Keep calm and carry on

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell, tells us more about the University of Bath’s plans for the year ahead

Q. It’s a milestone year for the University of Bath, you must feel very proud about all you and your team have achieved?

A. I am very proud of what the University – its staff, students and alumni – have accomplished since receiving our Royal Charter in 1966

Q. We have achieved many prestigious accolades in recent years including being the highest ranked University of our age in Europe in the QS World Rankings 2015/16 and ranked first for student satisfaction by the Times Higher Education last year. Nearly 90 per cent of our research in the 2014 REF was defined as ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. The quality of our research has won The Queen’s Anniversary Prize, twice.

A. These successes are not achieved by accident and I’m enormously proud of our community and their hard work, curiosity and enterprising spirit.

Q. You’ve seen lots of changes to the HE sector since you joined Bath as V-C in 2001. What has been the biggest challenge for Bath to overcome in recent years?           

A. The most significant challenge in recent years has been to ensure that as the University has tripled in size it maintained its emphasis on truly excellent teaching while growing the impact of its research. This has meant that it has been important for Bath to be agile and responsive to challenges, both expected and unexpected. Looking ahead, we know the next few years will have significant political and economic change. It is vital to be clearer than ever before about our future goals. My job as Vice-Chancellor is to ensure we can continue to do our cutting edge research and teaching of the highest quality in the face of a changing political and economic landscape.


Q. What would you say was the biggest hurdle/achievement for the university during its 50-year history? 

A. To have been identified as the number one university in Europe in the QS ‘Top 50 under 50’ rankings for 2015/16 was a wonderful achievement for the University. In addition, to be ranked highly in all national league tables year-on-year is a testament to the continued success of this University.  But the cream on the cake for me was to be ranked in the top dozen universities in the UK for research excellence in the most exhaustive assessment ever conducted by our government. 

On a personal level, one of the things I’m really pleased about is that we built the incredible Sports Training Village with its world class facilities. It was one of the first decisions I made when I came here in 2001 and it helped boost our capacity for excellence in sports as well as being a wonderful resource for the local community. Now regularly Olympians and Paralympians come to Bath to train and to study.

Q. It would be easy to fall victim to your own success. Have you found it difficult to keep growing and improving year after year?

A. The international market for students and for staff is now fiercely competitive. Any institutions that are not continually improving will be undoubtedly left behind. There is no sense here that we can rest on our laurels. Every day I am inspired by the dedication of all of our staff and students, no matter where they come from or what they do. It is this real sense of community and collaboration at Bath, combined with natural curiosity and ambition which has generated such success.

Any institutions that are not continually improving will be undoubtedly left behind. There is no sense here that we can rest on our laurels

Q. How different are today’s students compared to a typical undergraduate from the 1960s?

A. In many ways they are the same – bright, determined, all-rounders who come to Bath to take all that the University can offer. Perhaps today’s students have higher expectations, they certainly have a greater amount of choice. Every university has to ensure that it can offer more than just an academic qualification.

At Bath, we have been investing in our infrastructure and facilities to ensure our students can benefit from a rounded university experience. Our £10.9 million Edge Arts building and our refurbished London 2012 Legacy Pool are enhancing the cultural and sporting life of our students.

Our placements are incredibly important and more than 60 per cent of our students choose a placement or study year abroad. I think this is part of the reason we are so highly regarded for graduate prospects; we are ranked seventh nationally by the 2017 Times Good University Guide. 

Q. So what’s next for you, and for the university? 

A. It is an exciting time to be at Bath and I am looking forward to implementing our new strategy which outlines the direction of the University for the next five years. As we look to the future, we know we want to continue to grow our research power. That means bringing more talented academics and postgraduate students to Bath. They will join other bright minds already here who are solving problems that matter to the world.

Q. Where do you see the University of Bath (and the HE sector) in 50 years?

A. Our future success is going to depend on us remaining a vibrant and integrated international community, based here in Bath but looking outward. Our continued investment in facilities both on and off campus such as the student-focused city centre hub in Manvers Street as well as our new London hub at 83 Pall Mall will ensure the University is able to grow and develop. Innovative teaching methods such as online and blended learning will be key. Our continued focus on excellence in research and teaching will benefit not only staff and students, but also our many partners locally, regionally and around the world.


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