As we approach the start of the new semester, our colleagues from across the University are working tirelessly to welcome back our students and to provide support to them in what will be a new way of working and learning for everyone.
I would like to start this week by thanking everyone involved for your hard work in this unprecedented situation and your commitment to providing the best possible experience for our students and to maintain the quality of an excellent Strathclyde education.
I would particularly like to thank all colleagues supporting admissions from Faculties and Professional Services who this week have been working through the outcome of both the SQA and A-Level exam decisions. The entire Higher Education sector is currently in uncharted territory and each day brings new uncertainties. However, I am confident that Strathclyde has put applicants at the centre of our decisions as we work through each of the cases for those who would like to join us this year.
We are committed to equity and we select our students based on merit, potential and the ability to benefit from the education we offer.
This week, our Post Graduate Diploma in Education students started their course. This is our largest cohort of students and they will be the first to take advantage of our online learning, before moving into blended teaching later in the semester. In preparation for the new teaching term, some very innovative ways of working have been developed and I look forward to hearing how the new student experience is being received.
The Executive Team has approved the reopening of the Henry Dyer building to allow Naval Architecture, Ocean and Marine Engineering colleagues to restart their research activities. We have also approved the reopening of Ross Priory. We appreciate all of the excellent work overseen and coordinated by our Return and Resume Development Group to expand the number of buildings and facilities that are now open.
This Monday will see the opening of the Andersonian Library. This follows a significant engagement with staff and PhD students on the safety and induction arrangements. Find out more about the library measures here.
In keeping with the Scottish Government’s guidelines, and in particular maintaining the 2m ‘social distance’, current planning for the occupation of our buildings is on the basis of 20 per cent of pre-Covid capacity. This means that even buildings which are open have low capacity and therefore home-working continues to be the norm for the majority of staff.
I have mentioned in previous weeks that the University is working on a new, leading-edge Agile Working Toolkit for staff. This has now been drafted, building on our existing flexibility and we will be engaging with key stakeholders – including campus unions, Leadership Group and Staff Committee in early September – before its launch later that month.
As the latest step in our move to new ways of working, I hope you managed to take advantage of the first Meeting Free Friday which was introduced last week. This innovative and people-oriented policy recognises the needs of home-working colleagues. I have already received a significant amount of positive feedback and I look forward to this making a notable contribution to staff well-being as we continue to deal with the effects of the pandemic.
I plan to put in place another programme of ‘Principal’s Staff Engagement Sessions’ similar to those we ran through April to June. Given we have just started Academic Year 2020/21, about to begin the new Semester and having much of our campus opened for approved activities, it is important that I meet (digitally) with all our Faculties, Professional Services and Support Staff to tell them first hand about our progress, current issues and respond directly to questions.
We will publish the planned meeting schedule over the next week or so and seek to deliver the sessions through September.
Once again, thank you for all your efforts to make Strathclyde’s on-going response to the current environment both positive and confident. We are working together to meet the demands head on and I am proud of what we have achieved and how we have delivered for the entire University community.