John Senior, Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise

The research we do here at Herts supports your student experience in many ways.

While research may not be the first thing you think about when choosing where to study as an undergraduate, we have a focus on research-informed teaching so that you can learn in a research-rich environment. In addition, the University’s research performance plays a large part in its reputation and position in league tables.

As at every university, a strong research reputation attracts excellent academics, the ones who are leaders in their field. This matters, as it is essential to deliver research-informed teaching and much of what you’ll learn here in your undergraduate years is driven by our academics’ own research, enterprise and expertise in their subject.

Here at Herts we believe much of our research is driven by the users of that research, such as industry, business, commercial organisations and the public sector. Our academics’ research and enterprise skills are applied to the workplaces that you will go into as graduates. We have many excellent partnerships with companies locally and nationally, and that’s because we go to them and ask what they need: we make their problems the topics of our research. That’s what we mean when we say we are a ‘business-facing’ university.

I moved into higher education from the telecommunications industry. As an academic I went out and engaged with business and industry – as a Professor of Communication Networks my books and published work were produced for engineers and industrial practitioners as well as for students and academics. My role here as Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, includes leading on developing the University’s international research partnerships. These are important for the University, and I know my research profile helped gain us access to develop our collaborative research links in, for example, China, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Another part of my role is to oversee the Doctoral College, working with its Director to ensure a great experience for the University’s research degrees students. We have about 700 research students, typically undertaking PhDs or professional doctorates, who in the latter case are often studying part-time while working in fields such as clinical psychology, management or education.

We are now starting to prepare our submissions to the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF), a seven-yearly UK-wide assessment of the quality of university research. Doing well in REF 2021 is important for the reputation of the University, and for generating income to assist in carrying out further research.

Across the University, our research is grouped within broad themes: Food; Health and Wellbeing; the Global Economy; Heritage, Cultures and Communities; Information and Security; Space. These reflect our interdisciplinary research strengths, mapped onto some of the key global challenge areas of the 21st century. Universities are all about developing skills and the pursuit of knowledge, but just as our teaching at Herts focuses on our students’ employability and readiness for life beyond university, so our research focuses on solving real world problems.