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President's weekly update

23 November

It was a busy Board of Governors meeting because this is the one where the Board reviews the final report of our external auditors, considers the financial statements for 2016-17 and the annual assurances that it must provide to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). I gave a general update on the higher education sector, on recruitment  of students for 2017 entry - which look close to target overall - and applications for 2018 entry, though it is still very early in the cycle. I also presented a summary of our performance against our key performance indicators. Professor Ian Greer, Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, gave a presentation on the Faculty’s achievements and challenges, and the many opportunities for partnerships and international investment. The Board had an informal briefing before the main meeting at which it was updated on the internal and external consultation around North Campus which is currently being planned.

Prior to the Board meeting we also held a Remuneration Committee meeting to consider salaries of academic and Professional Support Services staff just below the most senior levels. The Committee also looked at overall pay increases over time of these groups against the rest of staff and compared pay and awards across gender, age and ethnicity.

The Board Staffing Committee, which also met on the same day, noted the closure of the Voluntary Severance Scheme across all areas and that, with now the exception of only two staff in PSS (where opportunities for redeployment are continuing to be sought), the staffing changes have been achieved without the need for compulsory redundancies.

I met senior staff from Peking University Health Science Centre (PUHSC) with which we have a strong collaboration in research and training in genomics. Several of the PUHSC staff were awarded honorary professorships at the University and they will reciprocate when Professor Ian Greer and colleagues travel to Beijing early next year.

Another of our honorary professors, Lord Jim O’Neill, was in Manchester to give a presentation for the Greater Manchester Mayor. He called into the University to discuss with me the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and our growing links with China.

I gave a dinner presentation on the Northern Powerhouse at the Athenaeum Club in London where I spoke about the marked contrasts in productivity, investment and health between the North and the South. I noted the already major impact of devolution on cities such as Manchester and the significant rise in international tourism and investment. I hadn’t expected 40 minutes of questioning, and so many Manchester graduates - one just recent (BSc, MSc, PhD) and some from 50 years ago!

Professor Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, and I, along with a number of other senior staff from the University and across Manchester, attended an event hosted by the Royal Society at the Museum of Science and Industry to consider how increased investment in science and innovation could help the North. We noted that for us it has already been very beneficial, with funding for the National Graphene Institute, The Royce Institute and Connected Health Cities (which seeks to connect health data across the north of England). We also discussed the significant investment in culture in Manchester by the City, the government (notably in Factory Manchester) and the University.

It was timely therefore that I met Alistair Hudson, who will succeed Dr Maria Balshaw as Director of our Whitworth Art Gallery and the City Art Gallery early next year. Alistair has a particular interest in using art and culture to reach out beyond galleries and into local communities, which fits very well with our own commitment to community engagement.

I met Lord Alliance for breakfast in Manchester. He is a major benefactor who has supported many projects across the University, most notably the Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS). We discussed his ongoing support for AMBS, some recent activities he has generously supported and some new projects he is interested in health.

About 100 PhD students attended an event for our President’s Doctoral Scholars at which I answered questions ranging from the University’s overall goals and our progress towards them, how the redundancy process works, priority areas for investment, work life balance during a PhD, what will be the most important skills they need to gain and how do you make a real breakthrough in your research.

Peter Randall, the founder of several very successful ‘digital finance’ companies, visited us and spent time with senior colleagues and me discussing research in ‘Fintech’ and the application of digital technologies to healthcare, legal and regulatory processes and creative endeavours.

I am very pleased that the University has been invited to join the Alan Turing Institute. This is particularly important given our growing strengths in data and digital activities which I have written about before.

Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor

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