Professor Peter Mathieson welcomes us to this year's Annual Report & Accounts.
"I stated in my Welcome in last years’ Annual Report and Accounts that no amount of political or economic upheaval should deflect us from our mission to be a place of personal and societal transformation. I am proud to say that despite the unprecedented year that this document covers, this remains absolutely true.
Within that context, the University’s ‘Strategy 2030’ is confirmed as not just a document but a collective culture and set of principles that has steered our thinking and enabled us to navigate and, in many ways, flourish through this ever-changing environment.
The Covid-19 pandemic has presented substantial challenges across all sectors and geographies. The higher education sector is no exception and we now operate amidst huge medical, social and economic uncertainty.
We acted quickly and adopted new thinking about how we operate as a University; how we continue to support and deliver services to our student base at home and abroad; the wellbeing of our staff and students and the community in which we all live; the continuation of our teaching and research endeavours and how we can support Edinburgh and the surrounding areas through this crisis. The fact that we have responded as quickly and comprehensively as we have done is a superb tribute to the University of Edinburgh community. We already knew that we had a lot of talent and dedication at the University, but the extraordinary efforts made by so many people across our university community to adapt to the rapidly changing circumstances, and ensure the safety and support of our students and staff, have been nothing short of inspirational.
Looking to the future, there is no doubt about the economic and financial challenges we face now and in the coming years. We have taken significant and rapid steps during the crisis to reduce the impact and adapt, and I do believe that with the right approach, there are opportunities to move forward and create even more value and positive societal impact.
This ambition is captured and defined in our Strategy 2030, which has been a touchstone for guiding the University in a collective and valuesled response through the crisis. Launched in September 2019, at its very core is our renewed focus on our people; a values-based approach; an ambition for excellence in everything that we do; plus a commitment to working in collaboration to tackle the world’s most pressing issues. Everyone at the University plays a part in working to realise the aspirations and objectives set out in the Strategy and we have made good progress in these areas over the last year.
Student and staff satisfaction and safety is a top priority and we are working hard to ensure that the University can be open for business in the safest way possible. We have adapted the entire ecosystem of the University in an incredibly short time to ensure that our students have as much of a “normal” (preferably enhanced) experience as possible. A degree from Edinburgh will always be one of the most prestigious in the world. The experience of being in one of the world’s great cities will always be immensely valuable, even though it has been seriously impacted this year by the pandemic and realistically that is going to continue for the foreseeable future.
Our focus on equality, diversity and inclusion in our University community will be supported with further investment of time, effort and money over the next three years. It is my genuine belief that our diverse backgrounds, experiences and characteristics make us better at what we do here at Edinburgh. However we are not yet diverse enough as a community. Variety widens our collective perspective and improves our teaching and research abilities that position us on the global stage. We are a cosmopolitan community and are always seeking to invest and develop in our international alliances.
The UK formally left the European Union on 31 January 2020 and as I have emphasised before, no political change will take away the commitment of the University of Edinburgh to internationalisation, both within and beyond Europe. We will build on our strong international networks and establish new partnerships. One example is that we are one of only three UK universities to be part of successful applications to the first round of the “European University Alliances” scheme announced last year. The new alliance of which we are part is called Una Europa and was formally launched in Brussels in January 2020. We will take this and other opportunities to emphasise our strong commitment to Europe and we will continue to campaign for full association to Horizon Europe and the new Erasmus programme 2021-2027 or for suitable replacements if, as is at the time of writing looking increasingly likely, our first choice outcome is not available.
This brings me on to news regarding a highly respected colleague and servant to the University and one of our distinguished alumni: Anne Richards, our Vice-Convener of Court, the University’s governing body, who stepped down on the 31 of July 2020. Since 2007 Anne has held positions as the Convener of Audit Committee, Policy and Resources and Nominations Committees as well as being a member of Remuneration Committee. In addition to her prolific career, Anne is a champion of gender equality in the workplace, sitting on the Board of Leaders of 2020 Women on Boards, a US organisation which aims to increase the proportion of women on corporate boards.
On behalf of everyone at the University I would like to say a sincere thank you to Anne and everything she has done during her time at Edinburgh. I’d also like to warmly welcome Janet Legrand who has been elected as the Senior Lay Member on the University Court, for a period of three years from 1 August 2020.
It is our students, staff, alumni, friends and supporters who make this University what it is. The University of Edinburgh has been an inspiration to this special community of people for generations and is known well beyond these shores for its substantial and sustained contributions to making the world a better place. I expect it to continue to be long into the future."