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President's weekly update

14 February 2019

We award a very small number of Medals of Honour to those who have made sustained and outstanding contributions to our University, the city of Manchester and/or the city region. I was pleased to present such a medal to Rowena Burns. She has served in many senior roles at Manchester City Council and Manchester Airports Group and has been Chief Operating Officer for Bruntwood plc. She is now Executive Chair of Manchester Science Partnerships and Chair of Health Innovation Manchester, both of which we are closely involved in.

At the same occasion, Professor Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, presented Clive Rowland with a Medal of Honour. Clive has been Chief Executive of UMI3 since The University of Manchester was formed in 2004 and before that led on commercialisation for UMIST. He has brought many successes, innovations and investments to our University, particularly in graphene and other two-dimensional materials. Clive now holds a part-time role as Associate Vice-President for Intellectual Property.

At Senate this week we approved the recommendations of the Senate Effectiveness Group on changes to our Statutes and Ordinances. I reported that applications from students to begin their studies with us in September 2019 are up by over 10% on the previous year which contrasts with the average applications for the sector which are very similar to last year. Senate discussed plans for the merger of the Schools of Law and Social Sciences which will now go to our Board of Governors for approval. 

Prior to the formal meeting of Senate we had an informal briefing from Matt Atkin, Director of Planning, on Our Future and our plans for the next phase of developing the University’s vision and strategic plan, followed by many helpful comments and suggestions.

I met Chris Pressler, our newly appointed University Librarian and Director of the John Rylands Library, who has been with us for just over a week. He believes that our John Rylands Library is an incredible resource and recognises that there are many opportunities to promote and use this wonderful place.

At an event with staff from across the University the people I spoke with were very positive about the support and training opportunities that they receive, our research and international strengths, cultural institutions and social responsibility. They felt we could be more agile, be better at promoting our strengths and achievements and said that we use email too much in our communications.  

I co-hosted an event of about 20 Vice-Chancellors from across the North with Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK. Not surprisingly the discussions focussed on student recruitment, the Augar review (which may be further delayed), pensions and the likely impacts of Brexit which affect all across the sector. There was particular discussion on the recent very significant negative press about universities.

In a visit to the School of Maths with senior colleagues, students spoke to us about Students’ Union Societies, graduation dates, improving processes for example for mitigating circumstances and more careers advice for postgraduate students. Staff raised concerns about some of our services and we had a lengthy discussion about the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). 

Roger Spencer, Chief Executive of The Christie, and his colleagues took me on a tour of the very impressive new Proton Beam Therapy Unit. This delivers very targeted radiation treatment that limits damage to surrounding tissues. It is particularly valuable in the treatment of brain tumours, especially in children. Within the Unit there is a school and small electric cars that children can drive to the proton beam gantry. In addition to this being the first NHS proton beam therapy unit it is also a very valuable resource for our research on radiation and its impact on tumours and healthy tissues.

Staff from the Department for Education visited us to hear about our actions and initiatives in teaching and learning, our concerns about the Augar review, Brexit and pensions and to learn about our future financial projections.

Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor