President's Weekly Update
We held our annual Accountability and Planning Conference with our Board of Governors and members of our Planning and Resources Committee at the beautifully refurbished Chancellors. We reviewed the University’s progress over the past year, analysed the gaps in our performance against competitors and against our own targets and discussed our future plans. We also discussed the funds that we need to invest in order to meet our Manchester 2020 ambitions, setting these in the context of known and likely future financial pressures and potential risks. Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, attended and gave an overview of the many changes and challenges that the UK higher education sector is facing.
The Board agreed with our ongoing commitment to excellence and acknowledged some notable successes, but also recognised some areas where our performance is patchy across the University and where we need to do much better. We described the steps that we are already taking to create financial headroom for essential investment in research, teaching, learning and the student experience, our staff and facilities, and to meet financial challenges, but also noted that further actions will be needed which we will report to the Board at future meetings.
Two particular highlights of the Conference were poster presentations from a remarkable group of student entrepreneurs which covered just about all disciplines, and a performance by our students’ barbershop quartet at the start of dinner.
Immediately after the Conference we held a formal meeting of the Board of Governors to consider the recommendations of a detailed external review of the Board and wider University governance. The review was generally complementary about our processes and governance but suggested some areas for improvement.
Back on campus, I visited the School of Medical Sciences where students asked about future medical training places, devolution of the health budget and plans to integrate Greater Manchester (GM) health services. They commented on their excellent courses and the support they receive from staff in what they described as a ‘collaborative’ atmosphere. In the staff meeting, we discussed the planned increase in medical student numbers, the implications of the announcement to lift the cap on international medical student numbers and training for the next generation of our ‘leaders’.
Professor Clive Agnew (Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Students) and I met Dame Suzi Leather, Chair of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education and two of her colleagues. This organisation considers student complaints that have not been resolved internally by higher education institutions. They said that they were impressed by our many activities to support students, our processes for handling complaints and appeals and our very positive relationship with the Students’ Union Executive.
At the GM Local Enterprise Partnership meeting we discussed Greater Manchester’s response to the government’s Green Paper on industrial strategy, digital skills, digital infrastructure and had updates on transport. We noted that this was the last meeting for Sir Howard Bernstein as he steps down at the end of March.
I met with Jon Rouse, Executive Director of GM Health and Social Care Partnership (GMHSCP), which oversees the devolved budget and activities across the region. Jon has visited Harvard University recently to discuss collaboration on ‘Devo Manc’ as a follow up to our recent visit. We also discussed the growing role of the University in the GMHSCP and our shared concerns about mental health problems faced by some students.
It was a great pleasure to meet John and Diane Chung who were visiting from Australia. John is a medical graduate and he and his wife are generous donors to the University.
I gave a plenary lecture at the Royal College of Physicians annual conference at Manchester Central on my research and my career, including what being a Vice-Chancellor of such a large university entails.
Congratulations to Professor Colin Bailey, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor who has been appointed President and Principal of Queen Mary University of London. Colin will take up his new role in September after spending 15 years in Manchester, serving in many senior roles and contributing to many great successes. He will succeed Professor Simon Gaskell who moved to Queen Mary from the position of Vice-President for Research at our University. We wish Colin all the best in his important new position.
Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor
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