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Statement: University's response to 'Vote of No Confidence' result – University of Reading

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Statement: University's response to 'Vote of No Confidence' result

Release Date 14 April 2016

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A University of Reading spokesman said: 

"The Vice-Chancellor wrote to UCU and all staff yesterday – setting out the rationale for our new professional services and cutting operating costs; addressing specific areas of concern; and putting the facts on the table in response to a series of inaccurate claims over the last two months.

“We’ve been clear that staff engagement could, and should, have been stronger. There are important lessons that can be learned for the future but failing to put our long-term finances on a firm footing is simply not an option. 

“We make no apologies for taking tough decisions and choices to protect our core research and teaching. We’ve rejected the path taken by other universities who cut costs by simply 'salami-slicing' every part of their budget, irrespective of the impact.

“The bottom line is that we can only reinvest more year-after-year into frontline teaching, research and student services by generating a £10 million a year surplus by 2020. To do this, we need to save £15m overall a year from our operating costs by removing duplication, waste and bureaucracy – while improving day-to-day services to academics and students, like technical services, student support, HR, marketing and finance.

“We’ve seen the criticism of our plans but ultimately, there have been no credible alternatives put forward on how we put our house in order, without major cuts to our core academic activities or an ever-rising bill for our services. 

“We are not the first and will not be the last university to do this because ultimately we are accountable to taxpayers and students to deliver real value-for-money. We can't stand still if we want to remain one of the UK's leading research-intensive universities and continue to offer top-class taught degrees.

“Our plans have been unequivocally endorsed and backed by the University Council and all the other major decision making bodies in the University. We’re not going to take a backward step now”.

Mr Christopher Fisher, President of the University Council (University of Reading’s governing body) said:

“The University’s objective is to achieve a higher and more consistent standard of service to students and academics on a more cost-effective basis.  

“We have achieved much under this three-year programme. The fundamental direction of travel remains correct and must be sustained.  Sir David has the full confidence of the University Council, in addressing that overall challenge and in meeting the specific agenda relating to the efficiency and effectiveness of our support services. 

“Change can be difficult, and the way forward needs to take account of the reactions of those affected. Sir David and his executive team do not have a deaf ear to internal feedback and have shown themselves to be responsive to how the change agenda is perceived internally. There have been lessons to learn with regard to implementation, but the overall programme is proving to be a critical enabler to the University’s future success. 

“The overwhelming agenda before the University is a positive one. There is so much going well for the University at present under Sir David’s leadership: its good standing, its international reach, its capacity to attract high-quality staff and students, the feedback on its teaching and research, and its engagement with the community – locally, nationally and internationally. There is much to celebrate in our 90th anniversary year.”


The Vice-Chancellor’s letter (Wednesday 13th April 2016) restated to UCU:

  • the University Council will be reviewing the full E&E programme in the next 12 to 18 months, as it does with all major projects. This is a sensible and common-sense step with a programme of this size and scale. UCU’s input into this review will be important.
  • the University’s Audit Committee will be commissioning an independent review of the E&E programme’s value-for-money, to inform its oversight of the 2015-16 end-of-year Financial Statement.


No compulsory redundancies 

We have been clear from the start that there will be a lower overall headcount. We now expect the final number of compulsory redundancies to be in the tens – meeting our pledge to keep these to an absolute last resort. 

  • 670 staff remain on their current grades – although they will be moved into new teams and divisions as required across marketing/communications; HR; finance; student support; technical services; executive support; academic/governance services. 
  • We expect the final compulsory redundancy numbers to be in the low tens. 36 staff to date have not been matched into new roles (the vast majority in finance roles and none in teaching/student support) – there are 100 vacancies across the professional functions that these staff or all other University staff are able to apply for. If these roles are not recruited internally, they will be recruited externally. 
  • 88 staff have accepted firm voluntary redundancies. A further 20 have had voluntary redundancy offers made to them, pending acceptance. 15 applications for voluntary redundancies are being processed by HR. The voluntary redundancy package is up to nine months’ pay. 

No downgrading 

To date, 13 staff have accepted roles at a lower pay grade and 14 have accepted roles on a higher grade. The review showed that staff across the University were performing the same roles but on a different pay grade. It would be unfair and illegal to maintain a current grade that cannot be justified with reference to the duties required of the post. Staff who accepted a lower pay grade will retain their existing salary for six months, with their pay levels reviewed after 12 months. Staff on a lower grade will be right at the top of the pay band, with additional, discretionary payments and spinal point increases applied as for all other grades. 

Suspend PAS pending feasibility analysis of structures and timetable

It will be down to each workstream to set out specific implementation timetables in the run-up to the 31 July programme completion. This will ensure the new teams are established and providing an even better quality of support to Schools and other functions. We will be taking additional measures to smooth the transition where needed, as we set out on teaching and learning support last month – which is sensible given the scale of restructure. We will not delay the introduction of PAS. We have improved and strengthened our plans as we have moved through the programme – that's because we have listened and acted. We have had two years of review to inform this entire process. This included:

  • detailed activity analysis with 1,900 returns from professional and administrative staff, followed by more than 150 workshops open to UCU and other staff representatives to participate fully in. 
  • hundreds of hours of formal consultation, discussion and engagement with UCU and the Staff Forum since October 2015. 
  • detailed briefing for each PAS workstream published online and open briefings for each function being restructured, ensuring the University’s leadership group and managers are closely involved. 
  • scrutiny, testing and endorsement by all the major decision-making bodies within the University – the University Council, University Executive Board and Strategy & Finance Committee. The Leadership Group (Heads of School, Heads of Functions and Deans) have been fully sighted on all our proposals as they developed. 

Independent investigation of the PAS process, particularly the costs 

The University Council will be running a full review of the entire E&E programme in the next 12 to 18 months, as it has agreed to do with all major projects. This is a sensible and common-sense step with a programme of this size and scale. There will be opportunities for UCU to contribute to this review. Alongside this, the University’s Audit Committee will be commissioning an independent review of the E&E programme’s value-for-money, to inform its oversight of the 2015-16 end-of-year Financial Statement. 

We will confirm details in due course but this will cover every aspect of the E&E programme, including: 

  • a new finance and commercial operation – covering finance, commercial, legal and procurement 
  • a new integrated IT service – to better support every single aspect of our digital operation. 
  • better digital marketing and services to students – from the time students are first considering coming to us to being alumni. 
  • centralising and cutting the costs of all our printing and printer hardware services. 

End the spending of millions of pounds on management consultants 

This was a one-off investment, and we have no plans for major new consultancy contracts requiring significant new investment as with E&E and PAS. 

The University uses smaller external consultants across its operation – from our major capital projects to building our digital infrastructure. This investment will not stop. Moreover, many of our academics work externally as consultants, including business consultancies from Henley Business School. Again, this will not stop. 

The University has invested £36.2m in the full E&E programme, not simply the PAS review. This involved commissioning PwC to provide consultancy, legal fees and managing its subcontractors.

The full cost of the programme will be covered within four years - up to 2018/19. We can only reinvest more into frontline teaching, research and student services by cutting our operating costs by £15m overall a year, which will generate a £10m a year surplus from the end of the decade onwards.

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