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Vice-Chancellor news

Vice-Chancellor’s all-staff email – January 2019

1 February 2019

Dear colleague

While Brexit looms large in our thoughts (and I will come to that), I thought you would appreciate it if I begin this January email with an update on where we are with the Transforming Cardiff/Trawsffurffio Caerdydd programme.

The University Executive Board has now submitted a high-level paper on this subject for Council to consider at its meeting in February. The paper will set out the direction of travel for Transforming Cardiff, which as you know is intended to help us achieve the financial sustainability we need for the University in difficult circumstances whilst delivering the ambitions that were set out in The Way Forward, 2018-23. That document was subject to very extensive consultation for a period of two years, and despite the financial circumstances, it is important for us as a University community to secure the improvements in our research, teaching and learning, innovation, civic mission and international activity that we set out there.

The Transforming Cardiff paper is of course subject to Council approval and it would not be appropriate for me to go into detail before it has been considered, but it will show how we intend to reduce our operating deficit this year and move into surplus in 2019-20. As I have said before, while it is never possible to rule out future compulsory redundancies, we do wish to achieve our objective by voluntary means if we can.  As you will be aware, the voluntary severance scheme opened on 3 January and will remain open until the end of May, after which time we will be able to review the position. Along with other members of UEB, I will meet Heads of School and School Managers subsequent to the meeting of Council, while Deborah Collins, our new Chief Operating Officer, will hold an event for the Professional Services Leadership Network. In addition, we will hold three events for all staff on Transforming Cardiff in the week commencing 18 February, two at Cathays and one at the Heath. Details are on the intranet and have also been in Blas. It will be very important to listen to and understand the views and feelings of colleagues and students across the University, and there will be plenty of other opportunities to comment on and improve any proposals that may come forward as they are further developed. In particular I would like to reassure you that workload, and more broadly staff wellbeing, will remain an absolute priority as we go forward and will be an integral part of Transforming Cardiff. Indeed, improving processes and procedures in order to reduce workload is a key part of the transforming services element of Transforming Cardiff, and we have already launched a review of our workload model which you can find out more about here.

I am sure you will also want to know what preparations we are making for a no-deal Brexit, given the state of our political process at the moment. The first thing to say is that we regularly prepare for contingencies that require a whole-University response and so our preparations for a potential no-deal will in many ways draw on existing plans. The first priority must be the welfare of any staff who are citizens of other EU countries. We have already been providing guidance and support with respect to applications for settled status, and we will continue to provide as much support as we can during this difficult period of uncertainty. So far as students are concerned we are working closely with our Erasmus+ partners and relevant agencies to ensure that students on Erasmus exchanges are protected, and we are expecting guidance on any measures that we might need to take in relation to degree-seeking students from other EU countries. Colleagues in Procurement are considering the implications of no-deal on the supply of goods and services and are taking precautions where this appears prudent. So far as travel is concerned, we will not know the level of risk until nearer the time and will make any preparations accordingly. In terms of EU research funding, we are working closely with the Welsh European Funding Office on European Regional Development Fund sources and are ensuring that our entries to the UK government portal that is tracking Horizon 2020 funding are kept up to date. On the latter theme, we are expecting to hear more detail on the Treasury guarantee (announced in 2016) that will underwrite funding for both existing Horizon 2020 projects and the Erasmus+ programme in the event of no deal. The Brexit Contingency Planning Group is considering these matters regularly and maintaining a detailed risk register, but please do let me know if you have any specific concerns or suggestions. Having met a group of academics to discuss some of the issues relating to Brexit earlier this month, I am aware of the level of concern and can assure you that we are doing everything we can to mitigate the risks we face.

Turning to happier news, I was delighted to see that Cardiff University has risen to 11th place in Stonewall’s annual survey of the UK’s top 100 LGBT+ employers. This constitutes a rise of three places compared with last year and means that we retain our position as the UK’s highest ranked University. Many congratulations to all those involved. It was also heartening to see that the Cardiff University Innocence Project recently proved a wrongful conviction dating back to 2008.  Amongst those responsible for helping to overturn the judgement were dozens of students, helped by the pro bono support of two Cardiff University alumni who are practising barristers. Not only is this the second conviction the Cardiff Innocence Project has quashed, but Cardiff remains the only UK university Innocence Project to have done so.

In the New Year Honours congratulations are due to Professor Nicola Phillips, OBE, who was recognised for services to physiotherapy, Professor Barbara Ryan, MBE, who was honoured for services to optometry, and Professor Derek Jones, MBE, recognised for services to medical imaging and the public understanding of science. All are a credit to Cardiff University and I congratulate them warmly on their distinctions. Professor Bernhard Schutz of the School of Physics and Astronomy has been awarded the highly prestigious Eddington Medal for his pioneering work on gravitational waves which helped demonstrate the importance of learning how to detect them in furthering our understanding of the history of the universe. This is an extremely well-deserved distinction and a further testament to the crucial leadership of Professor Schutz in the ground-breaking discoveries in this area. I should like to congratulate Professor Schutz on behalf of the University and thank him for the distinction he brings to us.

Finally, two very warm welcomes. Ms Deborah Collins joins us from Southwark Council as our new Chief Operating Officer, as mentioned above. I’m very much looking forward to working closely with Deborah and wish her all the best in her new role. And I am delighted to welcome Baroness Jenny Randerson as our new Chancellor. Baroness Randerson knows us well, having received an Honorary Fellowship in 2011 and served as Pro Chancellor since 2017. On behalf of the University I would like to offer our congratulations, thanks and warm wishes to Jenny and very much look forward to working with her.

With best wishes

Colin Riordan