Northern Lights: My first impressions of Sheffield can be summed up in one word – optimism

It’s a great time to start a new job in Sheffield. I write at the start of my second month as Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University.
Professor Liz Mossop, Sheffield Hallam University Vice-ChancellorProfessor Liz Mossop, Sheffield Hallam University Vice-Chancellor
Professor Liz Mossop, Sheffield Hallam University Vice-Chancellor

Much of my first few weeks has been spent meeting staff, students and governors at the University, but I’ve also been getting out and about across Sheffield meeting some of the people who make this city tick.

My first impressions of Sheffield can be summed up in one word – optimism. There is an incredibly strong network of engaged and enthusiastic people across the city working together to build a positive future.

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From civic leaders and politicians to fellow heads of educational institutions and community leaders, there is a determined coalition collaborating to regenerate the city and create a more prosperous and equitable future for all who live here.

I am proud and excited to join this network.

Last week, Sheffield Hallam’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre hosted the inaugural meeting of the Mayoral Economic Advisory Council.

As one of the 11 members of the Council I was delighted to join the mayor and internationally renowned experts to help shape the long-term vision for South Yorkshire.

I’ve also been introduced to the Sheffield City Goals.

The people I’ve met so far are enthused by how the ‘six stories’ capture the essence of the city and paint a bold vision for its future, and I can see why.

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The City Goals are an illustration of the tangible optimism I’ve encountered in my first few weeks here.

As a university rooted in Sheffield and the region, Sheffield Hallam is committed to aligning with those goals and working collaboratively with our partners to bring about the change the city and its communities need.

Looking out of my office window, the crane-littered skyline shows the impressive scale of Sheffield’s regeneration.

It’s fantastic to watch the Heart of the City development taking shape alongside our own Howard Street development which is nearing completion. Our three new buildings, just opposite the station, will create a stunning new gateway to the city, landmark zero-carbon-ready facilities and a new public green space for our students, staff and the wider Sheffield community to enjoy.

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Of course, it would be naïve to suggest there aren’t challenges to be faced, both in the city and region, but also within the Sheffield Hallam.

It is a huge privilege to be appointed to lead one of the two outstanding universities in this city. It is also a huge responsibility, and one I don’t take lightly.

As someone who always looks forward with courage and optimism, I arrived at Sheffield Hallam full of ambition and ideas, and a keen sense of responsibility to plan for the future, not just to the university community I lead, but also to the wider city and region.

Universities are enormous drivers of positive social change. The city’s two universities have an overwhelmingly positive impact on Sheffield.

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They support over 19,500 jobs, generate more than a billion pounds annually for the economy and bring a rich cultural diversity to our cities. Across the wider region, Yorkshire’s universities teach 220,000 students, with a third from our region, and produce around 75,000 highly skilled graduates every year.

Achieving sustainable economic growth and a prosperous future for Sheffield and South Yorkshire depends on the continued success of the region’s universities.

That is why, as well getting to know the University’s community and meeting civic partners, my focus in my first month has been on addressing the financial challenges Sheffield Hallam is currently experiencing.

It is no secret that universities across the country are facing the most challenging financial and political context they have experienced for some time, and Sheffield Hallam is no exception.

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The combined financial impact of high inflation, rising costs and a significant drop in income due to static undergraduate tuition fees means that all universities are having to make difficult decisions.

This isn't easy. But my overriding priority will be to successfully negotiate the necessary changes with care and compassion, whilst being transparent and inclusive right across our university community.

Despite the challenges, there is genuine good reason for optimism. Our award-winning staff are equipping graduates to be the lifeblood of organisations right across the region.

Our research and innovation are having a real-world impact and attracting local investment. Our collaborative partnerships are galvanising the positive civic impact we can and do have across our region.

Sheffield is clearly a city on the up. As I begin my tenure as Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, I am excited to play my part in shaping a positive future for our city.