Principal's blog - Campus openings and a visit to Knowledge Park Dubai



It has been an incredibly busy time for everyone. The diet of resit examinations has been magnificently handled across the University. We are now getting ready for Semester 1. As we see some cautious opening of a number of normal activities in our city and town locations we can now respond and start the process of enabling our students to get back to education on campus. It has been a very difficult time for many of our returners, many of whom are aching to resume their education and friendships. It is also important for us, first ensuring we can be safe, beginning to reconnect differently with colleagues and our students, and then also in providing income to pay for the running of the University. Across all our campuses, the list of government health and safety rules to comply with have been welcomed but exhausting. And as with every year, a vast amount of work goes into preparing our students for their start/return, providing them with enrolment, induction and course information, amongst the many other, more practical and social, elements of University life. This year is even more complicated as we explain changes to travel, accommodation, RBL, safety and advice on how we can all support each other through a strong sense of community behaviour. But we are now starting to get a real sense of excitement and anticipation from students as we enter this new way of teaching and learning. 

In Dubai, our colleagues have also been moving to an ‘interim campus’ ahead of the move to our permanent home early next year. The interim campus is co-located with the new campus in Knowledge Park. This interim move was in response to a change in the government guidelines which required us to have teaching space available from the start of the semester. At the same time, we have been building our own Professional Services team, following the end of our contract with previous educational service provider partners. The new arrangements not only deliver a significant cost reduction but also enable us to provide an exceptional service for our students as an embedded part of the Heriot-Watt organisation. With all this going on, I spoke to Claire Roper-Browning, Head of Marketing and Student Recruitment, and Samantha Kane, Head of Registry and Student Services in Dubai about how the new teams are settling in and the how they are coping through such a period of change. Move-in Day to the interim campus is Sunday 30 August and we wish everyone the best of luck.

In Malaysia, the campus has been open for a few weeks for the new Foundation Year and will be welcoming even more students back on campus in October. It has been encouraging to see the response from colleagues and students and the effective campus safety systems in operation ahead of similar moves in our other campuses.

Thank you to everyone who joined the Executive Briefing yesterday, and for your ongoing engagement with our Change programme. I appreciate this is an unsettling time for colleagues, and I very much welcome your questions and comments. There were naturally a number of questions of considerable detail. Much of this is bespoke to specific parts of the University and therefore further details will be presented locally to schools and services at different locations within the next four days.

We are having to make some very difficult decisions in response to our financial challenge. But making the necessary changes to the way we work, and identifying the required cost savings, will be key to ensuring we become the efficient and effective university we need to be, fit for the future and financially sustainable. Now more than ever, it is vital that we are guided by Strategy 2025, which continues to be our roadmap for the future.

As we move forward, and in particular when we open the Voluntary Redundancy Programme, there will be a lot of information to share with you. We will keep you updated via email when appropriate, and through our weekly staff newsletter and the Financial Challenge SharePoint site. A recording of yesterday’s session will be available next week on the SharePoint site for those who were not able to make it, which will include sign-language interpretation. Meantime the presentation slides used will be mounted later today.


Richard A. Williams

Principal and Vice Chancellor