Weekly update from the Vice-Chancellor - 23/10/2020

Posted in: Weekly Update

Dear colleague,

I hope this message finds you well.

Response to Covid-19

In Bath and North East Somerset, we are currently at the ‘Medium’ alert level, the lowest tier, and we remain on tier one of the Higher Education levels. However, as we’re all seeing in daily media reports, Covid-19 cases in the UK continue to rise. It is vital that we continue to closely follow public health rules to protect ourselves and one another and to prevent the spread of the virus.

We are publishing rolling, 7 day averages of daily cases and daily statistics, alongside information about how we respond to any new cases of Covid-19 amongst students or staff, with support and care being of utmost importance.

In relation to cases amongst our University community, our Silver Emergency Management Team is meeting daily, chaired by Keith Zimmerman, our Chief Operating Officer. Colleagues representing a number of departments, including ahs, Student Services, Health and Safety and HR, review developments in the previous 24 hours and progress any urgent actions. I have been chairing our Gold Emergency Management Team which oversees our response and makes any strategic and resourcing decisions, following recommendations and advice from Silver.

I would like to sincerely thank all those departments represented at Silver EMT. The care for our staff and students has been evident at the heart of our response. I know it is tiring work and the ahs hub, Security teams, student services and many others have been working long hours to provide this care, for which I am truly grateful.

Council strategy day

Over the past two weeks, I’ve outlined in my e-mails progress against our immediate priorities, given the exceptional circumstances we are currently navigating.

As we look ahead to 2021, we will need to think beyond our current challenges to the longer term strategy for our University, informed by our staff, student and alumni engagement exercise ‘Our University, Our Future’.

Last week, members of our Executive team met with our governing body, Council, to progress conversations about our future direction of travel. The detailed strategy development will happen in earnest in the next calendar year, but it is crucial for us to embark on this process early so we can respond to our current challenges and map our longer term future in a joined up way.

We have a rich heritage of relevant, quality education, research and innovation upon which to build, and an impressive range of talent within our University community. The core of our mission, vision and charter is teaching and research, and these areas will naturally be the focus of our next strategy.

We want to build on our solid foundations to enhance our reputation as an international leader in University education with rigorous, relevant and pioneering courses and delivery which attract highly achieving students from the widest backgrounds; extending placement and extracurricular opportunities which help students to take their ideas and passions to the next level will also be of key importance. Our next steps as a leading learning community will also focus on growing research power and income to drive research quality, achievement and impact at international levels.

Our community spirit here in Bath is particularly strong, and how we achieve these aims will also be fundamental, recognising the importance of both student experience and also staff experience in ensuring personal success and opportunities for career development and support. The aspiration to excellence is framed within a learning community with a culture of care at its heart.

An external focus and working in partnership will be vital in achieving success, whether strategic, civic, corporate and international partnerships, growing support for innovation and commercial activities, or working more closely with alumni and philanthropic stakeholders.

Your feedback through ‘Our University, Our Future’ has been really important in helping to shape our thinking and ideas and we look forward to continuing to engage with you all as we work through detailed plans.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion appointments

Of course, progressing our approach to equality, diversity and inclusion is important to both our current plans and future strategy. I am really delighted to be able to inform you that we have successfully appointed to two senior roles, following a competitive recruitment process.

Professor Rajani Naidoo has been appointed as the Head of the Race Equality Taskforce and will start on 1 December 2020. Alex Butler has been appointed as the Executive Chair of the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Committee and will begin this role on 1 November 2020.

Both colleagues bring a great deal of expertise and experience to these roles, for which we are most grateful. You can read more about their appointment in our recent announcement and I look forward to working with Alex and Rajani and hearing more from them both in the very near future.

Sharing our knowledge online

I have recently been kindly invited to take part in the IPR’s most impressive series of public lectures, 'The Future is in Our Lands' which explores the future of UK farming, wildlife loss and climate change. This series has drawn more than 1,400 attendees from different parts of the world to hear from keynote speakers and discuss some of the most pressing issues of our time. My warm congratulations go to Professor Nick Pearce and his colleagues and I would encourage you to listen to one of their fascinating lectures which are still available online. It was also heartening to hear this week from two IPR students, currently studying on our Professional Doctorate in Policy Research and Practice whilst working for the World Food Programme, as they celebrated the Nobel Prize recently awarded to their organisation in recognition of the WFP’s efforts to combat hunger. This is a significant achievement and we congratulate them warmly.

I was also pleased to hear of the work of the Public Engagement Unit and Communications Department, who worked with academic colleagues to livestream lectures on the University's Facebook page over the lockdown period. I understand that more than 53,700 people have watched a live lecture from our colleagues over the past few months. This is one of a number of initiatives that has seen our Edurank rating on social media engagement rise to within the top 10 UK universities in recent months, a huge improvement from two years ago when we were towards the bottom of the ranking.

These examples of reaching new audiences using a range of different platforms to share knowledge and exchange ideas for the wider good are particularly exciting, and I hope we can continue to innovate in these ways over the next few years.

Thank you to the 1,406 people who took the time to complete the wellbeing survey and share their current experiences of working here during this very challenging time. This has given us an incredibly useful insight into what is working well and what needs to be improved and we will spend time carefully looking at what you have told us to help inform our next decisions. We will keep you updated on how that develops.

With warm good wishes,

Professor Ian White
Vice-Chancellor and President

Posted in: Weekly Update


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