This week in September is always a special one for everyone at Strathclyde – it is when our new students take their first steps on their academic journey and begin to experience what university life offers them.
This year I am delighted to welcome more than 4,000 new students; but in a very different way from previous years.
Due to the current restrictions, colleagues across Strathclyde have been working together to make their arrival as safe and as seamless as possible, while the team at StrathUnion have been arranging an online Freshers’ Week to showcase the social side of Strathclyde life.
Today, I have the pleasure of hosting four digital Student Inauguration Events, our annual welcome to those joining our Faculties.
Despite the remote format, each event will convey what it means to be a part of the Strathclyde community and gives our new students the opportunity to hear from me, their Dean and the Student President about what it means to study and to socialise at our fantastic university.
Our commitment to the helth and safety of staff and students continues to be our main focus in all that we do. I am pleased to be able to tell you that we are supplying three Strathclyde-branded face coverings for each student and staff member and will be distributing these from Monday of next week. Full details on pick-up points will be in Inside Strathclyde on Monday.
In other Return and Resume updates, this week I have approved the reopening of the Lord Hope Building. The University Nursery resumed operation on Monday of this week, which I know will be welcomed by many of you who rely on the childcare they provide.
Next week will see the publication of a new Building Working Arrangements for Staff document which will give significant detail on what to expect when you eventually return to campus. It covers details on all aspects of building safety measures introduced as part of our Return and Resume work and will prove to be an invaluable document for all staff.
Next week's Inside Strathclyde will have more information on how to access this and when it will be available. However, please note that given the current national restrictions and advice from the Scottish Government, home working will continue to be the norm for the majority of our staff for the time being.
Please also remember that as part of our commitment to putting the health and wellbeing of our people first, our Student Counselling Service is still open for staff to take advantage of.
This continues to augment our well-established employee assistance programme provided by PAM Assist and it offers an enhanced service to colleagues who feel the need to seek counselling support.
Earlier this week, I and other Executive Team colleagues met with our Court, led by the Convener, Dame Sue Bruce. This provided an update on our planning for the new term, our wider Return and Resume activities and a broad range of matters related to the sector under the current challenging circumstances. This was very well received and Court asked that I pass on their thanks to all those involved in our ‘start of the academic year’ efforts.
Earlier this week, I led the latest of our Strategy Sessions involving the Executive Team, the Special Advisors group, students’ executive members and colleagues from our Leadership Group. The discussions and breakout sessions focused on the development of plans for the next stage of Vision 2025 delivery. With a range of themes under discussion, I was delighted to hear so many innovative ideas and contributions being put forward to help us plan an acceleration in pace and maximise opportunities for Strathclyde while managing the on-going public health situation.
Both of these meetings took place just days after our Leadership Group had held a special meeting with our Chancellor, Lord Smith of Kelvin. This interactive session saw Lord Smith give an overview of his career, his roles and significant experience and influence, before a stimulating Q&A session with the University’s leaders on the particular challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. The strong message which came through was of a renewed focus on delivery and how we are looking for opportunities in the midst of a rapidly changing world.
On campus this week, I was delighted to see that Glasgow City Council have undertaken work on Montrose Street to widen the footpaths as part of their Spaces for People initiative. On street parking has been removed to give more room for pedestrians and, as this is a central part of our campus, it fits in well with our plans for Rottenrow Gardens and the Heart of the Campus project.
Finally, I would like to thank you all for your continued efforts in preparing the University for the return of our students. Thanks to your hard work and commitment, I know they will be safe, secure and supported throughout their time at Strathclyde.