Historic strengths and innovation to drive Aber’s future

Penglais Campus, Aberystwyth University.

Penglais Campus, Aberystwyth University.

02 February 2024

Aberystwyth University’s new Vice-Chancellor has said that the institution’s future success will be built upon transformational education and research, creating new life chances, and bringing about improvements for wider society on a local and global level.

Professor Jon Timmis added that the whole higher education sector will need to adapt to some of the financial challenges that it currently faces. He made his remarks as the University published its 2022/23 Annual Report. The Vice-Chancellor also thanked staff and students for their achievements during that year. He took up the role of Vice-Chancellor in January 2024 having joined from the University of Sunderland where he was Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Commercial).

The Annual Report summarises the performance of the University during that 12-month period in the likes of teaching, research, finances and the University’s contribution to wider society.

Income, research funding and domestic and international student numbers all increased during that period. A £2.5 million underlying operating deficit was posted for the year (within an overall surplus after taxation of £3.8 million), following high levels of inflation and interest rate rises that have affected the wider higher education sector.

A recent report commissioned by Universities UK has said four out of five UK universities face a deficit in the 2023/24 academic year if international student numbers were to continue falling significantly.

Professor Timmis said: “It is clear that the higher education sector needs to adapt to the challenges every single university faces. It needs to invest, while controlling costs. It needs to prioritise student recruitment, but in a sustainable way. It needs to embrace the opportunities that technology like artificial intelligence can deliver, new kinds of teaching delivery and new areas of growth, all while staying true to what makes an institution special. Universities need to adjust to the changing world.

“Aberystwyth University is no different. The financial performance of our institution shows how wider influences are impacting us, and these are influences that will continue to impact us this year, and potentially beyond.  So we need to continue to change how we do things. We can do so by using the University’s many strengths in teaching and research as its foundation but also by challenging ourselves to find new areas of growth, to innovate, and to deliver for our students and wider society in a sustainable way that reflects our changing times.

“The role of this University within our town and mid-Wales more widely is incredibly important to me. I’m ambitious to bring about even more benefits for this community, while continuing to make an impact on a global level.”

Among the highlights listed in the 2022/23 Annual Report are:

  • Aberystwyth University being named the best University in Wales for teaching excellence and student satisfaction in The Times & The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023.
  • Strong growth in research income across a range of disciplines from space exploration to the environmental sciences.
  • An increase in domestic and international student numbers.
  • The opening of a £3 million solar array, which will reduce carbon emissions by more than 500 tonnes per year.
  • The restoration stage of the Old College project getting underway.
  • The celebration of 150 years since Aberystwyth University first opened its doors.

Professor Timmis said: “The achievements of Aberystwyth University that are illustrated in the Annual Report show that the institution is built upon solid ground. It is rightly respected and recognised for the quality of its teaching and research, and the important role it plays both in Wales and beyond.

“The coming years will be a period of change for the higher education sector but I have every confidence that Aberystwyth’s history and successes, coupled with its desire to embrace new approaches, new areas of growth and new strands of research will safeguard its future and benefit us all. Staff and students are at the heart of this change and I would like to thank them for their achievements in 2023. In particular I would like to reiterate my vast appreciation to my predecessor, Professor Elizabeth Treasure, and to our former Chair of Council, Dr Emyr Roberts, for their huge contributions to the future of our institution.”

The new Chair of Aberystwyth University Council Meri Huws said: “It has been clear from the start that Professor Timmis knows that the higher education sector needs to evolve and can see what our institution needs to do in order to foster a culture of innovation. As Council members, we are looking forward to capitalising on his vision for Aberystwyth University.

Meri Huws, who took up her role as Chair at the start of 2024, added, “I would like to thank our staff and students for their hard work during the year.  My gratitude also goes to our partners in the community, as well as regional and national partners whose support, advice and spirit means so much to Aberystwyth University.  I look forward to seeing opportunities to strengthen our work with them over the coming years.”