I hope this update finds you well.
Last week, I talked a little about the importance of delivering quality learning this Semester and paid tribute to our teaching staff. I have since been hearing wonderful feedback about the live, interactive online sessions led by our colleagues and it is fantastic to see your hard work being so appreciated by our students.
Congratulations and thank you to all those involved with delivering in-person and online teaching, in both academic departments and professional services.
At this point I would also like to thank most warmly colleagues who have been working so hard to ensure excellent provision for those of our students who are having to isolate at present. The culture of care which they have experienced is one of which we can feel very proud here at Bath, and I am most grateful to all those who have worked so tirelessly to care for these students.
This week, I wanted to continue reflecting on how we've progressed in relation to our immediate priorities, in particular the need to recruit the strongest possible intake in 2020/21 and beyond.
Recruitment and admissions
I pay tribute to all those involved in recruitment, admissions and elsewhere who have worked so hard in difficult circumstances this year.
It has, of course been a challenging year, despite strong applications overall, not only with challenges in recruiting overseas students, but also national and international examination policy measures and ensuring that we had sufficient safe accommodation for students. Home undergraduate numbers have come in slightly under target, though PGT home numbers are approximately 100 in excess of the original target. Overseas undergraduate numbers have held up better than expected (less than 100 below the original target). However overseas PGTs are over 500 down, just over the level at the lower end of expectations in the summer. This means our intake numbers are better than some of the scenarios we feared, but, of course, significantly less than last year. In addition, although we continue to have students re-registering, we have fewer returning students than we expected which will weaken our financial position significantly. There is a view that some students may still be waiting to see how the year goes before committing.
I know many of you are already working on the next recruitment cycle, including understanding how delays to exams such as ‘A’ Levels will affect our admissions. Thank you for all your work. Attracting the best possible students from the widest possible backgrounds will remain a clear priority for our University in the months to come.
We will hear more from Martin Williams, our Finance Director, at the town hall tomorrow, but as you might imagine we are closely monitoring our financial position. When I wrote to you in June, on the basis of the most up to date financial forecasts we had, we were projecting the need to make £30M savings in our 2020/21 financial year and were still anticipating a deficit.
The recruitment position is better than some of our more cautious forecasts but we are certainly in a weaker position than last year given the challenges of Covid. There are still very real risks in realising this income and the coming weeks and months remain uncertain. Currently, we believe we will have to make savings of £29M this year and will do so in a phased and considered way given the uncertainty ahead.
Although I think we have reasons to be hopeful, we must also be aware that we are not immune from the economic consequences of this pandemic that is affecting so many areas of society. We have many more unused rooms in our accommodation, income from catering outlets is significantly down and hosting conferences and events on campus outside Semester time is no longer viable.
However, there are practical steps we can take to mitigate this situation and we will continue to focus on recruiting well, providing excellent learning and the best possible student experience, growing research income and budgeting carefully for the future.
We appreciate that you, our colleagues, have been at the heart of our collective response to this pandemic. Therefore, where we can reasonably run reward schemes for staff, we will try to find ways to do so. Our Director of HR will be communicating more on this very soon.
Space on campus for staff
I know many individuals and teams are working on campus, but we have also been thinking of colleagues who have been working remotely for some time. I’m pleased to say colleagues in Ahs have been preparing Covid-secure spaces for staff to meet with each other if needed. There is space available in Polden café, with free coffee for staff. By the end of next week, Wessex restaurant will be available with QR codes to check in to the venue and food available to order. In addition, staff can use the marquees near the Lime Tree, Edge and STV to meet with each other.
Black History Month
I would like to thank all those staff and students who have been working on events and resources for Black History Month. Holding events may be more challenging than usual but it is heartening to see members of our community innovate through online platforms and virtual workshops to continue to address these important issues, and to facilitate discussion, learning and the sharing of useful resources.
I believe that Bath is a special place both because of our collective achievements and the very many awards won by talented individuals in our community.
My sincere congratulations to Dr Asel Sartbaeva from the Department of Chemistry for winning the ‘Emerging Technologies’ competition run by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). This award, in recognition of her breakthrough work on ensilicated vaccines, is very well deserved and an outstanding achievement.
I was also delighted to be informed that DBA alumna Dr Roxanne Stockwell is the winner of the 2020 Emerald/EFMD Outstanding Doctoral Research Award. It is wonderful to see our alumni recognised in this way. My congratulations to Dr Stockwell and to her doctoral mentor, Professor Rajani Naidoo.
With warm good wishes,
Professor Ian White
Vice-Chancellor and President