With this week’s encouraging news about the performance of a potential Covid-19 vaccine, we can look forward to 2021 with growing certainty that we will overcome the challenges created by the virus.
Until widespread vaccination is possible, it continues to be crucial that we all follow the Scottish Government FACTS for a safer Scotland. This will help in the fight to keep transmission levels as low as possible for staff, students and our entire community. Detailed information on FACTS can be found here.
It was also encouraging to see yesterday’s statement from Richard Lochhead, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, outlining the plans for the safe return of students to their homes this Christmas.
These plans have been developed with universities and colleges and, through the provision of asymptomatic testing on campus, offer a practical and workable programme to help our students who wish to go home to spend Christmas with their loved ones, while those remaining on campus will be supported to ensure the holiday period will be as pleasant as possible. We will continue to work with the Scottish Government on delivery of this important goal, ensuring that we provide any Covid-19 testing support required.
Looking ahead to next semester, I am pleased to tell you that we have finalised our plans for learning and teaching. Throughout Semester 1, we have received constructive feedback on the delivery of Learning & Teaching. Staff have reported high levels of student engagement and in turn, positive feedback has been shared by students on the quality of their learning experience.
It has also been encouraging to hear the positive feedback from those students and staff involved in the resumption of essential on-campus activities. Their commitment, experience and enthusiasm will inform our approach in Semester 2.
Building on this helpful feedback, our planned approach for the start of the Semester 2 is that the first 2-3 weeks will be online, from week commencing 11 January, with the expectation that teaching will then transition to a blended learning mode of delivery over a 3-5 week period.
This approach will provide us with flexibility, recognising that we cannot predict the status of the pandemic and the Government guidance in place at that time. It also provides you with certainty to plan for the start of the Semester. We will be updating our students in the coming days and, as before, we will continue to review our plans in line with Government advice and regulations.
In my weekly message two weeks ago, I recognised that this time of the year can be challenging for mental health and wellbeing and encouraged everyone to take breaks and get out into the fresh air for some exercise during the working day. It really has been heartening to read in Inside Strathclyde about the approaches that colleagues have been taking to help each other keep healthy and happy.
A dedicated Wellbeing In Winter area has been added to our Wellbeing Hub and it will be updated regularly across the coming weeks and months.
On Tuesday, the Leadership Group had a focused and productive session on how to effectively support the delivery of Vision 2025 in a changed world.
The discussions were based around five Visioning Groups:
- Global Context and Distinctiveness
- Research and Innovation
- The Learner Journey
- Values and Culture
- Financial Sustainability and Optimal Diversification
These Visioning Groups have continued to work on our approaches in each of these strategic areas over the past weeks and the session with the Leadership Group was an important milestone in that journey.
This dovetails with our Strathclyde Innovation Forum second Grand Challenge where we are still seeking your ideas and want you to help inform our thinking and prioritisation as we move forward.
Taking input from the Executive Team, Leadership Group, workshops and the Innovation Forum, each of these five Visioning Groups will update our Court at their annual strategy session at the end of this month, with the outputs and deliverables fuelling our continued drive towards Vision 2025.
You will recall my message from earlier this week bringing to your attention the recently concluded independent, QC-led, Inquiry that I commissioned to examine the events and processes associated with offences committed by Kevin O’Gorman while he was an academic here at Strathclyde. We have unreservedly accepted the recommendations made in the QC’s report and will implement them in this academic year.
Working together we will enhance procedures to safeguard members of the university community and reduce risks, particularly for those who are most vulnerable. Our public statement and full report can be found here.
Finally this week, it was fantastic to see Strathclyde’s University Challenge team triumph in the latest round of the quiz on Monday evening. Following their defeat of Imperial College in the last round, this week they saw off the team from the University of Manchester by 135 points to 100. I am sure you will join me in congratulating team Strathclyde on their success and in wishing them the very best for the quarter-final.
Please enjoy the forthcoming weekend.