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Heads of Department Update 08 December 2022


Well, end of term is here and its not long to the Christmas break – I would imagine everyone is feeling ready for some “down-time” – its been a another challenging term and that break will be thoroughly well deserved!

The updates below are really just for information – although there may be a follow-up action for some of you on the AFFS item below.

Letter from Alumni for Free Speech (AFFS)

Some of you may have colleagues working in the area of equality, diversity and inclusion who have received a letter from AFFS. AFFS describes itself as a “recently-founded non-partisan campaign of UK university alumni, whose aim is to encourage our universities to protect free speech better” (for more detail see I won’t repeat the content of the letter but I am aware that for some colleagues the way in which they have offered to “help us” (Universities) and their stated intention to monitor and produce league tables relating to our upholding of free speech has come across as somewhat threatening. Whether or not this the intention, the letter has caused concern for a number of recipients.

I don’t know exactly who the letter may have been sent to, so I would be grateful if you could assure any colleagues who have received this correspondence that there is no need for them to respond? To save duplication and unnecessary work for individuals, we will engage with AFFS centrally. Should colleagues receive any further correspondence from AFFS, please ask them to simply pass this to myself or Rachel Sandby-Thomas. Our approach will be to explain that we have an existing regulatory framework, which we will be further developing to ensure we have a more comprehensive and integrated policy for Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression.

First Quarter Results

We had a look at the financial outcomes from the first quarter earlier this week. The Q1 forecast puts the University around £7m ahead of budget. The position is based on funding body grants and fee income together being around to £19m positive, but spending being around £12m adverse – largely due to energy costs. In terms of fee income, it probably won’t surprise you to know that there is a big shortfall on home PGT income but a big positive of international PGT income – and you’ll perhaps have seen this reflected in some of the discussions around targets where we’re trying to rebalance our target setting at PGT level to try to improve accuracy.

Indeed, as we go into the new planning round, we are going to be looking at trying to improve planning accuracy. We’ve probably tended to be a bit conservative on targets and income and a bit optimistic on the cost side of things – and as a consequence, we end up with what look like massive outperformances in terms of surplus. Admittedly the last two years have been somewhat exceptional, but Finance and General Purposes Committee (FGPC) has picked up on this and is encouraging us to getter more realism into budgets. This will help us to be more confident about actual surpluses and therefore better able to manage the capital plan. There will be some further discussions around exactly what this means but for ARC as a whole, I am expecting that we will be held to an overall target margin of 29% of income. As and when we’re clearer about the implications, I’ll update you.

As ever, any questions/queries, let me know! Have a good weekend when it gets here!




Professor Christine Ennew OBE