Posted: Friday, 16th December 2011
WHEN we launched ManMetLife back in September, I addressed you mindful of the huge amount of work ahead of us as we prepare for the new ‘free market’ in Higher Education.
There are some very serious challenges before us - student satisfaction and our league table position, graduate employability, staff and student communication, competition from new providers – all of which require us to be on top of and ahead of the game.
However, I am pleased to report that as a result of much hard work across the University we are making real progress. There have been many notable successes achieved by real team work and determination. Not everything has gone to plan and there have been problems with the implementation of our new printing strategy and centralised timetabling. Many staff had to work even harder to compensate and to protect the student experience. Here the true spirit of MMU shone through.
There is so much to be proud about across the University; here are some of the highlights of the past few months:
It has been a term of launches for our Human Resources colleagues: Bridging the Gap is a new scheme which provides placement experience for students with moderate learning disabilities and you will certainly know about the excellent Graduate Intern Scheme, set up by Josie Elson and backed by the NUS and set to create paid work placements for dozens of our own graduates. A third launch happens next week: - the Change Academy will provide resources and support to colleagues who wish to transform or improve any aspect of their work. The Academy has been created following a cross-MMU and Student Union involvement in the 2010 national HEA and Leadership Foundation for Higher Education national Change Academy.
In Services, John Hindley’s environment team reported more excellent news as the University was placed 59th out of more than 2,000 large organisations in the Environment Agency’s Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme placing us ahead of the likes of United Utilities and Manchester City Council. The Library passed its latest customer service test with flying colours, with particularly pleasing feedback from students on the helpfulness of staff. In learning services, we also reported a terrific uptake on the new VLE, as we adopt a philosophy of ‘wrapping services around the student’. Well done to Phil Range and Mark Stubbs. Under Mo Din our IT Services have undertaken a huge number of projects to improve the working environment for staff and students.
SAS staff should be congratulated for their on-going commitment to student satisfaction, including the introduction of a new system which has enabled staff to drastically reduce the time taken for recording and checking coursework. Recruitment and Admissions have done an enormous amount of work in preparing the ground for 2012 and new student financing. Also our thanks to Alex Thorley and the SIP and Student Life teams for enhanced services to students which include streamlined and standardised systems for student bank letters and council tax certificates.
My thanks to the outgoing Lawrie Grant and his Finance & Legal Services staff who ensure the University is in very good financial shape. The team has put a massive amount of work into the new student support package which is among the most generous in the sector. Another significant development saw Faculty Financial Services which supports Art & Design, HLSS and Science & Engineering move into purpose-built accommodation on the ground floor of the John Dalton Building. The new office is much more accessible and student friendly.
In Humanities and Social Science – the Department of English unveiled Philip Pullman and Jacqueline Wilson as headliners for the 2012 Manchester Children’s Book Festival along with our own Carol Ann Duffy. Sociologist Helen Jones with her research in elderly abuse opened a new chapter in our relationship with Japan, while the Department of Information and Communications attracted postgraduates to a new course in Multimedia Journalism.
Science and Engineering colleagues continue to combine world-class R&D with a strong contribution to public engagement. I was impressed to hear of Ian Loram’s work using ultrasound to diagnose disease and of David Lee’s terrific contribution to a UN report on transport, carbon emissions and climate change. Congratulations to Simon Iwnicki who will chair RRUK-A, a new partnership between key UK engineering universities and the rail industry. Sue Smith and her technical staff earned deserved recognition for their marvellous contribution to Manchester Science Festival (22-30 October).
At the Business School – our new distance-learning degree with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants recruited almost 200 students in the first tranche. Dean Ruth Ashford’s new management structure includes a new portfolio for Stuart Horsburgh as international director and this term has already seen partnerships with the Thai Nguyen University and the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences. My thanks to staff for their forward planning for the move to All Saints next Spring, and also to our numerous media contributors including Kieran Maguire, Shirley Jenner, John Simister, Kevin Albertson and Dimitrios Syrrakos for raising the School’s profile.
It was a wonderful welcome to the School of Art and to the city’s ‘artistic community’ for Freshers in Art and Design this term. A splendidly conceived staff exhibition at the Holden - ‘In the Beginning’ – taught new arrivals more than a little about their new lecturers while a city reception at Manchester Art Gallery saw our new students rub shoulders with professional artists and employers. Our thanks to Tom Jeffries’ team in the School of Architecture for coping with their temporary move to John Dalton and also to David Crow’s team in general for their meticulous organisation which has seen them lose not one but two of their buildings for the time being!
It is terrific news that the Institute of Education has been chosen to coordinate Early Years Professional Status courses for the North of England. EYPS is the only professional graduate accreditation for people in the UK working with children from birth to five, so congratulations to Lynne Clarke, John Powell and Janine Acott. The Institute’s mathematics team also has cause for celebration, being recognised for its ground-breaking work in the new landscape of in-school teacher training (see a fascinating article in The Independent 01/12/12) which is giving a major boost to partner schools like Ashton-on-Mersey HS.
Hollings Faculty has a long history of working with industry. Colleagues in Clothing Design Technology are partnering leading North West firm RFD Beaufort Ltd in shaping the future of Armed Forces equipment, notably survival and performance clothing. Jane Ledbury is leading that one, and her colleagues Praburaj Venkatraman, Helen Rowe and the Dean Colin Renfrew are forging new links with the Indian government promising student and staff exchanges, links with industry and short courses. Excellent work.
As 2012 approaches, colleagues in Cheshire have special reason to be excited about the Olympics! The Exercise and Sport Science team’s work with Cheshire East to welcome athletes ahead of the Games has allowed us to invite boxers, volleyball players and others and has earned two of our students along with myself, the honour of carrying the Olympic flame as it passes through the North West in May.
At the Faculty of Health, Psychology and Social Care, our researchers have made a considerable impact on quality of life issues. Carolyn Kagan’s work with the Chinese community on employee exploitation was launched by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in Manchester in October, and Dan Goodley’s Critical Disability Studies group has produced breakthrough research on adoption, special needs pupils and more. The highlight of the term for the Faculty though was, without doubt, the BBC series A History of the Brain, written and presented by psychologist Geoff Bunn and earning of critical national acclaim. Well done Geoff!
I am delighted to say that your exceptional hard work and dedication this term has enabled us to make considerable progress but much remains to be done.
Work to counter our unacceptable student satisfaction scores is well under way. Directorate has put in place a plan which monitors improvements in real time and introduces new ‘troubleshooting’ academic tutors. We anticipate that raising of entry tariffs, investment in estates and resources and a new timetabling processes will all help drive satisfaction benchmarks in the right direction. Online timetabling has been a major project to implement and there have been some teething issues, but with thousands of views daily on Moodle by our students, it is definitely the way forward.
Satisfaction among international students is high with 86.1% satisfied or very satisfied with their learning experience here.
Meanwhile EQAL is moving swiftly, and we give our heartfelt thanks to the hundreds of you who are making it happen. Rewriting so much of the curriculum has been a massive undertaking and it will pay dividends in so many ways. My particular thanks to Pete Dunleavy for leading on academic consultation; Peggy Cooke and the CASQE team for the new PARM process; Alan Dove, Penny Renwick and the PMI team for a new online unit specification system and staff engagement; Mark Stubbs and Neil Ringan for the Moodle transition, and the CeLT team for online curriculum development guidance.
We prepare for the forthcoming National Student Survey in much better shape than last year, which is absolutely critical. As you will have read in last week’s ManMetLife, the Government’s Key Information Sets will bring more visibility to the characteristics and quality of Manchester Metropolitan University.
I will outline the continuing priorities in the new term in mid January.
On behalf of myself and the Directorate, many thanks for all your hard work, and do have a very Merry Christmas break and a Happy New Year.