Like many people, I seem to be spending the majority of my time in Microsoft Teams meetings, and aren’t they working well! I have got to see much evidence of the artistic talent in people’s homes and to meet all sort of pets. This brings to life a whole different sense of community and belonging within our University (ok maybe not a HWU dog show in 2021 but who knows!).
Many staff have been busy preparing and delivering on-line support from all our locations. The spirit and sense of purpose has been fantastic. In every possible corner of the University and every discipline and service, people have been going the extra mile. Thank you.
I was talking to the Student Council President in Dubai this morning and was pleased to hear about the attendance and motivation across the student cohorts there and a new sense of camaraderie developing, through the use of quizzes and exercises to connect the community.
I’ll be talking about some of the extraordinary stories in a future short video. There are already many examples and I’d love to hear more so send me your stories, and those you’ve heard of, so we can acknowledge and celebrate each others’ work.
There have also been difficult moments. I found it quite emotional to be locking up my office and leaving the campus in Edinburgh and I know many of you will have shared this feeling and experience. Meanwhile, 1000 students still remain on our Edinburgh campus the I recognise this is a tough experience for them to get through. Our thanks and gratitude go to our Residence Life, SafeGuarding, Cleaning and Estates teams who have been incredible in offering practical support and dealing with complex situations to ensure our remaining student population have access to essential services and are as comfortable as possible.
It is so gratifying to see our students, staff and alumni responding together in different ways to meet this challenge. We are using #OneWatt as a way of capturing and expressing this collective response across our global community I’d be delighted if you could join in using this hashtag in your own response. There are many accounts of students within our community experiencing very difficult financial and family circumstances, particularly in Malaysia and Dubai. To help them through this time we are today launching a Student Emergency Support Fund fundraising appeal and #OneWatt campaign, in conjunction with our Student Council and Student Union representatives. We have already had a very positive reaction to this idea from our alumni. If you are able, please consider joining in contributing to this fund for our students in financial terms or in offering other support and connections as you are able to.
The rest of my week to date has been continuing the regular cycle of meetings as we adapt the way we work and ensure we can continue to progress our existing students and attract and engage with prospective student enquiries. An important aspect, as you might expect, is developing connections with government around future financial support that we shall need. This week we made the decision to allow students to terminate their Hall of Residence contracts – this was a big financial decision to take and I am convinced it was the right thing to do.
People have been asking me – so what is our strategy amidst such uncertainty? My answer is that the ethos and values of our University should hold fast, even more tightly than ever. As we go forward through this disruption, the reputation and achievements and focus of the last 200 years will be our strong foundation for the future. Heriot-Watt staff and students will be pivotal to the future recovery of the nations where we operate and it is vital to find ways of rebuilding our national economies. I’ll write more on this at other times, but make no mistake as #OneWatt we are ready to be a critical part of the future.
with best wishes
Richard A. Williams
Principal and Vice-Chancellor