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Heads of Department Update 08 February


I hope everyone had a good weekend – they do just seem to go past too quickly! The only consolation is that the weeks also seem to fly by, as well. I have a few updates for you – many may be things that you know already, but sometimes it’s helpful to have some reminders!

Employee Assistance Programme

Just a quick reminder (and apologies for repetition but I’m still hearing that colleagues aren’t aware of EAP). The link is here and it is absolutely confidential – nothing comes back to us about individuals and feedback from those who have used it has been very positive.

It may be of particular value for those who are experiencing significant stress and anxiety

A thank you!

I’ve been asked via Faculty EDI activity to “convey our gratitude to heads of department who are at the forefront of dealing with departmental staff going through difficult times.” And thank you from me too, because I know these are difficult issues to address. And we continue to look at what else we might do to support staff – particularly those affected by the pressures created by school closures and supporting children who are learning at home.

Q2 Forecasts

I’ve been having some discussions with Finance about the Q2 forecasts and the Q2 student number checking exercise. I thought it might just be helpful to share some of the key points as this is likely to come up in your Q2 work.

  • Given previous concerns around potential withdrawals it will be important to ensure that the Q2 forecast position is as robust as it can be.
  • Consequently, over the course of last week and this week and next DST Finance contacts will be engaging with Departments to confirm that student numbers included in the Q2 forecast are in line with what Departments are seeing ‘on the ground’.
  • The focus will be on confirming student ‘heads’ at a course level (with any load variations reviewed in the normal way).
  • Additional time has been allowed in the Q2 timetable for this to take place.
  • If there are significant differences (e.g. due to a surge in withdrawals post the Q2 snapshot date of 25 January or delays in processing on SITS) then we need to identify these so that the Q2 forecast can be adjusted accordingly (and this would probably happen centrally depending upon the scale).

I suspect you may already be aware of this, but thought it worth mentioning just incase. It’s very much about trying to ensure that we are as accurate as we can be at Q2 given the financial challenges of the current year. The more we can be certain about where things stand with income, the better we can mange other commitments.

International Working

This is a follow-up to my last message on this – and partly to try to give you a bit more information for those who are perhaps particularly worried about the implications for their own research and related activities. Below are some questions that have been raised by some colleagues (and HR have drafted some responses).

Is the International Working Policy seeking to stop all overseas activities?

No – the International Working Policy provides a consistent framework for enabling and managing work overseas where:

    • The work concerned aligns with our objectives, bringing value and benefit to the University.
    • The value of the work to the University outweighs the significant costs and compliance obligations associated with setting up overseas working.
    • It is possible for the employee to legally carry out the role from the particular country and it is considered a safe environment to do so.
    • Overseas working is planned in advance with a defined timeframe and is actively managed to protect the individual and the University from unnecessary risks and costs.

What the policy does seek to prevent is international work that is unplanned/unapproved and that doesn’t meet the criteria above – because that will bring risk to the individual and to the University).

Does the policy mean that I can’t go abroad when I’m on academic leave?

The International Working Policy doesn’t currently apply to academic leave. However, all colleagues should be mindful of the current travel restrictions from/into the UK and the possible disruption to plans as these develop over the coming weeks. And it will be important to be aware of possible tax implications in other countries if the intention is to be in-country for a long period (eg 6 months+)

Does the policy mean that I have to get approval to go to an international conference, visit a non-UK university or access non-UK research materials?

International business trips (e.g. attending conferences, accessing archives, visiting other universities) of up to one month do not require approval under the policy. Longer business trips and periods of being based overseas will require approval via an application to the International Working Group.

[This is the current policy and so this is the position now but I think we need to have a discussion about options to simplify for those that are genuinely short term research visits – and that might be about revisiting paperwork. The key point here is that we have to ensure that people can do research outside the UK and can access data, but we just need to ensure that we look after them and look after the university!]

Minister Donelan’s letter to University Staff

Please click here to view the letter. It will be highlighted to staff via Insite. I thought you might be interested to see it and highlight to staff if you think appropriate. I’m sure some colleagues will appreciate the sentiment, but I do appreciate that others may not.

Hope this is a good week for you – well as good as it can be with all of the current challenges! And a big thanks to you all – I know these are really difficult times for everyone and especially for you as you try to manage the expectations of the centre and the pressures on your colleagues and on your students. You do a fantastic job and it really is appreciated and valued!



Professor Christine Ennew OBE