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President's Weekly Update

21 June 2018

Our General Assembly, which is held twice a year, has members from within and outside the University who act as ‘ambassadors’ for us and offer the University a wealth of experience and expertise from differing perspectives and backgrounds. At the General Assembly meeting this week, we discussed changes to the membership of the group and proposed changes to our Statutes and Ordinances. I gave an update on plans, progress, uncertainties and opportunities for the University. Professor Philip Withers, our Regius Professor of Materials and Chief Scientist at the Royce Institute for Advanced Materials, gave an update on progress on the Henry Royce Institute which we lead with other UK partners.

Universities UK hosted a meeting for Vice-Chancellors from across the North of England at Manchester Metropolitan University which I attended. The main points of discussion were international students and the UK visa system, the ongoing review of financing post-18 education, the government’s industrial strategy and how we better promote the value of universities regionally and nationally.

I attended part of the Great Science Share, led by Dr Lynne Bianchi and her colleagues. This amazing event is run across the country and brings over 400 primary school children to the University to learn about the excitement of science. I was questioned by several of the attendees on why science in schools is important. This great initiative started in Manchester and now 37,000 primary school children take part across the country.

In London I co-chaired a meeting of the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology. The new co-chair is Professor Patrick Vallance, the Government Chief Scientific Advisor. Ministers who were due to attend were detained by Brexit discussions but we had many other attendees and considered the translation and application of research discoveries and how the UK will achieve the planned spend on research and development of 2.4% of GDP and how this will be best spent. The latter will require further investment from both UK and overseas companies in addition to the planned increase in government spend on research.

Professor Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, and I met senior colleagues from Huawei, including the UK Chief Executive Officer of Huawei, Dr Jerry Wang. Huawei is one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world with major investment in research and development. We already have several ongoing research projects funded by Huawei. We discussed other areas of interest in research, student placements at their company in the UK and China and a likely visit I will make to their headquarters in China in September.

While in London, I met Lord James Sassoon, Chair of the China Britain Business Council (CBBC), and Lise Bertelsen, Chief Executive Officer of CBBC. I updated them on the many activities we have with China, particularly in research and commercialisation and our new Manchester China Institute.

Later this year we’ll be launching an important initiative to invite all colleagues to take part in a conversation about the future vision for our University and what should feature in our next strategic plan. In advance of this, I hosted an event for a number of our experienced University staff to seek their views and ideas to input alongside the wider consultation across the University and with external stakeholders.

Professor Stuart Allan, Head of the Neuroscience and Mental Health domain in the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health and a long term collaborator of mine, and I met senior staff from the Brian Tumour Charity which has agreed to support a new chair in neuro-oncology. In Greater Manchester we have one of the UK’s largest neurosurgical units (at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust) and now have the UK’s first proton beam therapy at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, so there are huge opportunities to develop major research programmes in neuro-oncology.

We held an event to celebrate our Investing in Success programme to support new activities. I congratulated staff who have been successful in winning awards and told the story about how a modest prize many years ago helped me to start public engagement activities - something which I have remained passionate about throughout my career.

At the new students’ residences, which we are building in Fallowfield, I had a tour of the construction site, which is progressing really fast. The new buildings will house over 1,100 en suite rooms with communal living and kitchen areas, an amenity hub with social and study spaces and extensive landscaping. Most of the residences will be available to the student intake in September 2019.

I spoke at a welcome event for about over 50 new staff from across the University about ‘why Manchester’ i.e. what is distinctive about The University of Manchester. I then took questions on how they could best contribute to the University, what can be done about the terrible transport problems on local rail and what are the areas of greatest concern.

A consultation on proposals in relation to The University of Manchester Superannuation Scheme is now open and staff who are already members of UMSS or are eligible to join are being encouraged to take part.

Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor