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Message from Mark Fellowes: phase 2 update and proposal

Professor Mark Fellowes

The following message was sent from Professor Mark Fellowes to all colleagues.

Dear colleagues,

Since my last update on the Phase 2 work in August, there has been much change as proposals begin to take shape. Last Friday, we discussed our emerging ideas with the Leadership Group, and on Monday with the Strategy and Finance Committee of Council. I was pleased that they were broadly very supportive of our approach. We will next take the proposals to Senate (Wednesday 30 September), our academic administrative body, and by the University Council (Thursday 1 October).

Once we have considered the feedback from those groups, I will share the proposals with you at our next all-staff update, which we have scheduled to take place at 11:00 on Tuesday 6 October - please use this form to register. The proposal documents will then be shared and we will provide guidance on how best to share your thoughts and feedback at that time. We will use the feedback from University committees and colleagues to further refine the proposals, which will return later in the term to Senate and Council for final consideration.

Before then, I'd like to share an update on progress. It's important to start with some clarity about redundancies. When the Phase 2 work was conceived, we acknowledged that elements of the financial shortfall caused by the pandemic might need to be addressed through redundancies. Fortunately, under the proposal reached through the consultation process of Phase 1 (and currently out for ballot for UCU member colleagues), this was no longer needed, and so the Taskforce was able to focus solely on implementing our University Strategic Plan.

In doing so, the Taskforce has drawn extensively on the knowledge and insights from a wide range of colleagues, including Deans, Heads of Schools and Functions, School Directors of Teaching and Learning, Research Division Leads, Chairs of Communities of Practice and representatives from RUSU. The proposals also reflect several significant themes from last year's strategy consultation feedback, particularly suggestions from colleagues that we should focus on:

  • reducing inefficiencies in our processes and administration
  • building on quality and consolidate of our strengths
  • facilitating better cross-working across Schools, including Henley Business School, and between Schools and Functions
  • accepting the need for constant and sustained improvement based on improved, flexible ways of working rather than reactive change
  • addressing workload and development of a flexible workload model
  • supporting staff and student welfare through better management of change and the cumulative impact of multiple change projects
  • engaging our community better in decision-making and being more open and transparent
  • the urgent need for a review of our teaching portfolio and associated assessment
  • making better and more sustainable use of our physical and digital estate, with both financial and environmental benefits.

Guiding our work, we took three very simple principles as given: that any proposals must be consistent with the University Strategic Plan, that limited resources and continued uncertainty mean we must live within our means, and that we must be ready to take advantage of the opportunities that exist for us as well as simply reacting to challenges.

In searching for solutions, we dismissed the notion that there was a simple ‘magic bullet' that would put everything right; searching for one is both futile and wastes valuable energy, time and resource. We agreed that genuine long-term sustainably cannot be achieved by simply slashing budgets and jobs. As colleagues made clear in their feedback last year, we need to focus on our biggest resource - our people - and on getting the basics right. From this, excellence will flow.

Our work therefore has been to explore four broad but inter-related themes:

  • 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?

Work streams were established to lead these four strands, each led by a member of the University Executive Board, with expert input from members of the Taskforce and specialists from across the University plus, again, representatives from RUSU. Each work stream was asked to develop and deliver a set of high-level proposals. The proposals that have been developed are at different stages with those on how we use our digital and physical estate and on reviewing our teaching portfolio more developed than other areas. The Taskforce was very conscious of the consistent feedback from colleagues that the University often tries to do too much at once, and that we need to stage and plan any projects carefully over a realistic timeframe, but ultimately the objective is to deliver our strategic ambitions by our centenary year in 2026.

In reviewing the feedback from last year's consultation, one particular point stood out for me: "Leaders need to demonstrate clarity and coherence of strategic objectives and priority actions, balanced carefully with demand for a more genuine and responsive consultative approach to decision-making". Successfully bringing our University strategy to life has to be a joint effort. While the Vice-Chancellor and my other UEB colleagues have ultimate responsibility for determining priorities and making final decisions, these must be based on the combined insights of our whole community and implementation cannot possibly succeed without wide engagement. I look forward to discussing these plans with you over the next term.

Kind regards,

Mark

Professor Mark Fellowes

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Planning & Resource)

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