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Council agrees Post-COVID-19 Response Programme

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Our governing Council has now formally agreed the three-phased approach recommended by the University Executive Board to address the financial challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Vice-Chancellor Robert Van de Noort spoke about this approach in his briefing sessions for all colleagues in early June. The Council decision follows discussion of the proposals last week at Senate, the University's main academic administrative body.

The Council decision now gives rise to a period of formal consultation with the UCU and the Staff Forum. The Vice-Chancellor will lead a Consultation Group on behalf of the University, and the consultation period will last for a minimum of 45 days until at least the end of July. The aim is to seek agreement on ways to keep potential job losses to the absolute minimum through temporary changes to terms and conditions of service. These might include a pay freeze (for up to 3 years), a temporary reduction in the hours of employment for all staff (for example by adopting a four-day work week), or some combination of these and other alternative options. As the Vice-Chancellor explained in the recent briefings, no decisions have been made and all options will be discussed and explored with the UCU and the Staff Forum.

The Council raised a number of issues, amongst these how confident the University Executive Board was about the accuracy of the forecasted financial shortfall of £106 million. The Vice-Chancellor explained that the forecast was based on a scenario planning model developed by Universities UK, and that a number of more recent studies and surveys, including those commissioned and published by the UCU, had reinforced the broad picture of significantly declining numbers of home/EU and, in particular, international students. Importantly, the three phases approach means that no final decisions will have to be made until the start of the autumn term when we will have a clearer picture of actual intake for the 2020/21 academic year, which can then be used to refine the modelled shortfall.

Some elements of any agreement resulting from the formal consultation may be implemented more quickly, but any decisions about redundancies that are required will form part of Phase 2 of the Post-COVID-19 Response Programme. This process was set out in more detail by Pro-Vice-Chancellor Mark Fellowes in his message to all colleagues. We are taking this phased approach to ensure that we make any necessary changes in the most strategic way possible. Subject to agreement by Council in September, the Phase 2 proposals would then also be subject to a second round of formal consultation.

The Vice-Chancellor will keep colleagues updated on developments throughout this process. More information will be available next week once the formal consultation has begun.

In the meantime, you can find more detail on the new programme information and FAQs page on the Staff Portal. If you have any questions, please email communications@reading.ac.uk.

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