I hope this finds you and yours well.
It has been a busy week, but also a very significant one, as we marked the anniversary of the national lockdown beginning. I know for many of you, Tuesday’s National Day of Reflection was a particularly poignant day as we remembered the very significant and personal impact of COVID-19 on family and friends.
In March 2020, we did not know how long lockdown would last, nor what the full impact of Covid would be. Although the majority of us have been working from home while others have looked after the campus and our students and residences, we stayed together as a community, helping to keep each other safe while supporting the national response to the pandemic. Thank you for your ongoing efforts, your hard work, and the care you have shown towards each other; these actions have epitomised the reality of our constructive approach to how we work together and offer evidence of the positive culture in Strathclyde.
In her address to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, the First Minister paid particular tribute to students and young people, who have been acutely affected by restrictions placed on how they study and live at one of the most formative times of their lives. I am extremely proud of the way our staff and students have worked together in challenging circumstances, reflecting our shared Values in abundance.
With further parts of the economy reopening from Monday 5 April, and the easing of restrictions making it more possible to see family and friends outside, there is growing optimism for the days and weeks ahead.
On Wednesday, our Senate meeting focused on reflections on the current academic session, and our emerging plans for transition to Academic Year 2021/22. Of particular interest was the presentation on e-FIRST (education – Future Innovation and Reflection on Strathclyde’s Teaching). e-FIRST builds on the success of the Start of the Academic Year (SotAY) process at Faculty and University-wide levels. Senate welcomed the chance to reflect on this year’s achievements as well as the forward look; particularly in how we will retain consistent oversight in an environment that will continue to require a collaborative and agile planning response.
Senate also received an update on progress towards our approach to ‘no detriment’ as we progress to the conclusion of AY 2020/21. I am aware that staff and students are keen to see this guidance, which will be supportive and sensitive to the range of challenges our students have experienced across both teaching semesters. This has been developed in consultation with StrathUnion and will shortly progress for formal Senate approval.
The coming week will see an exciting and significant milestone on campus when we will look to take possession of our new Learning and Teaching facility from the building contractors. The building looks incredibly striking and is set to transform our students’ experience by bringing together leading-edge learning and teaching spaces, student support services and the Students’ Union.
We will then start the process of fitting out the building, ready for opening at the start of the new Semester in September. It is enormously encouraging to see this important space – a key element of our £1 billion estate transformation – close to completion, and ready to help bring our community back together on campus when restrictions allow.
I recently convened a workshop with a group comprising students, academics and professional services colleagues about naming the two wings of the Learning and Teaching building. Currently, there are no buildings on our campus named after women; we will be taking steps to address this, reflecting the contribution of women who have made a major impact on the University and wider society. I will share further details about our plans in the coming weeks.
As part of our distinctive innovation agenda, work on the Strathclyde-operated National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) near Glasgow Airport also continues at pace. I was delighted to chair the first NMIS Board meeting today, joined by leading figures from industry. The ‘Team Scotland’ approach is very much driving the development of this world-class facility.
The Institute forms the cornerstone of the growing Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District Scotland (AMIDS), a network of advanced manufacturing, innovation and research organisations driving sustainable growth in the Scottish economy.
The University has also been asked to bring its experience to the Strategic Advisory Group, which also met for the first time this week. Working with our partners at Renfrewshire Council, Scottish Enterprise and West College, we will be leading on the development of the District’s innovation ecosystem, as well as playing a key role in supporting the infrastructure plans, supply chain development and skills offering.
Strathclyde’s track record in this area is significant, with our ‘innovation ecosystem’ being highlighted in the UK Government’s Research and Development Road Map last summer. I look forward to sharing more news on this development in the coming months as we support business growth and economic recovery from the pandemic.
Colleagues across the University have been working incredibly hard on the final refinements to our submission this month for the Research Excellence Framework 2021. This is a major piece of work which will be used across the UK to provide benchmarking information and inform the allocation of funding for research for several years to come. This work has been coordinated and supported by Professor Stephen McArthur and Claire Carroll from RKES. With the final deadline approaching next week, I would like to thank the many academic and professional services staff involved in the REF’2021 preparations for their significant contributions and efforts in what has been a mammoth, but hugely important, task.
Further good news came this week from our students, who won the annual inter-varsity Glasgow Taxis Cup competition between the city’s three universities. The annual competition was changed to an online format this year owing to Covid restrictions, with students recording their individual times and distances over a series of walks, runs and cycles. Our students went the extra mile, quite literally, to comfortably win the Cup. I know you will join me in congratulating them – and all the participants across the three universities – for their fantastic efforts.
Please make the most of your Rest Day Friday, stay safe and well, and have a great weekend.
PS – there is still time to vote for your favourite images in this year’s Wellbeing Photography Competition, as advertised in Inside Strathclyde. There are some stunning entries this year; you can vote via this poll link.