Informatics Newsletter September 2016

Issue 4 of our School newsletter for staff and students.

Bjorn Franke
Director of Teaching Dr Björn Franke

Focus on student experience

Improving the student experience was the top priority item at the first School General Meeting of the academic year, following disappointing results for the School, College and University in the latest National Student Survey (NSS).

Although in some areas, eg. feedback times, we are meeting and often exceeding University targets, student satisfaction is still lower than we would expect.

Director of Teaching, Dr Björn Franke, outlined the survey's latest findings and early analysis of the causes, including communication gaps. Contributing factors may include larger and mixed MSc/UG4 final year classes following recent rapid increases in student numbers and disruption caused by building works. These issues may also have impacted on staff morale, to the detriment of teaching and student support.

More detailed analysis and discussions will follow, including focus groups with students to identify solutions at School level, and University-wide.

For more information, see Björn's slides in PDF form:

In other news from the School General meeting...

Welcome to new staff

Head of School Professor Johanna Moore welcomed the 12 new academic staff and six support staff, who have joined or are joining us as the 2016/17 academic year gets underway.

Student recruitment

Dr Björn Franke reported that we have 202 new undergraduates and 323 new postgraduate taught students. In addition, the Graduate School says that we have 64 new postgraduate research students (including 42 in Centres for Doctoral Training) with a further 22 joining us later in the year.

Equality and Diversity

Speaking on behalf of new Equality and Diversity Co-ordinator Dr Kami Vaniea, who was teaching, Professor Jane Hillston said we expect the results of our April 2016 Athena SWAN equalities award application shortly - and an implementation group has already met to start taking forward the action plan it described for 2016-19.


Director of Professional Services Martin Wright reported that work is progressing in Appleton Tower and in creating additional offices in the Informatics Forum. Nevertheless, there is likely to be a shortage of desks for postgraduate research (PGR) students in 2017/18, so meeting room IF2.33 may be used temporarily as a PGR room until the Data Technology Institute (DTI) is completed. Construction of the DTI (aka Thomas Bayes Centre) is currently 11 weeks behind schedule but occupancy by early 2018 is still expected.

School Strategy and Plan 2017-20

The planned review of the School Strategy and Plan 2017-20 will include review of staff recruitment priorities and student recruitment projections, with a Strategy Committee meeting on staff recruitment on Wednesday 26 October.

Principal and Head of College

Following the Principal's announcement, 21 June, that he will be demitting office in September 2017, the University has appointed executive search firm Perrett Laver to support the search for his successor. The post is being advertised on the Perrett Laver website -reference 2689 (registration required).  Deadline for applications: midday Tuesday 18 October 2016. Recruitment for a new Head of College of Science and Engineering will also be underway shortly. 

EU flag

EU Referendum: 'Town Hall' Meetings

The University has organised another round of meetings to take stock of the latest developments following the EU referendum. The nearest will take place in Lecture Theatre F.21, 7 George Square, 3-4pm Wednesday 5 October.

Research 'office hour' and biscuit lunches

Director of Research Professor Jane Hillston is holding a research office hour every Monday, 12noon– 1pm in her office, IF3.49 (except October when she is away). This offers researchers an opportunity to discuss their ideas and proposals, including possible funding schemes and collaborators. Support is available throughout the proposal process. 

Jane is also organising a series of research 'biscuit lunches' (you bring your lunch, Jane supplies a speaker and provides biscuits!). Next event: Monday 24 October, 1-2pm , G.07. Topic: REF. Speaker: Professor Steve Renals.

Jon Oberlander, Areti Manataki, Colin Adams, Phil Wadler

Staff news

  • New Assistant Principal for Data Technology: Jon Oberlander, our Professor of Epistemics, has been appointed Assistant Principal for Data Technology. Jon is also Director of the new Data Technology Institute.
  • Areti scoops Outreach Prize: Researcher Dr Areti Manataki has won the Head of College Prize for all her outreach work. Areti runs regular introductory coding workshops for young people, and sessions for teachers and parents. She has also had rave reviews for ‘Code Yourself,' one of our Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
  • Principal’s Medal for Colin Adams: In November, recently retired alumnus and Director of Commercialisation Colin Adams will will receive the University’s highest honour for his significant contribution to the technical community in the School, University and city.
  • ACM SIGPLAN Award: Professor Philip Wadler has won the ACM SIGPLAN Distinguished Service Award 2016.
Dr Kami Vaniea

Inviting a great female speaker?

Please tell us asap! Our Equality and Diversity Committee would like to ask female speakers - not least those who are coming into School anyway - to share their career stories with students and staff over an informal sandwich lunch. If you have an interesting speaker in mind, please email E&D Coordinator Kami Vaniea  (pictured right) early in your planning. 

We're also inviting female staff and alumni to complete case study questionnaires.

Mentoring scheme open to all staff

Mentoring Connections is a University-wide programme for all academic and professional staff. Mentees are matched with Mentors who are one grade above and who work in a broadly similar field. In particular, mentee applications are encouraged from women, new international staff, new and aspiring leaders and those who through their Annual Review process have identified the need for mentoring. Closing date for the next round of applications: Friday 16 December 2016. Get connected.

Senate meeting here 28 September

The next University Senate meeting will take place 2pm Wednesday 28 September in the Informatics Forum.  Theme: 'Interdisciplinarity - How can we strengthen our culture and expectations of high performance in interdisciplinary research, learning, and knowledge exchange?' Speakers include Chris Speed (Design Informatics) and Jon Oberlander. Presentations and discussion open to all staff. Please book via MyEd.

Dates for your diary

27 Sept

NASA robotics lectures: Dr Rob Ambrose

28 Sept Senate meeting in the Informatics Forum
29 Sept FULLY BOOKED! Women in Computing informal lunch with Anne Johnson, alumna, angel investor, CEO Cunning Systems
3 Oct Support staff 'away day,' 10am-2pm
5 Oct EU Referendum: University 'town hall' meeting, George Square
8 Oct        Undergraduate open day
24 Oct Monthly research biscuit lunch: Speaker Steve Renals on REF
16 Nov       Postgraduate open day
16 Dec Deadline for staff mentoring scheme

And finally…

Think you know your colleagues? Guess who:

(Click a link for the answer).

That’s all folks! For all the latest news, keep an eye on our website, Facebook page, Twitter feed and check out Edinburgh Informatics Alumni on LinkedIn.

The newsletter is produced by Communications, Informatics Knowledge Management Team. If you have any questions or comments please get in touch! Email: