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Achieving so much in the most challenging of all years

03 Aug 2021

A message from Edward Astle, Chair of the Board of Governors and Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor

End of academic year message

Dear colleague

First and foremost, on behalf of Board of Governors and Senior Leadership Team, we wanted to thank every member of staff for the passion, professionalism and commitment you have shown over the last year and more. We really hope that as the summer holiday season is now on us, you will be able to take the chance to have some well-earned time off to relax and recuperate.

To say it has not been easy would be a major understatement. As we all know, we are the UK’s largest University and with particularly high infection rates and earlier lockdown restrictions that remained in place over a longer period in Greater Manchester, the impacts on staff and students alike have been even more tough and complex.

A raft of achievements to be proud of

However, working together a remarkable amount has been achieved against this most demanding of backdrops. There is much we can be proud of and we have already made great progress in achieving the vision set out in Our future which we launched just before the pandemic engulfed us all in early 2020. Just a few of those many achievements include:

  • the mammoth effort to move much of our learning online almost overnight, which has accelerated the development of our flexible learning programme, bringing staff and students together to shape the future of learning.
  • making additional mental health services available for our students and staff, and creating a new directorate for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion to recognise the importance of driving real change in this area.
  • the tremendous direct effort to counter the effects of the pandemic through the significant volunteering efforts of staff - and students who have completed over 1,000 hours of support for COVID vaccinations,  together with the hugely successful COVID campaign which so many alumni have supported and is captured in a brilliant film thanking our donors, written and performed by Nana Agayeman, our outgoing Students’ Union Postgraduate Officer.
  • being named the world’s number one university in the Times Higher Impact Rankings for action taken towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • submitting our REF2021 return covering 2,400 staff and 5,200 research outputs, whilst at the same time transforming our research agenda to tackle the challenges of the pandemic and securing a number of major awards.
  • preparing for staff and students to start using the world class facility, MECD, following the completion of the main construction.
  • progressing a once in a generation transformation of our campus for the benefit of our university community and innovation in the wider economy. We have appointed Bruntwood SciTech to work with us to deliver ID Manchester, a £1.5bn Innovation District which will be the largest in Europe.
  • launching a new partnership with Greater Manchester universities and further education colleges to create a distinctive, world-leading and locally relevant education eco-system for Greater Manchester that will be an exemplar for other regions.
  • strengthening our global partnerships, including the development of joint PhD programmes with a number of universities including Melbourne, Toronto, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Chile and IIT Kharagpur.

Successfully building Our future

Although much has changed since the launch of the Our future vision and strategic plan, the goals and themes remain relevant, and we have made significant progress against many of our ambitions – with some accelerating such as our work on blended learning and innovation.

Earlier this month, the Board of Governors held an all-day meeting to review our strategic priorities.

While there are some changes of emphasis as we and the world emerge from the pandemic, it is clear that our purpose, vision, values, goals and themes, which were shaped by you through extensive consultation, remain robust and will help to define and differentiate us in the years ahead.

Most importantly, people remain at the heart of our plan, as it is our staff and students who will deliver world-class research and discovery, the highest quality of teaching and learning and social responsibility, as well as our ambitions in innovation, civic engagement and global influence.

However, we continue to live and work in a world of change, challenge and opportunity, and so we must remain agile and ready to adapt. Over the coming months given that both human and financial resources are finite, the University will be looking at how best to further prioritise sustainable strategic investment in our three core goals and four themes and consider ways to further streamline processes to support our staff. These plans will be reviewed by the Board in the autumn and then shared more widely.

Looking forward

We know that as we look forward, we must focus relentlessly on people - the well-being and success of our staff and on student experience and satisfaction. It is particularly important to support those who have seen their studies disrupted through the pandemic, and to respond to our students rapidly changing needs.

We know that we cannot achieve that student focus and our other ambitions without your support. We recognise that we need to assist you, to reduce workloads, to increase our ability to adapt and improve the way we do things and simply put, make it easier for all staff to do their jobs as effectively as possible.

We remain a hugely successful university, on some metrics never more successful in our history.  While we can’t be complacent as we continue to compete with the very best universities in the world, there is something incredibly special about our ‘Manchester-ness’  that can help reinforce and strengthen our unique position.

And finally, thank you again

As the academic year draws to a close, we would like, once again, to thank you for all your tremendous efforts and everything you have done in the most trying of times. We hope that you have the chance over the summer to take some well-earned time out.

Edward Astle, Chair of the Board of Governors

Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor