A Year At Derby

A look back at the highlights of 2018-19 at the University of Derby

Our highlights

63 new jobs created thanks to £1 million funding from the University’s Invest to Grow scheme

A global pharmaceutical company expanded into Loughborough, creating 63 new jobs and establishing a new research and development facility in the town, after receiving £1 million funding from the University’s Invest to Grow scheme.

Alpha Pharma Services used the funding to redevelop a 70-acre science, technology and enterprise park, giving its customers the capability and technology to research and develop new experimental products. Derby’s Invest to Grow scheme provides grants and loans to support private-sector businesses across the East Midlands to innovate, expand and create jobs.

Derby named as 13th best for teaching quality

The University was named the 13th best university in the UK for teaching quality in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019 league table. The table showed that the University climbed from 22nd to joint 13th in the country for its teaching quality. University Vice-Chancellor Professor Kathryn Mitchell said: “Our teaching strategy encourages our academic teaching staff to be innovative in their approach to teaching and to be flexible enough to support the learning needs of individual students. “We aim to help every student fulfil their potential and prepare them for their future career or further study.”

Largest-ever Volunteering Fair

The Careers and Employment Service hosted its biggest Volunteering Fair yet, welcoming 70 charities and community organisations to the annual event at the University’s Kedleston Road site. Students, staff and the public were invited to meet the not-for-profit organisations and find out how they could get involved in the local community. Some of the charities were represented by students who had secured voluntary roles or paid work and were excited to return and share their experience with other students.

Research students triumph at prestigious awards

Five postgraduate research students from the University were awarded prizes in every category of a prestigious research competition, held as part of the annual East Midlands Doctoral Conference. Derby students came away from the conference with five awards, including the winner and runner-up for the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition and Best Poster Presentation, and two awards for Best Paper Presentation.

Student start-up aims to tackle plastic pollution

Twelve students from the colleges of Business and Engineering have developed a new start-up business, which aims to tackle plastic pollution by collecting and recycling waste and transforming it into sustainable ‘green’ products for sale. As part of the Plastic Fantastic project, the students will be converting waste collected on campus, such as plastic water bottles, into useable materials and products, using machines built by themselves.

University IT Analyst wins national award

Hari Lodhia, University Operations and Response Centre Delivery Technician, was awarded IT Service and Support Professional of the Year in the UK IT Awards 2018. He scooped the award for demonstrating outstanding achievement and commitment, providing IT service, support and training, as well as meeting key objectives for quality, customer satisfaction and delivery of agreed service levels. The UK IT Industry Awards set the benchmark for outstanding performance throughout the UK computing industry.

University website gives best UK HE visitor experience

The University’s website was rated as the UK’s number one HE website in the Sitemorse INDEX, providing the best visitor experience out of 317 higher education sites in the UK. This comes after Sitemorse ran 270 million tests, checks and measures on the public pages of HE institutions for its quarterly INDEX (UK Higher Education). A big focus for Derby’s website is accessibility and this is one of the areas tested by Sitemorse – and where the University scored well.

Derby first in the country to sign up to Advance HE’s Student Success Framework

The University signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Advance HE, making it the first higher education institution in the country to commit to embedding the agency’s best practice framework into all programmes. By adopting the Student Success Framework, the University will create a more consistent and integrated approach to curriculum design, as well as enhancing its digital offering.

Nature connectedness research makes UK’s Best Breakthroughs list

The University’s research into nature connectedness was named one of the UK’s 100 best breakthroughs, for its significant impact on people’s everyday lives. Derby’s Nature Connectedness Research Group, which is led by Miles Richardson, Professor of Human Factors and Nature Connectedness at the University, was the first in the country to look at people’s sense of their relationship with the natural world, and how it can influence wellbeing and pro-nature conservation behaviours. The list of breakthroughs, compiled by Universities UK, demonstrates how UK universities are at the forefront of some of the world’s most important discoveries, innovations and social initiatives.

Universities and colleges work together to tackle skills gap

Universities and colleges across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire have come together to launch ground-breaking projects to tackle skills shortages and skills gaps in the region. The project aims to support hundreds of small and medium sized businesses and organisations (SMEs) by making sure the area is home to a talented workforce with the high level skills that SMEs really need. The projects address two key priorities, making sure current and future employees have the high level skills needed to support local SMEs working in the region’s priority sectors and retaining graduates who study in the area, to keep high level talent in the region. Derby is working with institutions including Nottingham Trent University, Derby College and and is supported by the European Social Fund. This is the first time universities and colleges in the region have worked together on such a big scale to develop employer-led learning and training in collaboration with local SMEs.

New director for Centre for Contemporary Hospitality and Tourism

The University appointed a new director for its Centre for Contemporary Hospitality and Tourism (CCHT), based at its Buxton Campus. Brendan Moffett, former chief executive officer at Nottingham-based company Marketing NG, oversees the delivery of degree courses at the Devonshire Dome for students who aim to work in hospitality disciplines such as events management, tourism, culinary arts and spa and wellness management.

Dialysis therapy project secures £40,000 research grant

A research project involving the University of Derby, the University of Nottingham’s School of Medicine, the Royal Derby Hospital and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH), was awarded a £40,000 grant from Kidney Care UK and the British Renal Society to help people suffering from kidney failure overcome the psychological impact of their illness and treatment.  The project aims to use a form of therapy known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for patients for who find it difficult to come to terms with their illness and their dialysis regime.

Derby rises in Stonewall Workplace Equality Index

Derby climbed 189 places to 131st in the 2019 Stonewall UK Workplace Equality Index. The index assesses employers’ achievements and progress on the delivery of LGBT+ equality in the workplace. The improvement in the University’s position has been welcomed by its Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Dr Jo Bishton. Dr Bishton said: “It is wonderful to see that what we have done to make the University of Derby a more inclusive place to work and study has been recognised by such a large rise in this hugely important index. The role of the LGBT+ Staff Network at the University has been instrumental to our success.” Earlier this year, the University hosted the Derbyshire LGBT+ Network conference, attended by public service leaders from across the county, where the network’s Role Models booklet was launched.

University awarded contract to help challenging schools

Derby is being supported by the Department for Education (DfE) to help increase the supply of trainee teachers to schools with poor recruitment and retention in the Midlands. Funding from the DfE is being used to support a new initial teacher training pilot initiative, led by the Institute of Education at the University, which aims to improve the supply of newly qualified teachers to schools in challenging areas, promote career progression, and remove obstacles to social mobility.  The Partners for Progress project will be delivered over three years, and will involve implementing an extensive outreach programme in a number of diverse category 3 and 4 primary schools across the Midlands. 

University underlines commitment to community with new civic agreement

Derby pledged to develop a Civic University Agreement that will reaffirm the University’s ongoing commitment to playing its part in the city and county’s prosperity and wellbeing. The new agreement was a key recommendation in a report published by the Civic University Commission set up by the UPP Foundation. University Vice-Chancellor Professor Kathryn Mitchell said: “The University’s ground-breaking research into nature connectedness, our Invest to Grow programme for local SME businesses, our involvement in the Derby Opportunity Area initiative to boost attainment in the city’s schools, and our support for Derby Theatre, are just a handful of examples which demonstrate where we already add value to the local community.”

Derby graduate named Student Ambassador of the Year

Business Management graduate Danielle Keeling was named as the Chartered Management Institute’s (CMI) Student Ambassador of the Year. Danielle, who graduated from Derby with a degree in Business Management in 2018, received her award at a ceremony in London in recognition of her role as the University’s CMI student ambassador while studying at the University.

Unlikely encounter leads to prestigious film award

A chance meeting between a Film Production student from the University and a profoundly deaf artist not only led to a lifelong friendship between the two, but also resulted in numerous international film festival screenings and a highprofile award win. John McDonald met student Joshua Timmins in autumn 2016, when he was painting in the front room of his house in Derby. The pair created two films together, documenting how being able to hear again not only completely opened up John’s world but also heavily influenced his painting. One film went on to win a Royal Television Society Midlands Centre Student Award 2019 and was screened at six national and international film festivals. Josh said: “I’m a strong believer in fate and feel that our paths were meant to cross. Since that first meeting, John has become like a father figure to me. I’m just happy that I’m able to share his unique story through my film-making.”

Vice-Chancellor on patrol for National Apprenticeship Week

University Vice-Chancellor Professor Kathryn Mitchell went out on patrol to find out more about the work of police constable apprentices during National Apprenticeship Week. Professor Mitchell shadowed PC Joseph Cunningham from Derbyshire Constabulary, one of the first officers of the new Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA), accompanying him and his tutor on patrol and spending time experiencing how the force responds to incidents. The PCDA provides an opportunity to become a paid police officer while gaining a fully-funded policing degree from the University.

Students take top honours at media awards

Five journalism students from the University were honoured at the Midlands Media Student Awards 2019. The awards acknowledge the achievements of next-generation journalists, broadcasters and photographers, with the event attracting hundreds of entries from universities and colleges across the region. A total of 15 Derby students were nominated. Sarah Chapman, Senior Lecturer in Journalism, said: “It was such a proud moment to see the fantastic talent from our courses at the University of Derby receive recognition at these awards. Our students were competing against those from other institutions, some of whom are in their final year, working in industry or postgraduates, so the achievements of our budding journalists cannot be overestimated.”

Film wins prestigious education award

A series of films made by the University and Time for Geography won a 2019 Highly Commended Publishers Award from the Geographical Association – the leading subject association for all teachers of geography. The films, supported by Dr Sian Davies-Vollum, Head of the School of Natural Sciences, alongside Dr Howard Fox, Senior Lecturer in Geography, and Dr Toby Tonkin, Lecturer in Physical Geography, explored the physical geography of sand dunes and how they are formed, using the case study of Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve in Lincolnshire. The second film examined how dune slack wetlands are created. The films were created with Time for Geography, an education and outreach project which creates freely available geography learning videos. The project is made up of a collaborative team of teachers, academics, developers and filmmakers with a passion for geography.

Inspiration Rover project encourages children into the world of STEM

Twelve Derbyshire school children took part in an educational outreach programme run by University academics and students. Inspiration Rover was a six-week programme to engineer and build a scale replica of the Mars Rover robot. It aimed to encourage the school children, some who had previously left mainstream education, into the world of STEM, while also building their confidence. The project was funded by the Institute of Engineering and Technology, and supported by the National Space Academy, IET TV, UK Space Agency, Catena Space Engineering and Derbyshire County Council.

Students' out of this world idea wins funding in space competition

Three Derby business students won £5,000 in a competition to come up with ideas on how satellites can improve life on Earth, run by the UK Space Agency. Patrick Motley, Blaise Umbagodo and Alberto Tinta won the prize in the Agency’s SatelLife competition for young people, for their idea for a tool that would allow improvised explosive devices and other unexploded bombs to be identified in warzones, and then use drones and precision satellite positioning to improve the safety for bomb disposal teams.

University works with city to tackle plastic water pollution

A three-way collaboration between the University, the Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust, and Rolls-Royce has formed to tackle plastic pollution in Derbyshire canals. This year’s team was set the challenge of coming up with a concept for a new technology to remove plastics from the River Derwent. Professor Michael Sweet, Head of the University’s Aquatic Research Facility and scientific consultant for this project, said: “More work needs to be done to fully understand the extent of this problem in the UK, but it’s inevitable that most rivers will have some plastic in the water, especially rivers that flow through urban areas.”

Derby rises in Guardian University Guide 2020

The University gained its highest-ever ranking in the Guardian University Guide, rising three places, from 29th to 26th. Derby was also ranked joint third out of 121 institutions for the number of students satisfied with teaching quality and placed in the top 10 for student satisfaction with its courses and feedback.

Professor Kathryn Mitchell, University Vice-Chancellor, said: “This improvement is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of our staff and students, the support of key partners across the region, and our commitment to delivering excellence in teaching and learning, providing an outstanding student experience, and increasing graduate employability.”

University honoured in Stonewall Regional Awards

University Vice-Chancellor Professor Kathryn Mitchell and Sarah Barley-McMullen, the University’s LGBT+ Allies Staff Network Chair, both received a regional Stonewall Award, in acknowledgement of their commitment to role modelling inclusion and equality. Through the work identified in the University’s Stonewall Workplace Index submission, Stonewall awarded Professor Mitchell ‘Stonewall Senior Champion of the Year’ for the Midlands, and Sarah Barley-McMullen ‘Stonewall Role Model of the Year’ for the Midlands.

Derby leads national project to support student mental health

A £2m project has been launched to help University teaching staff support the mental wellbeing of their students. Led by the University, in collaboration with Aston University, King’s College London, Advance HE and Student Minds, the project will focus on how curriculum design, teaching and assessment processes can have a positive impact on student wellbeing.

Football journalism student lands dream New Zealand opportunity thanks to Derby graduate

Holly Percival, one of the University’s first Football Journalism students, was offered an internship in New Zealand by University alumnus Chris Wright, Chief Executive of the Football South Federation and the Southern United Football Club. Holly joined the Dunedin-based club in the role of media officer for the NZ National League season as part of a work exchange programme, while also trialling for the Southern United women’s squad. Holly said: “I didn’t really think an opportunity like this would ever be available to me, to be able to work for a federation, a club and also play football, but with this internship that’s exactly what I’m getting.”

Universities launch £7.1m programme to enhance productivity for local businesses

Small businesses in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire can access free productivity support as a result of a new £7.1m programme being run by three local universities. ‘Productivity Through Innovation’ is a three year collaborative programme involving the University of Derby, Nottingham Trent University and the University of Nottingham, which provides support to 181 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire regions. Productivity challenges will be addressed through innovation support including postgraduate and undergraduate placements, management and leadership workshops, and academic support designed to help businesses innovate, explore new ideas and offering unprecedented access to university expertise and talent.

Celebrating regional business success

Initiatives to create new jobs and provide expertise to help SME businesses grow were the focus of a Celebration of Success event. The event, attended by many local companies, showcased the successes of the University’s work with small and medium-sized businesses in the region and highlighted how the University can help companies identify graduate talent to fill high-level skills gaps, as well as access grants and loans to fund development and growth.

University Dean of Students to receive prestigious National Teaching Fellowship award

Fiona Shelton is to receive a National Teaching Fellowship – the most prestigious individual award in higher education. Fiona, who began her career in higher education in 2003, has been awarded the accolade in recognition of her contribution to teaching excellence at the University. The Advance HE National Teaching Fellowship scheme has been running since 2000. On gaining the award, fellows play an ongoing role in enhancing teaching and learning within their institution, the higher education sector and further afield.

University hosts first Derby Civic Forums

The University held a series of public forums to provide the wider community with the opportunity to share their thoughts on how it can help to deliver long-term positive impact for Derby and Derbyshire. The forums, held in Derby, Chesterfield and Buxton, are part of a consultation exercise to identify the key priorities and challenges facing local communities, businesses and organisations within the city and county, and where the University can focus its civic endeavours and work most effectively with external stakeholders. University Vice-Chancellor Professor Kathryn Mitchell said: “We are committed to becoming a true ‘Civic University’, responsible not only to our students and our staff, but also to the places and people around us. To ensure the impact we make is long-term and sustainable, we first need to understand what the real needs of our city and county are which is why we are running this consultation.”.

Members of the LGBT+ Allies Network at the Stonewall event