A message from Provost Christine Ennew updating on reform of Statute 24 and its related Ordinances
In December 2016, Stuart Croft - our Vice Chancellor - announced that the University Council had requested a review to simplify and modernise the content of Charter and Statutes and amend Ordinances and Regulations accordingly. For those who aren’t familiar with these terms, the Charter and Statutes set out the overriding principles which govern how the University operates and Ordinances and Regulations are the more detailed procedural rules which guide the implementation of Statutes. Together, these constitute the University’s Governing Instruments.
The purpose of this review was to ensure that the Governing Instruments were fit for purpose, in terms of being compliant and consistent with current legislation, were appropriate for the operation of a modern University and were clear about responsibilities and delegated authorities.
One of these Governing Instruments, Statute 24, deals specifically with the principle of protecting Academic Freedom, and includes a considerable body of procedural detail about the processes supporting this principle. In reviewing Statute 24, the University has identified concerns that its provisions are unnecessarily complicated, often resulting in protracted processes causing undue distress and anxiety for staff; that it is not fully compliant with all current employment law and best practice guidelines; and that it is difficult to keep it consistent with emerging employment law as any proposed changes must be approved by the Privy Council
A significant amount of work has been undertaken since the review commenced in December 2016, including consultation with the Trade Unions (13 formal and informal meetings in the period December 2016 to June 2017), two consultations with the wider staff community, an all staff meeting, an Assembly, discussions with Council and Senate, and the formation of a Senate sub-group to provide detailed advice around principle and process.
The consultation started with an initial proposal from the University which involved simplifying Statute 24, removing much of the operational detail and establishing a common framework for employment processes, to apply across all groups of staff, in line with employment law and good practice and preserving the principle of equity. This framework would be outlined in a series of policy documents which would be subject to the final approval of University Council.
Many in the academic community, and UCU, argued that this would not provide sufficient protection for academic freedom and would leave academic staff potentially vulnerable to dismissal because of the nature of what they research and/or teach. In response to this, the revised version of Statute 24 which was presented to Senate in June 2017 included provisions to enhance protection for academic freedom over and above what is currently in Statute 24. This change provided academic staff with the opportunity to request a review at the start of an employment process, if they consider their academic freedom has been infringed.
As requested by Senate, a sub-group has undertaken an extensive review of this proposal for an early stage review of academic freedom and have developed core elements of principles and process for the operation of this component of the reformed Statute. These principles and processes would then be enshrined in an associated Ordinance. Both the draft Statute and Ordinance were considered by the Senate at its meeting of 13 June 2018; at the July Senate it was confirmed that Council (at its meeting of 11 July 2018) would be asked to agree that the draft Statute be submitted to the Privy Council for informal review.
The drafts of Statute and Ordinance and a paper from the Senate sub-group were presented to a meeting of Assembly on Friday 29 June; at that meeting a motion of adjournment was passed on the grounds that some members felt that there had been insufficient time for consultation since Senate recommended that proposals be taken forward at its meeting on 13 June. While Assembly will be re-convened, that will not be until the autumn term and therefore we would like to offer you an opportunity to look again at the relevant documents (linked above) and share your views now. The associated policy framework is currently being revised to take into account the proposed academic freedom process and updated versions of these documents will be made available for comment in due course.
The University Council will consider whether to submit the draft Statute to Privy Council for informal review at its meeting of 11 July 2018. Should Council so decide, it is envisaged that the informal review process with Privy Council will commence over the summer period. There will also be a further period of consultation over the coming months on all the key elements of the proposals, including the draft supporting policies which will apply to all staff. This consultation will involve the campus trades unions, the broader staff community and will require a further meeting of the Assembly and will be completed prior to further Senate and Council discussions in October and early November
The University will undertake further consultation with the Trade Unions and Assembly, and would also like to encourage any members of staff who wish to express their views regarding the reform of Statute 24 to contact me directly via: firstname.lastname@example.org.
While Statute 24 and the proposed changes (including the new ordinance) apply specifically to academic staff, it is important to note that the proposals for a common overarching policy framework are relevant to everyone, and therefore any member of staff who wishes to submit comments for consideration is welcome and encouraged to do so.
Christine Ennew, Provost