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President's weekly update

3 August 2018

The NSS results, which assess student satisfaction, were released last week. Unlike past years all universities received their results at the same time as they were made public. We achieved a 50% return rate, which is the minimum required for publishing results, and achieved an overall satisfaction score of 83%. Last year we had a return rate of less than 50% so our results could not be published. A number of Russell Group universities saw a fall in satisfaction this year which means that our performance is equivalent to the average within the Russell Group. We are reviewing data at School level but we do have some areas of real excellence in each Faculty. 

We know that we still have much to do to improve students’ satisfaction and are currently investing in the Student Lifecycle Project which aims to better support our students during their time with us.  I’d like to thank colleagues for their professionalism and commitment to supporting our students during some challenging times over the past 12 months.  Details of scores for all questions and each subject are being circulated to Heads of Schools and other colleagues. 

One question that I’m increasingly being asked by staff is: ‘What will replace our Manchester 2020 vision and strategic plan?’  Senior colleagues and I want to ensure that all colleagues have a chance to put forward their ideas on what the future purpose and direction of our University should be.  In September we will be launching Our Future – an initiative where staff will be invited to contribute to shaping our future, looking as far ahead as 2030. This is a totally new approach to developing our vision and I’m looking forward to listening to your ideas and views.    

Important information on pensions has been sent to staff who are members of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and The University of Manchester Superannuation Scheme (UMSS). I would strongly encourage staff who are members of those pension schemes to read these. 

All higher education providers have to register with the new regulator Office for Students.  We have just had confirmation of our registration, so the good news is that we are still a university!

We have announced the next stages in our plans for our North Campus which were recently approved by our Board of Governors and which we have discussed with senior staff in the City and Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

Senior colleagues and I hosted an event for new professors, some of whom had joined us from other institutions (including from outside the UK) and some had been promoted from within the University. They were generally very positive about the University and the City. Some from overseas felt that our University is quite bureaucratic, but others who have joined us from three different Russell Group universities said that the bureaucracy was much worse at their former institutions.

I visited our Staff Learning and Development team to hear about a range of new and ongoing training programmes and on-line resources they have created and to discuss how training, development, mentoring and support can be embedded across the University.  

I had the pleasure of visiting our two newest buildings: the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC), which is entirely externally funded and should be ready for occupancy in September, and our new Alliance Manchester Business School refurbishment (also with major external funding) which expects staff to start moving in at the end of the year. Both are amazing, though different, and will serve our own staff and students and major external partnerships.

Paul Marks-Jones, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Partner, gave senior colleagues and I an update on our LGBT group (now known as ‘ALLOUT’) which includes over 200 members. We then had a photo taken in the Quad for the Manchester Pride parade which will take place in Manchester on the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Lord ‘Bob’ Kerslake visited us to learn more about our social responsibility activities in his role as leader of the Civic Society Commission, which includes a review of the contributions of universities to society. He heard about our Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit and Spatial Commission and we also discussed future potential changes in funding for universities.

I attended a meeting of the Local Enterprise Foresight group which I co-chair with Chris Oglesby, Chief Executive Officer of Bruntwood. We discussed actions from our last meeting on artificial intelligence and plans for the next meeting in the autumn on how the region prepares for major changes in transport and mobility over the next 20-30 years.

At a meeting of the Board that is overseeing the new building to replace the Paterson building that was badly damaged by fire last year, we heard about progress on designing and costing a new building, fundraising which we will do in partnership with The Christie and Cancer Research UK and developing a communications plan.

Patrick Hackett, who will take over as our Registrar, Secretary and Chief Operating Officer at the beginning of October, visited us again to meet more staff and hear updates on recent activities.

We held a farewell event for Professor Ian Greer, Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, which included several staff from outside the University who Ian has worked closely with while at Manchester.  He took up the role of Vice-Chancellor at Queen’s University in Belfast on 1 August.

I will not send out further messages until September unless there is something important that I need to let you know about. I know that many of you will be busy over the summer with research and preparations for the academic year ahead. Also for some the announcement of A-level and other results and the period around confirmation and clearing will be very busy. Despite this, I hope you do all manage to take a well-deserved rest and that the sunshine continues.

Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor