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President's weekly update

17 October 2019

As you may have seen on StaffNet, Professor Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, was taken very ill last week and after major surgery is recovering in intensive care. We are all sending our very best wishes to Luke and his family for a speedy recovery.

We have begun the Annual Performance Reviews, where we look at successes and areas of concern for each part of the University and discuss future plans. We also consider how we benchmark our performance against similar competitor institutions in the UK and across the world.  These are summarised later into the University’s Stocktake Report.  

I held the first of a series of staff ‘drop-in’ sessions where staff (up to 20) can sign up to come and discuss any topics with me or ask questions. This time we discussed a wide range of issues from University finances, work-life balance, transport in Manchester, visas, library refurbishment and climate change. The next session will be on Tuesday, 19 November and you can sign up to attend.

Senior colleagues and I met the Executive Officers of the Students’ Union to hear their plans for the forthcoming year which include stepping up academic advising, addressing inequalities, building on the work they do to engage diverse groups of students and improving student facilities.

I hosted an event in the Great Hall of our Sackville Street Building for the charity SHINE of which I am a patron. SHINE was started by Lord Jim O’Neill and other philanthropists, notably players and other staff from Manchester United Football Club. It has been very successful in supporting teachers in disadvantaged schools in London, but is now refocussing on the North of England where attainment of school pupils lags behind the South East.

We welcomed Isobel Stephen (Executive Director of Strategy) and Helen Cross (Head of Strategy Coordination) from UK Research and Innovation. They came to visit the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre and Manchester Institute of Biotechnology to learn about Innovation District Manchester which is now in the first stage of seeking a Joint Venture Partner for development of our North Campus. I also briefed them on our University’s wider strategic plan.

Several senior colleagues and I joined members of the Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS) Advisory Board to talk about the opportunities and challenges for the University and AMBS and how we build on our global profile.

Professor Melissa Westwood, Associate Vice-President for Research (focussing on postgraduate training) and I welcomed the new cohort of Presidential Doctoral Scholars. These are a very impressive group of PhD students recruited from many different countries and now working in various parts of our University.  Many of them had multiple job offers so I’m delighted that they have chosen to develop their careers here.   

I spoke at an event to bring UK and Chinese diplomats together to discuss relations between the two countries. Attendees were from our Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Chinese Embassy and Consulates in the UK and was organised by Professor Peter Gries who leads our Manchester-China Institute. I talked about the importance of our relations with China and the value of our Chinese students.

Professors Graham Lord, Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, Clive Agnew, Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Students, and I visited Salford Royal Foundation Trust. We met the Chief Executive, Raj Jain, and his colleagues to discuss strengthening our partnership in research and education then held open meetings with staff and students.

At our External Relations Strategy Group, which I chair, we heard the results of the latest external stakeholders’ review. This is undertaken by The Knowledge Partnership every two years and asks leaders in regional and national government, industry and research funders about the University. The findings were very favourable and encouraging but also highlighted areas where we need to step up our performance and/or our external messaging, notably around some of our unique student offerings such as Stellify (you can watch a new poem written by our Chancellor Lemn Sissay celebrating Stellify), ensuring that our research in Humanities is fully recognised, and better disseminating our business partnerships and international collaborations. 

The next round of the Inspiring Leaders Programme has begun. I am again visiting each of the cohorts to discuss leadership and to answer questions.  One group asked me about how we deliver on our core goals, financial sustainability, the importance of working with industry, leadership styles and my own failures (that would have taken too long so I just picked a few).

Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor