Note to Friends

The field of advancement in higher education is a varied and fulfilling one. Those of us working in it have the pleasure of connecting outstanding students and researchers with those who believe in their work and want to see its impact amplified.

Chris Cox
Photo: Sam Sills / Whitedog Photography

Edinburgh is full of such students and staff who want to make a positive difference for the community and, indeed, the world. I hope that as you read through this magazine’s inspiring articles on cancer research, eye health and the impact of our arts courses, these pages reinforce for you the University’s varied and wide-reaching influence.

And then every so often a project will come along that manages to encompass everything we are working to achieve in one single, coherent vision. The announcement this summer of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Deal, which will see the University play a pivotal role in major publicly-funded development initiatives, is just such a scenario. Putting the University at the very heart of the region’s future at a time of great change and developments in technology, infrastructure and culture, represents a tremendous vote of confidence in how this University can work in partnership across the region to drive innovation and economic growth in the future.

The fact that both UK and Scottish Governments are backing our shared goal of making Edinburgh the data capital of Europe is testament to the many outstanding teams of researchers, policy influencers and students across campus and beyond. It is also evidence of the impactful vision of Professor Sir Tim O’Shea, who demits Office after 15 years shortly after this goes to print, having done so much among other things to draw together outstanding clusters of expertise in data science, machine learning and robotics at the University. Read more about the City Deal on page 4, and look out for regular updates in the coming months. The strength of this public investment now creates outstanding platform for new public and private partnerships for the benefit of the region, where giving and philanthropy will have a pivotal role to play.

Forward vision is, of course, central to this magazine, but I’m also delighted that we’re able to report on the restoration of something deeply rooted in the history of University – McEwan Hall. You will see from our eye-catching photo spread on pages 23–25 that the Hall has now, with your generous support, been returned to its resplendent Victorian glory. I’m delighted we’ve been able to mark  the meaningful and thoughtful contributions of so many supporters of the restoration via the new Pathway to Enlightenment, with many names being added movingly in memory of late graduates and staff.

But our vision for the future is still keenly apparent – the new conference suites, accessibility improvements, and striking new entrance pavilion will help ensure that McEwan Hall remains at the heart of University life, and our connections to wider civic life in Edinburgh, for generations to come.

So many of you have also contributed with warmth and generosity to the O’Shea Global Scholars Initiative which will allow us to deepen and embed the support we can give to scholars locally and globally who would benefit from an Edinburgh education. This is of course in honour of Sir Tim’s outstanding commitment to this agenda over many years. Do take time to read Carmen’s story on pages 10–11, an outstanding talent who is directly benefitting from our shared desire to make Edinburgh a consistently first-class university for the best and the brightest. We reached a new record high last year in terms of support from alumni, friends and philanthropists. I hope you share our sense of pride in what you are helping us to achieve, and thank you sincerely for your continued and generous support.


Chris Cox

Vice-Principal Philanthropy and Advancement and Executive Director of Development and Alumni