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Message from the Acting Vice-Chancellor: update on five-year planning

Colour photograph portrait of Acting Vice-Chancellor Robert van de Noort

The Acting Vice Chancellor, Robert Van de Noort, has updated colleagues about how the five-year planning process will affect the direction that the University takes as well as managing financial pressures. The following is a text of an email sent to all staff:

Dear colleagues,

I wrote in early October to outline some of the challenges and opportunities that the University is facing, a theme that I was able to discuss with many of you in the four all-staff briefing sessions I held in November. I am writing now to update you on progress since then and outline the next steps.

Feedback from the all-staff briefings has been, overwhelmingly, that colleagues want to retain our commitment to quality in research, teaching and student recruitment. It was broadly recognised that a ‘race to the bottom’ is not something we should contemplate, even though the financial implications will be far-reaching. Colleagues work incredibly hard in all areas of the University to provide a great experience for our students, and continuing to build on that is critical to our future. There was, however, broad acceptance that we need to manage carefully the current challenges facing us, and the higher education sector more widely, if we are to have a sustainable future.

We also need to refresh our vision for the University as a whole, so that the forthcoming reshaping of the University delivers the right objectives. We have to consider how we can address present challenges while remaining an attractive choice for top-quality students. This requires a careful balance of financial return in the short and medium term with continued investment in people, systems and infrastructure that allow us to grow and flourish. In January and February, I will be meeting with all Schools and Functions to talk about our emerging vision in more detail. You can expect information about these sessions soon and I would really encourage you to come along and share your views.

In the meantime, the five-year planning round is already well advanced. Schools and Functions have now submitted their plans for the 2019/20 financial year and beyond, a process in which some of you will have been involved. Using this as our primary means to address financial pressures means that savings plans reflect local need and opportunities, while also providing relative consistency across the institution. The University’s Planning Group will review these plans and meet with Heads of School and Function in early 2019 as required, with plans signed off at the end of February 2019.

As I have previously mentioned, voluntary redundancy is one option being offered to help Schools and Functions to achieve financial balance. Professor Mark Fellowes, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Academic Resources and Planning, chairs the group that is developing the scheme, and discussions on the scope and terms of the scheme are underway with both the University and College Union and the Staff Forum. You can expect to hear from Mark directly this week with details of the scheme, which will open in January.

I want to emphasise that voluntary redundancies are only one tool available to us. If we are to thrive, we need to think creatively about our options. Heads of Schools and Functions have been asked to do this through the planning process. For individual colleagues, however, other options include phased or early retirement, reduced hours or other revised working arrangements that allow you to balance your work with other commitments. Your own circumstances may make these options attractive, and if this is the case, I would encourage you to start a discussion with your manager and consider how more flexible arrangements might work for you. I fully understand that this will not be suitable or desirable for everyone, but my hope is that we can make our savings in ways that both help colleagues meet their professional and personal goals, while also maintaining student experience and delivering effective long-term financial sustainability, and avoiding compulsory redundancies.

There is no doubt that the year ahead will be difficult at times, but I am confident that as a University community we can address these difficulties and remain a leader in teaching and research in the UK and globally. I want to close by thanking you all of you for your ongoing hard work and commitment towards achieving this goal.

With kind regards and wishing you all a restful and well-earned break.


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