Imperial College London

President sets out vision for excellence in uncertain times

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Imperial's South Kensington Campus at night

Imperial will take a "proactive and pragmatic" approach to Brexit, President Alice Gast said in her Autumn Message.

Professor Alice Gast

Professor Alice Gast

In the letter to Imperial’s community of students, staff, alumni and friends, Professor Gast said that while the government works through Brexit, Imperial “will continue to think and act internationally”. 

She reinforced the College’s commitment to “inform decision makers to influence policy” and set out a series of ideas to support academic research collaborations and corporate partnerships, as well as to improve immigration policy. 

These include:

President Gast committed Imperial to recruiting and educating “the best and brightest from the UK” including putting “considerable energy and effort into outreach to schools so that we will have a diverse community of able young British students to recruit in the future.” 

Imperial will also recruit “the most talented students and staff from outside the UK,” which “increases the diversity and intellectual climate of the College” and is “essential to creating a dynamic educational and research environment”.

Among the key announcements was the introduction of significant new investments in an Excellence Fund for Learning and Teaching Innovation and an Excellence Fund for Frontier Research.

Pragmatic response to Brexit

“Pragmatic solutions” will be needed to preserve the UK’s status as a “scientific superpower” following Brexit, Professor Gast explained. Collaboration with European colleagues, as well as access to EU funding, are important.

Imperial is a European university with global reach

– Professor Alice Gast

President Gast wrote that “We will show, with data and case studies, the value of bringing European Research Council (ERC) fellows in from Europe and how much they add to the UK.”

The College will propose that participants in EU-funded programmes, including ERC fellows, automatically receive a visa to move between the EU and UK after Brexit.

Professor Gast used the message to announce a £100,000 a year European Partners Fund to help Imperial academics “develop collaborations in Europe which lead to new science and to applications for external funding” to be administered by the Vice-Provost (Research)

Enhancing the student experience


A new Excellence Fund for Learning and Teaching Innovation has been announced

Professor Gast set out how the College would be developing a “new, modern strategy in education” in response to this year’s disappointing NSS results.

“Some of our students feel unseen and unheard,” she said. “We can and must do better”.

This includes £500K to create a new Excellence Fund for Learning and Teaching Innovation to support innovative educational initiatives and promote good practice across the College.

Corporate partners

Imperial, which is “more focused on corporate partners than most other UK universities,” is “well-positioned to add the higher education point of view” to the government’s emerging industrial strategy. The College’s positive experience with university-industry partnerships will be drawn on as we “advocate mobility and collaboration”.

The College is using some of its Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) support to publish a series of white papers by Imperial’s Global Institutes in areas such as energy, security, manufacturing and climate change.

Professor Gast wrote that “we will collaborate with our corporate partners to contribute to and help drive” the government’s industrial strategy.

Mission focus

President Gast said “one of the things that most worries me about the outcome of the EU referendum is the amount of physical and intellectual energy that everyone is expending on this topic at the cost of other more forward-looking and positive things.”

Imperial has faced uncertain times before, and in each instance has remained true to its values and mission

– Professor Gast

“It is vital that we actively foster a sense of community where everyone is supported to deliver on their potential, and where staff and students can rely on their peers and their institution to support them,” she added.

This includes plans to achieve Investors in People accreditation, backing for the new Staff Supporters Scheme, working families and careers support and training for more than 200 mental health first aiders across the College. Professor Gast said “I am also delighted that we have successfully renewed our institutional Athena SWAN silver award as this also promotes the kind of inclusive and welcoming environment to which we aspire.”  

Strong partnerships

President Gast highlighted some of the College’s key partnerships including the completion of the Francis Crick Institute, the Cancer Research Centre of Excellence with the Institute for Cancer Research, and the expansion of our Academic Health Science Centre.

Francis Crick

The Francis Crick Institute (Wellcome Images)

Recent corporate partnerships that “show the value that we can create alongside our industrial collaborators” include work with Thomson Reuters to understand the impact of financial regulation and a research partnership with Nestle Research to explore how the microbiome influences our physical and mental health.

The I-Hub and other developments at White City show how “this is the only the beginning.” President Gast explained that “we will actively seek additional excellent corporate and academic partners as we focus on challenging and important societal issues.”

Alumni are also playing a key role around the world. President Gast, who has spoken at 23 alumni and friends events around the world over the last year, said “Their successes inspire and sustain us and their ideas, support and encouragement support our mission and drive us forward.” 

Strength and resilience

President Gast concluded by writing: “Imperial has faced uncertain times before, and in each instance has remained true to its values and mission and become stronger and more resilient.  We are, and will remain, a truly global, great university.

"As the government begins the process of creating a new relationship between the UK and Europe, we intend to be an active participant in decision-making concerning immigration, research funding and industrial strategy.

"We will do this without diverting our attention from our plans for ensuring a bright future for the College and the many talented people from all over the world who work and study here. 

“We face these current uncertain times with optimism because of our vision, our strong programmes and strategy, the talent of our people, and our shared and abiding commitment to excellence.”       


Andrew Scheuber

Andrew Scheuber
Communications Division

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Deborah Evanson

Deborah Evanson
Communications Division

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