Annual Review 2020

Welcome to the University of Plymouth’s inaugural Annual Review. This publication reflects upon the 2019–20 academic year – a year that has encompassed great success and unprecedented challenges; 12 months during which our world-leading research was recognised with the highest honour in education, and a global pandemic forced us to suspend traditional face-to-face teaching for the first time in the 158-year history of the institution.

Across the University, through research and innovation, education, and civic engagement, our people have responded magnificently to this rapidly changing and uncertain environment. Whether initiating the development of coronavirus vaccines, delivering online education and assessment or manufacturing components for lifesaving PPE, our staff and students have embodied the ethos of the Civic University. Many have worked long hours, under intense pressure, to deliver and to support their colleagues, communities and cohorts.

For the whole sector, there are likely to be ‘bumps in the road’ ahead – but the University can be confident in its ability to navigate them with its Strategy 2030 providing a sound basis for the development and operational robustness of the institution.

This strategy envisages a broad-based, international university of its region, maintaining pre-eminence in research and education in marine and maritime environments and societies, and leadership in environmental sustainability.

As this Annual Review documents, the University is already delivering upon that vision in many respects. In 2019–20, the University was rated in the top 25 for teaching in the National Student Survey, and was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for a third time, in recognition of two decades of ground breaking research into microplastics and marine litter and policy impact. The University is demonstrating its civic leadership through multimillion-pound grants to support innovation and eHealth, and addressing dental and legal deprivation in our local communities through experiential education.

There is much work ahead of us, but we are building successfully upon our heritage of being a university that advances knowledge and transforms lives.


Professor Judith Petts CBE
Vice-Chancellor

This year saw a number of prestigious awards and honours conferred on members of the University’s academic community:

  • Ian Sherriff, Academic Partnership Lead for dementia, awarded the British Empire Medal for services to those affected by dementia, in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

  • Professor Christopher Tredwin, Head of the University’s Peninsula Dental School, elected as the new Chair of the Dental Schools Council.

  • Professor Judith Petts CBE, Vice-Chancellor, appointed one of four sector leaders to head up the new Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education Leaders. The Commission is a partnership between EAUC (the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges), the Association of Colleges, GuildHE and Universities UK, and it will enable universities and colleges to work together in an unprecedented way to tackle the climate crisis.

  • Professor Deborah Greaves OBE FREng, Head of the School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics, listed by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) among its Top 50 Women in Engineering: Sustainability.

  • Professor Tom Hutchinson and Dr Sian Rees appointed to the Natural Environment Research Council’s Advisory Network, which will help provide strategic or policy advice on nationally and globally important environmental issues to the council.

  • Rob Sneyd, Emeritus Professor, becoming only the fourth person to receive the Gold Medal from the Royal College of Anaesthetists, its highest honour for Fellows.

  • Professor Iain Stewart MBE and Professor Ian Bailey, invited to join the Net-Zero Task Force, established by Devon County Council.