Vice-Chancellor's Foreword

The last academic year has been a memorable one for the University marked by our return to ‘normal’ in September 2021. We were delighted to be able to welcome both new and returning students back onto campus to receive a true university experience. It was wonderful to see our university come to life, full of students and staff buzzing with ambition and anticipation as to what the year had in store for them.

I am very proud of our many achievements and successes and I am delighted to share those with you in this year’s Annual Impact Report.

The in-person Award Ceremonies that we hold to formally mark the graduation of our students had been paused due to the pandemic, but in November 2021 they returned in spectacular style. Over the course of eight days, we held 19 ceremonies for the Classes of 2020 and 2021 during which more than 7,000 students graduated. Being able to celebrate their success alongside their family and friends was such a memorable occasion, which we were able to repeat with those who didn’t graduate with us in November at our summer Award Ceremonies in July 2022.  

Students are at the heart of everything we do at Derby and we are committed to providing them with the opportunities, support and experiences that will enable them to forge a fulfilling and successful career once they graduate. Many of their accomplishments are remarkable during their time with us and engender a true sense of pride, clearly demonstrated throughout this report.  

Aside from teaching and learning, our role as an anchor institution means we have a crucial part to play in the city, county and region’s long-term economic growth and prosperity. We have firmly cemented our reputation as an ambitious university with influence, one that can rise to any challenge, working with partners at pace to drive forward and deliver projects that address key local and national government agendas. 

An external view of the Nuclear Skills Academy
The Nuclear Skills Academy building.

An excellent example of this has been the delivery of the Rolls-Royce Submarines Ltd Nuclear Skills Academy (NSA). Within just a few months the University, with its partners, transformed the former iHub building at Infinity Park into the NSA and developed the apprenticeship programmes which 200 apprentices embarked on in September. Over the next 10 years the NSA, with the support of the University, will produce a pipeline of talent needed to sustain nuclear capability within the UK’s submarines programme.

Delivering a project of this scale and ambition would not have been possible without the unwavering commitment of university staff who, working in partnership with Rolls-Royce, the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC), the National College for Nuclear and Derby City Council, successfully stepped up to the challenge.

Derby has a longstanding heritage linked to the nuclear industry and we are delighted to be part of its future through the NSA and the NAMRC Midlands facility, which is being built at Infinity Park and is due to open in 2023.

Nuclear is just one area where the University has a key role in supporting the skills, low-carbon, and sustainability agendas. The East Midlands Institute of Technology will ensure a spotlight is shone firmly on the region and will see the University, alongside other education providers, creating an advanced skilled workforce that is needed to lead the digital revolution and addresses the grand engineering challenges of clean growth.

Research and innovation underpin these significant developments and it is crucial that the University’s research profile and capability is aligned. In September 2021, Derby improved its position in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, moving into the 601-800 tier. In May 2022, the Research Excellence Framework was published, in which the University was recognised for delivering world-leading and internationally excellent research. We were delighted this was achieved in one of our founding disciplines, Education, as well as many other research areas. Collectively these results have marked a step change for the University and reflect the ambition we have for research at Derby.

This ambition cannot be realised without our academic colleagues who are regularly invited to share their research findings and expertise at conferences, events, think tanks and government consultations - influencing policy and practice at the highest level.

The growing profile of our academic community and the importance of the research taking place at Derby is increasingly being recognised by external funding bodies. As a result, in 2021/22 the University successfully secured over £4.9m to deliver projects designed to make a real impact.

The University received £850,000 from the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership for a new Facility for Omics Research in Metabolism, a £1.75m research and innovation centre that will revolutionise precision medicine and nutrition which opened in March this year. In addition, Arts Council England awarded a research consortium, led by the University, up to £826,000 to deliver Make/Shift, a new programme of cultural activity to communities within Amber Valley, Derbyshire.

Also, our new Derby Business School building will bring benefits that reach much further than the University. As well as supporting student growth and diversity, its city centre location will provide greater opportunities for research and development, encourage innovation and enterprise collaboration between students, academics, entrepreneurs, and businesses, and enable business growth, unlocking new market opportunities internationally.

It is the immediate benefits of our innovation and research, as well as the longer-term impact, that make a real difference, not just to our students and staff, but to the many diverse communities within the city and county. The launch of our Civic University Agreement (CUA) in June 2022 brought to life what can be achieved when a university joins forces with other anchor institutions and works towards a common goal. We are delighted to have the support of 15 signatories who we are already working with us to deliver on the ambitious goals set out within the CUA.

As a Civic University we recognise the impact of the value we can add and we take seriously our many responsibilities we have to our region and beyond. Responding strategically to the challenges and opportunities facing the city and county is a priority for us and I am confident that together we will achieve what we set out to do - deliver real positive impact and a long-lasting legacy. 

Professor Kathryn Mitchell CBE DL

Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive