The start of a new academic year has always brought the anticipation of the new as well as some familiar rhythms: it is a moment of renewal and reassurance.
After the last few years it may be time to add another element: uncertainty brought about by external factors.
Autumn 2022 sees us again living through remarkable times, with universities and wider society facing a range of serious challenges. The cost of living crisis, war in Ukraine, the threat of growing inequality, the environmental emergency and our ongoing navigation of the pandemic are just a snapshot of the issues presenting us all with difficult questions.
I believe institutions like Goldsmiths are vital in developing answers to these issues. By combining our expertise across the humanities, creative arts and social sciences with our values of social justice, equity and empathy we can play an important role in finding solutions to the big problems we are all facing
Looking around us, there is no doubt that the world needs places like Goldsmiths now more than ever. We make significant and tangible contributions to society – our support for hundreds of local businesses during the pandemic is documented in this case study for the Local Government Association. The Open Book team’s education work in prisons has been recognised by the government, prompting its founder Joe Baden to issue a heartfelt call for more funding for these vital endeavours.
The College is tackling the cost of living crisis head-on – we are putting an extra £100,000 into the student hardship fund this year and are thinking hard about how we can support staff most in need of help. We are also talking to Lewisham Council about how we can use our campus to help support the local public over the winter.
And amid talk of growth, there is no doubt that Goldsmiths supports this at the very grassroots of society. The teachers studying here go on to enable the talents and ambitions of young people while the social workers provide support to those who most need it – and are often, unjustly, unsung.
Initiatives like the New Cross Fire Bursary help nurture the academic ambitions of local teenagers who are under-represented in higher education. Thanks to funding from our Civic University Agreement partners Lewisham Council, since 2006 some £325,000 in grants has been shared with more than 40 local people to help them study at Goldsmiths.
Work continues to decarbonise the Goldsmiths campus, as part of our Green New Deal project, which will bring significant benefits to our local area. Two large upgrade projects have completed recently: an LED lighting upgrade across major campus buildings and an improved Building Management System to allow greater control of heating and cooling. The College is also in the process of procuring a new catering supplier, with sustainability embedded into the selection process and contract.
We are also offering our support and expertise on wider issues: I have written a statement of support for those bravely protesting the deaths of two young women in Iran, and I know the College community joins with me in sharing our sympathies with the family of Chris Kaba, who was shot dead by police less than six miles from our campus.
I firmly believe that the whole College wants to find better solutions to the problems society faces. And after a difficult period, when Goldsmiths saw significant change as we looked to rebalance our finances, we are now able to work together and look forward with greater confidence whilst acknowledging the ongoing challenge of financial sustainability.
This means we can continue to make a difference to the lives of local people and those around the world. My hope is that we can approach this year with pragmatic optimism – that we embrace opportunity while understanding the realities we are facing. We must also look to provide stability and certainty – that we will keep on doing what we do to the best of our abilities.
I became Warden three years ago and during this time we have navigated a global pandemic, political chaos, war in Europe and an escalating financial crisis.
We know that we can draw strength and inspiration from one another to overcome challenges – for the good of our student and staff communities and for the benefit of wider society.