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President's weekly update

28 September 2023

Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF)

The results of the TEF have just been announced. We received a Silver rating overall, with Silver for Student Experience and Gold for Student Outcomes. This is an excellent outcome, showing how well we are supporting our fantastic students to complete their awards successfully and go on to great graduate jobs. There is work to do on improving quality and consistency in elements of our student experience – not a surprise given our NSS – but it is really heartening that the TEF Panel recognised so many positives from our provider and student submissions. Find out more about TEF and our outcomes.

I am grateful to the many staff and our Students’ Union for all of their hard work in achieving this great result.

Industrial action

We really welcome the news that on Monday, 25 September it was agreed by our local UCU branch that strike action would be called off with immediate effect. This follows our latest offer to withhold only 25% of pay for those staff who participated in the marking and assessment boycott (MAB). We will make appropriate adjustments to colleagues’ pay in their October salary instalment.  This is a very welcome outcome for our students and staff.

We have also agreed that colleagues who participated in MAB should complete outstanding marking and assessment as soon as practical, and where reasonably possible by Friday, 13 October 2023.

Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF)

Research England has published results of the KEF which compares universities’ performance in seven dimensions of knowledge exchange. Benchmarked with a leading group of research-intensive universities we achieved the highest possible rating for Intellectual Property and Commercialisation, Research Partnerships and Public and Community Engagement. Our profile can be seen on the KEF dashboards.

Meetings in London

I attended two meetings of the Russell Group,  where we considered the longer-term plans for the RG and our 30th anniversary next year. My term of office as chair has come to an end, and the new chair is Professor Chris Day, the Vice-Chancellor and President of Newcastle University.

Secretary of State for Education Gillian Keegan joined and said how valued our universities are to society and the economy, but expressed concern about what she described as ‘low value degrees’, said the MAB by UCU had done significant damage to our reputation, and she is a great supporter of degree apprenticeships. We raised the poor financial sustainability of the higher education sector, but she was not hopeful of further funding.

Director of the Office for Students (OfS) Susan Lapworth also joined with Professor Arif Ahmed, the new Director for Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom. Susan acknowledged the recent House of Lords report on OfS which was very critical, and said they would be responding in detail. Arif spoke about the legislation on free speech which will come into force next year.

In an online meeting, we discussed the Research Excellence Framework in 2028 with Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Executive Director of Research England and expressed our unanimous concerns about the proposal to reduce research outputs from 60 to 45% of the overall score.

I also attended the UK Investment Council of which I am a member. We received presentations from the Secretary of State for Business and Trade, Kemi Badenoch; the Prime Minister’s business advisor, Franck Petitgas and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Andrew Griffith, who all spoke about the government’s plans to improve the economy and reduce UK debt.

Board Finance Committee

A major part of the meeting was to review our financial position for the last year, which is still unaudited but is roughly on target, though still insufficient to invest in areas we know need improvement, and in achieving zero carbon. We also reviewed our budget and five-year plans, the new student residences project and the impact of the cyber incident.

Whitworth Art Gallery

It was a pleasure to meet the new director of our Gallery, Sook-Kyung Lee who has joined us from the Tate Gallery in London, working with Dr Maria Balshaw who was a former Director of the Whitworth.

Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor