It is renowned as a higher education trailblazer – standing out in a sector that is not exactly short of innovation and daring.
But, over the last 12 months, Dundee University found itself tested in ways few could have imagined before the arrival of Covid-19.
Remote learning, hybrid teaching, social distancing – the pandemic necessitated transformations which are likely to have a lasting impact on the institution and its competitors north of the Border.
Disruption has touched every area of university life – but Dundee is proving more than equal to the challenge.
For Professor Iain Gillespie, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, its response has demonstrated exactly the kind of inventiveness and resourcefulness which led to it being named Institution of the Year in the 2019 Herald Higher Education Awards.
“We are extremely proud of the contribution the University of Dundee has made to the fight against Covid over the past year, right across our community,” he said.
“Hundreds of final-year Medicine and Nursing students graduated early so they too could join NHS staff on the frontline while researchers have been working on Covid treatments and carrying out clinical trials into new drugs.
“PPE was donated to protect local key workers and a mini factory was established to produce scrubs for NHS staff.
“The performance from staff and students has been really remarkable across the board and we have also helped play a role around testing and the vaccine rollout.”
Dundee is certainly no stranger to being recognised for its ability to adapt and innovate.
It triumphed more than once in our 2019 awards, scooping the overall title and lifting the Marketing Campaign of the Year award.
The university enjoyed further glory in the student and staff Outstanding Contribution categories, which were won by Rawad Qaq and Professor Kurt Mills respectively.
It was also a joint winner, with neighbouring Abertay University, in the Contribution to the Local Community section.
The success echoes stellar results in this year’s higher education league tables. Dundee was ranked among Britain’s top 20 by the Guardian, while The Times/Sunday Times placed it fourth in Scotland and 23rd in the UK.
And, for the third consecutive year, it finished 31st out of 130 institutions in the Complete University Guide.
Professor Gillespie said he was determined to maintain the strong track record. And he noted that, despite the upheaval caused by Covid-19, his staff had been able to press ahead with vital project work.
“In the non-Covid sphere, we were delighted to see the ‘Growing the Tay Cities Biomedical Cluster’ project signed off,” he added.
“The £25 million funding received from the Scottish Government will allow us to build on our world-class expertise in life sciences research, drug discovery and medical innovation to accelerate commercialisation of this expertise and anchor new companies and hundreds of quality jobs in Dundee.”
Professor Gillespie said he had been impressed by the positive, can-do atmosphere on campus, stressing that it had been crucial to the institution’s ability to carry on growing and developing.
“The biggest challenge any university has faced over the past year is around ensuring the safety and security of their community,” he continued.
“That meant maintaining as supportive a student experience as possible and looking after the wellbeing of student and staff.
“Since I arrived at Dundee in January I have been struck by the tremendous amount of work that staff and students alike have put in to support each other.”
Professor Gillespie said his institution would be pursuing a number of goals to ensure it stays ahead of the pack, adding: “We have three key areas of focus – academic excellence and financial sustainability, student recruitment and student experience, and the ongoing pivot towards a more digitally enabled university that is focused on user needs.”
He also said Dundee’s success in our 2019 awards and more recently was a team effort.
“This accolade was one which recognises the hard work and dedication of the whole University,” he continued.
“It, and the other awards received, acknowledges the successes of our students, academics and professional services staff.”
Nominations are now being sought for The Herald Higher Education Awards for 2021. To enter visit http:// newsquestscotlandevents.com/events/ heawards/