Category: Community corner Page 1 of 8

One regret, one hope – Maryam Aldossari

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In this series, Professor Mona Siddiqui, Assistant Principal Religion and Society, chats to members of our community to find out more about them. Each fortnight she’ll be asking, what is the one regret that has shaped their past, and what is their one hope for the future.

This week Mona’s guest is Maryam Aldossari, Lecturer in International Human Resource Management in the Business School.

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University REF submission complete

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Huge congratulations to the team working on our Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021) submissions as they uploaded the University’s offering for the 31 March, 12pm deadline.

REF 2021 is the UK’s system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. It allows the University to showcase our research and its impact and it’s carried out roughly every seven years.

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Scotland’s Virtual Kiltwalk

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Kiltwalk is an annual Scottish event that sees people across the country raise money for Scottish charities by donning their favourite tartan and completing some sort of challenge. It can be anything from walking, to dancing.

This year, due to government guidelines, participants are encouraged to plan their own walks and targets by 25 April. Teams across the University have signed up to take part and raise money for the University institutions they work for.Feet in walking boots walking up stone steps

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One regret, one hope with Tommy J Curry

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In this series, Professor Mona Siddiqui, Assistant Principal Religion and Society, chats to members of our community to find out more about them. Each fortnight she’ll be asking, what is the one regret that has shaped their past, and what is their one hope for the future.

This week Mona’s guest is Tommy J Curry, Professor of Philosophy and Personal Chair of Africana Philosophy and Black Male Studies.

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One regret, one hope with Professor Peter Mathieson

Reading Time: 6 minutes

In this series, Professor Mona Siddiqui, Assistant Principal Religion and Society, chats to members of our community to find out more about them. Each fortnight she’ll be asking, what is the one regret that has shaped their past, and what is their one hope for the future.

Mona Siddiqui: My guest this week is Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh Peter Mathieson. Peter – thank you so much for joining me.

Peter Mathieson: My pleasure Mona. Good to talk to you.

MS: First of all, Peter, it’s coming up to about three years since you became Principal of the University. How have you found the experience, aside from the Covid issues?

PM: I’ve completed three years now and I am into my fourth year and that in itself seems amazing to me. I’ve found it a very enriching and enchanting experience so far. I think Edinburgh is a fabulous city. As you probably know, it’s the birthplace of my father so for me there is a sentimentality to being in Edinburgh. The University is a wonderful organisation full of talented people and with a very significant place in the city, in Scotland and in the wider world so I feel privileged to have been appointed as the Principal. There has been a sense that it has been very difficult to measure progress, not least because of the pandemic but also there are a number of things that I think need attention at the University of Edinburgh. Clearly, the one that I made a lot of play on in terms of what I thought I could contribute to the role was around student satisfaction and indeed staff satisfaction. Although we’ve started lots of work to address both of those things there has been a sense that for the last year now all of those objectives have had to be seen in the light of the pandemic so it has been an enormous distraction from the original plans. On the other hand, there is a job to be done in terms of navigating the University through the pandemic and my senior team and I have done our best to deliver that.

MS: You trained as a nephrologist. For the sake of our audience can you explain briefly what a nephrologist does?

PM: It’s a subspecialty of medicine. The organ system that I chose to specialise in was the kidneys. Nephrology means the study of the kidneys and patients with kidney disease can be treated with dialysis or with transplants or sometimes can be treated with drugs to try and avoid the need for dialysis or transplants. My professional career, in terms of the clinical work, was devoted to looking after people with kidney disease either on dialysis or with transplants or in my case, very often, prior to reaching that stage trying to treat the disease so that they never need dialysis. My research programme, which I conducted alongside my clinical work for 19 years, was focused on understanding normal kidney physiology and how it goes wrong in disease and how drugs work to try and correct that. There was a close alignment between my research area and my clinical work.

MS: Do you still get to do any clinical work?

PM: No, I don’t and I miss it. I had to reduce my clinical work when I took on a senior role in Bristol but I did still manage to do some clinical work on a regular basis there. When I went to Hong Kong I was not able to do clinical work, largely for reasons of professional registration. I’ve not done any active clinical work for the last seven years now. I could in theory still do it in Edinburgh because I could reawaken my registration to practice but I haven’t done so because I don’t like the idea of not doing something properly. I just wouldn’t have time to give it the attention that it would need so the only exposure I have to renal medicine, to kidney medicine, now is through some contact with my research group and doing some teaching here in Edinburgh. I teach the medical students on the subjects which have interested me in research terms over the last 20 years and I did that most recently just last week and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

MS: You’ve worked in various institutions of higher education in your career. In your view, do British universities still offer value for money in our highly competitive global market?

PM: I think the respect that British universities are held in by the rest of the world is evident from a number of pieces of data, not least the demand for places from international students who wish to come here and the desirability of British universities, including places like Edinburgh, as partners in research or educational agreements with international universities. I think there is lots of evidence that we still offer a great deal of attraction. Value for money is a bit subjective. If you look at the Scottish situation, you’ve got students that may be doing the same course that have very different tuition fee levels applied depending on where they come from or where they studied their school work. What’s incumbent upon places like Edinburgh is to provide the best quality education and student experience that we can, irrespective of which fee category people are in. Therefore, the value for money question might be quite different whether you are an international student or a home student but the product should be the same, the quality of the experiences people can expect should be the same.

MS: If there’s one message you could give to both staff and students at the University in these challenging times, what would that be?

PM: My message would be thank you for the extraordinary efforts that you have all made in these very difficult circumstances. The senior team, including me, are all doing their best to listen and to respond. We’ve got a complicated set of requirements from governments and from public health authorities to be guided by. We also want to listen to students and staff and alumni and friends of the University. We recognise these are really challenging times for everybody and we are doing our best to make sure that we continue to provide the best possible experience for everyone associated with the University. It has not been easy for anybody but I do have the strong sense that people generally want the same thing – we want to be able to live up to our mission and our vision and to deliver the best possible experience that we can. Everyone is just working hard to try and achieve that, so my overwhelming message is thank you and one of appreciation that the circumstances that everyone has been working under in the last year or so have been extraordinary and very varied for different people. Everyone has their own challenges to face.

MS: Is there anything in your recent or distant past, either in your personal or professional career that you have regretted?

PM: Regret for me right now is the sense that I know the University of Edinburgh can be such a fantastic, transformational place for people, particularly for students but also for staff and for society, and we have been inhibited from providing what we would wish to provide by this extraordinary set of external events. Although we have done our best and I think there are a lot of things that we have got right, there are some things that we have got wrong and clearly the fact that we have been driven by external events beyond our control has made life very difficult. I regret the fact that the current cohort of students and many of our staff have had a really difficult period of time in their lives and I hope that in the longer term we can make that up to them and as situations improve we can get away from the restrictions that currently affect our ability to deliver.

MS: Maybe you’ve already answered it but moving forward and thinking of the future, what’s the one hope that you carry forward?

PM: My hope I would make a personal one but it also applies I think to everybody on the planet. My hope would be that I can see more of my family than I have been able to in the last few months. I have a grandson who was born the day before the first lockdown in March last year and I have hardly seen him so I have missed out on nine or 10 months of his development. My hope would be that I can see a bit more of him and the rest of the family in the months and years to come and I have the same hope for everybody associated with the University. I hope they can get a bit more opportunity to spend time with the people that they wish to spend time with and not be so restricted by the circumstances as we have been since the early part of last year.

 

Building a European community

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The first Una Europa staff week took place online in March, bringing together colleagues from eight leading European research universities, in a single Una community, for the first time.

Participants attended plenary sessions to learn more about Una Europa and the 1Europe Project. Other sessions were aimed specifically at colleagues involved in university libraries, and in alumni, international office and communications teams.

Members

Una Europa is a unique alliance comprising Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Freie Universität Berlin, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, University of Bologna, University of Helsinki, Jagiellonian University, KU Leuven and the University of Edinburgh, which joined in 2019.

Members have a combined staff and student community of almost half a million people and aim to draw on their collective strengths to create a truly European inter-university environment.

The alliance has already successfully applied for funding for the 1Europe Project, which will focus efforts on the four areas of sustainability, data science and Artificial Intelligence, cultural heritage, and European studies. Within these areas, planned activities include joint programmes and increased mobility amongst member universities. The Project also considers what the European university of the future might look like.

Panel discussion, Una Europa staff week.

Partnerships

Jeremy Upton, Director of Library & University Collections, helped coordinate library-focused sessions and chaired breakout discussions. He said: “The Library is strongly committed to supporting the University’s international partnerships.

“The Una Europa sessions had a strong sense of what we are trying to achieve and what we are supporting. Participants from all the institutions engaged with the sessions and very quickly began to talk and explore shared interests. There was a feeling of enthusiasm. Una Europa provides a framework which supports opportunities for staff to learn from colleagues in other institutions. We have the potential to develop shared training where we discover common needs and can work together on shared challenges focused on the concept of the European university.”

Natalie Fergusson, Global Alumni Manager in Development and Alumni, found the week a great way to get a better understanding of the Una Europa initiative: “Alumni relations was a core topic during the event with a dedicated working group. I was pleased to have the opportunity to represent alumni relations at Edinburgh as we look to build a network among the alliance’s member universities.”

“It was an interesting and informative few days,” Natalie continues. “It was great to connect with professionals from other institutions, hearing about their programmes and sharing ideas. The nature of my role means I already work to engage our European alumni in the life and work of the University but this experience expanded my knowledge and understanding of other important areas and projects, and how they contribute to the University’s relationship with Europe.”

Get involved

Further Una Europa events are planned. To get involved, visit Una Europa, sign up for Europe-themed news alerts from Edinburgh Global, or email: una.europa@ed.ac.uk

Don’t forget to register to vote!

Reading Time: < 1 minute

 

With elections for the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 6 May just a few weeks away, it is worth making sure you are registered to vote and have a postal vote if you want one.

Registration is open to all foreign nationals with leave to remain. This is a recent change, so you may have the right to vote for the first time this year.

The deadline to register to vote is Monday 19 April but it only takes five minutes online, so why not do it now?

Register to vote now

Postal voting

In addition, you might want to consider how you will be voting. Given the need to continue to be vigilant around social distancing due to Covid-19, many people are opting to vote by post.

You can apply for a postal vote just because you want to, you don’t need to give a reason.

Registering to vote by post is straightforward, but the deadline is Tuesday 6 April, so if you are interested it is worth thinking about now.

Register for a postal vote now

Change local lives with a grant of up to £5,000

Reading Time: < 1 minute

The University’s Community Grants scheme is now open for applications.

The scheme has given out more than £320,000, to more than 100 fantastic local organisations, since it started in 2017.

Community groups, charities and other organisations can apply for money for their project.

 

One of the aims of the scheme is to increase engagement between the University and local communities. If you have an existing relationship with a local group, or you want to foster a new relationship between the University and a group you know about, why not see if they would be interested in applying?

Find out more, including how to apply.

The best applications create new and lasting partnerships with the University, while really helping in our local communities.

If you are looking for inspiration, you can read some case studies or watch a video showing what the money has been used for in the past.

If you have any questions about the scheme, please email Edinburgh Local.

One regret, one hope with Toni Jenkins

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In this series, Professor Mona Siddiqui, Assistant Principal Religion and Society, chats to members of our community to find out more about them. Each fortnight she’ll be asking, what is the one regret that has shaped their past, and what is their one hope for the future.

Mona Siddiqui: Welcome to this week’s One Regret, One Hope. My guest today is Toni Jenkins – Toni – thank you for joining me. Tell us about your work at the University.

Toni Jenkins: Thank you for inviting me, Mona. I’m the Postgraduate Research Support Officer in the School of Social & Political Science and I’ve worked in various roles at the University for 10 years. My main responsibilities include managing the on-programme support for our Postgraduate Research (PGR) students and running the scholarships recruitment cycles and ongoing provision. We’re a large, active school so we’re kept busy supporting our 370 PGR students!

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Our new Doctoral College

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Earlier this year saw the creation of the University’s Doctoral College, a collaborative structure that brings together our graduate and postgraduate researchers, supervisors and the associated support staff across the University.

Professor Antony Maciocia, Dean of Postgraduate Research in the College of Science & Engineering, is one of the Co-leads of the new Doctoral College. He shares a bit more about the aims of this new structure: “We have around 5,400 doctoral students and 560 Master of Science (Research) students enrolled in the University. The Doctoral College manifests as a group of around 220 staff across the institution who have key roles in administering student research training.

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EI lights a Beacon for data-driven entrepreneurship

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Edinburgh Innovations (EI), the University’s commercialisation service, is helping drive data-driven entrepreneurship as part of the fight back against Covid-19 with a funded programme of business-boosting activities.

The Data-Driven Entrepreneurship Beacon Programme, running to July 2021, is designed to drive and support entrepreneurship among staff and students, working with a range of partner businesses.

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Fairtrade Fortnight

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Each year Fairtrade Fortnight gives us an opportunity to commit to fair trade values and reaffirm our support. The calendar of events runs until 7 March so there’s still plenty of time to get involved.

Edinburgh has been a Fairtrade University since 2004, and plays a big role in Edinburgh’s Fairtrade City group. The Social Responsibility and Sustainability (SRS) team are leading the University’s involvement with Fairtrade Fortnight and you can find more information on their website.

The SRS team celebrating Fairtrade Fortnight with a make and bake session last week.

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Care Day 2021: Get involved with Widening Participation

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In Scotland, four per cent of care-experienced young people progress to higher education from school, compared with 41 per cent of their non-care-experienced peers.

Our vision at the University of Edinburgh is that each of our care experienced students flourish during their time with us. This is why there’s a range of ongoing support for them, such as financial assistance, a 365-days-a-year accommodation offer, the opportunity of a staff mentor, and the Access Edinburgh Scholarship. As a Corporate Parent, the University of Edinburgh has legislative duties to support care-experienced people to make the most of their time at university. We commit to this within our Corporate Parenting Strategy which is overseen by the Edinburgh Cares committee (a University-wide committee of staff and students). You can read the strategy on the University website.

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