A message to staff issued 22 March
It has been a very long year since our way of working changed dramatically – making this surely one of the most challenging periods any of us have faced in our professional lives.
Thanks to all of you for your extensive and consistent efforts that have enabled the University to continue to operate and deliver education, research and support for students. The creativity, resilience and dedication of the whole University community have been heartening to see and made a huge difference to our ability to respond to the global pandemic.
While home working has become the current norm for most of us, it has not been the case for all, and I would like to recognise the contribution of everyone who has continued to work on campus throughout the pandemic in a variety of roles. I would also like to acknowledge colleagues who have been furloughed at various points over the last year, which will have been very challenging at times.
I am proud of how we’ve all pulled together to keep the University moving forward and secure its financial sustainability.
As the vaccine roll-out continues across the country I am increasingly confident that a return to a more normal way of living and working is in sight. This doesn’t mean that everything at work will – and should - return to how it was before the pandemic. We have all adapted to our own circumstances and there are many key changes which have improved our operations or delivery of teaching and research which I am keen that we keep in place.
The University’s homeworking policy is nearing completion; this will afford new levels of flexibility for staff. Many of us will be commuting and travelling to and from work less than before the pandemic, something that will undoubtedly help us towards our Aberdeen 2040 commitments on sustainability.
Last week’s update from the First Minister over further easing of lockdown, with mid-May onwards announced as the time universities can return to a more blended model of learning, also signals the start of a return to more of a conventional balancing of teaching and research for our academic community.
While last month we announced the difficult decision that teaching and assessment for undergraduates will remain online for the rest of the second half session, there will now be opportunities for us to consider which Postgraduate Taught students we can bring back to campus for teaching.
There may also be some opportunities for fieldwork for some undergraduate students where national guidance allows. Discussions are taking place at University level and with Schools and further information will be provided in the coming weeks.
The space to have a greater focus on research in the near future is welcome news. We look forward to driving forward our research ambitions in our disciplines and in our five interdisciplinary challenge areas. The First Minister’s announcements on the easing of lockdown will also allow greater flexibility with fieldwork and studies involving human participants.
One year on from the launch of Aberdeen 2040 we have taken forward a number of actions across the four themes of Inclusive, Interdisciplinary, International and Sustainable and appointed interim Directors of our five interdisciplinary challenge areas. In the coming days we will also complete our submission to the Research Excellence Framework (REF).
We are also contributing to the regional economic, social and cultural recovery of Aberdeen and the north-east in a range of ways. These include furthering understanding of covid and its impacts, offering free online courses to those who have lost jobs in the pandemic, and attracting online audiences from as far afield as Japan, Nigeria and America to our highly successful week-long celebration of International Women’s Day.
Our foundational purpose of acting in the service of others means that we must use our full range of educational and research expertise to support regional recovery from the effects of the pandemic.
At this point we should reflect not only on the limits that have been imposed on our lives and work in the last year, but also on the positive lessons about ourselves and each other and how much we have achieved in extremely difficult circumstances. A heartfelt thanks again for everything you’ve done for the University.
Professor George Boyne
Principal & Vice-Chancellor