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Heads of Department Update 01 February

Hi Everyone

I hope everyone is bearing up given the difficulties and pressures associated with the current working arrangements. If there is anything I can help with, do please let me know. And for now, just a few updates on some pending issues/developments.

Overseas working.

We’re continuing to work through issues in relation to overseas working and I know some of you will have been in discussion with the International Working Group about individual cases. And it remains a complex area – because each country and each individuals case is different. Full detail is in the International Working Policy. But I thought it would be helpful to update you on the general situation so that you are aware.

There will be a message going out shortly to those who either started after lockdown or who travelled at the start of lockdown or for the Christmas vacation and are currently working outside of the UK. Many of these individuals will have previously been given a deadline to return to the UK and this message will be a reminder that we expect them to be in the UK to carry out their duties, in line with the contract of employment. It will stress that they should do so as soon as it is possible for them to travel to the UK. The wording will be sensitive because there continues to considerable uncertainty, but we do need to remind individuals about our reasonable expectations. The recent government announcements suggest that the very earliest we could expect any significant return to activity on campus is w/c 8th March. Travel restrictions are changing and may complicate this, but we do need to be giving indicative deadlines to this group because the longer they are in a particular location, the bigger the risks to themselves and the university.

We still need to work through the implications for those individuals who have been employed for some time and who have commuted on a regular basis to the UK to work. They may or may not have had a local address in the UK but this doesn’t ease the problem; their position is complex because of residency status and tax/social security liabilities and employment law in their home countries and also because there are regulations that impact on the University including whether we would have tax liabilities in another country and/or be deemed to have a permanent establishment.

Other groups that we need to consider include those whose research requires them to be in another country; we have a number of such cases and they can be managed, although short term assignments are more complex and we need to do further work on this. We also have a number of VAM/STP staff who are working from another country and appear to be resident in those countries. This also presents problems and we will need to address this because the costs of managing the risks in these cases can be quite considerable. So, we will probably need to talk through some of these cases with you and will endeavour to do as quickly as possible. As a general observation and looking to the future the likelihood is that we will only be able to support fractional/STP/VAM roles where there is a genuinely compelling case and no feasible way of an individual in the UK undertaking the work.

As you know, there is much here that we (and many others) were not aware of pre-pandemic; one of the challenges is that now we know, we cannot ignore the issues – we do have to find options to manage the risks that this brings for both the individuals and the University (and I know I’ve mentioned this previously but at least 1 University in the Russell Group has been fined a seven figure sum by the tax authorities of another country). So we do have to take this really seriously. We want to find solutions where possible and running in-country payrolls is one such option and this works in some countries but less well in others, so again, it’s a case by case. However the cost of in-country payrolls is such that this will only be feasible when there are a number of people in the same countries and staff have a relatively high FTE.

Use of Assistant Prof title

Some of you will remember that when we introduced the new academic promotions process in 2018, we sought to align job titles across all three career pathways. The one area that we agreed would change but where the change wasn’t implemented related to the use of the Assistant Professor title at FA7 (because of the way in which regulations were worded). These regulations were modified last year and so we are clear to make changes to job titles. We’re just working through some of the details here and I’ll let you have a bit more information once we’re clear about implementation but I thought you might like to be aware that this change is in the pipeline.

Turn Around times on Marking

You should be aware of this from other comms, so this is really “belt and braces”. You’ll recall that in December, Education Executive agreed that HoDs could grant up to an additional five working days on a case by case basis for assessments due for marking and return at the start of Term 2. Given that the pressures on staff have continued and in many cases, increased, this level of flexibility is being maintained. Departments as a whole should still aim to ensure that the twenty-day turnaround time is met (in order that students obtain feedback in a timely fashion and before their next assessments are due). However, if individual staff members are experiencing exceptional circumstances which mean that they are not able to meet the normally expected twenty-day marking and feedback turnaround time, Heads of Department can continue to approve an amendment to this rule on a case-by-case basis for up to an additional five working days. This will be kept under review and Education Executive will notify you of any further changes in due course.

As previously. Depts must inform all students on affected modules that their feedback will be late and provide an explanation. Although reasons for why the feedback will be late do not need to be recorded centrally, a brief written record of the final marking and feedback turnaround times for all affected modules should be provided to EPQ at the end of Term 2 by the HoD.

UEB is continuing to discuss our likely approaches to the rest of term 2, to term 3 and to next academic year. The uncertainty around Government policy and guidance makes this difficult and we’re sensitive to the need to balance the demand for greater certainty and the uncertainty about what Government guidance might say, particularly in relation to the relaxation of lockdown restrictions. As soon as know more, I’ll let you know. With last week’s news about March 8th as the earliest possible date for a change to guidance around teaching on campus, we will be announcing an extension of the student accommodation rebates for a further 3 weeks in addition to the rebates currently offered.



Professor Christine Ennew OBE