President's Weekly Update
17 May 2018
I hosted a meeting of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), of which I am a member, at our John Rylands Library on Deansgate where we discussed the region’s transport strategy and the Manchester Growth Company strategy and business plan. The meeting coincided with the Manchester City victory parade following their Premier League success and we saw and heard the celebrations going on in the city centre.
The meeting was followed by a dinner between the LEP members and senior staff from the University, which was hosted jointly by Mike Blackburn, Chair of the LEP, and me. Diana Hampson, our Director of Estates and Facilities, led a discussion on the opportunities for the North Campus when we vacate most of it in a few years. Professor Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, talked about our business engagement activities and growing international links, particularly with China and India. We also discussed digital strengths in the University and our future plans for research and education in digital, and our work with local communities and schools.
At the Russell Group of Vice-Chancellors we discussed the Universities Superannuation Scheme (the pension scheme for many of our staff) and the impact of the recent industrial action, the pending Knowledge Excellence Framework, subject level Teaching Excellence Framework, concerns about mental health problems amongst students and sustainability of research funding. The latter is a growing problem since the main government funding for research (quality related or QR) which also provides indirect costs for charity funded research, has declined by 30% in real terms over less than ten years. Research Council funding does not pay full economic costs and we are increasingly asked for some ‘matched’ funding. All Russell Group universities lose large sums of money on research. It was reassuring to see after the meeting that UK Research and Innovation is consulting on exactly this topic.
The guest at dinner was Philip Augar, who is chairing the review of post-18 education and funding in England. He also spoke at the Universities UK (UUK) meeting the following morning and indicated that he felt that higher education was ‘reasonably well funded’, but that there were more concerns about further education. Despite this, all of the Vice-Chancellors I spoke to at UUK were worried about funding.
While in London, I met one of our donors who is keen to provide further support particularly in the growing area of digital research and skills.
On a separate visit to London, I gave the annual Gordon Holmes lecture at the Royal Society of Medicine on our research on inflammation in stroke and the development of potential new treatments. I also judged presentations from excellent young clinical neuroscientists for the Gordon Holmes prize - we need more from Manchester entering!
Senior colleagues and I spent considerable time this week going through all of the budgets for each area of the University for 2018-19. This is proving challenging, not least given the uncertainties over pensions, Brexit and the review of post-18 education. Relevant to this we also reviewed our plans for further revenue generation.
I’ve spent much of the past week in meetings or discussions with candidates for two key senior roles: Registrar, Secretary and Chief Operating Officer to replace Will Spinks when he retires and Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health to replace Professor Ian Greer when he takes up the role of Vice-Chancellor at Queen’s University in Belfast. I will keep you updated on the outcome of both of these appointments.
In three separate meetings, I was updated on current plans for our Research Lifecycle project in IT, was interviewed about our cultural activities and links with the city, and about Bruntwood, one of the largest property developers in the region, with which we have a number of partnerships.
There is an excellent series of articles on Wonkhe on the importance of humanities to society and an article in their daily update including the comment: ‘the uniquely human concerns of these subjects are essential to understand and respond to the challenges society faces. They always have been. People need help adapting to modern technology, international trade requires cultural competence, and scientific breakthroughs rest on global interdisciplinarity. Critical thinking and creativity will become increasingly important if we are to distinguish workers from algorithms.’
You are probably aware that exams are now in progress. This is a stressful time for our students, followed by a stressful time for staff with marking deadlines.
Good luck to all the 2,500 students, staff and alumni who will be running the Manchester 10k this Sunday as part of the University's Purple Wave. Many are raising funds for Undergraduate Access Scholarships, which help Manchester students from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds to study here. If you’re interested in donating you can do so at: Undergraduate Access Scholarships
There will be a national one minute’s silence on Tuesday, 22 May at 2.30pm to mark one year since the tragic bomb attack at the Manchester Arena. I know that many members of the University community will wish to observe this. In addition the City of Manchester is holding a first Anniversary Commemoration Programme based around two themes: Remembrance; Reflection and Celebration of Life – details can be found at:
Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor