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Heads of Department Update 04 December


I do try to avoid sending these on a Friday but it’s been difficult to avoid and the content today is information with nothing to do, so it can easily be left till Monday.

And there are really only a few issue to report to you for now.

Feedback on Information Security Changes: Device Security Requirements

The VP/CoFs have relayed some significant concerns about some of the most recent planned IT changes in relation to device security requirements and I understand that a number of colleagues are concerned that these changes will affect access to a range of services. I think there is a particular concern about the conduct of teaching and the difficulties that could arise from the use of the Virtual Desktop and Teams. I think there are also some residual concerns about USB devices. We’ve discussed these concerns further with Tony and I thought that the following updates might just be helpful. Tony has explained that where individuals are going to be affected by the changes that are being introduced, IT will be trying to make contact in advance to help them to prepare for the changes. And the general approach is to move gradually with the changes and allow some exceptions to minimise disruption while alternative solutions are developed.

  • First students should not be impacted in any way. The changes we are implementing are only for those with access the staff network. So, for students, there should be no impact on their ability to use the standard student services they normally use.
  • Second, for the managed desktop changes, staff simply need to contact the helpdesk have them install InTune on their University owned device. We are starting with Windows devices first, all other devices will not be impacted. We will get to the other devices later. We are emailing those that we know will be impacted next week to inform them that they will be impacted and that they need to contact the help desk. If they do get blocked, the only thing blocked is Office365/Teams. They can continue to work by using the web version. Once the new network is in place later next year we will begin more stringent blocking but for now it is light touch.
  • Third, for USB storage, staff are being asked contact the helpdesk if they feel they need an exception. We’re asking people to do this now instead of waiting until the deadline. We will grant time boxed exceptions in almost all cases to allow us time to work with people to find the right solution.

Q1 Financials

The Q1 results are being reported formally in the coming week. So far the figures are looking reassuring and while there continue to a lot of additional covid-related costs, the income side is looking good and the projected deficit is currently less than projected in the final version of the plan.

UCU Dispute

I wanted to update you on the dispute resolution process with UCU that I mentioned to you a couple of weeks ago. You’ll be aware of the slightly faltering start to the UCU ballot because of errors in the ballot paper and despite the fact that UCU had proceeded pre-emptively to ballot for industrial action, we did have a productive discussion last week. This builds on (but is separate from) the 30+ meetings with UCU that have taken place since March.

Nevertheless, UCU’s position remains that they want the University to move all teaching online other than essential practical classes. In the light of feedback from students (including the all student vote) and government guidance we have said that this is not an option at present and will not be an option unless there is a significant deterioration in the public health situation and we are required to move up through the teaching tiers. We’ve also said that we cannot consider an arrangement in which individuals are free to choose how the teach (whether or online or f2f) because that makes it impossible to manage the overall educational experience that we offer to students. UCU then asked us to consider options to allow greater flexibility in teaching arrangements for staff who are living with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable, staff with lengthy commutes via public transport and staff with mental health concerns. We’ve agreed to look at these options (bearing in mind the need to be fair and equitable in our treatment of all staff) and we will take back some proposals to the next dispute resolution meeting.

Asymptomatic Testing

This process is continuing to work well. Thus far around 6000 tests have been completed and there have been 5 positives from those tests. There are another 6000 or so tests booked including over the weekend. The student tests are roughly evenly split between on and off campus students. Around 300 tests have been booked by staff.

Meanwhile, I hope you all have a great weekend and that you do manage to get some down time.



Professor Christine Ennew OBE