CoronavirusStaff update 15 April

Dear colleagues,

I hope this finds you and yours well – and if you’ve just returned from annual leave over the Easter break, a very warm welcome back.

This week, the First Minister announced that Scotland’s travel restrictions for outdoor socialising, recreation and informal exercise will lift earlier than planned, from tomorrow (Friday 16 April).  

This welcome change, combined with a relaxation of the outdoor meeting limit to six adults from up to six households, will enable long-awaited reunions for those of us with friends and family in different parts of the country.

The news comes after nearly 60% of Scotland’s adult population have received a first dose of the vaccine – a terrific milestone made possible by the outstanding international research effort and collaboration between government, industry and academia. With continued progress, the Scottish Government has outlined its expectation that the whole country can move to at least Level 2 on 17 May, to Level 1 in early June, and to Level 0 in later June.

We are continuing to engage closely with the Scottish Government and the wider Higher Education sector to assess what the ongoing changes mean for the Strathclyde community, and we will keep you updated as things develop. Meantime, you can read more about the easing of restrictions here.

This week has also been a time of reflection for many across the UK and internationally, following the death of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Philip was a great supporter of engineering, science and technology, and I was privileged to be asked to share my memories of him with the BBC on Saturday morning in my capacity as President of the Royal Academy of Engineering (BBC One News Special, watch at 49:00).

Many of you will remember that Prince Philip visited Strathclyde with HM The Queen six years ago to open our Technology and Innovation Centre (TIC). His passion for innovation and research was very much in evidence, and he was an extremely interested and informed visitor, asking academic colleagues thought-provoking questions about their work.

I have written to the Royal household on behalf of the University community to express our condolences, and our shared sadness at his passing. Our flags on campus will be flying at half-mast until the morning after the funeral, which takes place this Saturday, 17 April.

Today, we continue to build on the important work Prince Philip saw in TIC, through our research, our teaching, and our growing innovation districts in the city centre and near Glasgow Airport. This work is central to our shared Vision 2025 strategic plan.  Recently, our Executive Team was updated on our Strathclyde Acceleration Team projects, which have been developed to help drive further progress towards our Vision 2025 goals.

The five teams – involving staff from across all Faculties and Professional Services – are looking at our: growing international impact; research and innovation districts; financial sustainability and optimal diversification; the Learner Journey; and, our values and culture.  They will shortly be reaching out to colleagues across the University for additional input, help and support, and I would like to thank everyone for their involvement in this important work.

This week, I am also delighted to report on the findings and recommendations of our first Staff Wellbeing Survey. Almost 700 colleagues participated; thank you to each and every one of you for taking the time to respond.

You will remember the survey asked key questions around: the Wellbeing and Working from Home Hub; Meeting Free Fridays; and, Rest and Recuperation Fridays. Finally, the survey asked colleagues what else might be done to support them during the pandemic. 

It has been very encouraging to read the many warm and positive responses towards our Wellbeing initiatives, and to see the real sense of care colleagues have displayed towards the University, our students, and each other.

However, we cannot rest on our laurels, and there is still more to do. Based on your feedback, we will be acting on a series of recommendations, and I will be asking for your help in implementing these positive changes in every part of the University.

Key recommendations include: the development of a Covid Mitigation Action Plan, recognising the well-researched additional impact of Covid on carers; recruitment of a Workplace and Wellbeing Manager to support a mental health action plan for staff; and, reducing bureaucracy underpinned by technology through the development of a transformational Digital Strategy, led by the new post of Chief Digital and Information Officer.

You can read more about the findings – and importantly, the recommendations in full here

Finally, I am pleased to note that virtually all the young people in our extended University community will be able to return to school next week following the latest easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Scotland. This is fantastic news for our young people and their families, who have faced particularly challenging circumstances during this period of lockdown. I know you will join me in sending them our thanks for the important role they have played in helping to keep our communities safe, and slowing the spread of the virus.

Please enjoy our final Rest & Recuperation Friday tomorrow, particularly with the earlier than planned lifting of travel restrictions. In line with feedback from our Wellbeing Survey, Meeting-Free Fridays will resume from 23 April.

Have a great weekend when it comes.

Best wishes,

Jim