Social Responsibility


A message from our Vice President for Social Responsibility

Tue, 26 Sep 2017 10:28:00 BST

I would like to welcome all colleagues back from the summer to the new academic year.

For the last three years I’ve been the Associate Vice President for Social Responsibility, but from 1 September I took on the new role of Vice President for Social Responsibility. A slight shift in title indicating that I now sit on the University’s Senior Leadership Team alongside the other Vice Presidents – meaning that ‘Goal 3’ is now formally represented at the ‘top table’.

My role has also been expanded so that I have oversight for the University’s Cultural Institutions – the Museum, the Whitworth and the Science Discovery Centre at Jodrell Bank. These institutions already provide a fantastic gateway between the University and the wider community, welcoming in the last year over 1.2 million visitors onto our campus. Their commitment to engagement, to working for students, researchers and the wider community, fits perfectly with the wider mission of social responsibility.

The summer months have witnessed a lot of public comment on a range of issues facing universities, from student debt, Vice Chancellors pay, and the three-month holidays that we apparently all enjoy. While we might chose to ignore some of this, it also should encourage us to articulate in a more forthright way how universities do make contributions to the wider communities, and to society more broadly.

In these debates, it is clear that social responsibility can be an important part of how we argue for the value of universities and the work of all the people connected to them. Social responsibility is an assertive response to these debates, explaining – and demonstrating – how we make huge contributions to our communities through research, through our students and alumni, and the many processes that make us a vital part of our city/region.

This year we will continue to encourage our students to make a contribution to society through Stellify and the opportunities of the Sustainability Challenge, which in Welcome Week saw over 5,000 students work together to plan a fictitious campus in east ‘Millchester’.

We will continue to develop our community engagement programmes through the Inspiring Communities plan that encourages colleagues to explore how we can be inspired by our locality and collaborate to improve lives in Greater Manchester. We are planning new developments in the Equity and Merit scholarship programme for outstanding Masters students from Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. And we will continue to push for more progress on equality, diversity and inclusion – both as we work to resubmit our application for the Race Charter Mark, but also so that we keep focusing on the actions that are needed to demonstrate that the strength of this institution comes from its diversity and inclusivity.

Finally, over the last year we developed a suite of documents on environmental sustainability – from a University-wide strategy, to the Living campus plan and the Sustainable Resources plan. These will help focus effort from across the campus – from making the place we work more livable, to encouraging student volunteering, to working with expert staff on making our own processes more sustainable.

While we have good plans for social responsibility, with signature programmes exemplifying how we seek to make a difference, to the embedded transformational work of researchers and curricula and extra-curricula efforts for our students, ultimately social responsibility is made real by the multiple projects, programmes and daily efforts of staff and students in all different areas of the institution. We are always keen to hear stories and ideas about social responsibility – how can we build on what we do already, how we can do things better and how we can continue innovate in this area – and ultimately how we continue to demonstrate the value of universities to wider society.

James Thompson

Vice President for Social Responsibility

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