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Key changes to Charter – University of Reading

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Key changes to Charter

The draft Charter clearly sets out the objects of the University, its powers and its constitutional bodies, which are Council and Senate. It contains the key provisions that set out what the University is and which we do not think will be susceptible to amendment as a result of changing laws or practices. As a Chartered institution, the University must retain its Charter of Incorporation.

We have removed the Statutes, as it is our view that they add an unnecessary additional level of complexity to our instruments of governance. Key provisions currently set out in the Statutes, such as academic freedom, will be moved to the Charter. Remaining matters will be set out in revised Ordinances, regulations, policies and procedures as appropriate.

The Ordinances have been re-written to take into account provisions previously set out in Statute and clearly set out the relevant supporting policies in clear and straightforward language. To make it easier to find relevant information, they are arranged into three sections, containing provisions relating to:

  • Constitution and governance of the University
  • staff
  • students.

Key changes are summarised below.

Academic freedom

The new drafts place an increased emphasis on academic freedom. Our purpose as a university is research and teaching, and academic freedom is fundamental. We are therefore proposing that we include a specific provision on the principle of academic freedom within the Charter. In addition, we are proposing that key HR policies contain the University's commitment to act in accordance with the principle of academic freedom.

Removal of Statutes

Statutes have been removed entirely, leaving us with a Charter and Ordinances. We have taken the view that they add an unnecessary and unhelpful level of complexity. Key provisions from the Statutes - including academic freedom - have been elevated to the Charter itself. Other matters have been moved to the Ordinances or, for detailed matters, will be set out in revised regulations, policies and procedures.

HR-related matters

As it is proposed that Statues be removed, Statue XXXIII, which contains disciplinary, ill health, performance management, grievance and redundancy procedures for academic staff, will go. The requirement to have suitable, fair and reasonable policies governing these matters has been moved to Ordinance B5, with the substance set out in policies.

Key differences are:

1) One set of policies apply to all staff

Statue XXXIII applies to academic staff only. We need to have suitable, fair and reasonable policies for all staff and are therefore consulting with UCU and the Staff Forum on one set of policies that will be applicable to everyone.

2) Simplified, faster and less adversarial disciplinary and grievance hearings

Statute XXXIII disciplinary and grievance hearings are arranged like a court hearing. The new procedures are much more straightforward and less adversarial. They also have shorter timescales, meaning that employees are no longer left waiting for decisions or for matters to be progressed as a result of the lengthy timescales required by Statute XXXIII.

3) Changes to panels hearing disciplinary and grievance procedures

Under Statute XXXIII disciplinary and grievance panels included two lay members of Council. We are proposing that disciplinary and grievance decisions are made by senior academic employees, who will be much closer to the circumstances and will therefore have a clearer understanding of the matters to be determined (though employees will not determine matters in which they have had previous involvement). This approach will also ensure matters are dealt with in a more timely way.

4) Changes to who hears appeals

Statute XXXIII requires that appeals are heard by an independent solicitor or barrister with ten years' experience. Again, this slows down the process and means decisions are made by people external to the University who do not always have the best understanding of it. We are proposing that appeals are heard instead by senior colleagues (who will always be senior to the person who took the decision that is being appealed).

5) Individual procedures for misconduct, ill health and poor performance

At the moment Statute XXXIII covers all these matters in largely the same way. The drafts propose that each of these matters is covered by a separate process, taking into account the very different circumstances that can trigger these procedures. This will help to ensure employees are dealt with by the University as fairly as possible and appropriate support can be put in place to help employees in each situation.

6) Simplification of the redundancy process to make it more transparent and streamlined

The redundancy process has been amended to make it clearer and simpler. During restructuring exercises, the University is frequently told by employees that the process takes too long, leading to uncertainty. By streamlining the process and making it clear how decisions are reached and what the University's obligations will be in particular circumstances, we hope that a cause of unnecessary anxiety is removed. 

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