Highlights of 2020: Thriving as a community and delivering leading research

Smiling international student outside the Guildhall

Reflections on an extraordinary year of achievements despite many challenges

  • 07 December 2020
  • 5 min read

As we approach the festive season, we wanted to reflect on our achievements and share our highlights of the year with you. Although none of us could have predicted 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the best in our community.

This year, we've all come together to tackle the virus, from students and staff helping out on the frontline and providing free food to NHS staff and those in need, to our researchers and experts working to tackle the virus and creating a revolutionary face shield.

We were also the first University in the UK to provide free asymptomatic testing to staff and students – enabling us to bring campus infection rates under control quicker. Throughout the pandemic, the health and wellbeing of our students has been at the heart of everything we do.

Join us in celebrating a year of achievements and resilience
Reflections on an extraordinary year

Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Graham Galbraith, shares his festive wishes and looks back on a year of achievements in the midst of upheaval to celebrate our community and wish you all the best.

Seasons Greetings from the University of Portsmouth.

2020 has been an extraordinary year and I wanted to share our key highlights with you from around the University.

It has been one of the strangest years, one that no one could have predicted. But, in light of this, the global COVID-19 pandemic has really brought out the best in our community. 

Our staff and students were on the frontline, taking on roles at local hospitals and ambulance stations. Others gifted their time through volunteering and donated food parcels to self-isolating students.

University of Portsmouth graduates were there for their community too, providing free food to NHS workers and those in need.

In the early days of the pandemic, our academics, technicians and media staff tried to tackle the virus through research and innovation, designing and manufacturing a revolutionary new face shield which could be 3D printed in under 30 seconds. Over 10,000 were produced for healthcare professionals on the front line for the fight against COVID-19.

Our researchers also played diverse roles in fighting the virus - from tracking, tracing and testing, to informing the ethics of COVID-19 research and sharing their expertise to help individuals, families and businesses cope better.

One of the key highlights of the year was becoming the first University across the UK to provide free, asymptomatic testing to staff and students - enabling us to bring campus infection rates under control quickly and making cases more manageable across the University. Importantly, this has played a role in managing infection rates within the wider community – the health and wellbeing of our students is at the heart of everything we do.

Despite the pandemic, we haven’t lost sight of our role in delivering world-class research that seeks to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems. 

For example, our pioneering plastic enzyme research, which is another leap towards beating plastic waste. Our scientists have created an enzyme cocktail that can now digest plastic waste six times faster. This is research that makes a difference and we have big ambitions for our work in this area.

2020 also saw the launch of Revolution Plastics, finding solutions to the worldwide plastics problem. Here on campus, we’re ensuring that all new facilities are climate-neutral including our new award-winning sustainable sports centre, which will open next year.

Whilst this year has been extremely testing, we are not losing sight of our ambitious new vision and strategy. By 2030, we intend to be the top modern university in the UK and one of the top 100 young universities in the world. 

Being just one of 13 UK universities to achieve a 5-star QS rating this year is one of many steps along the way. In 2021 and beyond, our strategic plans will ensure we have a vibrant institution for many years to come.

I hope you enjoyed hearing a selection of our key stories. As we reflect on this most extraordinary year, I would, from all of us here at the University of Portsmouth, like to wish you a peaceful and restful holiday season with colleagues and loved ones.

Discover our top stories of 2020

Take a closer look at some our greatest achievements as a university.

Nursing students in practice

Students join the frontline in the fight against coronavirus

Nursing and paramedic students from the University of Portsmouth are joining healthcare workers on the NHS frontline in the battle against coronavirus.

Fresh fruit in a bowl

Emergency food parcels for isolating students

The University’s Estates and Campus Services team donated around 80 food parcels to students who do not have family or friends nearby.


Staff members

Staff volunteer for frontline services during coronavirus pandemic

University staff are giving up their time to help frontline services in the national effort against the coronavirus pandemic.

Student Physician Associates

Students join St Mary's Hospital to respond to coronavirus pandemic

Nine students from the University of Portsmouth have joined St. Mary’s Hospital in Newport on the Isle of Wight to help respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Faz Ahmed

Alumni brothers making a difference

Faz and Jaf Ahmed run Akash Restaurant in Southsea, Portsmouth and on Mother’s Day, they took a trip to Queen Alexandra Hospital to deliver dinner to 30 delighted nurses who had been selflessly working through the weekend.

Phil Roker

Catering for the community

Learn about graduate Phil Roker's boutique catering company, Vacherin, and how, despite their own challenges during the pandemic, the team put their energy into supporting some of the most vulnerable.

Vitality Hub owner Rosaria Barreto

Vitality Hub Mature Movers

Amidst the pandemic, Exercise and Fitness Management graduate Rosaria Barreto has expanded her business to make her classes more easily accessible for older adults.

University face shields

University of Portsmouth making face shields to protect health professionals

The face shields prevent the wearer touching their face and provide a barrier if a patient was to sneeze or cough.

Sam Robson

Portsmouth scientists help to crack the COVID-19 code

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth are being deployed to the front line in the race to understand how coronavirus spreads.

Students in masks walking on campus

University offers COVID-19 testing for staff, students and local community

Portsmouth is the first University in the country to partner with the DHSC to offer this service.

Collection of empty plastic bottles

New enzyme cocktail digests plastic waste six times faster

The discovery, by a team co-led by Prof John McGeehan, is another leap towards beating plastic waste.

Empty plastic bottle on grass

Revolution Plastics launch

Find out how we're transforming our city into a global showcase for sustainability through Revolution Plastics.

Students sat outside of the new Ravelin Sports Centre at University of Portsmouth

University of Portsmouth wins design award for new sports centre

Our Ravelin sports centre has won best Public Sector Project design at the BREEAM Awards 2020.


Happy students sat outside on steps on campus

Portsmouth in the Top 30 of UK universities for full-time student satisfaction

Portsmouth students are among the most satisfied in the UK, as NSS results reveal over 86% of 2020 final year students were satisfied with their university experience.

Henna on person's hand in traditional Asian attire

Independence and Violence: How economic opportunities affect women in South Asia

Professor Tamsin Bradley explores the links between women, work and violence in the region and what schemes can help support women in their search for equality.

Man carrying basket in front of ocean

New centre to drive sustainable development of marine and freshwater environments

The Centre for Blue Governance (CBG) is a new research centre that aims to protect and secure the future of the planet's marine and freshwater environments for humans and nature.

Smiling Indian lady

New tactic in the battle against breast cancer

Senior Lecturer Judith Fletcher-Brown uses social marketing to tackle India's breast cancer crisis.

Image of a planet eclipse

Astrophysicists fill in 11 billion years of universe expansion history

The results were contributed to by experts from the University’s Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation.