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President's weekly update

23 July 2020

We held a formal meeting of our Board of Governors (following many informal updates over recent months) on Zoom. The meeting was attended by Sir Michael Barber, Chair of the Office for Students (OfS), so we spent some time discussing the role and remit of the OfS, its approach to regulation - particularly in the current very testing times, OfS activities that are relevant to international students and, of course, the recent and likely future impact of COVID-19 on universities and students. Sir Michael said that he wanted the OfS to move towards a more proportionate and less bureaucratic approach to regulation.

A large part of the meeting and an additional meeting of our Board Finance Committee was taken up with budgets for next year, while recognising the many risks and uncertainties around this. We are still working on additional non-pay savings and will know how many staff have opted for voluntary severance at the end of this month. As of this week we had received just over 600 applications, many of which are currently under review. While we are trying to accept as many as possible we are also aware of the impact on some areas of activity. We still do not have details of any government support as a grant or loan.

Also at the Board we considered an evaluation of members’ contribution and of the Chair of the Board, an update of our risk register (now looking very different with many more high impact risks) and our annual equality, diversity and inclusion report.

We held the University Examinations Board to ratify the decisions made in the Faculties and Schools. Each Faculty submitted a detailed report including comments from external examiners and were accepted by the Board.

July is normally the time of degree ceremonies, which sadly have had to be postponed this year. We are aiming to extend the December ceremonies to accommodate those who wish to celebrate their achievements in person. Meanwhile I would like to recognise the efforts of all colleagues working to facilitate our virtual graduation celebrations next week.  These are of great importance to our students and have taken a great deal of planning. The virtual celebrations were scheduled some time ago and, it is an unfortunate coincidence of timing, that part of our ‘meeting light’ period now overlaps. I would very much encourage those of you that can, to attend these events for our students next week.

At a Zoom meeting with Heads of Schools we discussed the savings we have made to date, information on potential international student numbers, noting significant publicity around UK relations with China.

I don’t normally send weekly messages over the summer months but given that this is such an unusual year and the much greater importance placed on confirmation and clearing in mid-August, I will write about anything important that comes up. I hope you all manage to get a break over the summer in what has been the most testing year so far for us all. Thank you to everyone for achieving so much in spite of these challenges.

Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor

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