The Scottish Government’s announcement earlier today that we have reached Phase 3 of the exit from lockdown is a significant step forward and a welcome milestone in the country’s progress out of lockdown.
With the recent developments in the hospitality industry, the lifting of local travel restrictions and the return of the schools in a little over a month, there is very much a sense of positivity and anticipation.
Nonetheless, we must still acknowledge the risks which are still prevalent and it is against this backdrop that we are planning our gradual return to campus – with the safety of our students and staff at the centre of our preparations.
This week, I am delighted to be able to tell you that the first of our buildings on campus is ready for the resumption of research laboratory activity. Following a rigorous assessment of the safety of the building and detailed planning for the return of staff in keeping with the national guidelines, the Technology and Innovation Centre is now reopening. While the numbers are small and the building is operating in a new way – with one way systems and reduced capacity to allow for social distancing – this represents a significant moment in our return to campus.
In the coming weeks, more of our science and engineering buildings will be reopening, followed by the rest of the campus as we progress towards the planned start of the 2020/21 academic year. We will continue to closely follow the Scottish Government’s guidance, and please remember that Phase 3 is not the stage at which we all return to campus. It may be Phase 4 before all workplaces will be open, with public health measures in place. Even then, remote and flexible working will still be encouraged.
This week’s step forward has been made possible by team work and collaboration between colleagues from across the University, coordinated by the Return and Resume Development Group. Information on our gradual return will be made available on a new website going live early next week where staff will be updated on key areas as they develop. Information on your own return to campus will be shared directly with you through your department in due course, so please ensure you are in regular communication with your line manager and wider team.
As part of our return, I can announce that the University will be offering three reusable face coverings to all students and staff at the start of session. This move is to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus and aligns with current Scottish Government advice. More details on the roll out of this plan will be provided in Inside Strathclyde in the coming weeks. I am delighted that this idea was put forward through our Strathclyde Innovation Forum, our new way of generating innovative ideas from the entire Strathclyde community. I would encourage you to continue to engage positively with the Innovation Forum and contribute your thoughts and suggestions.
Earlier this week, I gained enormous benefit from attending our Race Equality Workshop. This is part of our commitment to ensure we support an inclusive environment for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students and staff, promoting racial diversity across the University. The Workshop centred on the voices and views of those with lived experience, discussed key issues with regard to race equality in Higher Education and put forward priorities for Strathclyde. The outputs from the workshop will be channelled into our new Race Equality Working Group which is coordinating our efforts in this crucial area.
I would also like to give you an update on some important developments in the senior leadership team at Strathclyde.
Some time ago Sandra Heidinger, our Chief People Officer, told me of her intention to step down from her post as part of her long term plans to travel and to spend more time with her family. I would like to record my sincere thanks to her for delaying this plan to continue to support me and the University at large as we have led and managed our way through the COVID-19 challenges.
As the University’s first CPO, Sandra has devised our People Strategy and provided executive leadership to our Human Resources and Continuous Improvement Directorates. Prior to this, Sandra was our Human Resources Director for ten years during which time the University was awarded the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Award for Workplace of the Year in 2017.
To retain Sandra’s input, I am very pleased to confirm that she has agreed to stay on as a part-time member of my Special Advisors team, continuing to provide me with advice on key strategic people issues; Sandra will take up this new role from September.
Also joining my team of Special Advisors is Professor Sir Harry Burns. Harry has been Consultant Surgeon at Glasgow Royal infirmary, Director of Public Health for Greater Glasgow Health Board and Chief Medical Officer of Scotland. Harry will support me as Strathclyde positions itself to make further impacts at scale through our Health and Care Futures activities and forge even stronger links with the NHS, the social care sector and the policy making communities.
I am also delighted to confirm that, following recent approval from University Court, Professor David Hillier has been appointed for a further five years as Associate Principal and Executive Dean of Strathclyde Business School. Over the last five years, David has led the strategic positioning and growth of the Business School, enhancing both its academic successes and business performance. I am very pleased that David will continue to lead the Business School and to be a key part of my Executive Team in the years ahead.
Finally, this week, I am happy to report that Strathclyde won the 2020 WhatUni Student Choice Award in the ‘Local Life’ category. Voted for by students, this award is for the university which gives students 'the best lifestyle outside of lectures'. As this is a student voice award, to win is a terrific endorsement of the Strathclyde student experience and is an important addition to our awards collection for this year.
It is significant recognition of our commitment to deliver a first-class student experience.
And, as always, please enjoy your next rest day tomorrow, and have a good weekend.