The good news about 2010 is that it will be a milestone year for the University of Lincoln. In its 14th year of existence as we know it, the university is set to see many developments, both in new buildings and learning areas but also in the quality of education and staff.

The bad news is that the current economic climate, which is said to redress in 2010, will have undoubtedly affected the University of Lincoln. Extra millions of borrowing by the university will signal budget cuts across the board for many departments, alongside prospects of cuts in financial support from the government as well.

— Reporting by Shane Croucher, Daniel Ionescu, Charlotte Reid and Rob Wells

Lincoln in 2010 — Illustration: Michael Schofield

Some of the predictions we are making for 2010 are safe: we know which buildings and areas will be developed, and we also have insight into many issues from our extensive range of stories and interviews carried throughout 2009. Other predictions are more speculative, mainly based on inside sources and educated guesses — such as who would run for what postion in the Students’ Union elections in March or what student groups will gain more prominence.

We identified ten main issues to follow up in 2010, together with the people behind them. Right or wrong, this collection of predictions offers a flavour of what’s coming up in the year ahead. We urge you to tell us your thoughts in the comments section, where as usual, comment is free.

The Brayford wasn’t built in a day, and it’s not yet done

The coming year will probably see some big changes with the university’s facilities. In September the old Lincolnshire Echo building will be ready for use by the business and law faculty. It will have undergone dramatic internal changes — including a glass-fronted atrium area, a 250-seat lecture theatre, and a moot law court — and will serve as a bridge between the main Brayford campus and the High Street.

The extension to the sports centre is also expected to be done by the start of the 2010/2011 academic year. Inside will be expanded facilities, and the offices currently housed in the portable building next door. The architects behind the changes also plan to improve the building’s entrance, and make the foyer more inviting.

The library will also be changing. Some of this work has already started, with the ground between the building and the waterfront being tidied up and paved. It’s not yet done, and the plan is for a “learning garden” out there, exactly when it’ll be ready isn’t known — it’ll probably have to wait until the spring, as people go into the library to escape the cold right now. The ground floor is also planned to change significantly, into a more flexible space for students to use than is currently available. The library’s resources are also changing, and could become more accessible and flexible for students, with more e-books, amongst other things. Account management may also get an overhaul, with a recent survey asking students if they’d prefer to do it through the Portal or Blackboard.

After the next university board of governors meeting in March we should also be able to confirm the university’s plans for new buildings. It’s expected that Thomas Parker House and the Greestone Building will be shut down, and students at the School of Art and Design moved into purpose-built facilities to be built near the university’s car park. Those at Chad Varah will also be moved out, in order to make room for the theology school. Also due to be built is the engineering school’s building, which is being developed with Siemens, a German engineering firm.

Mary Stuart takes the wheel, and changes the destination

Professor Mary Stuart took over the university’s top job on November 1st, from Professor David Chiddick who officially retires as vice-chancellor at the end of the year.

Stuart’s approach seems like it’s going to be significantly different from Chiddick, focusing more on academic staff and teaching quality, shifting the emphasis from construction — but some of this will be going on regardless, and the plans appear to have been put together before Chiddick left.

In 2010 we might see the university try and attract more academic staff, in order to improve its staff-to-student ratios (as Lincoln has consistently been placed towards the bottom of league tables on this metric). However, with talk of some staff being laid off, and more restrictive financial conditions likely, the university may decide just to try and hold onto most of the staff it currently has.

Insufficient funds: The university could come up short

The financial side of things will certainly be one to watch out for. The Christmas shopping season has been better for retailers this year compared to last, but cuts are coming up in the public sector — ostensibly to cope with the crushing amount of debt the government’s gotten us into — and it would be foolish to think that the University of Lincoln will unaffected.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England has cut teaching grants across the whole sector, and Lincoln will receive just over £500,000 less than before. While this is still a huge amount of money, it’s just 1.36% of the total the university receives, which is in excess of £36m.

Professor Mary Stuart told The Linc in an interview that looking for other income should be a priority for the university. The institution’s already done a deal with Siemens that will see most of the funding for engineering school’s building come from the company, but this year we could see Lincoln offer more services to businesses and pull in private funding for research. While this could provided the cash needed for Stuart to develop the university according to her vision, the amount of money coming from business raises the question of negative commercial influence.

A little less conversation, a little more action please

The Students’ Union elections are due in spring, for a revised structure of four full-time officers and nine part-timers.

The president remains, but the three new titles are vice-president for activities, vice-president for academic affairs, and vice-president for welfare and diversity.

So far Dan Derricott, second-year management and public relations student and current SU part-time officer, announced his intention to run for the academic affairs position. Chris Charnley, the current SU president, is hot-tipped to re-run for the top job and two third-year journalism students are considering running for his role as well.

The part-time positions will likely be filled, once again, by popular students within certain cliques, riding on the wave of an extremely low turnout, made up mostly of their friends. The 2009 by-elections saw just one candidate for the part-time position and one candidate for three NUS delegate positions. The SU may struggle to find students willing to put themselves forward for the roles as the lack of a definition for each position will put potential officers off.

Jonathan Holmes is an active member of the LGBT society who worked closely with the SU on the blood donation protest in 2009—he may be tempted to run for a position, probably part-time. Joe Hicks, a first-year business student voted in to a part-time officer role by Student Council, may also run to maintain his post.

Whoever runs in these elections, a traditionally appalling turnout is expected and the distinct lack of a respectable mandate with which to represent students. Let’s hope, however, that this year’s SU can engage students to feel like it’s worth bothering to vote, a failing of every previous team.

UPDATE: 21/12/09 The Linc has just learnt that JP Thackery, a second-year media production student, will be running for a position, although exactly which is yet to be announced.

Activism not apathy

When we had a look at political students, we discovered that because of the NUS policy, adhered to by Lincoln Students’ Union, of having no political allegiances, some students had not been able to set up party-political societies, instead having to remain on the fringes of the student community. With no plans to change this policy at the NUS, and with Lincoln’s SU fully in their pocket, it seems that this situation will continue on stifling politically active students.

That said, students have still been getting involved in political issues, most notably the LGBT society’s protest against the ban on gay men donating blood at the blood donation event outside the Engine Shed, in November. The LGBT society is flourishing, so we could see more campaigns from them in 2010.

Lincolnshire’s Conservative Future ousted their former chairman, Fraser McFarland, to be replaced by Reza Shah, a University of Lincoln law student. A local Conservative Future blogger shed light on McFarland’s exit: “At the Party Conference, in October, senior members of the party, including members of the East Midlands European team, County Officials and Association Officers expressed to me [Giles McNeil] their concerns over Mr. McFarland’s suitability for the role.” Shah may bring a new breath of life to Lincolshire’s CF, particularly in the run up to the General Election.

On that note, the impending election will no doubt push political students to action, campaigning on behalf of candidates for the Lincoln seat. Labour Students Society will no doubt be fiercely promoting Gillian Merron in a bid to retain the party’s hold over Lincoln. However, with Lincolnshire CF’s mission being “to actively support all candidate’s across the region” we will undoubtedly see the Tory students out in force, trying to topple Merron from her unsafe seat.

Siren embraces diversity

On the fond of budget increases, there will be a significant staff appointment at Siren in 2010, which will take further the station’s work with young people in the community, following up on Louie Werth’s work, who recently left the station.

The new member of staff, whose name will be announced by Siren’s Managing Editor Andrew David in late January, will concentrate on working with young people in Lincoln and also work with others at the edge of the society.

There will be a significant staff change at Siren as Dom McAndrew, the current news co-ordinator, is leaving to focus on his dissertation. He will be replaced by Josh Jackson, a prominent second year Journalism student.

Under Dom McAndrew Siren news is now focused on local and community news. It is Jackson’s intention to continue with this and develop it by covering council meetings, press conferences at Sincil Bank and the activities of local MP, Gillian Merron. He is hoping to carve out an individual brand for Siren news, rather than trying to copy BBC Radio Lincolnshire or Lincs FM.

There is also talk of improving the Siren website, which will include new features such as a playback on-demand feature and archiving of previous news bulletins.