I am delighted to present our fifth Annual Report and I thank most warmly all those who have contributed material and helped see it through to publication.
In 2014 the University celebrates its 50th anniversary. In the early years, as many readers may know, there was no health or medical research at Lancaster, and little in the way of biosciences. Indeed, it is only in the last 15 years that these areas have really developed, and the rapid growth of both research and teaching – in biomedicine and life sciences, medicine, and the social science dimensions to health and medicine – is even more recent. The coalescence of this activity in a Faculty of Health and Medicine is only five years old. It is easy to forget how far we have come in such a short space of time, and I am very proud of all my colleagues who have contributed to this rapid growth, and grateful to all those individuals and organisations who have supported our work in many different ways.
The University has refreshed its strategy, following widespread internal dialogue and consultation. It affirms its ambition to establish Lancaster as a 'top 100' global university: we are currently ranked 137 in the Times Higher Education World University rankings – out of almost 10,000.
This will be achieved in part through internal growth, increasing undergraduate numbers in order to generate additional resource, but also by increasing research grant capture. In addition, the Vice-Chancellor wishes us to develop long-term partnerships with like-minded universities. I share the view that Lancaster University is an outstanding institution, but it remains small compared with many other universities. It is only through well-conceived partnerships that we can compete on the global stage.
In connection with this, I have recently visited Flinders University, the University of Wollongong in Australia and the highly rated University of Waterloo in Canada, in part to investigate the scope for high-level interactions but more to look at their developments in ageing research (where they have secured considerable philanthropic and institutional support). Ageing research is one of the three strategic priorities for Waterloo and I am keen to explore how they have made such rapid and significant progress.
Our own Centre for Ageing Research (involving many researchers from across campus) is a flagship University research centre and there are many opportunities for us to capitalise on this, with our scientists involved in research into the ageing process, understanding the mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative disease, and how to promote healthy ageing, for example. More broadly, we have many valuable research relationships with colleagues across the globe, examples of which you can read in this report.
We will shortly have submitted to the Research Excellence Framework (REF), under a single Unit of Assessment (Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy). Our submission highlights that most of our research sits within six 'research themes': Ageing and End of Life Care; Biostatistics and Epidemiology; Cancer Biology; Infectious Diseases; Mental Health; and Public Health. Examples of this research are highlighted in the pages that follow. We believe we have a good story to tell in each of these areas, but it will be another year before we learn the outcome.
More broadly, we continue to engage with other organisations. We are now part of the Northern Health Science Alliance, a loose confederation of the eight most research-intensive universities in northern England, along with eight partner NHS Trusts. The overall aim is to raise the profile of biomedical, medical and life sciences research in the north, so that in collaboration we can compete globally in developing high-quality research and development in these fields. In addition, the North West Coast Academic Health Science Network has now been formally constituted, with our colleague Professor John Goodacre as its Medical Director, and we will play an active part in its ambitions to speed up the adoption of innovations across the healthcare sectors. We have also been successful in becoming part of the North West Coast Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care. This will address issues of health inequalities through improvements in public health and chronic disease interventions. Professor Jennie Popay is leading this from Lancaster University.
We continue to deliver research of the highest quality. But, as is evident from all the above initiatives and in the text that follows, we want our research both to involve others in its co-production and to make a difference to people, groups, and organisations. We do not, and cannot, work in isolation. So we value 'knowledge exchange', working in partnership – with industry, NHS Trusts, organisations delivering care, individuals accessing such care, and others – to improve health and wellbeing but also to create wealth in the local and regional economies. Via our expanding Clinical Research Hub, but in many other ways, we continue to place knowledge exchange at the forefront of what we do.
We also, of course, expect our academic and clinical staff to deliver the highest quality education, both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. We recruit outstanding students and devote considerable care and attention to ensure that they graduate with the skills and expertise needed so they too can 'make a difference'.
I am sure you will find some interesting material in this Annual Report. Thank you for taking the time to read it. Please do get in touch with us if you would like more information or to discuss possibilities for collaboration.
Professor Tony Gatrell, Dean
Faculty of Health and Medicine Annual Report for 2012