Message from the President - 16 February 2021
The past year has been one of the most challenging in our lifetimes and thanks to your energy, ingenuity and dedication, Imperial continues to be a leader in providing outstanding education, student experiences and world-leading research. It has been humbling and uplifting to see your sacrifices, efforts and innovations; you are what makes Imperial the outstanding institution that it is. Thank you for all that you are doing, it is greatly appreciated.
I have been fortunate to talk to many of you as I have visited departments in recent weeks. My goal for these visits has been to share with you, in all humility, the lessons I have learned from the events of the past months and to hear your views and hopes for the future. I welcome the OfS investigation into management and governance arrangements in relation to the independent investigation. It is important that no one is above scrutiny and that issues, whenever they arise, are investigated properly. As outlined in the recent response to the UCU from the Chair, Council is confident that the investigation and the subsequent disciplinary process were carried out absolutely in accordance with our ordinances and policies.
As you prepare to search for my successor, I am focusing on how I can best use the final eighteen months of my term as President of Imperial to continue my work with governments, partners, friends and donors to ensure a positive trajectory and a firm foundation for my successor. I am writing today to share some of what I would like to achieve with you and for you. I look forward to hearing your ideas through email or as I visit your department.
This has been an unprecedented period of rapid change for universities. As we come out of the most acute phase of the pandemic, we know that we cannot return to the way we were before. We will be able to seize opportunities from our experiences of the past year and retain the best of what we have done while recovering the things we have missed. A top priority for me is to support you in navigating these changes while making the most of the opportunities your exceptional innovation in research and education has created. Our Council Away Day was focused on how to best use our time, space and resources in this new and uncharted future. The highlight of the day was input from students and early career colleagues who emphasised the need for flexibility, group spaces and harnessing innovation.
Supporting our aspirations
Alongside this near-term transition to a new normal, I share the high aspirations you have for the College and I am committed to helping you to deliver them. We have benefited from philanthropic support that has transformed some of these aspirations into realities, like the School of Public Health and The Invention Rooms. Our professional Advancement team and I have built sustainable fund raising to £40-50m per year compared to £17m per year on average for the decade before they were formed. There is much more to do to support your research, education and innovation.
In spite of the challenging economic times, we have some exciting successes since the new year including a wonderful €2.7m foundation gift in support work in the Department of Life Sciences, and a recent pledge of £1m by Lord Sainsbury and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation for an inspiring new research collaboration between the Faculty of Engineering and the Business School on UK competitiveness. In December, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced generous support for Imperial’s work with the Mayor of London on air pollution. Securing significant support such as this comes from the hard work and deep collaboration of colleagues across the College. I would like to congratulate everyone involved in these and other fundraising successes by our community.
In addition to driving forward the School of Public Health Campaign, we are currently developing fund raising approaches for Academic Strategy priorities such as the Institute of Infection, Transition to Zero Pollution, Deep Tech Entrepreneurship, Imperial X, Scholarships, Outreach and Widening Participation. I invite departments to keep sharing their goals and priorities to offer exciting opportunities to friends and donors.
Our diverse community
Our widening participation agenda has been bolstered by our community’s successes in outreach and remains one of our highest priorities. Our new partnership with Woodhouse College to open the Imperial College London Mathematics School in 2023 is a momentous development which will provide opportunities to underrepresented students. Combined with our ever-expanding commitments to improving equality, diversity and inclusion, Imperial is making steady progress in having difficult conversations, raising visibility, increasing understanding and engaging our community.
We are international and our international collaborations, partnerships and students are more important than ever. A near term focus is on research engagement through Horizon Europe and ensuring that there is sufficient funding for the vital student experiences with the Turing Scheme. Our whole community continues to support and grow international partnerships across the College. Our partnership with NTU on LKCMedicine has produced world-leading medical pedagogy and new research collaborations. Recent successes with CNRS, TUM and other European institutions are a priority along with our growing institutional engagement in Africa. The pandemic taught us new ways to recruit students and connect across the world and these will help us broaden our horizons and bring new students to our community in the future.
Our innovative partnerships
Finally, as we expand our corporate engagements, Imperial is leading in new models for innovation and partnership. We have grown our support of student entrepreneurs significantly and supporting further opportunities for them is a priority. Our White City ecosystem for entrepreneurship, community engagement and support of growing businesses is placing us at the forefront of innovation. The post-pandemic world will require flexibility and innovative ways of collaborating. Imperial is perfectly placed to lead that change.
Thank you for all that you do throughout these unprecedented times.
With best wishes,
Professor Alice P. Gast