Vice-Chancellor's Foreword

The last academic year has been extremely positive, with many new and exciting research developments taking place, construction work starting on our new Business School, and the outstanding achievement of gaining TEF Gold being a particularly significant achievement.

With each of these, we are cementing our place as an ambitious university with local, national and global influence. Our reputation for excellent teaching, innovation and research precedes us, and we are forming meaningful partnerships with leading organisations around the world, such as Holcim PLC, to deliver long-lasting impact that will enable future generations to thrive.   

Professor Kathryn Mitchell

I am delighted with the progress that has been made on our new Derby Business School building, which is on course to welcome our first students, staff and partners in Spring 2025. This entrepreneurial hub, which will act as a catalyst for the development of our City Hub and wider regeneration of the area, is already a feature of the Derby skyline. This project represents a £70 million investment in both our students’ education and our commitment to a sustainable, zero carbon future. By creating a responsible civic footprint in the heart of the city, we ensure we remain a partner of choice among local, forward-thinking companies who share our goals of facilitating knowledge exchange and generating positive outcomes for both the University and the city. 

Students continue to be at the heart of everything we do, and we pride ourselves on delivering exceptional learning and teaching filled with career-enhancing opportunities, outstanding student experience and the highest quality support. To have this approach recognised through the award of TEF Gold is a fantastic achievement and I am enormously grateful to all staff and students for their contribution to this success. Being the recipient of such an award makes us a first-choice destination for prospective students and cements our reputation for teaching excellence within the sector.

The Nuclear Skills Academy, our joint venture with Rolls-Royce Submarines Ltd, scooped the ‘Employer & Training Provider Partnership Award’ at the UK Nuclear Skills Awards 2023. This, combined with our success in the National Student Survey and the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, is testament to the quality of the learning and teaching experience that is offered at Derby. 

A group of people in formal wear at an awards ceremony
The Nuclear Skills Academy team at the UK Nuclear Skills Awards 2023

Graduation is always a highlight of the year. I never tire of seeing the joy on our students’ faces and their celebrations with their families. Graduation is a time for us to recognise individuals who have made an impact in the University, city and county through their expert contribution to a particular field. We welcomed some outstanding individuals this year, all of whom were exceptionally deserving of their honorary degrees.

Our research continues to make significant positive impact, and I am delighted to see our six academic themes go from strength to strength in how they are tackling some of the most pressing local and global challenges. For example, our intricate research focused on coral restoration which goes on in our purpose-built Aquatic Research Facility, led by Professor Michael Sweet, has firmly put us on the map as a leader in tackling climate change. Investing in the career progression and skills of the global workforce is another pressing challenge, and our International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS), led by Professor Siobhan Neary, celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. The Centre is at the heart of the career development sector in England, the UK and the world, delivering projects for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), as well as working with government to develop career provision.

We use our expertise and research to collaborate with and support industries across the East Midlands and continue to play a key role in driving forward the city and country’s long-term prosperity. This was recognised in Research England’s third Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), where the University was assessed as having ‘very high engagement’ in the Local Growth & Regeneration and CPD (Continued Professional Development) and Graduate Start-Ups categories, placing us in the top 20% of UK higher education providers.

Our approach to collaboration and knowledge exchange was further highlighted when we received a Bronze Engage Watermark from the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, in recognition of our outstanding commitment to supporting public engagement.

Our Civic commitment remains as strong as ever and has seen us work effectively across our CivicLAB and Innovation & Research teams to deliver important work within the city and county through our Civic University Agreement. Earlier this year, we launched the National Saturday Club, providing a cohort of young people with the opportunity to attend a free club where they can learn new skills, discover talents and meet new people. More recently, scientists and arts researchers collaborated with artists and creatives across the UK to develop an exhibition called ‘Shedding Light on Long Covid’. This thought-provoking programme of events was installed outside the Museum of Making in the city centre and engaged local communities in the latest long Covid research.

Building on the success of our Festival of Learning in 2022, the University, with stakeholders around the city, continue to deliver a range of exciting activities and initiatives linked to Derby’s status as a UNESCO Learning City. In the last year, we have developed a city-wide strategy for our activity, focused on a vision for Derby as a city where learning is valued in all its forms and across all generations, and is promoted as a force for improved personal, social, civic and economic change in the city. 

Our Strategic Framework 2018-30 has guided the University over the last five years, and we have enjoyed numerous successes that have accelerated progress against our strategic ambitions, many of which are highlighted in this year’s Impact Report. Agility and flexibility within our Strategic Framework is crucial, though, particularly given the political, social and economic environment we operate in. A reset of our Strategic Framework has allowed us to further define our strategic aims, reset our success measures, and initiate our Future Derby programme. Most excitingly, this reset has enabled us to more clearly and explicitly define our ambition to lead the way in impact of industry engagement, establishing this as a cornerstone for how we will deliver our purpose of being an applied university of today and for tomorrow.

This reset, combined with our sustained ability to be responsive to change and our commitment to collaborating across the organisation, will help enable us to capitalise on our strengths and be able to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the future for our communities.

Professor Kathryn Mitchell CBE DL

Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive