The Vice-chancellor, Edward Acton, recently addressed both staff and students on the future and direction of the University of East Anglia.
The VC delivered a speech to students present at Union Council on 2 February, and held an open forum for staff on 9 February. In his speeches and the draft Corporate Plan, he placed great emphasis on UEA’s need to be “extremely bullish” in order “to consolidate its position among the top 1% of universities in the world and to be consistently ranked in the UK top 20”.
The draft Corporate Plan details UEA’s preferred academic ascent from 2012 to 2016. The Plan is ambitious and outlines UEA’s desire to “expand student numbers by between 15% and 20%” over the next four years. The Vice-chancellor intends to “intensify the supportive educational experience” students receive, and spoke of his desire to intensely focus resources.
The Plan outlines that students will have even higher expectations due to the rise in fees, and therefore UEA will move towards changes in the way teaching and research are conducted. The Vice-chancellor spoke of a “break” with Victorian traditions in universities regarding time distribution for academics, expecting a move away from the traditional idea that academics spend half their time researching and half their time teaching.
The Vice-chancellor stated that he was very proud of the diversity of UEA’s student population, which he felt some Russell Group universities had problems with. One of the priorities of the Corporate Plan is to “increase the regional diversity of student applicants both from the UK and the national diversity from overseas”.
In the Union Council speech, the VC emphasised that the University is working around the governmental White paper, which is intensifying competition for potential undergraduates with AAB at A Level. He spoke of his desire to “engage the passion of students” with more academic attention for students, also praising the resources available in Norwich.
The speech at Union Council was also an opportunity for students to ask the Vice-chancellor questions. Questions were asked regarding Freedom of Information (FOI) requests submitted by students involved in the Save UEA Music campaign. A proposal for a pledge to increase student representation was dismissed when put to the Vice-chancellor. When accused by third year student, Jack Brinded, who said his appearance was “token lip-service to democracy”, the Vice-chancellor responded that students would get “very bored” if he was there more often.
Questions were also raised in the open forum about the role of the Student Union in regards to the University. Registrar of the University, Brian Summers, told the forum that he did not believe the Union would collapse under its current financial burden and praised the alignment of interests between the Union and the University.
The corporate plan aims to reflect the whole of UEA and is still being drafted. A final version will be put before Council in March.