From the Vice-Chancellor

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Vice Chancellors Email

From Vice-Chancellor Bob Allison

April 2020

In his April newsletter, the Vice-Chancellor reflects on the approaching term, the appointment of the new Chair of Council and resumption of University activities.

Research story of the month

Earlier this month Professor Steve Rothberg, our Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Professor Chris Linton, the Provost, and I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours learning about research in the School of Science.

We met a number of colleagues and you can read more about their excellent work on the School’s web pages. My overwhelming reflection from a fascinating morning spent in the School, organised by the Dean, Professor Claudia Eberlein, and her colleagues is of high-quality research that demonstrates excellence across a range of subjects. During the visit we saw the work of:

  • Dr Georgina Cosma, who develops Artificial Intelligence solutions for a wide range of Data Science applications, including the design of a machine learning model for the detection of prostate cancer through a simple blood test.

  • Dr Baihua Li, whose work is in computer vision, machine learning, pattern recognition, and image processing, and allows her to track football players as well as direct robots to assemble sandwiches.

  • Dr Sarah Bugby, who demonstrated her research in x-ray sensors and gamma detectors, in particular to diagnose thyroid conditions with a handheld, portable device.

  • Dr Mark Greenaway, a theoretical condensed matter physicist working to understand and model quantum transport in layered nanotechnological systems.

  • Dr Paul Roach, a chemical and bio-surface engineer who develops functional circuits from live nerve cells.

  • Dr Alan Thompson, a mathematician whose research is in algebraic geometry, especially mirror symmetry of surfaces and Calabi-Yau threefolds.

  • Dr Paul Kelly, who is developing new approaches to crime scene evaluation, such as detecting fingerprints on metal surfaces even if they have been washed off or removed through blast effects on ammunition casings or IED fragments.

  • On behalf of Steve Rothberg, Chris Linton and myself, many thanks to all those involved.

    The approaching term

    Term started on Monday. The first three weeks of term mark the final full teaching weeks of Semester 2. As you should be aware by now, the majority of learning has moved online. We have worked closely with higher education regulatory bodies to ensure that the material available to our students meets appropriate standards to ensure that the learning outcomes for our taught courses can still be achieved.

    Extensive revisions have been made to Semester 2 assessments and we have developed various Safety Nets to ensure that no student is disadvantaged as a consequence of current circumstances. Our approach to the remaining learning and assessment has two principal objectives.

    First, to ensure equity and fairness. This is important so that we know that our students will not suffer as a consequence of Government restrictions and their attendant challenges.

    Second, to maintain the robustness and most importantly the quality of a Loughborough degree. You will be aware that Loughborough University has one of the best student employability track records in the country. This is because employers recognise the value of a qualification from this University and our approach to assessment in consultation with a range of employers, has ensured that this will not change.

    Chair of Council

    At the start of this month we announced that University Council had approved the appointment of Christine Hodgson CBE as the next Chair of Council and Senior Pro-Chancellor. Christine is Chair of Severn Trent and has extensive experience in business, finance and technology leadership. She is also a Loughborough alumna, having graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Accounting and Financial Management.

    Christine’s first role was with Coopers and Lybrand in 1987, working as a Senior Manager in corporate finance. She joined Ronson plc in 1994 as Corporate Development Director, before taking up her first role at Capgemini in 1997, one of the world’s largest technology and professional services Groups. Christine has held numerous senior roles within the company and was appointed Chairman of Capgemini UK in 2015.

    Christine will succeed the current Chair of Council, Sir Peter Bonfield CBE FREng, in January 2021, when his term of office, the maximum allowed under the University Ordinances and Regulations, comes to an end. I am delighted by Christine’s appointment. She will be a great asset and advocate for Loughborough, ensuring we continue to excel. I very much look forward to working with her.

    Returning to work after the coronavirus lockdown

    At the point where Government eases the current restrictions, we can start the gradual process of returning to our campuses. In the first instance the norm and expectation will remain for colleagues to work from home where they can.

    Some form of social distancing will need to be maintained for a considerable period of time. Deans and Heads of Professional Services are already considering how we will apply social distancing in workplace settings such as workshops, laboratories and offices. It is likely that mechanisms such as shift working, or the staggering of start and finish times will have to be implemented to reduce the number of colleagues in any one building or office. Some teams may need to be split, with different people coming into work on some days and working at home on others. 

    Policies and procedures to enable the resumption of activity to take place safely have been prepared and are being considered by Schools and Services in the context of their local situations. Please look out for updates from the University and your School/Service about how this will be managed in your area – especially following significant announcement on changes by the Government. 

    It goes without saying that colleagues who are in an extremely vulnerable group should continue to shield themselves and will be supported in this endeavour.


    As you may have anticipated, with the current restrictions on both the movement of people and size of permitted gatherings, we have made the difficult decision to postpone the University summer graduation ceremonies to the Easter vacation 2021. It is essential that we do hold graduation. We must guarantee our finalists can return to the campus with family and friends to celebrate their achievements. Put simply, this is no more than a postponement of a very special day that we all enjoy and all want to be part of.

    We are in discussion with Loughborough Students’ Union about marking the end of the academic year for finalists. I hope that we can provide an opportunity for them to meet with their friends and University staff that have been part of their Loughborough journey. Precisely what this looks like will depend on the way the Government’s social distancing policies change over the next few weeks.

    And finally

    I shall be holding an Open Door session, most likely on Microsoft Teams, for staff on 20th May between 2.30pm and 3.30pm. If you would like to meet with me one-to-one for 20 minutes to discuss any aspect of University life, please contact Kim Raine in my office.

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