Our five-year strategic plan ‘Shaping Our Future: Birmingham 2015’ was published in 2010 and the University is already demonstrating significant progress against this plan that will lift us into the international elite. In 2011/12, new research grant awards increased by over 56% to £145 million; we recruited an undergraduate cohort with the finest academic credentials in our history; opened a new representative office in Guangzhou, China; and developed a £175m investment plan for our other major asset, the University’s green and leafy parkland campus in Edgbaston, Birmingham.
Inevitably, these are just a few of our achievements from the past 2 years, as the University community works together to enhance further our research achievements and educational provision. We are long established as leaders in the field of Medicine, with strengths in the research and treatment of cancer, heart, and liver disease as well as infections with a global significance including TB. In the Physical Sciences we boast outstanding academic and research credentials, including Chemical Engineering where we were recognised with a Queen’s Anniversary Prize in the Jubilee year. In 2011 and 2012 we pioneered the Birmingham Fellows campaign, resulting in the appointment of an elite group of 66 early career international academic researchers to the institution.
As well as our focus on research excellence, we are committed to delivering a first-class experience for our students in every aspect of their university life. The University of Birmingham has recently been ranked 11th place in the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey 2013 and 17th out of 124 UK universities in The Complete University Guide for 2014. These latest league table results further strengthen Birmingham’s position as a top 20 university and reflect its recent performance in other highly regarded league tables, such as the Sunday Times University Guide 2013, which ranked the University in 13th place overall.
Areas particularly highlighted in the latest league tables include the excellent student experience and the quality of the courses available. In fact, of the 48 subjects on offer at Birmingham, the Complete University Guide ranked 17 in the top ten and two in first place. In addition, the University was ranked 10th place overall and first place for self-made millionaires in the 2013 Wealth-X Survey, which measures the financial success of alumni.
Birmingham has been challenging and developing great minds for more than a century. The University continues this tradition today and is delighted that its plans to establish a University School and Sixth Form have recently been approved by the Department for Education. It will provide an excellent academic education for Birmingham's young people and to serve as a centre of teacher education in the region as it will be one of the first "University Training Schools" in the country.
The University of Birmingham School and Sixth Form will be a comprehensive co-educational 11-16 school plus a sixth form, taking 150 per year into Year 7 and up to 200 per year into the Sixth Form. It will be located near the University of Birmingham's Edgbaston campus. It will have strong links with the University and reflect its values, including a commitment to academic excellence and to raising aspirations and widening participation in higher education. As such, the emphasis will be on preparing pupils for entrance to selective universities. Our goal is to accept the first intakes into Years 7 and 12 (sixth form) for September 2015.
The University’s cultural profile has been enhanced with the opening of the beautiful Bramall Music Building, which houses the Elgar Concert Hall, named after our first Professor of Music, Sir Edward Elgar. This outstanding venue reflects the quality of our Music department, ranked second in the UK, and the importance of music as a part of the social and cultural life of the institution.
The Bramall Music Building is one amongst a number of cultural assets that include the Shakespeare Institute located in the heart of Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon, the Ironbridge Institute at the centre of this world heritage location in Shropshire, and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, a small art gallery with a European reputation, located on campus. Our Edgbaston campus also includes Winterbourne House and Garden, a unique Edwardian heritage attraction that is home to over 6,000 plant species from around the world.
Sport is also integral to life at Birmingham and we are ranked second in the UK for the quality of student sport. We have capital plans for a major new sports development, which will include the city of Birmingham’s first 50m swimming pool that will not only provide facilities for our performance sportsmen and women but also offer a new resource to the local community. It was perhaps this combination of performance in, and commitment to, sport that attracted the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt and the 2012 Jamaican track and field team to our campus for their pre-Olympic training camp. After winning his second gold medal at the Games, Usain Bolt and his colleague Yohan Blake saluted, to a worldwide television audience, the facilities, support and warm welcome that he and his team mates had received from the University.
This recognition supports the University’s long-term plans to extend its international profile. In addition to the China office, which opened in 2011; the University also operates offices in India and Brussels. Through these offices, we are developing research partnerships with institutions around the world. In Brazil, the Universities of Birmingham and Nottingham are working together in a unique collaboration to develop a network of strategic partnerships with Brazilian universities, as well as the oil and gas industry. These initiatives have been central to the UK Government’s outreach into Brazil, and this year will bring in the region of 20 doctoral researchers to the University as part of a prestigious scholarship programme.
We receive over 75,000 applications each year from students wishing to study here and welcome 24,000 successful students to the campus from 150 countries. A £5m investment in employability services has seen the numbers of graduates who find work within the first six months of graduation increase significantly for the second year in a row, and in a time of recession. A long-term project improving the academic support available to students and plans for the development of a state-of-the-art student services hub have led to satisfaction rankings in the National Student Survey rising faster than the national average, with overall satisfaction now standing at 88% (which is 3% higher than the sector average).
Not only does Birmingham have serious ambition but we also have financial resources to realise those ambitions, and our plans for the future are underpinned by long established financial probity. We are a large scale business, worth over £1 billion to our region and are currently forecasting a turnover of £479 million for the financial year 2012/13. Our cash surpluses are re-invested into the academic and capital fabric of the institution, enabling us to plan with confidence for the future and to continue to invest in the facilities and services that are required for high-quality research, and an outstanding student learning experience.
Led by Vice-Chancellor Professor David Eastwood, the University is structured for swift decision making, enabling us to capitalise on our academic range, financial strength and opportunities that emerge in the fast changing global HE environment.