September

It has been a challenging year to say the least, and there are challenges yet to come. We have met the adversity with great professionalism, and I remain convinced our medium to long-term outlook is promising.

As you will know, the university has experienced a very significant drop in students and revenue; even further drops are currently forecast for 2021. Therefore, the university is engaged in a Voluntary Separation Package process that is intended to reduce continuing academic positions by over 100 and professional staff positions by over 150 across the university. Unfortunately, two academic positions within the Economics department will likely be lost through this process. A newsletter is of course not the place for details, but I think it appropriate to acknowledge here these difficult circumstances will impact valued colleagues very personally.

You are likely wondering then why I am optimistic about our prospects in a COVID-normal or hopefully a post-COVID future. From a narrow business perspective, our fundamentals were very strong before COVID.

For example, the Department's budgeted direct expenses (mostly salaries) normally consume only about 33 per cent of our revenues. Even this year, I believe that figure is less than 40 per cent. We are still a very financially successful unit individually, as is the Business School, even after one accounts for our fair share of central support charges, and even in this crisis year. While we of course have to wear our share of the current crisis, our business model will weather it.

More importantly, I'm optimistic because of the fantastic people we have. A university, a department, is the people. Having great buildings, labs, offices, campus, and so-on would be for nothing without great people. As I've started preparing for our external review in 2021, I've been struck by what a great story we have to tell about the journey we've been on.

Over the last decade, I believe we have probably had one of the best trajectories in the world, in research excellence, teaching innovation, curriculum design, and staff recruiting. That simply doesn't happen without tremendous dedication by great colleagues each doing their part. So, again the fundamentals are strong where they matter most.

As with everywhere else in the world, we will be severely challenged until the COVID crisis has passed. Still, I remain convinced that we will continue to thrive post-COVID, because of the combination of strong business fundamentals and our great colleagues.

Professor Michael Ward