big hope is for some stability in the world, in the country, in the city and in the higher education sector. What gives me hope for the future of education and our contribution to it is the continued focus on working together in the spirit of purposeful collaboration.

Merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous 2020.

The Rev’d Canon Professor Peter Neil is Vice-Chancellor of Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln and a Canon of Lincoln Cathedral.

The year for me started in India and ended in Thailand and a lot has happened in the intervening months.

In January I was in Chennai in South East India at a conference of the Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion (CUAC) of which Bishop Grosseteste University is a member.

It was great meeting with colleagues from across the world all discussing the challenges of higher education. I have just returned from Thailand where I was signing a memorandum of understanding with a university in Bangkok which is interested in working with us on international language education.

It has been another very significant and rewarding year at Bishop Grosseteste University. Two major estates projects I discussed in my column for the Lincolnite last year have come to pass; the extension of Constance Stewart Hall is complete as can be seen from the Longdales Road roundabout and we have opened our Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT) at the heart of our campus. Both buildings are visually stunning and represent a skillful blend between old and new.

Another highlight for the University was the national award of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) Gold which was a great acknowledgement of the high quality teaching and learning which take place at BGU and which equip our students for society and the workplace; it was a remarkable achievement.

Part of the privilege for me in Lincoln is having two existences; one as vice-chancellor of BGU but the other as a canon of Lincoln Cathedral. This year these two roles were brought together in a rather unusual way when I was invited to be present in the altar party of the wedding of one of our students Tom Stockwell, who married Victoria in June in the Cathedral.

This was also a significant year of change for me personally – two long-standing members of staff who worked very closely with me since my arrival here left to enjoy life after retirement; Helen Parkinson who had been Personal Assistant to several principals of the former college and vice-chancellors of the university and Vonnie Dow who was their housekeeper for years. Their departure just reinforced how quickly time moves on and changes occur. It also emphasised the fact that this institution has seen people come and go; all have left their mark but the institution is greater than individuals.

Not completely unrelated to BGU one of my lasting memories of the year will be The Imps’ remarkable achievements and the way in which it brought residents of the city together. Progressing to the FA Cup quarter-final final – the first time a non-league club had reached the last eight since 1914 and to return to the Football League for the first time in six years really showed what can be achieved with seemingly endless amounts of enthusiasm and work ethic. As sponsors of the home shirts we were also delighted to host the FA cup albeit for a short time on campus.

There is of course no standing still and 2018 will continue the pace of change; we are hoping to open a new research centre in upper Lincoln and to enhance our work with businesses and the voluntary sector at various levels. I am very much looking forward to my 5th year in Lincoln. I said two years ago that I wanted to get out more; I regret to say I have still not managed to get as far as Grimsby but then again I have everything I want here in upper Lincoln. My New Year’s resolution is to get a better work-life balance which is not as easy as it sounds because I just love my job and my work is in many ways my life.

The Rev’d Canon Professor Peter Neil is Vice-Chancellor of Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln and a Canon of Lincoln Cathedral.

Last year was a very significant year in the life of Bishop Grosseteste University. We continued making progress in our strategy, focusing specifically on our work with our partners and stakeholders and increasing our research activity.

We firmly established our place as a quality university, being the second highest ranked public university in England for student satisfaction and named as one of the top three institutions in the UK for student employability.

We passed three major quality inspections (from the Quality Assurance Agency, Ofsted for our teacher education and the British Psychological Society for our courses in psychology) with flying colours.

These results confirmed that we provide high quality courses for our students. Further evidence that we are among the best universities in the country came in the form of the score we received from our students in the National Student Survey which with 92% satisfaction ranked us in the top group in the UK.

Also the number of students getting jobs was amongst the highest in the country with 96% of our graduates being in employment or further study six months after graduation.

So these results, together with the increased number of students joining both our traditional courses and new courses, meant that 2016 counted as one of the most successful in the history of the institution.

On a personal note, however, it was a sad year for me as I lost my little cat, Sparky, who had been with me for the past 13 years, travelling with me from Wales to Scotland and then to Lincoln.

She died in the wonderful vet hospital across the road from BGU in Newport, while I was away in Izmir in Turkey on business. I now have another tabby who came from the Lincoln Cat Care; I have called her Izzy, (to remind me of Izmir) and she is settling in well.

So what of 2017? I will be starting the year at a conference of the Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion (CUAC) which is taking place in Chennai in South East India. BGU is part of that international group and it is a great opportunity to hear what is going on across the world in similar institutions and also an opportunity to tell the international community about education in Lincolnshire.

Bishop Grosseteste University’s plans for the expansion of one of the teaching blocks Photo: Artist Impressions – LK2

Those of you who pass by on Newport will notice that BGU is reaching for the skies with the second phase extension to the Constance Stewart Hall which will be an iconic front at the roundabout on the corner of Longdales Road.

This will provide additional, flexible teaching spaces for our students and it will bring the campus out from behind the trees to the road. We are looking forward to opening this building in the summer. This will be very useful as we introduce yet more new courses – in Business and in Geography, to name but a few. We also have additional places in teacher education courses at all levels.

We will also be opening our Centre for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT) which will provide a major focus for all work in relation to the student experience.

We are also looking forward to starting a major project with our partner institutions in higher education in the LincHigher project which will encourage potential students from across the county to enter university level education. So there is a lot happening next year.

Along with the usual well-intentioned resolutions to eat less, or at least more healthy food, do more exercise and get out more, I think I want to use my time more effectively as I have less time left than I had at the end of last year! I should like to wish all readers on behalf of BGU a happy Christmas and New Year.

The Rev’d Canon Professor Peter Neil is Vice-Chancellor of Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln and a Canon of Lincoln Cathedral.

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