The last year has been a time of far-reaching transformation as the University of East London continues to successfully emerge and evolve from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Our 10-year strategy, Vision 2028, remains our North Star. And I am delighted that we reported positive – in fact, sector-leading – progress this year, underscoring the success of our careers-first strategy.
We enhanced services that support our students and graduates to succeed in their careers; established stronger connections with employers; increased our commitments to sustainability; and invested in training, wellbeing and wider student and staff support.
A central goal of Vision 2028 is to increase the diversity of the talent pipeline in a changing world. We are achieving success with our triple helix approach – University, student, industry - and our strategies and programmes are being endorsed externally, with numerous award and honours.
Our flagship Mental Wealth and Professional Fitness curriculum is vital to this strategy, embedding social, emotional, physical and cultural intelligence development as well as digital proficiency into every course to facilitate our graduates flourishing and thriving in a 4.0 and 5.0 economy
This, in part, speaks to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report (2020) which cites the skills that employers will seek in future graduates in 2025. Top of the list are complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity, as well as resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility. These are skills that all University of East London graduates are equipped with.
Other indicators provide more evidence of success. In the most recent National Student Survey (NSS) we demonstrated top half sector performance compared to universities nationally and top quartile against all universities in London within the categories of learning resource, learning opportunities, and learning community. Within this total, we have seen “highly skilled” employment outcomes increase – an improvement in the top 10 per cent of the sector. In the most recent Graduate Outcome Survey (GOS), the results were also positive, with total employment, further study and other positive outcomes of graduates at 92.3 per cent and graduate career outcomes in the top ten for greatest gains.
Part of this is driven by the physical and digital environment in which we provide our education. We have already made substantial improvements through the Connected Campus and Digital 1st transformation programmes, our multi-million pound investments into the student experience and career and student environment. This included the introduction of innovative teaching and social spaces designed to produce graduates able to work and thrive in the continuous next of Industries 4.0 and 5.0.
In autumn 2022, we evolved our pandemic-era Dual Delivery educational model to the TEAL (Technology Enhanced Active Learning) framework, with the expectation that all timetabled teaching and learning will be on campus while maintaining the benefits of the online learning environment.
Our courses combine traditional teaching in a digital framework which allows students to monitor and control their progress in a variety of technological ways. Features include access to recorded lectures, notes, readings and e-resources through the virtual learning environment; access to industry standard technology and specialist spaces; the ability to utilise on-campus and virtual Career Zones; and personalised learning support.
The Track My Future (TMF) portal, a dashboard for students to access learning and support, has been particularly successful at engaging students. TMF has been visited over 1 million times since its launch in 2020 and receives high marks from students, with a satisfaction rating of four out of five stars (March 2021).
The University currently has 12,800 students regularly accessing careers support; 4,959 students completing work-based learning; and 3,497 active employer partners. We also identified 144 graduates who started their own businesses in 2020/21, ranking the University number eight in the UK for graduate start-ups according to the Higher Education - Business and Community Interaction survey.
In 2022, the School of Health, Sport and Bioscience opened a state-of-the-art clinical simulation Hospital and Primary Care Training Hub that supports our nursing and allied health degrees. At University Square Stratford, the Royal Docks School of Business and Law has new facilities including a mock courtroom, Bloomberg training suite and Strategy and Marketing Analytics Lab. These innovative learning spaces represent our determination to create authentic workplace simulations to enhance our courses.
The University also launched our Centre for Fintech this year with a celebration at the Houses of Parliament, hosted by the Rt Hon Sir Stephen Timms MP and Sir Ron Kalifa, who led the independent Fintech Strategic Review for the UK government. Sir Ron accepted an honorary doctorate from the University in September.
Phase two of Connected Campus will continue to invigorate our campuses in 2022/23, with plans for new facilities such as a multi-functional social and entertainment venue on Docklands Campus and a student oasis at Stratford. We will also launch the Royal Docks Centre for Sustainability, a multi-million-pound project that will focus on stimulating career readiness, innovation, enterprise, and business growth to further support our students, alumni, and businesses in the region.
Our University has always existed to create an inclusive environment to realise the potential of all and advance social mobility. Our pioneering Office of Institutional Equity is working to reduce all disparities based on protected characteristics. The University’s student population is currently 66.1 per cent Global Ethnic Majority and, while more progress is needed, our degree awarding gap is 11.4 per cent, down from 21 per cent at the end of 2019. The aim, set out in Vision 2028, is to eradicate the gap entirely. We ranked 12th in the 2023 The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide social inclusion index of 116 institutions in England and Wales.
This drive towards social inclusion also means our University encourages alternative ideas, fosters discoveries and ignites passions.
Research at the University of East London has a very distinct character, with an emphasis on real-world benefits that impact both local and global communities. Our strategic institutional research priorities align with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and we pride ourselves in driving innovation in areas including creating sustainable cities and communities; reducing inequalities sustainably; and transforming health and sustainable well-being.
The REF2021 results announced this year evidenced this work. In the exercise, 55 per cent of our overall institutional submission was rated world-leading or internationally excellent. Every Unit of Assessment submission contained world-leading work, and for 10 out of 13 of our Units of Assessment, the majority of outputs were classed world-leading or internationally excellent.
We showed a particularly sustained impact in sustainability, health and social policy, and we will continue with our robust investment in careers-first education for Industry 4.0 and 5.0 and in the next digital revolution advancing solutions in Healthtech, Greentech and Fintech.
In this year’s Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF2), Research England’s metric to assess the impact of an institution on business and society, we made an appearance in the top 20 per cent nationally in metrics covering student start-ups, public and community engagement, and Innovate projects funded by government agency Innovate UK.
The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals also remind us of our wider global responsibilities. Working closely with our strategic partner Siemens to develop a smart campus, we have set ourselves the ambitious target of becoming a net-zero institution by 2030. Already the University is taking action on climate change and ecological breakdown by decreasing carbon emissions this year by 10 per cent, increasing biodiversity and embedding sustainability into our teaching and research.
Our Siemens partnership fosters innovative community collaborations that challenge the nature of energy use, a pressing issue in recent months. We are working together to expose students and researchers to the latest thinking in smart technology and provide opportunities for industry experience and mentorships.
Our University community has plenty to celebrate. In 2023, we will do just that with a schedule of events and activities to mark our 125th anniversary.
We look forward to opening our doors and giving students and staff, alumni and partners, friends and neighbours, a chance to understand not just our history of community engagement and change, but how we are actively making a positive difference in our communities now and how we will do so in the future.
As the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic pass and we look to the future, we carry with us a sense of optimism at the potential for the University of East London, with increased investment in our campuses and the student experience, a strong and successful focus on our careers-first mission and an uncompromising drive towards a sustainable future.
The scale and variety of work carried out by our teams across the University to develop and progress Vision 2028 in its fourth year has been immense. I thank everyone for their dedication and commitment. I know an equally exciting chapter awaits us in year five.
Sincerely, Professor Amanda J Broderick
BA (Hons) PhD DipM DipMRS PGCTL FRSA MBGS FCIM FHEA
Vice-Chancellor and President