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Update: Professional and Administrative Services (PAS) review – University of Reading

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Update: Professional and Administrative Services (PAS) review

Release Date 10 March 2016


In response to recent press coverage about the PAS review, the University has issued the following statement:

Efficiency & Effectiveness Programme

We are one of the UK’s leading research intensive universities but in a tough, global market we cannot stand still. That's why we've set out a clear long-term strategy to support great research, top-class teaching and a strong student experience.

The trebling of tuition fees in 2012 and the abolition of individual universities student number cap last year means we needed a new approach.

We invested upfront in aggressive marketing to keep pace with our competitors - with us securing record applications and intakes for the last two years. And we have absorbed deficits for longer to compete, not taking the easy way out and salami-slicing academic activity as other universities have done.

We've got very strong underlying assets of £368m and £300m income last year - but we've always been clear, however, we would always need do reduce our underlying operating costs if we were to avoid across the board cuts.

That's why we embarked on a major and very detailed three year efficiency and effectiveness programme, concluding this July, to put us on a competitive footing for the long-term.  

This has aimed to revamp our back-office professional services. This includes laying the foundations for end-to-end personalised digital experience for the time students are first considering coming to us to being alumni. We'll now make big savings by transforming how buy goods and services - through central procurement. We've cut the costs of printing and printer hardware. We've put in place a new IT support service for all our digital systems. And we're restructuring our central professional services so individual academics or academic Schools can invest in teaching and students get better experience [see ‘Professional and Administrative Services (PAS) Review’ below].

It means we can move our finances into steady state and a solid footing - saving £15m overall a year and generating £10 million a year surplus in our operating budget by 2020. This means we can reinvest in frontline research, teaching and learning activity by making these savings every single year. 

Major reviews do not come for free - but the full £36m programme will pay for itself within four years by 2020/21. We invested significantly in the digital and hardware infrastructure we need - including e-procurement and new technology. 

We also brought in strong, external expert project management support - universities do not have a monopoly of wisdom on restructures and we are not afraid of looking at what works best in the public, voluntary and private sector. 

Professional and Administrative Services (PAS) Review

This has been a carefully phased two year programme to restructure and create stronger day-to-day services to students and staff - finance; human resources; marketing; teaching operations; executive support; and technical services.

The two year review was based on detailed consultation with 1,900 academic research and professional staff, followed more than 150 workshops. The data enabled the University to build a comprehensive picture of the existing professional and administrative support activity. It identified real inefficiencies, duplication and inconsistent service to students and academic staff across the institution. It is impossible to ignore this evidence.

The major reorganisation and restructure will strengthen central services while keeping staff physically based in academic schools and departments where needed - meeting our aim to centrally manage but locally deliver services.

We are not the first and will not be the last university to do this. We have a duty to students and the taxpayer to get value-for-money for every pound we invest. PAS means we can save £7.8m a year towards our overall £15m targets - to plough back into research, teaching and student services.

The vast majority of existing staff have been offered new roles in these new teams - transferring to the new structure with their existing teams. From this week, we know that 53 staff out of 900 impacted have not been offered a match to a new role*. We will be consulting with these staff and identify suitable opportunities to continue working at the University. 

We have kept compulsory redundancies to an absolute minimum by offering a strong voluntary severance package, regrading roles and offering more flexible working. No change is easy. We’ve always been crystal clear that we will need to make tough choices. And we've been open from the start that overall we will have a lower overall headcount. 

We have been transparent at every stage of the review over the last two years. Below is a timeline of the communications to University staff on the PAS review. Careful individual consultations have also taken place.

We have had many months of detailed consultation with Universities & College Union and our independent Staff Forum. All our major decision-making committees, including student and staff representation, have scrutinised these plans in detail. This process has helped shape and improve these plans.

The bottom line is that the University will be better equipped for the future because of these changes, we will see the benefits in the long-term. 

*as of 9 March 2016



20 Oct – Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell sets out rationale and process of PAS review in all staff letter:

26 Nov – HR Director John Brady explains the next phase of the PAS review – designing new support structures in collaboration with heads of functions:

9 Dec – HR Director John Brady explains what the review will mean for individual staff by explaining the review and redundancy process:


5 Feb – HR Director John Brady provides an update explaining that staff consultations and workshops have been taking place:

6 Jul – HR Director John Brady provides details of a University Council discussion on the review:

24 Jul – HR Director John Brady confirms new operational models have been agreed by the University Council and Executive Board:

9 Oct – Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell confirms that the University has written to trade union UCU to outline the process for formal discussions around implementing the PAS review:

25 Nov – Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell provides an update on the process alongside an all staff letter and further literature explaining the context around the review and the University’s financial situation and requirements:

26 Nov – PAS review information sessions are arranged and communicated. This offers staff more details on how the new proposals for centralising services would work:

1 Dec – Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell offers the chance of voluntary redundancy to staff to accompany a letter from the HR Director on how the process works:

2 Dec – Teaching & Learning Operations host an additional briefings as part of the ongoing information sessions led by PAS review workstreams:

9 Dec – Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell thanks staff for commitment and professionalism in a letter:


2 Feb – Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell sends a letter to staff outlining how job will be affected and what the process will be for staff who are not matched to new centralised service roles:

16 Feb – Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning) Professor Gavin Brooks sends a letter to staff providing an update on plans for centralised services.

29 Feb – HR Director John Brady confirms that individual staff are being consulted on their roles and where additional information and support can be found:

4 Mar - HR Director John Brady confirms to staff that individuals should now have received consultation on their roles and that the University is offering a number of internal vacancies to minimise the potential for redundancies:  

9 Mar - HR Director John Brady updates staff on the individual consultation phase of the review, including figures of the number of staff matched up to new roles internally:  

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