From strength to strength

​As 2019 draws to a close, Sir Jim McDonald reflects on his two year term as President and looks forward on an association going from strength to strength.
19th December 2019
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As 2019 draws to a close, my two year period as President of CESAER is also coming to an end. It has been a tremendous privilege for me to act as President of one of Europe’s most important, influential and widely respected university associations.

Almost two years ago I brought the new Board of Directors from 2018 to 2019 to Scotland, and we agreed our goals, activities and deliverables in a biennial work plan which built upon the work of my predecessor Karel Luyben, profiling CESAER as ´the strong and united voice of universities of science and technology in Europe´. The overall focus was on: reinforcing and enhancing CESAER’s distinctive profile and position; providing clear and unique strategic propositions; and, adding value to our Members through acceleration of our development, engagement with external bodies and collaborative activity with each other. These aims and activities were clustered to enable more flexible and targeted delivery around four strategic themes, each under the leadership of a Vice President and a coordinating committee. These themes are research, education, innovation and impact and leadership and sustainability.

Our collaborative activities would not be possible without the invaluable work of hundreds of volunteers and leaders from our Members who have dedicated their time to our committees, task forces, workgroups and governing bodies. I would particularly highlight the authors and contributors to the many white papers and publications that we have generated which are influencing policy at the European level, and which provide invaluable support to our members by developing best practice recommendations in a wide range of areas from benchmarking to research infrastructures.

We were welcomed warmly by the many institutions who have hosted task force meetings and workshops, especially by our colleagues in Bucharest and Paris who hosted two very successful CESAER Annual Meetings which covered topics of vital interest to our members. I was particularly impressed by the impact of our students in Paris who demanded a new type of education that could prepare them to tackle climate emergency we face.

CESAER’s influence is also shown by the regular and constructive dialogue with European institutions such as the Commission, amongst many other strategic engagements with Commissioner Carlos Moedas on the plans for Horizon Europe, and Commissioner Corina Crețu on regional development funds. The Commission welcomes and listens to our views.

Our association has also gone through many changes in the last two years, most obviously through changes to our staff, and we are delighted to have appointed such a dynamic, talented and hard-working team, led so well by David Bohmert. Behind the scenes, we have revised our approach to financial reporting and planning, we have developed and introduced a new IT system, and have now moved to new offices at our host KU Leuven. Our association is going from strength to strength.

I feel truly honoured and privileged to have served as the President of CESAER and I am pleased to hand over the association to my successor, Rik van de Walle. I remain fully committed to our strategic mission and founding principles and look forward to working closely with all my friends and colleagues in CESAER, not least through my new role as President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, which will host and co-organise a major international conference with CESAER under the new work plan from 2020 to 2021 period. I look forward to welcoming my CESAER friends and colleagues to the Royal Academy in 2021.

Thank you all for the support, guidance and commitment you have provided to me and our association over the past two years. It has been a wonderful experience working with you.

My very best wishes for the festive season and the new year ahead.

Best wishes,

Sir Jim McDonald

Principal & Vice-Chancellor of University of Strathclyde
President 2018-2019

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