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President's weekly update

22 February 2024

Board of Governors meeting at Jodrell Bank

Our Board meeting this week was preceded by a tour of the amazing Science Centre at Jodrell Bank which has UNESCO World Heritage status and is visited by many children and adults and has inspired so many future scientists.

At the Board meeting, in addition to standard reports from me and the Board committees, we heard about our approach to change management and reporting, and considered the external stakeholders review, which was extremely positive.

Professor Chris Taylor, Associate Vice-President for Digital Strategy and Innovation, reported on his extensive university-wide review of artificial intelligence covering research, teaching, social responsibility, and operations. A focused group on AI will now take forward and prioritise the recommendations.

Special thank you event for donors to the Paterson and our cancer research

We hosted a fantastic event and tour of the Paterson Research Building to thank the many very generous donors who helped us to fund the new building and who support our cancer research programmes. I paid tribute to Mike Oglesby who for many years supported our cancer research, and in recognition of this, the cancer research building opposite is named after him. I also thanked Professor Nic Jones who led the project to deliver the new building which, despite many hurdles (not least Covid), came in on budget.

Meeting with members of the disabled PGR network

Several colleagues and I met representatives of the disabled PGR network which has about 50 members. They clearly face many challenges but have shown remarkable resilience in overcoming them. We discussed having more seminars and workshops in hybrid format so that they, and other researchers who cannot access campus, can participate more easily. We also talked about better training for supervisors, who are often unaware of the needs of disabled PGRs or the support that is available (though several were full of praise for their supervisors), extra support to enable them to participate in conferences if they need to have carers with them, and much better communications on the support that is available. They were hugely grateful to Professor Jackie Carter, academic lead for disability, and Louise Pepper-Kernot, head of DASS, for major improvements they have made over the past year, and to Laura Howard and Matt Sanderson, co-chairs of the network.

Visit to the School of Medical Sciences

We had very few students at the meeting, but they were generally happy with their programmes and university facilities. An international medical student was concerned about the big increase in fees for the clinical years, but we explained that this is not set by us but by the NHS.

Staff raised concerns about Stopford Building and the profile of the Medical School and asked about costings for industrial research contracts and about the plans for both major parties to increase the number of medical and dental student places. They were in praise of our fundraising team and excited about opportunities for the forthcoming campaign.

Lecture to MA students on leadership in higher education

While at an alumni event in China, I heard that we deliver a Masters in Educational Leadership. The team asked me if I would speak to the class which I was delighted to do! It was a pleasure to deliver an online lecture on leadership in higher education, drawing on my experiences and highlighting what I feel is common to leadership of most organisations, and what is different about leading a university - at least one like ours.

Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor