Vice-Chancellor's Welcome

Cut out image of Kath Mitchell in University of Deby atrium
Professor Kathryn Mitchell

At Derby we have worked to build a powerful regional university that addresses the needs of our students, region and beyond. Our Strategic Framework 2018-30, which frames the University’s activity and ambition around three Pillars: Game Changers, Opening Doors and Positive Impact, ensures that everything we do is driven by delivering excellence and opportunities, and our achievements and strong academic performance this past year reflect this.

The importance of social mobility and meeting the needs of our region is part of our DNA. Our drive to support the government’s Industrial Strategy and the regional skills agenda continues to gain momentum, as does our work to ensure the global challenges we face are embedded into our philosophy and curriculum, so that Derby students understand the future role they may play in tackling them. 

Trailblazing programmes

With Buxton and Leek College in the University group we are able to deliver opportunities from Level 2 to Level 7 across our region, enabling significantly more people to access higher education. Moreover, our drive to respond to the challenge of our public and private service has led to the University trailblazing programmes to address the skills gap in professions such as nursing and policing, and with our local industries.

Through our Nursing Associates programme we provide a progression route into graduate level nursing for many people, including those who had never entertained the idea of going to university. Just this year we enrolled 162 apprentices, the majority of whom are over 30 years old, onto this pioneering education programme which is helping to transform the nursing and care workforce.

Through our partnership with Nottinghamshire Police, which led the sector in developing the first UK Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship, we have provided a new education route that engages with historically hard to reach communities for police recruitment. This has resulted in more than 50% of the cohort being the first in their family to enter higher education, increased BAME participation in the training by 100%, and doubled the number of BAME applicants for policing.

We are supporting our local schools, raising the attainment and outcomes of young people through many impactful initiatives, including our involvement with the Derby Opportunity Area and the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Collaborative Outreach Project.

Our research into compassionate mind training is improving the mental wellbeing of teachers and support staff, and colleagues from our Institute of Education have received Department for Education funding to support the Partners for Progress project, a new initial teacher training pilot initiative to help challenging schools recruit and retain teachers.

Influencing skills development

We continue to build our influence on skills development through advanced manufacturing and apprenticeships, working with a number of diverse organisations locally, nationally and globally.

Through knowledge exchange and research, staff are using their expertise, insight and influence to address key societal challenges, secure funding to improve innovation and productivity, and support the innovation and development of some of the region’s key stakeholders from sectors including rail, health and technology.
Examples include our work with RDS Global Ltd, supporting them to become market leader for “Real Time” aggregated multi connectivity and reporting solutions, Financial Performance Solutions Ltd, where we are developing Business Intelligence Software for the Automotive Industry, and Chatsworth House, developing the economic, environmental and employment impact of the estate.

The civic role universities play has gained prominence recently, and provided us with an opportunity to reflect on our approach and the impact we have. We are developing a Civic University Agreement, which will see us adopt a more systematic and strategic approach, building on and adding value to the huge amount of work being undertaken by our staff, students and stakeholders that we know is already having a positive impact on local communities, businesses and organisations.

Collectively this success is a result of the commitment and dedication of our staff and students, who continue to impress with their innovative ideas, creativity and talent, and who are role models and ambassadors for the University. I am delighted to see a real difference being made by them – true transformation in action.

Derby students are award winners, innovators and game-changers. They are receiving national and international recognition for their work, embarking on life-changing placements, both in the UK and overseas, in destinations including Tokyo and New Zealand. Closer to home they are utilising their skills and expertise to make a positive impact in the local community. 

Making valuable contributions

It is fantastic that they are grabbing hold of the many opportunities presented to them, challenging themselves and their ways of thinking, opening their minds and making a valuable contribution to society.  The Strategic Framework, which launched just over 12 months ago, has re-energised the University, providing staff and stakeholders with clarity over our direction of travel, and raising the bar in terms of our institutional ambitions. Embedding high performance in everything we do has become the norm, and this step change in the way we operate is already generating strong results and outcomes.

We continue to build our national reputation for teaching and learning – rising three places (to 26th) in the Guardian University Guide 2020 – and as a leading institution for social mobility, as recognised in the HEPI Fair Access Table ranking (2nd in the country).

Receiving the news that we have been shortlisted for the Times Higher Education ‘University of the Year’ award for the first time in Derby’s history is another proud moment. Regardless of the outcome, we are delighted to receive national sector recognition for our achievements. 

2018/19 has been a fantastic year for Derby but we cannot become complacent. In this current political climate, where the higher education sector is experiencing uncertainty and facing significant policy changes, successfully balancing the many facets of a university and the expectations placed upon it is both a privilege and a challenge.

I have no doubt there will be huge opportunities for the University, city and county; but we need to work together to ensure we are in a position to take advantage of them, assuring a bright future for us all.

Professor Kathryn Mitchell
Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive
University of Derby