Aberystwyth University VC pays tribute to staff and students’ inspirational performance during 20/21 academic year

Aberystwyth University

Aberystwyth University

28 January 2022

Aberystwyth University’s Vice-Chancellor and the Chair of the Council have spoken of their pride in the institution and gratitude for its staff’s achievements as it published its Annual Report for the COVID-19 struck 2020/21 academic year.

In the report, Professor Elizabeth Treasure described the responses to the challenges faced during the year as “truly inspiring”, by both students and staff who “battled to maintain the educational experience”.

Despite the pandemic, research income increased to £20 million during the 2020/21 academic year, the university achieved higher than anticipated recruitment, laid the groundwork for two new areas of academic teaching and research, and was named as the top University in Wales by the National Student Survey for the sixth year in a row.

The University would have delivered a moderate surplus for its financial year if it was not for the unprecedented effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and essential steps taken to maintain a high-quality teaching environment and student experience. It invested in safety measures across campus, refunded student accommodation fees and provided additional teaching resources. Because of this investment, and loss of commercial income due to the pandemic, the University reported an operating financial deficit of £3.2 million for the year.

Professor Treasure said: “When we look back and consider the incredibly testing circumstances that we have all faced as a community, what was achieved during the course of the last academic year is a source of great pride and gratitude.

“Our excellence in both research and teaching have once again served the University well during a challenging period.  There was an increase in research income to more than £20 million –testament to the ingenuity and tenacity of our research staff and a reflection of the University’s world-leading work on animal health, international peace-making, zero carbon and climate change and the understanding of our cultural history. The increase in student applications and intake was also heartening as it was the second consecutive year of such growth.

“The short-term additional costs caused by COVID-19 serve as a demonstration of our determination to prioritise safety on campus, and the educational and academic experience that we provide here at Aberystwyth. These short-term costs don’t reflect the financial sustainability of the University, and without them we would have reported a moderate surplus this financial year.”

Dr Emyr Roberts, Chair of Aberystwyth University Council, shared Treasure’s views, adding: "In my introduction to the University’s 2019/20 Annual Report, I referred to that year as one of the most challenging in the University’s history. Suffice to say, 2020/2021 has been equally remarkable in the challenges it has posed, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to be felt across the institution and the wider community, of which it is such an integral part.

"The University Council has been regularly informed of the situation. Our sincere thanks go to the Vice-Chancellor, staff, students and stakeholders, both local and national, for the way they have responded and for everything they have achieved during a period of great uncertainty. Their dedication and commitment in all aspects have been most impressive.”

The Annual Report highlights a number of the University’s achievements during its most recent financial year.

  • The National Student Survey named Aberystwyth as the top University in Wales for the sixth consecutive year, the best in Wales for student satisfaction and outperforming the UK average.
  • The £40.5 million AberInnovation facility at Gogerddan opened, offering cutting-edge facilities in the biotechnology, agri-tech, and food and drink sectors.
  • The newly refurbished Neuadd Pantycelyn hall of residence welcomed its first intake of residents, returning a historic building to functional use and providing residential accommodation for Welsh speaking students.
  • The University established its new School of Veterinary Science as it prepared for the first intake of students in September 2021.
  • Approval was given to the University’s plans to bring nursing education to Aberystwyth for the first time ever.
  • During the year, the project to redevelop Aberystwyth’s Old College continued to progress as the University plans will bring the historic site back to its former glory.
  • The University continued to invest to meet its strategic goals, specifically continued provision of excellent teaching and research.

Professor Treasure said:

“Despite the challenges we have faced during the past academic year, I am extremely proud that we have delivered amongst the highest levels of in-person teaching of any university in the UK when government regulations have allowed. That’s testament to the enduring efforts of our staff, whose quality of teaching and dedication to their roles never fails to impress me.  It is also testament to our ability to carry out these activities in a safe way for the benefit of our staff, students and the wider community here in Aberystwyth.

“The University is continuing to make good progress and I look forward to further strengthening our foundations as we gear up to celebrate our 150th anniversary.”