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President's weekly update

6 June 2024

Universally Manchester

Over the next four days we will be holding our major public festival to celebrate our bicentenary, welcoming thousands of visitors to campus to see and hear a whole range of presentations, interactive sessions and performances. This involves many staff and students from across the University. Due to the ongoing occupation of our Whitworth Hall complex, the Histories Festival will go ahead on Sunday at the Manchester Central Library.

We heard an update on the many bicentenary events at the External Relations Strategy Group. The festival will be followed by the launch of the bicentenary book, the formal opening of the Bicentenary Way, the THE World Academic Summit in October and more programming before the end of the year.

Senate

At what was the last Senate for me as President and Vice-Chancellor, I thanked all Senate members present and past for their contributions to this important body.

Prior to the formal meeting we heard two excellent briefings on two of our cross-university platforms from Laura Dawson on Healthier Futures and John McAuliffe on Creative Manchester, both demonstrating collaboration across the university and exciting future plans.

In addition to normal business, approvals and reporting, we also heard a motion from the School of Social Sciences to sever any partnerships and investments we have that are linked to Israel. As previously, when we discussed this matter at Senate, we heard quite diverse views from across Senate.

Meetings with Heads of Departments and Divisions

In three separate online meetings I met heads of departments and divisions in all three faculties. I spoke initially about three areas. The first was growing concerns about the financial sustainability of many universities. While we are not in this position, we do not have the funds to support many of our ambitions and pressing needs and we are modelling the potential loss of international students and their impact. Second was the government’s acceptance of the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee that the graduate visa for international students should remain - we all hope that this will result in an uplift in acceptances. We also discussed ongoing protests on our campus and over 30 other UK universities and many more globally.

Protests on campus

Protests, and more latterly the encampment at Brunswick Park, had generally been peaceful with protesters exercising their right to express their views about the situation in Israel and Gaza. Unfortunately, we have now faced major disruption, including unauthorised use of rooms and equipment in the Simon Building and an ongoing occupation of the Whitworth Hall, forcing many exams to be relocated and requiring us to consider other events planned in this space. This has obviously caused distress and real inconvenience to some students and staff, and I am very grateful to our staff for all their great efforts in successfully relocating exams and working tirelessly to mitigate the disruption. We continue to work hard to limit the impact of such protests, which seem now to involve a number of individuals who are not part of our university community. We are in regular discussions with the many other UK universities which are facing similar protests.

Great Science Share

This is an amazing activity, led by Professor Lynne Bianchi and involving over 524,000 schoolchildren in 2023. The event takes place on Tuesday (June 11) and I will be joining by video to talk about what is important in science to children. Science is everywhere, not just in lessons and books. It is in our environment, our houses and our everyday lives and they can all do real life experiments. I very much hope to join future activities. 

Thank you…

…to the many of you who sent me good wishes for surgery I had on my back last week. All went well and I am recovering, if still a little less mobile than I normally like to be. 

Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor

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