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Update from Alessandro Schiesaro, Head of School

08 Mar 2021

SALC Academic Staff Newsletter 2021

Dear Colleagues

I am delighted to introduce you to the first Academic SALC staff newsletter of 2021.

I would like to start by thanking you very warmly for your hard work, resilience and perseverance through an extremely challenging year. I am always thankful for the work you do, and this year particularly I would like to acknowledge the thought and care that has gone into moving learning and working online, supporting our students whilst also dealing with changes in home circumstances and other issues caused by the pandemic.

In positive news, as you will all know by the latest government road map, we are now able to begin to plan for key stages of the relaxation of restrictions. Some SALC students on practical or practice-based courses will have access to specialist equipment or facilities from 8 March. There will also be a formal review point in mid-April to consider whether students on other courses can return.

It is also reassuring to see that SALC admission numbers are looking healthy, following on our very successful 2020 recruitment. In undergraduate admissions, home applications are down 2% on last year but offers are up 6%. Overseas applications are up 76% against last year, with offers up 78%, and as we are operating remotely there has been an increase in engagement with overseas applicants. Online offer holder events have allowed international applicants the opportunity to engage with academics and student ambassadors. Hopefully this will continue to improve conversion of these applicants.

In terms of postgraduate admissions, home applications are up 16%, offers are up 28% and accepts up 20% against last year. Overseas applications are down 10%, however offers are up 17% and accepts up by 35%. Again due to remote working, there is an opportunity to engage with offer holders online.

As usual, we must do all we can to make sure that our offer-holders actually come to us. Student recruitment is the foundation of the School’s, and the University’s sustainability, and although targets may at time appear challenging the alternative -weak recruitment- is far from appealing.

In other positive news, the University Financial Statement shows a better situation than the scenario predicted last year. In recognition of the efforts being made by you and all staff at the University, I’m sure you are now aware of the two extra days’ holiday around the Easter break on Thursday, 1 April and Tuesday, 6 April 2021.  I hope that you will take this time to enjoy a rest and have at least a short break from your screens.

We have now received confirmation that Creative Manchester has been approved as one of the 3 new University Research Platforms. This is a huge achievement for the School, not least because it recognises that what we do is central to the University’s mission and strategy. The Platform builds on the successes and achievements of the existing 4-year Creative Manchester initiative (2018-2022). Although SALC-based, the Platform will much expand its reach beyond, and generate inter-disciplinary dialogue and research projects which bring together cognate research communities and, where appropriate, external stakeholder groups.

Over the past few months a considerable amount of work has been devoted to the so-called ‘Size and Shape’ initiative, effectively a strategic analysis of where the Faculty can expand in the future. This has involved a large number of colleagues, both directly and indirectly. As far as SALC is concerned, we have put forth a rich series of exciting proposals at both UG and PGT level, both on campus and online, including CPDs. The initiative has thus acted as a catalyst for bringing together and defining projects which we had discussed in the past, and some of which we now hope will be adopted as part of the Faculty’s strategic development. It has been especially important to see how many cross-School, and indeed cross-Faculty projects we have been able to assemble.

Looking forward to the 2021/22 academic year, I am pleased to announce some changes in the School’s key roles. James Garratt will be the new Head of Department for Music, taking over from Caroline Bithell; Anindita Ghosh is the Head of Department for History, taking over from Charles Insley; and Ian Scott is the new English and American Studies Head of Department, taking over from Hal Gladfelder. Simon Parry is the new Director for Social Responsibility, Internationalisation and Business Engagement, taking over from Ian Scott, while Aashish Velkar will stay on as Director of Teaching, Learning and Student Experience for one more year. Hannah Cobb will continue in her role as Associate Director for Teaching Innovation and Distance Learning for a further 3-year term.

I would like to say a warmest thanks to all of the outgoing colleagues for their leadership and support in the most challenging times, and offer a thank you and congratulations to the colleagues who have accepted to take over their responsibility.

I am not sure many of us still regard ‘returning to normal’ as a useful category. We will hopefully be out of this state of emergency soon, but many aspects of our future ways of working remain to be assessed. What we have learned the hard way over the past year is that there are indeed aspects of our work that are probably better taken care of online, at least much of the time, and we must reflect of how to continue to do so in the future. On the other hand, I am sure I am not alone in feeling that human interaction, from meetings to just chancing upon colleagues in corridors, is an integral part of what universities are meant to be, and here’s wishing for a healthy dose of that ‘normality’ to come back as soon as possible.

Thank you once again.

Best wishes,

Alessandro