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Post-Covid-19 Response Programme - FAQs

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Overview

News and updates

Consultation minutes and other documents

Frequently asked questions

 


Overview

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has created upheavals in every aspect of the way we live and work. For the higher education sector, the financial impact of the pandemic far exceeds that of existing challenges, like income shortfalls due to inflationary pressures, a demographic dip, and static Home Undergraduate fees. There is a cost in directly responding to the pandemic, but the most serious challenge arises from the potential loss of income as a consequence of uncertain international and home student markets. The lockdown restrictions also mean that alternate sources of income, like revenue from student accommodation and conference and hospitality facilities on our campuses, has been lost.

This is a major challenge to the higher education sector, affecting almost all aspects of work undertaken by universities and one that very few, if any, institutions expect to emerge from without making change. It demands the re-imagining of the University of Reading for a new age - more responsive to emerging opportunities, more attractive to potential employees and students and recognised and valued locally, nationally, and internationally for the contribution we make.

The Post-COVID-19 Response Programme is looking to:

  • urgently address the financial challenges we face
  • rethink how we can make the most of our people, our spaces, our digital infrastructure, and our partnerships
  • create a strong and sustainable future for our University.

News and updates

To make it easier for you to stay up to date, we are putting together all the communication shared with colleagues through links below:


Consultation minutes and other documents

Post-COVID-19 Response Programme Consultation Paper

Post-COVID-19 Restructuring Process

Post-COVID-19 Restructuring Procedure

Section 188 Consultation Letter

Consultation Explainer: Section 188

Consultation Explainer: Modelling

Consultation Explainer: Trusts

Consultation Explainer: UoRM

Consultation Explainer: UPP

Minutes from meetings of the Consultation Group

Minutes of meeting 23 July 2020

Minutes of meeting 21 July 2020

Minutes of meeting 17 July 2020

Minutes of meeting 16 July 2020

Minutes of meeting 15 July 2020

Minutes of meeting 10 July 2020

Minutes of meeting 8 July 2020

Minutes of meeting 7 July 2020

Minutes of meeting 3 July 2020

Minutes of meeting 30 June 2020

Minutes of meeting 26 June 2020

Minutes of meeting 24 June 2020

Minutes of meeting 23 June 2020

Minutes of meeting 18 June 2020


Frequently asked questions

Can you provide more details about the Post-COVID-19 Response Programme?

The Post-COVID-19 Response Programme is in three interconnected but distinct phases, each led by a University Executive Board member:

Project

Led by

Focus

Phase 1

Samantha Foley, Chief Financial Officer

Focused on managing our costs over the next 18 months - with its recommendations due to be considered by Council in mid-June. The work includes modelling the income and shortfall and options to manage this and will also include consultation concerning and agreement of any revised terms - to be led Vice-Chancellor Robert Van de Noort via the Consultation Group.

Phase 2

Mark Fellowes, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Planning & Resource)

Working in partnership with members of the Leadership Group, colleagues with specialist knowledge and representatives from RUSU, exploring four broad areas:

  • How can we make our Schools financially robust?
  • What is the optimal way to deliver our professional services?
  • How should we be teaching?
  • How do we support excellence and sustainability of our research?

The team considering these questions will develop scenarios, with financial modelling, to present to UEB in September 2020.

Phase 3

TBC

TBC, this will follow on from the work of Phase-1 and Phase-2 in implementing a range of university-wide change initiatives. The pace of this change will be swift, particularly in the early stages, but our community (and our wider stakeholders) will be kept fully informed and, where possible, alongside the formal process of collective consultation, we will seek to find opportunities for colleagues and students to feed into this work.

When can I expect to hear more about the programme?

There will be regular updates over the coming months, with further briefings and opportunities to ask questions. Any important updates will be shared with you through email or Staff Portal.

Is the Post-COVID-19 Response Programme mainly about cost savings?

No, it is not, although it is vital to address the immediate projected shortfall in our income. While the scale of financial challenges our institution faces is unprecedented - and we need to balance our books to be the sustainable University colleagues want us to be - the programme is committed to delivering changes that are sustainable in the long term and consistent with all the principles in our University Strategic Plan. This aim is to make our University more responsive to emerging opportunities, more attractive to potential employees and students and recognised and valued locally, nationally and internationally for the contribution we make.

Who is involved in Phase 2?

This is being led by Mark Fellowes, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Planning & Resource) and includes members of the Leadership Group, colleagues with specialist knowledge and representatives from RUSU.

The table below provides more detailed information

 

Schools

Professional Services

Teaching

Research

Workstream Lead

Mark Fellowes

Richard Messer

Elizabeth McCrum

Dominik Zaum

Project Manager

Lisa Davies

Jo Mortimer

Helen Williams

Becky Nadal

Leadership Group

Gail Marshall

Carmel Houston-Price

Ben Cosh

Phil Newton

 

Chris Harty

Karen Henderson

Louise Hague

Adrian Bell

 

James Devenney

 Matt White

Orla Kennedy

Dianne Berry

 

James Ackroyd

 

 

Anne-Marie van Dodeweerd

 

 

 

 

Carol Wagstaff

Others

Carol Padgett

Guiseppe Di Fatta

Dan Grant

 

Hella Eckardt

 

Kirsty Grant

Charlotte Coleman

Peter Miskell

Wanda Tejada

 

 

Kam Johal

Vicki Holmes

 

RUSU

TBC

TBC

VP Education TBC

 

 

Will there be opportunities to feed into the programme?

Openness and transparency are critical to the programme and colleagues across the University will be kept regularly informed. The work within each phase will be fast-moving by necessity, but colleagues will have the opportunity to contribute to the thinking on the projects wherever practical, and alongside the formal consultations with the UCU and Staff Forum.

The mechanisms for colleague and student engagement and feedback are still under development to ensure a consistent, coordinated and meaningful approach.

Can you tell me why we need to make more cost savings? It was only last year we had voluntary redundancies.

As the Vice-Chancellor said in his briefings, the scale of the financial challenge arising from the COVID-19 pandemic is without doubt the greatest such challenge in our history. Every other university in the UK is facing the same situation. The scale of the financial issues caused by COVID-19 far exceed existing financial challenges.

The government has introduced a new student number control, which limits all universities, including us, to recruiting to forecast numbers plus 5% but it is now clear that the government will not support the higher education sector with increased research funding. The Government has also made it clear that if we do not teach an autumn term, we cannot claim full tuition fees for that period.

We have also lost income as much of our student accommodation is not being used and our conference facilities, shops, restaurants, and bars are shut due to current restrictions. Over the next three years, we face an estimated shortfall of £106 million - from a combination of less commercial income, UK students delaying university study, fewer international students coming to study in the UK, and higher costs as we adapt to social distancing.

Can we not make savings without losing more jobs?

Over the past few months, colleagues across our University have been supporting major efforts to save money. This includes controlling what Schools and Functions spend, including on hiring new staff, pausing some major projects and making use of the government furloughing scheme. These have certainly helped but will not be sufficient on their own to help us cover the shortfall of £106 million. The Chief Financial Officer has identified reserves and other sources in the region of £46m that could be allocated to help address the immediate shortfall. However, as a people-focused organisation more than half of our budget is spent on staff salaries and related costs. We just cannot make the necessary savings without an impact on colleagues.

Why can't we sell more of our assets to make up for this shortfall?

Our University is in a better financial place than some other institutions and it would be tempting to use more of our savings and assets to cover the shortfall. However, selling assets in an uncertain market is never a good option and it will leave us vulnerable to further shocks - such as a second wave of coronavirus lockdown, or other unexpected events. So, we need to be careful in maintaining some reserves to ensure our long-term sustainability.

Why can't we make these savings from Malaysia?

It is important to bear in mind that colleagues in Malaysia are our colleagues, and an integral part of our University community. Last summer, we undertook a major restructuring of University of Reading Malaysia (UoRM). This resulted in a reduction of our operations by half - we now occupy half the space in EduCity and have half the number of colleagues working for us. This was a tough transition for everyone involved but helped put our Malaysia operations on a path to financial sustainability. As we move forward, UoRM will help us in our efforts to recruit more students - and offer students who do not want to travel to the UK an option closer to home.

What is the proposed approach to covering this shortfall?

While decisions rest with our governing Council, our recommended approach is that we seek to cover £46 million of this shortfall from our reserves and future assets sales and make the remaining £60 million savings from our operating budget.

As a people-focused organisation, more than half of our budget is spent on staff salaries and related costs. We just cannot make this scale of saving without an impact on colleagues. Our Council will meet soon to consider this plan and if it agrees, we will begin formal consultation with the UCU and the Staff Forum, seeking to find agreed routes to keep job losses to the absolute minimum.

How long will this process take?

We are still at an early stage and there is lots of detail to work through, which will take several months, working closely with UCU and Staff Forum.

It is only after this process that we will identify any roles that may be affected by redundancies and, if necessary, we would look to conclude selection for any necessary redundancies before the end of January 2021.

The Vice-Chancellor mentioned pay freezes, pay cuts and a shorter working week. Can you tell us more?

These are all options at the moment and they and other options will be subject to consultation with the UCU (which represents all colleagues in grades 6 to 9) and the Staff Forum (which represents grades 1 to 5). It is therefore not possible to provide more details at this stage, but the main objective is to make up the shortfall in our operating budget, while keeping job losses to an absolute minimum.

Will these pay cuts be scaled so that those earning less aren't disadvantaged?

A pay cut is just an option at the moment. Any decision will be made in consultation with the UCU (which represents all colleagues in grades 6 to 9) and the Staff Forum (which represents grades 1 to 5). We encourage you to share your ideas and suggestions with the UCU and Staff Forum.

Why are we not considering another round of voluntary redundancy?

A further voluntary redundancy scheme is unlikely to generate significant savings given the financial constraints we face. We need to focus on a range of viable options that will help us make up the shortfall in our operating budget, while keeping job losses to an absolute minimum

Are you vulnerable to redundancy if you are on probation or have been furloughed?

No. As the Vice-Chancellor said in his briefing, colleagues will not be selected based on the length of time you have worked at the University or if you are on furlough.

How will you manage any equality impact of these changes?

The consultation with UCU and Staff Forum will take stock of any differential impact of the decisions taken. The University's Dean for Diversity & Inclusion, Allan Laville, is involved in the Phase-2 work and will help inform our decisions.

Is the University putting together a support/wellbeing package to help colleagues through this process?

There is information available on the Wellbeing Web pages to support colleagues, including resources on Financial Wellbeing and information from the Employee Assistance Programme to support colleagues through change.  A further package of support will be considered as the different phases of the work progress.

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