Chair of Lancaster BID, Nick Wilkinson, and Lancaster BID Manager, Tony Johnson, organised a Zoom call with Dame Sue Black recently as we felt it was very important to the city of Lancaster and the business community to get a feel of how Lancaster University was coping with the pressures of COVID 19 and the short and long term plans they are putting in place to get through this as best they can. As ever it was a great call with Sue and it was followed up with a really nice letter from the new Vice Chancellor Andrew Schofield detailing a lot of what Sue talked about (please read below). Sue also agreed to ensure the communications between Lancaster University and Lancaster BID improved in the short and long term.
Letter from Lancaster University Vice Chancellor:
I am writing with three purposes in mind, firstly to introduce myself as the new Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University, and secondly to let you know how the University is responding to the pandemic. The fortunes of the University and the city are very closely linked and as such the University will thrive if the city does too. My third, and perhaps most important, reason for writing is to stress that I see that relationship as a partnership and I would like to know if there is more we can do to work together.
This is my second full week as Vice-Chancellor, having come here from the University of Birmingham. I know things are extremely difficult for many businesses at the moment, as you move to protect employees, customers and livelihoods. We face similar challenges. It might be helpful, therefore, to set out for you how Lancaster University is faring and to outline some of our thinking for the future.
In the immediate term we have been successful in moving our teaching online and most of our students have returned home, although a significant number remain living on campus and in the city. The vast majority of our staff are either furloughed or working from home. We have had to tackle an immediate financial challenge in refunding a high proportion of summer term accommodation fees to those students who are no longer in their rooms: this is the norm for the sector. To fill the financial hole this created it has been necessary to reduce non-essential spending. I am sorry that means we are spending less with local businesses than would normally be the case.
Looking forward to the next academic year, which begins in September, the key question is whether students will be allowed to travel, particularly internationally. Although we have demonstrated that we can teach online, it certainly isn’t our intention to make this a permanent fixture: the sooner we can welcome students back to the campus the better. We don’t yet know what the situation will be in September and therefore we are prepared to teach online, on campus or via a combination of the two. If students are allowed to travel to Lancaster, social distancing may remain in place reducing the capacity of classrooms, labs and lecture theatres.
However, we fully expect the autumn term to start at the normal time and the good news is we have had a record year for applications.
Despite the uncertainty I am confident the University will continue to prosper once this pandemic is finally over. A vibrant and thriving city of Lancaster is critical for the University’s future and our doors are open for further discussion around collaboration. You can be assured that I will give the highest priority to our partnerships with businesses going forward.
Professor Andy J. Schofield
Lancaster University Vice-Chancellor