CoronavirusStaff update 22 July

Dear colleagues,

I hope you enjoyed the ‘Glasgow Fair’ bank holiday weekend and the unusually great weather it brought. For those of you who are returning from annual leave, a very warm welcome back. 

Throughout the pandemic, supporting our students in their studies has been a central focus for staff from all Faculties and Professional Services. This saw our swift transition to online learning, new ways of teaching and learning being devised, a flexible and supportive digital environment created for all of our students and an unstinting focus on our students’ wellbeing. This week, we saw how that positive and confident approach has been appreciated by our students in the results from the National Student Survey.

Strathclyde has moved up 28 places and now sits at 4th in UK, following analysis of the data by the Times Higher Education. The University scored over 85%, significantly above the UK average of 75%, and moved up 28 places from last year on the THE list. The league table ranked 150 higher education institutions in the UK.

At the same time, our own analysis has shown that Strathclyde saw 30 subject areas in the top quartile for student satisfaction, doubling from 15 in 2019/20. This an enormously impressive and most welcome result.

During the most challenging time our community has faced in recent memory, we pulled together and delivered a student experience that has been shown to be one of the most effective of the 158 higher education institutions in the UK. This is something we all should take pride in. This performance is down to our collective efforts and the hard work of Strathclyders in innovating new and effective teaching methods and I would like thank everyone involved for their commitment to our students.

Monday of this week saw Scotland move to COVID Protection Level 0, a very significant step for all of us, which sees more restrictions eased in how we can gather together. This is an extremely welcome development but please ensure that you continue to follow the Scottish Government guidance.

As a socially progressive university, we are determined to ensure that every member of our extended University community is safe and respected. We recognise that universities have an important role to play in building safer communities, both through the impact of our teaching, research and knowledge exchange, and by ensuring our campus is safe.

We are describing our holistic approach to delivering a safe and secure environment as Safe360°. Today we have launched our new Safe360° web pages which show how much our University community is doing already to safeguard everyone we work with, particularly children, young people and vulnerable adults. More needs to be done and I have asked the Strathclyde Safe360° Group to build on what has already been achieved. You can keep up to date on latest developments and future plans via the website.

It is vital that we each take responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of others. Our Strathclyde community is playing its part in driving the change that is needed in wider society. Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do.

Over the last year, our £1 billion campus transformation programme has continued at pace. Last week, I was delighted to visit our new Learning and Teaching building alongside my Vice-Principal, Professor Scott MacGregor, outgoing Strath Union President, Kayla Megan-Burns, and incoming President Benn Rapson. Our new flagship building looks wonderful and will be a terrific place for our students to return to in the very heart of campus.

The building will bring our student support services together under one roof for the first time, as well as providing leading-edge technology in its lecture theatres and social learning, group and private study areas.

It will also be the new home for Strath Union, with stunning music and events space, bar, coffee outlets and places to enjoy a wide variety of freshly prepared food, as well as space for our students’ clubs and societies.

We are now at the ‘fitting-out’ stage, which will see the new furniture and fittings being installed before the building opens for the new semester. You can see a preview of the new building and find out more about the new facility on our website.

This month I also enjoyed a visit to the site of our new National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) near Glasgow Airport, joined by members of the University Executive Team, as well as NMIS colleagues including John Reid, CEO, and Sarah Jardine, COO. Our visit marked an important milestone: the completion of the building’s steel framework. The steel frame really gives a sense of the size and scale of the building, and I was delighted to be asked to ‘tighten the last bolt’ as a landmark moment in the construction schedule.

In common with the Learning and Teaching building, NMIS is being built with sustainability to the fore: it will be the University’s first energy carbon neutral development. The facility will include a digital factory, a skills academy and a collaboration hub, and will help support manufacturing and engineering firms of all sizes and from all sectors across the country, and internationally, to innovate and grow. Part of the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District Scotland, NMIS is due to open in 2022. You can take a look at the latest NMIS construction update.

Finally, there is still time to submit your ideas for the third Grand Challenge set by our Strathclyde Innovation Forum. As a reminder, the three challenge themes focus on our COVID-19 recovery plan, climate change and sustainability, and staff wellbeing. I warmly encourage you to share your ideas with us and get involved – you can make a real and lasting impact. You can read full details of the third Grand Challenge on our website.

Have a good weekend, and Eid Mubarak to all our colleagues who are celebrating. If you are heading off on annual leave, please have a relaxing beak.

Best wishes,
Jim