It has been the most extraordinary three weeks and I’m sure that many of you will be feeling exhausted not only by the pace and intensity of work, especially in confinement, but also by the worry, disruption and emotional strain that the Covid-19 crisis has caused.
At its recent meeting Council was deeply impressed by the scale and speed of what has been achieved and profoundly grateful for the huge effort that everybody has made in coming together to shift to remote working and remote teaching and learning. Our Chancellor, Baroness Jenny Randerson, and our Pro-Chancellors Heather Stephens, Gareth Powell and Gabe Treharne have been full of praise for all of our staff and students.
As I write we approach the Easter bank holiday when most colleagues will be able to enjoy a well-deserved rest, all the while aware of the huge contribution being made by those who work in the NHS and allied professions, and all those who continue to maintain essential services for Cardiff University. My thanks, too, to everyone.
Despite the bewildering speed of change over the last few weeks it is important for me to keep the wider strategic implications of coronavirus in sight. After Easter we will therefore need to embark on a consideration of what the effects for our longer-term strategy are likely to be and how we will need to adjust to take account of an uncertain but very different world. There will be significant effects on the global economy and for our own country. We will need to review The Way Forward 2018-23 and consider how Transforming Cardiff – the means to deliver the Way Forward strategy – will have to adapt to the new circumstances.
I should say that I have not lost sight of the Staff Survey in which senior management were criticised for insufficiently listening and responding to staff views, and being insufficiently transparent in communications. This is a message I and my colleagues have taken to heart. I have tried to communicate regularly during the current crisis and will continue to do so as we move into the next stage. We will need to find ways of consulting and communicating effectively in the constrained circumstances in which we find ourselves and which may be a feature of our lives for some time yet. We will need to work closely with campus unions and build in ways of taking staff views into account as we deal with the formidable challenges that the future doubtless holds, and this is a theme I will return to after Easter.
For now, it is good to know that we at Cardiff University are doing our bit. You may be aware that we have a research team led by Dr Alan Parker working on coronavirus vaccine development, whilst others in the School of Pharmacy and the School of Medicine pursue research that will help slow the spread of the virus both by developing innovative methods of rapidly disinfecting contaminated environments such as ambulances, allowing them to be re-used more quickly, and by finding ways to make it more difficult for the virus to spread from person to person. They are part of an unparalleled global effort to develop ways of counteracting the virus so that we have more weapons in our armoury than the economically and psychologically unpalatable methods that our governments at the moment have no option but to deploy.
You will know that the Welsh government has extended the lockdown and that we all must observe the rules, however difficult and frustrating it may be. The importance of this cannot be overstated, as the shocking news earlier this week that the Prime Minister had been transferred to intensive care brought home to the country. This very clearly demonstrated that we are dealing with a new phenomenon that we understand imperfectly and against which our defences are unreliable. It was heartening to see the supportive words offered by the new Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, and the evident desire of so many people to put their differences aside and wish the Prime Minister, and all those in his predicament, a speedy and full recovery.
Many of you will have planned holidays over Easter which now clearly cannot take place. I am sure that some will have thought better of taking annual leave when there is less of a clear reason to do so. I would like to encourage you to use your leave entitlement if you can, because it’s important to get a chance to recharge the batteries. However, in the circumstances it’s understandable if it proves difficult to do so, and therefore we have decided that this year, it will be permissible to carry over 10 days from this year’s leave entitlement instead of the usual five. I hope this will make it easier for you to plan.
Finally, it is my sad duty to report the deaths of three of our colleagues in the last week as a result of the epidemic. Out of respect for their families I cannot give further details at this stage, but on behalf of the whole University I want to express our deep condolences and sorrow at this very sad turn of events. With permission, we will be setting up obituary pages on our website in due course so that people can pay their respects, and we are offering support wherever we can. As we take the opportunity to reflect and unwind this Easter weekend, our thoughts are with their families and loved ones.
With best wishes,