Adaptation & Renewal: Re-shaping

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A Note from Vice-Principal Strategic Change and Governance; and University Secretary Sarah Smith.

The re-shaping work is focussed on ensuring that we work together to reshape our University and create a sustainable future, maintaining our world-class offer to students, our research excellence and our inspirational working environment. We recognise that, given the significant challenges ahead, it is essential we act swiftly and strategically so that we can emerge as a strong, renewed organisation best able to deliver on our mission.

We are already feeling the immediate financial impact of Covid-19 and expect this to continue over the next few years, resulting in a significant drop in our income. We face significant risks arising from things like prolonged travel restrictions – impacting our international students, as well as the broader social and economic changes as a result of the coronavirus. The key factor here is the prolonged uncertainty.

The pandemic has also further exposed the unsustainability of our current way of operating and our lack of financial resilience:

  • We are over-reliant on continuous growth in income from international student tuition payments to cover our costs each year.
  • UK research is not adequately funded – and so we have to cross-subsidise from international student income to enable us to continue to provide the quality, breadth and depth of the research for which we are known across the globe.
  • We also don’t cover our costs on other core aspects of our business: such as teaching Scottish and UK students.
  • We have also yet to experience and manage the impact of other major issues, not least Brexit.

That means we need to identify areas where future savings can be made, short and long term, which will be crucial in helping us build our future and deliver on our mission.

It is a much more uncertain and challenging world in which to do this. It is vital we act now, facing our challenges head on and focusing our efforts on re-shaping our world-leading organisation to operate in a more cost-effective and sustainable way.

It is still early days but there is a range of work underway. Some of that work looks at ways to reduce our costs and recover in the short term, for example the proposals outlined in Peter’s latest note to staff. Other work will look more medium term, focussing on the university we want to be in the future, and how we would set ourselves up to deliver on our mission and strategy within the resources available.

Overall, the future will be about adaptation and agility – from how we teach and learn to how we conduct research and run our organisation. Our campus, and the way we do our jobs, will reflect those changes. We’ve already demonstrated incredible agility, adjusting at pace to teaching and working from home, finding new, and in some ways, better ways to do things and it’s important we maintain this while seeking out further opportunities.

It’s a complicated piece of work and that means that the various areas of focus and plans across re-shaping will move at a differing pace but we’ll ensure colleagues are updated and involved as plans progress.