I hope that you have been able to take a summer break over recent weeks and that, as the schools prepare to return, you will feel that another milestone has been reached as we prepare for the new Semester.
This week has seen the results of school assessments being sent out to pupils in Scotland and the rest of the UK. This is another unusual year for those hoping to move onto Higher and Further Education and I would like to underline that each year we select our students based on merit, potential and the ability to benefit from the education we offer.
Our selection process has been shown to be both resilient and very effective given the challenges of the past two years and I would like to thank all of our colleagues in the Faculties and Professional Services involved in processing applications, offers and enrolments. This is an incredibly busy time of the year and the work put in by these committed teams ensures that we have excellent students joining Strathclyde.
With regard to our approach to attracting students from disadvantaged backgrounds, I am also pleased to tell you that Strathclyde is currently on course to continue to deliver on our very ambitious targets.
Strathclyde is one of the strongest performers in the HE sector when it comes to Widening Participation in higher education, and our significant progress in this area remains as one of our proudest achievements. As a Socially Progressive university, we remain firmly committed to ensuring every applicant with the talent has an equal chance to benefit from the life-changing opportunities a university experience can bring. I look forward to welcoming all of our newest Strathclyders, and our returning students, to campus for the new academic year.
On Monday of this week, Scotland moved out of the COVID-19 Protection Levels system following a steady decline in cases, and the ongoing success of the vaccination programme. This very welcome news will restore a substantial degree of normality to our day-to-day lives, and brings a sense of relief at the much-improved picture in Scotland.
However, as the First Minister has noted, the pandemic is not over and we do need to continue to exercise caution, notably through the use of face coverings in indoor settings unless you are exempt. When I wrote to you last week, I highlighted the measures that will remain in place at Strathclyde to ensure we continue to suppress the virus as we begin the new academic year. This includes a continuation of physical distancing on campus, and working from home where it is possible to do so. Please do familiarise yourself with the guidance, particularly before the start of the new semester.
Finally, the publication of the landmark study by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this week makes for sobering reading. Described as ‘a code red for humanity’ by the UN, the report warns of more frequent extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding.
However, the report also makes clear that it is not too late for the world to take action to tackle the challenges of climate change; consequently, the COP26 conference in our city in November will be a critical platform for decision-making. The work of universities in sustainable research, education and innovation has never been more important, and Strathclyde is well-placed to support the global effort.
We will keep you updated with our own progress towards Net Zero on the road to COP; as a reminder, you can also share your ideas for change with us through the Strathclyde Innovation Forum grand challenge. Your ideas really do make a difference, and I warmly encourage you to get involved.