After five years away as Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sussex, Professor Adam Tickell returns to Birmingham with an exciting set of priorities.
Thank you for the exceptionally warm welcome I've had from our alumni community over the past few months. I've worked at a number of universities around the UK, most recently spending five years as Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sussex. But as soon as I was told about the opportunity to apply to come back to Birmingham – where I have previously been Provost and Vice-Principal and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) – I didn't need to pause before saying yes.
I'd like to share some of my excitement about what I've already seen at Birmingham, talk about a few of my priorities, and encourage you to reach out and connect with us and with your wonderful alumni community.
Brilliant people doing brilliant things
It's been an intense and rewarding start as Vice-Chancellor, and I've spent a lot of time talking to students and staff, whether through open office sessions, all staff or all student events, or simply through bumping into people around campus. It's been lovely meeting so many brilliant people and hearing how much they care about the University as well as how they think we can do better.
It is clear that there are so many great things happening, and so much of our teaching and our research has a huge impact at an individual, local, and international level. I also believe there is plenty more we can do so that the University can fulfil its potential - and I want you as alumni and supporters to be a critical part of that.
A University is, fundamentally, defined by its people. We want the very best people to want to come and work or study at Birmingham, and to feel genuinely inspired by the things they can achieve with us. If we can do that, then pretty much everything else – exceptional education, ground-breaking research, and our impact on society - will follow.
Educating the next generation and researching new knowledge
For our teaching, this means providing a stimulating and interactive education – across arts, humanities, social sciences, and STEM - and empowering our academics to be creative in achieving this. It also means being attentive to the wider welfare needs of our students, especially for a generation that has been through so much in the pandemic. Alumni like you have been critical in providing mentoring, internships, and scholarships, and we will continue to be enormously grateful for that support.
In our research, we want to provide the best facilities and the best environment for our scholars to collaborate and to take risks. Our researchers are tackling a range of local and global challenges, and across all academic disciplines they are hard at work on solutions for everything from new treatments for cancer to addressing energy poverty in poor housing. Many of Birmingham's academics are supported by generous gifts from graduates and friends who recognise the vital role played by research in delivering real change.
Sustainability and inclusivity
Two things that are particularly important to me personally, as well as to the University, are sustainability and inclusivity, and it would be great to hear from alumni who share a passion for these issues and are interested in helping us.
We do a lot of important research here about the environmental crisis, and many student groups are making a positive difference. We have also made strong progress in creating a sustainable, smart campus through our partnership with Siemens. But we have a responsibility to preserve the planet that our students will inhabit in future, and we need to act now to make sustainability an intrinsic part of everything we do.
We also need to make more progress on inclusivity. The UK has very few black professors and universities continue to have a gender and ethnicity pay gap. We also know more than ever about how to support neurodivergent people, those with disabilities, and everyone's mental health. We will do everything we can to create a community that reflects the makeup of the city of Birmingham – a community in which everyone is valued for themselves, and where we celebrate the ways that our differences enhance us.
The Commonwealth Games
There is much I'm looking forward to in the coming months, but I think the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will be truly phenomenal. The University will be the single biggest hub, with all hockey and squash events taking place on campus and many athletes staying in the Vale. Thousands of people will be watching elite level sport taking place at the University, with an anticipated 1.5 billion more watching around the world on TV. I used to be a keen cyclist and have since taken up yoga – perhaps the Games will inspire me to try something new!
It will be lovely to see some of you on campus for the Commonwealth Games or for one of our many alumni events.
Since I started as Vice-Chancellor in January, it has been genuinely incredible and humbling to see the many ways in which you support our students and our research, whether as donors or as volunteers. Thank you so much for all that you do.
I hope you'll also enjoy the many opportunities, a number of which you'll find in these pages, to keep connected with your Birmingham alumni community. If there's anything that the last two years have taught us, it's how important and valuable it is to stay in touch and support one another. Even if it's been a while, I would encourage you to come back and see us – virtually or in person – and enjoy the company of your fellow alumni. I hope we see you soon.