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President's weekly update

2 February 2023

Enlarged Senate first meeting

This was the first meeting of Senate with its increased membership of about 100. This followed our independent review of governance that recommended Heads of School should be full members and Senate wanted us to retain the 2:1 ratio of elected to ex-officio members.

After an informal briefing on our recent Staff Survey, the main business of the meeting was to receive reports from the two new sub-groups on teaching, learning and students and on research to provide academic assurance, which were welcomed. Members particularly valued the report from our Students’ Union on the key matters of concern for our students, notably cost of living, housing in Manchester, timely and valuable assessment and feedback and IT issues. We heard that a new system for course enrolment will be launched soon.

Preparing for our bicentenary

In 2024 we will celebrate our bicentenary: 200 years of inspiring education, brilliant discoveries and social impact that has changed the modern world. It is important that we engage with all of our people – staff, students, alumni and stakeholders – to ask how they would like to get involved and help shape celebrations for this significant milestone. During February and March, there will be various opportunities for staff to learn more about the bicentenary and share ideas. These include four University-wide meetings and sessions in Faculties and local areas – more details are available on StaffNet. We’re very much looking forward to hearing about the discoveries, people and impact that make you all feel proud to belong at Manchester. 

External visitors

Vivienne Stern, who took over as Chief Executive of Universities UK last year, visited the University. We discussed the many factors affecting all universities including inflation and cost of living pressures, staff vacancies, industrial action and long-term financial sustainability. We were both hopeful of a much better outcome of the USS pension valuation which will begin soon.

Andy Haldane holds an honorary chair with us and is on the advisory board of our Productivity Institute. He was formally Chief Economist at the Bank of England and is now Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Arts and Chair of the government’s Levelling Up Advisory Council. Andy and I worked together on a report for government on levelling up, so we discussed progress made and future plans, including the ‘investment zones’ recently announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Richard Caulfield, Senior Policy Director of Greater Manchester Colleges Group, our senior colleagues and I talked about how we can build the partnership between the Greater Manchester universities and the nine further education (FE) colleges. There was a particular focus on skills needs, mobility and entry into university, continuation and progression and facilities.

Working with FE colleges was also part of the discussions I had with Professor Malcolm Press, Vice-Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University. We also shared concerns about press reports of potential restrictions on international students, talked about our bicentenary (which Man Met also shares, as it dates back to the Mechanics Institute) and about innovation in our region.

Innovation Greater Manchester (IGM)

The Board considered the process for considering bids to the Innovation Accelerator fund (we don’t know the outcome yet) and planned discussions with external advisors on the future of IGM.

Board Committees

Our Board Finance Committee noted the latest forecast includes the decision to make over £20m in payments to staff and students.They also reviewed all the strategic change projects including IT, finance and People and OD and looked at benchmarking on capital spending which is lower than comparator universities.

The Board People Committee discussed the Staff Survey at some length including actions to address areas of staff concern and how we improve engagement to significantly increase the number of staff contributing. We also heard an update on People and OD processes, such as issuing staff contracts, which have improved but still have some way to go. They were pleased to hear of improvements in staff recruitment and staff vacancies.

Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor