Weekly update from the Vice-Chancellor - 18/06/2020

Posted in: Weekly Update

Dear colleague,

First may I thank you for the feedback that has been received on these weekly updates. I am glad that they are proving helpful and hope very much that this continues to be the case.

Tackling racism
We have seen over the last few weeks the pain and outrage globally following the death of George Floyd, and our statement of 8 June made it clear that we stand in solidarity with our black staff and students. Since then, we have been considering ways in which our commitment to be anti-racist can go beyond words and lead to real change across the University, including in training and awareness, representation, recruitment and wellbeing. It is clear that much needs to be done. We have already met with the SU to hear student perspectives, and Dr Cassie Wilson and Professor Peter Lambert have already followed up with our student community. A number of suggested action points have arisen which will be considered in the coming weeks under the leadership of Dr Cassie Wilson. We also understand that these issues profoundly affect our staff community too, and as a result the University Executive Board has also agreed to set up a group to consult extensively and determine what actions should next be taken. More information will be made available on this shortly.

In addition, we have been working with B&NES Council and other local organisations to better understand the positive role we can play in relation to our local community. Please look out for further updates on this over the coming weeks.

Assessment Period
As the assessment period has now concluded for students, may I again thank all who have been involved, and also those who have been and are continuing to be engaged in marking. I am conscious of the number of boards of examiners meetings that are due to happen and thank all those involved, as I recognise that much thought and care will go into decisions to be made in the coming weeks.

The success of the assessment period has been a collaborative effort across the University, including professional services, such as CLT, Academic Registry and DDaT, faculty administrative staff and, of course, our academic colleagues. Members of our community have pulled together in an extraordinary effort to make assessments work and we are grateful for their effort, dedication and goodwill.

May I particularly thank Academic Registry who have been working so hard on significant changes to regulations including the work around no-detriment and safety nets for different years, preparing general guidance for staff and students, and more recently preparing for the complexities of exam board guidance. I recognise the challenge that has been involved here, and the contributions made by all are deeply appreciated.

May I also take this chance to thank all those who have been involved in supporting students through what can be a very stressful period. Colleagues in Ahs have done fantastic work in successfully welcoming around 1,000 students and parents over the last two weeks to collect their belongings on campus and from our city accommodation. In addition, I know of some individual instances of care and support, amongst the many that will have been shown, and the great difference this has made.

Resilient Bath Curriculum Project
Since my last update, I have been impressed by the hard work of many colleagues across the University, including in academic departments and professional services, in support of planning for our next academic year.

Professor Tim Ibell, who is leading the Resilient Bath Curriculum Project Team, this week presented an update to University Executive Board. I am particularly encouraged by colleagues’ commitment to ensuring that our current and future educational provision continues to meet the needs of all our students and reflects our collective strengths and values. New ideas are being explored, such as seeing if we can introduce a pairing system to encourage greater student-centred learning, and we will also be assessing whether we can invite students to register earlier than usual to support their induction into the University. Finance is still a real concern for the University, but the Executive Board has made two expenditure exceptions, firstly to assist staff to prepare materials for online delivery, and secondly to invest in a new system to support online assessment. We recognise that both will be of significant support to the academic community in facing the challenges of next year.

As I have said previously, the success of the next academic year is of critical importance, and we must plan well, explore new ideas and avoid any sense of complacency if we are to achieve the success we seek. My warm thanks therefore to colleagues for supporting this project so far, and for your creativity in helping to find exciting and innovative solutions for the next academic year. It is very heartening to see that some of the ideas coming through already show how virtue can be made from necessity, and innovative ideas are evolving learning and teaching in very positive ways.

Summer Priority Restarts Group
As you have heard from Professor Jonathan Knight, we are scaling up laboratory-based research activities on campus, whilst continuing to adhere to the latest Government guidance.

In addition to the existing active research groups, our Material and Chemical Characterisation Facility (MC2) restarted activity last week and, in the Faculty of Engineering & Design, a core technical services team are preparing further research laboratories for use. Of course, lessons learned on social distancing arrangements, signage and rota systems will be used for future roll out of activity.

This scale-up is being managed and prioritised by the Deans with support and advice from technical staff and is being overseen by the Summer Priority Restarts Group, which continues to liaise with the research community, and colleagues in technical services, Estates, HR and the campus trades unions.
Research is not the only activity starting up on campus, of course. Specific elite sports have also started up, the chaplaincy has opened and there is now an outside “Hut” offering meals and drinks.

As our plans for the summer and next year take shape, we will be sharing further details with you. In the meantime, please accept my sincere best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Ian White
Vice-Chancellor and President

Posted in: Weekly Update


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