Vice-Chancellor COVID-19 update

Posted by bv39 at Apr 20, 2020 03:38 PM |
Vice-Chancellor Nishan Canagarajah provides us with an update on the University's priorities for the immediate future.

Welcome to the start of the summer term. I realise this is an unusual start to what we are normally used to, but I hope you had some rest during the Easter Holiday and are feeling ready for this term.

As you know, last week, the Government announced a lockdown for at least another three weeks. Therefore the University will continue to follow Government advice and keep the campus closed for all but essential activities. I fully acknowledge that it is challenging to run our University activities during this period, but I am incredibly proud of how we, as a community, have responded to this challenge – you have clearly demonstrated that you are true Citizens of Change.

Over the last few weeks, as we have adjusted to a ‘new normal’, I have been working closely with the Executive Board team to prepare and plan in more detail for the future. As you can imagine, the whole sector will face many challenges in delivering our core mission while at the same time securing the necessary finances to support these activities. Please be assured, research and teaching will remain at the heart of what we do and this will never change.

There is much uncertainty regarding when we can return to normal face-to-face interactions and the implications this has for this academic year and next. I know colleagues will be keen to support the University in all manners of ways. It is paramount that, while adapting to deal with recent events, we retain our focus on staff and student health and wellbeing. Therefore, I feel it is essential that we focus our efforts on the right priorities to help us manage the potential consequences following COVID-19.

We need to prioritise student-facing activities to ensure that we deliver our commitments to our student community. Great progress has been made to deliver our courses online but there remains more to do, both in terms of course delivery and the student experience. We also need to retain a strong focus on student recruitment to support applicants and offer holders during this time of uncertainty. Our mission is to be world-leading in research and education which we cannot successfully prosecute without meeting our income targets. Furthermore, if we don’t generate sufficient income, we will need to control our expenditure to ensure the University remains financially sustainable. In that context, I would like to inform you that we have paused recruitment of nearly all senior positions, including PVC(Research), Director of HR and Director of IT, and I am very grateful to my colleagues for agreeing to take on additional duties during this period.

Research remains important and highly valued but we must consider how we undertake research with increased constraints and reduced funding. Our priority in the short term must be to focus on externally funded research activities. This does not mean you shouldn’t continue with your own research, provided you can manage that alongside your other student-facing commitments. Once our financial position is improved we will be able to devote more time and resources to research.

We need to work together to do all we can to put our University in the strongest position possible. I would therefore ask you to discuss your duties with your Head of School/Department/Division and review your existing commitments in light of the priorities I have set out. As you all know, COVID-19 will have profound impact on how we do things as a society and University. Over the last few weeks we’ve shown how well we have responded to this challenge – we need to continue to be responsive, creative and resilient as we prepare for the next few years.

Thank you again for your continued hard work and dedication to the University and the community. We need to remain strong, collegiate and supportive of each other at this time.

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