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President's weekly update

3 November 2022

Action on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)

Senior colleagues and I have all completed a 360-degree feedback on our approach to our positions and power and how we address EDI. We have each had a one-to-one session with a coach to discuss the results and planned development needs. My feedback was helpful and included assessments from both internal and external people.

Then we spent an afternoon together discussing EDI with an external organisation, Brap. We talked at length about how we can deal with racial inequality and racism. We agreed that the root of the problem was about how we interact with ‘people who are not like us’ (‘otherness’), whether conscious or unconscious. It is important that we all take personal responsibility as well as make changes in structures, processes and culture to create a more equal, diverse and inclusive organisation.

Board People Committee discussions

We also discussed EDI at the Board People Committee where trends in closing our diversity gaps were almost all going in the right direction (promotion of BAME staff was down slightly), but much more slowly than we would like. The People Committee also received report from the Women@Manchester staff network which compared our data on gender with the higher education sector.  Director of People and Organisational Development, Adèle MacKinlay, updated the committee on the implementation of new policies and on staff who are employed on fixed-term contracts - most commonly those supported by external research grants with finite funding.

We also discussed challenges with recruitment and retention of staff, particularly in Professional Services. The problem is mirrored in all sectors and our two lay Board members on the committee, both from the private sector, reported exactly the same problems. It is compounded by high sickness absence. We know the impact this is having across the University. We are working to find new ways of identifying and attracting talent and speeding up the recruitment process, but talent shortage will continue for some time.

External relations activity

The external relations strategy group which I chair, heard reports on our activities at the Conservative and Labour party conferences, led mainly by Policy@Manchester; on recent international visits; and on our activities in regional innovation and civic engagement. We also had an update on the developing plans to celebrate our bicentenary in 2024 which will cover the whole year, with major University-wide events as well as local ones and with our various communities and stakeholders.

Russell Group meetings

I chaired meetings in London with Jo Shanmugalingam, Director General for Science, Innovation and Growth at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and later with Tony Danker, Director General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). With new ministers only just in place, Jo couldn’t update too much. Since then, it has been announced that George Freeman has been re-appointed as science minister, although it is still not clear who is the universities minister within the Department for Education. 

Tony is one of our alumni so we know him well. He was rather pessimistic about the forthcoming Chancellor’s autumn statement on 17 November which is likely to include tax increases and spending cuts, but as always, the CBI is very supportive of universities.

With other vice-chancellors, we shared concerns about pressures on staff and students due to the high cost of living, likely further increases in our energy bills and other recurrent costs, potential limitations on international students and shortages of student accommodation which have been felt all over the country.

Co-ordinated work on health inequalities

A report has just been published on how we can address the dreadful health inequalities in our region. Our staff were involved in the findings and recommendations, which built on the report of Professor Sir Michael Marmot for the city of Manchester. I met Michael when he was in Manchester for the launch, and we are working closely with him on our activity in this area.

Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor