The newspaper of Imperial College London
 Issue 148, 19 January 2005
Taking Imperial from strength to strength«
UK-Thai scientific collaboration boosted by new agreement«
Cirque du Soleil in the main entrance«
A nose job«
Frizzy hair today, gone tomorrow«
New microscope gives boost to UK nanotechnology«
Lord Sainsbury visits Imperial«
Imperial leads the way in surgical training and innovation«
New programme will train next generation of health leaders«
Tea off to good health«
Success halts trial«
The perfect Formula«
Spotlight on new R&D solutions«
Imperial students are best trainees«
Cash boost for Wye’s top new scholars«
In Brief«
Media mentions«
What’s on«

Taking Imperial from strength to strength

by Kate Fielding

The rector begins 2005 in a buoyant mood. His confidence is fuelled by what he sees as a growing recognition of Imperial’s position among the top tier of universities in the world. “We’ve been recognised in the past, but I think globally now we’re recognised much more.” His view is borne out by a number of recent polls. In 2004 Imperial was ranked third in all UK league tables for teaching and research. The Financial Times’ executive MBA rankings placed Tanaka business school number 10 in the world, and in November the THES placed Imperial 14th in its global universities ranking.

It is this global profile that the rector sees as being critical for Imperial’s future success. “We don’t just work on a national basis, we work on an international stage. We’re now getting grants from places like the NIH (the US health department) which would have been unheard of in the past. We’re getting big sums of money from international foundations; we’re working with big, global companies on significant problems, because big companies recognise today that they want to be close to excellence.”

His plan for 2005 is simple-to build on Imperial’s strengths. So where does he see the exciting developments coming from? “As far as the College is concerned, we’ve picked a number of areas that we see as being critically important. One of them is energy. The whole area of the environment and sustainability is another area where I think Imperial has the potential to play a much bigger role than we do. Thirdly, the whole issue of the development of the quality of life-bringing science to bear on medicine, integrating science and engineering with medicine. There is a lot of potential for big developments there, solving some of the big problems.”

He is adamant that it is vital to get right the systems which support research and teaching at the College. “One of the overriding critical themes is the managed programme of improvement in administrative services. And of course this has been going on with the various initiatives. So Full Economic Costing, for example, can only take place once you’ve got those systems in place.”

Full Economic Costing (fEC) will mean that from September, research councils will begin to pay some of the overhead costs for research. How important will this be to Imperial? “If we get it right, it will have a big impact on the finances of the College. In the first year it could mean something like an extra £8 million and as we move down the road that will increase to £15 million and hopefully to £20 or £30 million, because at the end of the day we are going to have to run the College on the basis of the money that we get in from these activities. I don’t believe that the government will continue injecting money into universities on an ad hoc basis to help them with their infrastructure and maintenance. It’s going to be a university responsibility on the basis of fEC.”

On the subject of government policy, what would his priorities be if he was in charge of science and education in this country? “I would move to a much more market-oriented system, as opposed to manipulation and social engineering. The other thing that we do is to worry about regionalisation. We are a small country competing with the likes of the United States, China and Japan. What we should be doing is concentrating on excellence, and building centres of excellence to compete on a global scale. Not trying to compete with each other in the UK.”

For Imperial, though, he is keen not to get bogged down in government policy and initiatives. “I think we should look forward with optimism and stop worrying about the government and money and everything else. We are the ones who should drive our destiny, not everybody else, we should control where we’re going.”

For the rector, the critical factor across the board is having the right people to drive things forward. “We need high calibre people to run the organisation. It needs people who drive it, who energise it, who take control of it.”

“People throughout the organisation have to contribute if you want to maintain excellence. If you want to be on top, then it’s the people who are going to take you there. And I think Imperial is a great place. Because we’re small enough to be identifiable, I think we’re close enough to be identifiable, and I think a lot of strength comes from that. From being interactive, from being interrelated, working together.”

So has he made any New Year resolutions? “For the College, I think it has to be to gear up to more active fundraising. I don’t really make New Year resolutions. Just to keep on doing what I’ve always been doing.”

imperial front page | reporter front page | this issue's front page | feedback
©2003 Imperial College London