Message from the Principal 6th April 2020
Whilst we have been focused on the immediacy of our day-to-day RVC business, as I flagged last week, there is a now a deliberate shift to ensure the decisions we made and the actions we took remain valid and can be implemented in a fashion that supports the longer term.
What does this longer-term picture look like? Well, you won’t be surprised when I say that we simply do not know for sure and to some extent we, like everyone else, are involved in a guessing game where the rules keep changing and we are required to think in a way that is a combination of chess and poker. We need to take calculated risks, but we need to do so in a strategic fashion in a complex environment.
The rules to which I refer come from several sources – the rules Government sets; the rules society expects or can tolerate, and the rules that only the virus knows…and it is this last one that brings so much uncertainty as we do not understand exactly how the virus will continue to behave in our communities. There is one thing for sure; these times will pass, things will get better and, as I have said consistently, our job is to ensure that when the conditions allow, we, the RVC, have an organisation that has weathered the storm, is open for business and is in fit shape and financially sustainable.
As will be evident from the news, many businesses are finding things really hard, if not impossible, and many more will do so in the near future. We are in the fortunate position of having several different sources of income and a variety of ways of delivering to our students, clients and other stakeholders; we also plan prudently. All that said, we will be looking at number of measures to ensure we maintain adequate cashflow and take mitigating actions to protect the business and ensure sustainability. And all this as we make the necessary investment in some areas to maintain the income sources that are less affected and upon which we increasingly depend at the current time.
Amongst measures we have already taken, I include the curtailing of spend on capital works, the reduction in the use of external consultants commensurate with need, a near total freeze on staff recruitment, the consideration of how we plan holiday approvals in the event of an extended lockdown period and, most recently, if and how we might take advantage of the Government’s Job Retention Scheme (JRS).
Most employers and, within that, all universities, are considering these and other measures and I will be writing more on this in the days and weeks ahead. My overarching objective is to maintain the RVC as a solvent, functioning organisation that looks after the interests of all its staff, students and clients as best we can and see us through this dreadful situation. More anon.
One thing we cannot forget is that we continue to function in a very highly regulated environment and I want to provide reassurance that we speak with most of our regulators weekly, if not more frequently. From the Office for Students to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the American Veterinary Medical Association, in membership organisations such as the Universities UK, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and importantly the UK Veterinary Schools Council - we are working with them all to ensure, that collectively, the changes and adaptations we are making meet the requirements and expectations of the sector. It is not easy but in nearly 20 years of leadership in Higher Education and the professions, I have never seen a more collegial and collaborative effort, I have never experienced more goodwill and generosity, and never such a collective desire to share the burdens and commit to a common good. It is hugely reassuring to me and I hope, in turn it provides you with some comfort in the knowledge that this is very much a sector-wide team game.
Finally, just a word about deadlines and update for students; we will be bringing these out with my next message but some of you may receive targeted emails, as I know BvetMed3 did today, as more detailed information becomes available.
Stay safe and well,
If you would like to read earlier messages see Previous messages from the Principal.