Although our University community was unable to be together physically for the most part of 2020, we united like never before and our achievements were immense.
The University of Stirling – like many others across the higher education sector – experienced significant challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the adaptability, resilience, and dedication shown by students and staff in the face of adversity was fantastic to see – and I know the efforts of our community will ensure that we emerge stronger from this crisis.
The pivot to blended learning – introduced at a scale and pace like never before – ensured we maintained our high standards in teaching and learning. Staff also led major research projects to consider the effects of the virus on society, and shared their expertise in our COVID-19 bite-sized lecture series.
We ensured our students and staff remained in touch through our Be Connected programme, and the health and wellbeing of our University community remained our number one priority, guided by the Stirling Campus Pledge. Our dedicated staff supported students who remained on campus during lockdown, ensured the swift set up of our No Symptoms Student Test Centre and delivered care packages, where required. A mobile testing unit was also located on the University campus for the wider community.
In navigating the challenging circumstances – the scale of which the higher education sector has never before faced – I take great pride in the fact that the Stirling community remains focused on retaining our reputation for delivering research and teaching of the highest quality, and continuing to be a globally connected centre of learning.
Stirling was crowned UK Sports University of the Year 2020 by The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide – the first time a Scottish university has been awarded this distinguished accolade. Just as our performance student athletes and Olympians continually strive for excellence, we are proud to have ended the year having further enhanced our sporting credentials – with the opening of our new £20 million sports facilities. In November, this flagship project opened its doors to students and staff for the first time – adding to the existing world-class facilities on campus.
Research that makes a difference
Our interdisciplinary approach to researching some of the biggest global challenges continues to be successful and impactful. We have once again grown our research income and continue to be recognised as a five-star research institution by the QS World University Rankings.
In order to improve the lives of people in local communities and around the world, our interdisciplinary research focuses on the themes of: Living Well; Global Security and Resilience; and Cultures, Communities and Society.
In 2020, we were also at the forefront of researching the impact of COVID-19 in Scotland and in communities right across the globe. In April, the Scottish Government announced funding for 10 Stirling-led projects around the pandemic: investigating the impact of the virus on vulnerable children and young people; carers and support workers; people with an alcohol or drugs dependency; those experiencing homelessness; older adults; and licensed premises.
Our standing as a globally-connected institution, carrying out research which tackles real life problems, was further underlined in December, with the news that Stirling will be the host for Scotland’s first Hydro Nation Chair. Our leadership and research expertise will be pivotal in this multi-million pound project’s ambition to make Scotland a global leader in water research.
Enhancing the student experience
The University has made significant investment in its campus infrastructure in recent years, and that continued in 2020. In addition to delivering our new sports facilities, the next stage of our £21.7 million Campus Central development was completed, with the delivery of the enhanced Atrium.
This new space, at the heart of campus, provides students and staff with new retail, recreation and study space. It is also home to a new eating and drinking venue, Scran – which offers a vast range of vegetarian and vegan foods – something which is of increasing importance to our University community. Work is well underway on the next phase of the Campus Central project which will see a three-storey extension to the Andrew Millar building, more than doubling its size with 3,000m2 of additional floor space.
We are proud of the welcoming and relaxed environment on campus, where more than 120 nationalities are represented. That sense of pride only swells further when we see our students achieve great things. We look forward to welcoming our Class of 2020 back for a proper celebration soon – who, due to the circumstances, graduated in absentia this year.
We now have an alumni community of almost 96,000, from 170 countries and – while further challenges lie ahead – this number will continue to grow. As an international university that deeply values ability – not background, delivers high quality learning and teaching, world-leading research and state-of-the-art facilities, Stirling remains one of the UK’s most desirable destinations for students – a place that continues to produce highly employable graduates that are making a significant and tangible difference to society.
Professor Sir Gerry McCormac
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
University of Stirling