Foreword by the Chair of the Board of Governors
Harper Adams University has an enviable reputation in the field of higher education as the UK’s top rated modern university and the only post-1992 institution to ever make into the Times Top 30. With a top ten performance in teaching quality and student experience, it has remained true to its core values in agriculture, whilst meeting ever increasing challenges faced by rural areas nationally and internationally.
The University provides specialist higher education across a broad range of subjects relating to the land, food and the environment and the businesses associated with them. It has the largest population of undergraduate agriculture students in the UK, the only undergraduate provision in agricultural engineering and a thriving postgraduate community. The University is known for its strong applied research capabilities, with significant recent growth in research projects that have attracted international attention. It also has sound relations with selected international partners that are helping to develop the global profile of the institution. In 2014, the Research Excellence Framework results saw all of our work considered of international quality, and more than half world leading or internationally excellent. Before that, in 2006, we became the only specialist institution in the sector able to award our own degrees by research. Closer to home, the University’s estate has seen significant investment that has kept Harper Adams at the forefront of provision for its students and staff.
This is an institution that is close to the industries with which it works and is heavily involved in far reaching developments in the rural sector. Our founder wanted to support high quality, practical and theoretical education, which we still deliver today which is recognised with our Gold award in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and, in many respects, our provision is unique within the UK higher education system We have a strong reputation for our organisational management, governance and academic performance which has led to external recognition in several arenas. Our ground-breaking and innovative work has resulted in Times Higher Education and Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019. We have won a number of other national industry awards over the same period.
As a small and specialist higher education institution, Harper Adams faces a number of unique challenges and opportunities over the next few years. Foremost amongst these is the requirement that the University must continue to evolve in order to meet the diverse and changing needs of the rural economies and communities that make up the UK’s rural sector and, in particular, the agri-food chain. We wish to continue and grow our close relationships with relevant industry sectors. This ensures we are aware of their needs when designing our courses, and helps our students during their placement year and after graduating to put into practice what they learn in our lecture theatres, technical workshops and laboratories and on our farm and wider estate. This approach underpins our graduates’ excellent performance in securing employment and further studies after graduation.
The agri-food sector currently employs around 4m people (some 14% of the UK’s workforce) and is the largest manufacturing component of the UK economy. Higher education can be expected to be called upon to play a role in stimulating economic growth as well as in providing high quality graduates to serve the needs of existing and future rural businesses.
At the same time, the global challenges faced by rural areas are significant. Recent reports have highlighted that a key scientific challenge for the coming decades is to feed a growing world population by maintaining growth in agricultural productivity in the face of deteriorating environmental conditions, issues of food security, including animal welfare and disease, the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and changing diets because of global growth in per capita income. The UK’s departure from the EU and the COVID-19 pandemic are also expected to impact significantly on the agri-food sector.
A new Agriculture Act seeks to address these issues and the national Agri-Technology Strategy is expected to further support scientific and technological innovations in this area. The University is by no means alone in working on this agenda but is in a strong position to forge effective academic and business partnerships that will combine resources to address these global challenges.
We are a strongly independent institution with taught and research degree awarding powers, but at the same time we work collaboratively with a range of university and college partners. Our latest initiative is a new state of the art Veterinary School, in collaboration with Keele University, that launched in 2020.
We have maintained a satisfactory financial performance in a challenging external environment and will continue our mission to provide world leading higher education and research for the delivery of sustainable food chains and the protection of rural resources for future generations through our stretching Strategic Plan for the period 2020-2025.
The role of Vice-Chancellor is critical to the delivery of the Strategic Plan and our ability to maintain a distinctive profile, deliver high quality academic activities and nurture a strong university community. It will require an inspiring, motivating and visible leader to build on our strong foundations and continue to grow our national and international reputation in agricultural research and Higher Education; developing the institution and moving forward, while maintaining tradition, reputation, standards, and the community-feel which makes Harper Adams unique. The ability to shape opinion at all levels and represent the university as an ambassador internally and externally and foster strong links with the locality, industry and government will be vital.
Demonstrating integrity, honesty and fairness while also being willing to take difficult decisions and lead change will be key to success. The Board is seeking not just a steward to preserve and safeguard the core values and tremendous achievements of the institution so far, but a leader who can continue to identify and inspire the best strategic direction for Harper Adams so that we continue to grow and thrive.
We hope that the information provided within this document will be helpful to those considering an application for this important role and, should you decide to apply, we look forward to welcoming you to Harper Adams University.
Mr Peter Nixon MBE Chair of the Board of Governors Harper Adams University
Julia Roberts of GatenbySanderson, talks to Peter Nixon, Chair of Harper Adams University