Dear QSE Colleagues,
In the tradition of the previous HoS, I thought it useful to regularly circulate a short ‘Update’ on points of information, plans and ideas as we embark on a new era in QSE.
The new Senior Management Team is now fully in place, following the arrival of Elizabeth Gardner as the new School Manager. My thanks to Helen Curtis, the interim School Manager, who has now returned to her role in the Central Planning Team and a warm welcome to Elizabeth.
As you would expect from a ‘shiny, new team’, we have a number of ideas and plans that we wish to raise, discuss and implement over the next few academic cycles.
A key element needed by the School is a clear direction and focus. The creation of a strategic plan, built from the ground up, will be the focus of my efforts over the next few weeks. I have asked each HoD to begin formulating a Departmental Plan which will form the basis of a School Strategy. This will be a consultative process which I hope to complete by the Christmas vacation.
The five aspects which are to be addressed within this strategy are:
- Staff & Recruitment
- Space & Equipment
- Student Support & Engagement
In the meantime, let me say a few things about some of these areas;
The existing research group structure is currently under review by Mike Fraser, Faculty Research Director, and I urge you to have your say and give feedback on research within the Faculty via the online survey.
The closing date for the survey is 30 October 2015.
Clearly, the outputs of this will have a major input into our QSE strategy
I am keen to start a wider debate on the future size, shape and form of the programmes we offer. As you are no doubt well aware, the world of engineering education is ever subject to change and we must ensure that what we do is competitive as well as being fit for purpose to maintain our leading position.
I intend to establish an Education Forum open to all, within which we can discuss ideas, programme design, share good practice, common approaches in delivery/feedback, sharing of resources/labs/assessments etc. and generally enthuse, encourage and support all the great things we do. More on this will be forthcoming soon.
As a precursor to this, I have initiated a project to pilot a school-wide TEL environment, dynamic laboratory exercise/support activity (analogous to the ChemLabs idea, www.chemlabs.bris.ac.uk) to explore how we might enhance the UG laboratory experience, with an initial focus on structures and fluids.
I am keen we begin to address the ongoing challenge of student feedback by seeking consistency and uniformity in our management of and feedback on coursework. Thus, I am requesting that we move towards electronic submission for coursework as the default. I am convinced that this will significantly improve efficiency and quality of our feedback, (as well as reduce the administrative burden) but accept that this may require an initial learning curve for many!
On a similar note, it will be interesting to monitor how the Mediasite lecture recording initiative impacts on our teaching. Please note that exemptions from participating in this scheme have now been delegated to your respective HoD.
Lastly, a reminder that the University is subject to a QAA audit in Feb 2016. This is the finale of QAA in its current guise, so it is incumbent on us all to make this go well. Please make every effort to ensure we are adhering to our usual high standards of practice.
Staffing, Citizenship and Support
Engagement with and participation in all the various research, teaching and administration activities is vital to our ongoing success. With this in mind, keeping HoD’s informed of your movements is essential, as is ensuring your commitments during term time are fulfilled. The message must be to all our students that they are our priority.
As you are not doubt well aware, the Departments are the nominal ‘home’ of the majority of academic staff but we have to face the fact that there is a pressing need to explore how we share and work more across the School. Ultimately, this will enrich both the student and staff experience, as well as reducing duplication of effort.
The HoD’s are currently pulling together a staff workload model to help balance workload and identify areas needing further resource or support. This will be a management tool only, to ensure we have a fair and sustainable approach to our teaching, research and administration duties. These models will be shared and discussed with you as they evolve.
Acknowledging that we are all under ever more pressure, I believe it is important that the community and social aspects of the School are reinforced. Thus, we plan to run a series of wellbeing and social activities to foster collegiality in the School (pizza already delivered!). Many of you have already noted the improvements we are making to the Senior Common Room, the regular ‘Orange Wednesday’ shared lunch times and weekly ‘Wellbeing’ walks. There are plans underway for more opportunities to meet together and at the same time enhance our working environment. Again, more news on this very soon!
Finally, the pressures on space (office, lab, teaching) continue to build. Rest assured, measures to address this problem will be undertaken with the best of intentions but will inevitably mean taking some radical decisions about our current usage. On the plus side, the planning and preparation for the New Wing Extension are gathering pace and the dedicated website should be your first point of contact for more information – (https://www.bris.ac.uk/engineering/currentstudents/eng-growth/)
Many of the above ideas, plans and issues will be revisited in the near term. For now, let me wish you all the very best for this academic year and I look forward to working alongside you over the next few years.
Finally, the strength of the team here in QSE is what makes us successful, so please join with me in congratulating Professor Michael Wisnom on being elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.