I hope that you have been able to take a summer break over recent weeks and that, as the schools return, you will feel that another milestone has been reached as we prepare for a very different autumn term.
The focus for many of us in Scotland over the past week has been on the situation around the SQA exam results. Despite this year’s challenges, colleagues have put the needs of our applicants first throughout and I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to dealing with a unique and challenging set of circumstances.
With regard to our approach to attracting students from disadvantaged backgrounds, I am pleased to tell you that Strathclyde is currently on course to continue to deliver on our very ambitious targets in admitting these students.
The University is firmly committed to widening access and inclusion and we provide opportunities for people from every background to enter university and to succeed in their studies. This year’s unprecedented exam situation will not affect that commitment.
One of the University’s Key Performance Indicators is based on widening access and I am proud that Strathclyde has achieved its 2020 target of recruiting 1,000 students from the 40% most deprived postcodes three years ahead of our stated goal. This is one of the strongest performances in the HE sector and in our Vision 2025 strategy we extend our ambitions still further.
We recognise that this is a worrying time for applicants and we are continuing to do everything we can to make swift and transparent decisions based on information available to us. Academic selectors will be reassessing the applications of those affected by Tuesday’s announcement by the Deputy First Minister on a case-by-case basis and we will be updating applicants as soon as we possibly can.
We have been very flexible in our approach so far this year and that will continue in the coming days and weeks.
Each year we select our students based on merit, potential and the ability to benefit from the education we offer and this year will be no different.
With regard to our preparations for returning to campus, we have continued this work at pace and this week I am delighted to confirm that, following the rigorous assessment of building safety, the Curran building is ready to re-open and the doors of the Andersonian Library will open on Monday 24 August.
Next week we will be communicating with staff and PhD students on the safety and induction arrangement for the Library and the steps users need to take to prepare. There will be significant measures in place to keep people safe, including limits on the number of people allowed into the building at any one time, one-way systems and newly-installed safety screens.
A huge amount of work has gone into these preparations and I thank all those involved in the efforts to open this key building which is a central part of the university community and is vital to the delivery of a first-class student experience.
Please remember that that home working will continue to be the norm for the majority of staff. In keeping with the Scottish Government’s guidelines and the 2m ‘social distance’ rule, planning for the occupation of our buildings is on the basis of 20 per cent of pre-Covid capacity.
With continued home working in mind, yesterday (12 August 2020) I wrote to all staff to introduce Meeting Free Friday, an innovative and people-oriented policy which is in keeping with our values and recognises the needs of colleagues as we continue to work from home.
Reducing meetings and emails on Friday will enable the entire Strathclyde community to have a productive and focused end to the week. We are a progressive employer and this leading-edge approach is the latest in a range of approaches to support agile working which recognises the needs of our people. We received national recognition in 2017 for our approach to supporting and developing staff at all levels, when we become the inaugural winner of the Times Higher Education award for ‘Workplace of the Year’.
We have continued to build on this success, and Meeting Free Friday is the latest example of that and I am sure many of you will benefit from it. In the coming weeks we will share more information and guidance to support our staff engaging in innovative approaches to agile working.
Please have a good weekend and please make the most of your first Meeting Free Friday.