Posted: Friday, 4th May 2012
We start the final term of the 2011/12 academic year in a far stronger position than we were at this time last year. Our portfolio is stronger, our facilities and services are improving by the month, we are financially sound and we have many excellent people on our team. However, we still have much work ahead of us to attract the right type of students in the right numbers, and to improve their experience once they are here.
This remains our key priority for 2012. I am pleased to say that many of the pieces are starting to fall into place. The new Student Hub has opened and this will make a considerable difference coupled with extended opening hours for SIPs and the Careers and Employability service. 24/7 opening of the Sir Kenneth Green Library from January and Crewe library for seven weeks has been greatly appreciated by students. Plans are well ahead for improvement works to the library main floor this summer at All Saints plus the extension to the library at Cheshire.
Student satisfaction with the work of the Facilities Environment Team in creating an eco-friendly environment has increased to 94% (Student Barometer) and is a testament of the significant improvements which have been made.
The Second tranche of the online unit survey is now complete and should provide us with valuable results we can act upon. The Student Union has also welcomed a new Student Forum.
National Student Survey 2012
THE University’s campaign to encourage completions of the National Student Survey has proved a tremendous success. In 2011, 59% of eligible final-year students completed the survey – a figure we surpassed this time around with six weeks still to go!
The NSS is hugely significant, both for its influence on league tables and for the impact it will have in the Key Information Sets (KIS data) published alongside all course information from September 2012. We believe our higher completion rate this year will better reflect the views of students who have had a positive experience with us.
My thanks to Marketing, Communications and Development and the Students’ Union for orchestrating the campaign, and to the very many of you who encouraged student engagement and raised awareness of the improvements we are making to student life at MMU. We are now having one final push and aim to top 70% completion by the time the survey closes on April 30. The results are due out at the beginning of August 2012.
MMU remains one of the most applied to UK Universities (in top 5 of all HEIs). Our plans to increase the entry tariff are on track and the level of offers we are making to students is holding up well. This is very positive as it indicates that with our progressive increase in entry requirements we are positioned as an attractive place to study.
Whilst we have welcomed record numbers of visitors to our events, students are taking slightly longer to confirm places, a national pattern that has recently emerged. Our generous financial support packages remain one of the best in the sector and we have introduced a new Academic Achievement Bursary for AAB students.
This will help us secure a high quality intake which will have a positive impact in many ways. Recruitment for 2013 entry is under way with a 10% increase in prospective students visiting our stands at national recruitment events. We will be inviting these students to attend our June Open Day which will provide the first key indicator of interest for 2013 entry.
In September 2012, the new KIS (Key Information Sets) will be launched and we are working hard to bring together the information required. Please keep an eye out for more detailed information about the KIS development in the coming weeks in ManMetlife.
Hundreds of colleagues have begun moving into our fantastic new Business School and Student Hub at All Saints. The second wave of professional services staff should be in around now, with the academic teams coming over from Aytoun on May 25.
I hope you will all agree that the building looks and feels world-class and will greatly enhance the staff and student experience. We shall keep you posted about our exciting launch events later this year.
Art and Design continues to make good progress with the tower refit set to be completed over the summer, and the frame of the new building completed. Architecturally, it is stunning with some features which break new ground for art education, notably the duplex roof gallery, which I sincerely believe will be one of the most exciting spaces in Manchester. I must thank David Crow and his staff not only for their rich input into the project but for their patience and ingenuity in juggling the limited space in the interim.
With full planning permission secured for Birley Fields, preparatory works have begun and we shall very shortly be appointing a principal contractor to commence work in the summer. We are particularly pleased that we have relocated some of the trees and actually will be planting more than we have removed. Our tremendously successful ‘Hulme Community Dig’ on site during March attracted hundreds of local people of all ages and began a new relationship with sections of the community which will surely thrive as our and their involvement in Birley grows.
A year on from the publication of the University’s first ever Staff Survey much progress has been made. You will be familiar with some of the steps taken courtesy of updates in ManMetLife notably in the areas of workload, bureaucracy and staff communication, and they include:
Furthermore, we have given staff communications across the board a higher priority and focus. I hope you share our view that initiatives through Josie Elson's team such as ‘Coffee and Conversation’, ‘Leading Transformation’ workshops and the MMU Change Academy are giving you a greater understanding of your role and potential as an MMU employee.
I trust also that ManMetLife is providing a fuller and richer picture of our priorities and successes. This excellent news portal has now added a ‘marketplace’ which lets staff buy and sell items, and I am pleased to tell you that ManMetLife has been short-listed for an award by HEIST for excellence in internal communications.
As part of the EQAL initiative, we are moving rapidly to reconfigure our assessment boards into two tiers. A Tiered Board Implementation Group with membership from academic and administrative staff from across the University has undertaken wide ranging work to develop procedures that will be implemented for the Summer 2012 Assessment Boards.
The plan is to move from a structure that was process driven to one that gives greater attention to the comparison of performance across units and programmes. This allows the identification of overall exceptional performance or poor performance in a unit or programme and informs the Continuous Monitoring and Improvement process;
It should also reduce the number of boards considering very small numbers of students, free up staff time and capacity, and reduce the operating cost to allow investment in other areas of strategic importance to the University; specifically the student experience.
Marketing, Communications & Development
The 2013 undergraduate prospectus is now in circulation, with our flagship document having undergone a significant transformation for the new recruitment cycle.
We are attracting higher quality, more demanding students who are becoming expert at choosing the best university for their considerable personal investment. It is in our collective interest to pass these thorough examinations of our credentials with flying colours.
Accentuating our many assets, the publication showcases our pioneering staff, excellent facilities, links with professional bodies and areas of academic excellence to provide an attractive offering to potential students.
Please look out for your personal copy arriving in the coming weeks, and take the time to familiarise yourself with its contents. It represents our public commitment to future students of what we collectively offer as a University, and is a chance to reflect upon our achievements and offering.
The ‘I Love My Lecturer’ Awards which take place on May 14 have become one of the highlights of the academic year. This is the time when the tables are turned and the students get to ‘mark’ their lecturers! The Students’ Union has been taking nominations from students for Best Lecturer, Best Department and so on as it seeks to recognise and reward some of your excellent work throughout the year. I wish all the nominees luck and hope you will be keenly supported by your colleagues on the night.
Around the Faculties
The Faculty of Science and Engineering is seeking readers and professors to strengthen its world-class research in focused areas that will impact upon the health, sustainability and the economic capacity of region and contribute to the national Research Excellence Framework. Its reputation in health service circles is further enhanced by a £200,000 clinical skills facility to conduct point-of-care testing. Our scientists have also begun major projects into the potential of garlic to protect against heart attack and stroke (Mark Slevin) and earned £1million to research wave energy (Derek Causon).
The Institute of Education as been chosen to lead the way nationally in developing a new partnership of schools and Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) based industry. The agreement is part of a £1 million extension from the DoE to our Science Learning Centre at Didsbury. Amid the uncertainly of TT allocations this year, I was delighted to learn that Institute staff had earned 30 of only a few hundred TDA scholarships to allow local teachers to pursue their studies to Masters level and beyond.
I warmly welcome our colleagues in the Business School to All Saints (they should all be here within the month) and look forward to the new opportunities their proximity presents for co-working. Their relationships outside the University go from strength to strength notably a new partnership with HMRC which sees us deliver training exclusively to the Government’s ‘Tax Academy’ and some excellent results in the Goldman Sachs business growth scheme.
Our historians appear to be enjoying themselves with Terry Wyke winning top prize at the Manchester community History Awards and Faye Simpson excellently marshalling the Hulme archeological dig. Humanities and Social Sciences looks forward to a ‘bigger and better’ Children’s Book Festival in June-July, about which I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot more. The faculty has also begun a very valuable ESRC project to strengthen statistics teaching in social sciences under Julie Scott-Jones.
Congratulations to Paul Tubbs’ nursing team who have been nominated as ‘provider of the Year in the Student Nursing Times awards, and also to the Psychology, Nursing teams for successful reviews by the British Psychological Society and the Nursing and Midwifery Council respectively. The Faculty of Health, Psychology and Social Care also had a successful outcome from the NW Health Authority five year review and its NHS contract has been contract renewed for the next five years, which is excellent news.
At Hollings, staff are busy preparing for the China Exhibition, an impressive showcase of the Faculty’s work to be staged in Guangzhou on 16th June. The exhibition will be greatly enhanced by a photographic competition which offers six students a free trip to China. Well done also to Event Management and Hospitality staff, both academic and technical, who are strengthening links with a series of feeder schools with some exciting hands-on events, notably running the Garden Room restaurant.
At MMU Cheshire the Institute for Performance Research has invested £75,000 in a new body scanner which is being used to support physiology research. The DEXA scanner will help teams under Paul Holmes and Gladys Pearson conduct key studies into body composition of underweight to clinically obese persons and the effects of chronic over loading on physical performance. Also in physiology, our state-of-the-art ‘environment chamber’ is being used by Manchester City, athlete Sarah Storey and the BBC’s The One Show also under the guidance of Christopher Morse and his colleagues. The Faculty also hosts the annual St Luke’s Midnight Walk On June 9 building yet more bridges with the community, and celebrates its first Graduation Ceremony for its Business and Management students in the British Virgin Islands.
The Faculty of Art and Design will shortly be benefiting from some world class facilities (see above) to match the ambition of their high-profile work. Today’s ManMetLife highlights the extremely exciting collaboration between the School of Theatre and composer Carl Davis, and also reported on the success of Infra-Manc at CUBE and the hugely-popular Smiths exhibition ‘The Gospel According To … ‘ at the Holden. Very valuable work indeed from David Shirley, Richard Brook and Stephen Gartside respectively. The superb Manchester Time Machine project which links old film of the city to smartphones is an outstanding example of the creativity and innovation of this University. My congratulations especially go to Steve Hawley, Marion Hewitt and Darren Dancey.
Around the central departments
Services teams have played an invaluable part in our new Business School and Student Hub and will be integral to the remainder of our Estates Strategy in providing IT and learning technology services, library services, security and much more.
Thanks go to Property Services and Facilities Management Teams for the dedication they have shown in getting everyone settled into their new offices, and also to the All Saints IT Services team for their responsiveness and professionalism.
Catering is another key area. Jacqui McPeake has launched a very welcome review of our food and drink provision to ensure staff and students are getting what they want from more than a dozen in-house outlets. Expect to see more loyalty schemes, international cuisine and extended opening hours.
This year’s Green Impact sustainability awards take place on April 27 with a record 68 teams completing 1,627 actions. MMU has more staff involved in the behaviour-change scheme than any university, which is well worth shouting about.
IT Services continue to make improvements to the equipment we rely on daily; a new internet protocol telephony system linking phones to email and enhancing conferencing has been warmly welcomed.
Student and Administrative Services
The roll-out of a new approach to student option selection by SAS has been a very significant undertaking in a short timescale. It has been a fantastic example of Faculty & Campus teamwork, not only within campuses where Management Services and Learning & Teaching staff have worked together, but also across campuses. My thanks to Mark Critchley and Simon Howells who developed the system and Louise Hanna who played a key role. Every aspect of the plan was delivered on time, and to achieve 93% student engagement was exceptional.
Further improvements to student services are being made all the time. We now have a dedicated Employer Liaison team, and extended opening hours for SIPs and the Careers and Employability service.
Our new WP Strategy sets clear targets for outreach, recruitment of under-represented groups and and builds on a raft of successful initiatives which have quietly continued despite the demise of the Aimhigher programme. A new collaboration with the University of Manchester has involved student ambassadors being trained, and working together on events to encourage progression and promote Higher Education.
Our credentials on people management are due to be reassessed for a new Investors in People award. We currently hold ‘The Standard’ but are hoping to improve in 2012 and achieve one of the higher standards. Assessors will visit the University in May when they will seek the views of staff and observe staff development activities.
As Gill Hemus director of HR rightly emphasises, we are not doing it for the plaque on the wall, it’s about being able to demonstrate our total commitment to our staff because excellent services can only be achieved by staff who are motivated, who have a real say in how we operate and who are properly trained.
Well done to Mona Patel, Wendy Kenyon and Jo Tracey for achieving the Two Ticks ‘positive about Disabled people’ accreditation by Jobcentre Plus, and to Kate Rowland and Paul Walsh who have developed a first-rate Leadership module for the Employability Skills online project.
Financial and Legal
Our new director of finance John Cunningham is determined to make our resources work better for us. Growth and success need a solid base of effective cost management, and MMU will need to continue to run a tight ship, which requires all of us to pursue value for money and optimise how we deploy our resources. John correctly observes that changes to university funding are an opportunity to ‘take more control of our own destiny’ to invest in our strengths and demonstrate our distinctive capabilities and qualities.
To help us all understand the new student fee regime for 2012/13 his team, under Fran Collett have produced new descriptions of procedures relating to course transfers, student withdrawals, exchange students and other scenarios. These are available via the Finance website.
Financial and Legal and HR have collaborated to implement the new SAP HR/payroll system. I am pleased to report that, as planned, the first successful payroll has now been processed this month. Work on the second phase of the project will commence later in the year, which will deliver additional benefits for the University such as e-recruitment and electronic expense management.
Meanwhile Sara Shanab’s team continue to very effectively communicate the increasing number of many legal angles to our daily work, most recently offering a talk on data protection which was well-attended.
It has been a busy and exciting academic year for all of us, as we continue to make positive steps across the entire academic and service spectrum. I shall update you all on our collective progress at the end of this term.