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President's weekly update

1 August 2019

It was a great pleasure to meet many of our current Equity and Merit Scholars. These are outstanding master’s students from Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia who are supported entirely by generous donors and by the University. They told me about the huge value of their experiences, their gratitude for the support they have received and the difference it would make on return to their home countries. They found the workload intense and challenging but that they had also managed to fit in volunteering and support for other students and many other experiences, including trips to other cities, to Jodrell Bank and to a football match.

I attended a meeting of the Steering Board for the new cancer research building on The Christie site that will replace the Paterson building that was badly damaged by fire. While the building will be owned by The Christie, it will be occupied by many of our cancer researchers, including our Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Manchester Institute. Planning is in progress and fundraising to close the gap in what is needed to complete the building is well underway, jointly between the University, The Christie and CRUK.

Forty student singers from our two chamber choirs sang in the BBC Proms Youth Choir this week. Our choir, Ad Solem sings each year at the University’s Foundation Day. The concert was live on BBC Radio 3 at 7.30pm on Monday for the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall.  You can listen to our amazing singers on BBC Sounds.

I took part in a meeting to consider progress on developing our University’s values which is part of the conversation about Our Future. Over 700 staff have come forward with ideas and stories about what our values should be and the comments in the Staff Survey have also been analysed. There will be a workshop in early September which I will attend part of, to refine the values that will go to Senate and our Board for approval later this year.

Alan Ferns, Associate Vice-President for External Relations and Reputation, and I met Pam Smith, Chief Executive of Stockport Council. She has high ambitions for Greater Manchester and for Stockport. She wanted to hear about all our many international activities and about our strengths in digital because a number of digital companies are now locating in Stockport.

We held a special Senate briefing on student mental health. Dr Simon Merrywest, Director for the Student Experience, and Sarah Littlejohn, Head of Campus Life, spoke about the growing mental health problems in young people in general and amongst our student population. National data indicate that deaths by suicide amongst university students are slightly lower than for the same age group who are not in higher education, but this is still a huge concern for all universities. Simon and Sarah spoke about all the activities we undertake currently to support students and the new dedicated student mental health service that will open in September with the hub in Crawford House on Oxford Road. This clinical service is supported jointly by ourselves, Manchester Metropolitan University, the Royal Northern College of Music, the Universities of Bolton and Salford and will be delivered by the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

There will be no messages from me now until September as many staff will be on research leave, at conferences and hopefully taking a well-earned break. Of course many staff will still be busy working especially in the week of 12 August when A-level results are published. There has been an 11% increase in applications this year and I would like to thank those colleagues in advance for their work during this busy time and everyone for their great contributions over the past academic year.

Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor