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President's weekly update

13 June 2019

We held the official opening of the refurbished Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS) which was attended by about 180 staff, students, donors and friends of the University. The guest of honour was Lord David Alliance, a very generous donor to AMBS, who carried out the official opening after a speech from me. His son, Joshua, who is a trustee of the Alliance Foundation, then gave a reply.  The Head of School, Professor Fiona Devine, then hosted an ‘in conversation’ session with Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England, and me chaired by Ian King, who is an alumnus, member of the AMBS advisory board and Sky business news presenter. The topic of the discussion was: ‘the role of universities in the future productivity of the UK’ though we talked more widely about the contribution of universities to the economy and to social wellbeing.

Several parts of the conversation were shown the next day as part of Ian King’s Sky News programme which was broadcast from AMBS.  I appeared live with two local business leaders to discuss the important work of AMBS with local businesses and the strong growth in applications for study with us across the University.  Others interviewed were very positive about the University and AMBS.

There was a Senate meeting this week and prior to the main meeting we had briefings on how we assess and mitigate risks to the University, progress on Our Future - the next vision and strategic plan for the University - and the development of our University’s values.

At the main Senate meeting we had the final report from Senate Effectiveness Task and Finish Group, chaired by Professor Danielle George, which has worked extremely hard. All of their recommendations were accepted by Senate except one where the group didn’t reach a unanimous decision ie: whether to form a ‘Reserve Committee of Senate’ to deal with issues out of cycle, agree agendas etc.  After short presentations and a debate, Senate agreed not to support the establishment of such a group, though this will be reconsidered in 12-18 months. Senate received reports on research and on teaching, learning and students and discussed the consultation on the 2018 valuation of the USS pension scheme and next steps for the Joint Expert Panel, Plan S for open access publishing, the Staff Survey results and methodology and financial support for international staff.

I attended the Board of N8, the eight northern research intensive universities, held at the University of Lancaster. We had a discussion with the Chair of the Northern Health Science Alliance (a parallel organisation focussed on health research) about how we can work more closely together. We also heard about progress on N8 projects and plans and discussed how we might update past work on major facilities that could be shared between the partners.

Dr Tim Bradshaw, CEO of the Russell Group of universities, visited us to discuss student applications, the funding of universities, the Augar Review of post-18 education and funding, pensions and potential implications of Brexit (such as they are known, which is not very much). He visited the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC), AMBS and Manchester Engineering Campus Development (MECD) and heard about our plans for ID Manchester.

At the final meeting with current officers of The University of Manchester Students’ Union, we were joined by some of the officers who will start on 1 July. Our discussions included support for international students, the Augar Review, access to library space and books, student mental health and wellbeing, climate change and investments and religious festivals and prayer spaces.

I met Simon Cooke, who leads the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Manchester. GCHQ has funded several projects in the University including the Heilbronn Institute for Mathematical Research and were extremely pleased with progress on all the projects.

At a meeting with the Mayor of Greater Manchester (GM), Andy Burnham, we discussed the next plans for GM, most notably transport and skills/education. I updated Andy on progress on ID Manchester, our research on sustainability, particularly on sustainable materials and plastics and the very buoyant applications and acceptances for students to join us this autumn. 

Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor