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Heads of Department Message 15 May


Well, it’s the end of another week. Hope everyone is as well as they can be and I think we are making progress despite the continued high levels of uncertainty.

Lots of updates below – and more to follow next week as we start getting further into the budget/savings issues.

Managing Budgets

There will be an institution-wide message next week from Stuart as a follow-up to the discussion on Monday and that will say a bit more about the challenges of managing our costs to deliver the £50m savings target. And just to stress, across ARC we will need to consider what this means in a bit more detail and so, as previously promised, we’ll follow up with some further details after we’ve reviewed the plans next week. For now, a key message must be that we recognise that, given this is a request for short terms savings, there will be different capacities to save (and/or generate new income) across ARC. And in that context, (and considering things like sessional teaching spend, impact of alumni bursary and overall income uncertainty) we’re conscious that it will be much more difficult (impossible?) to manage to target margin/contribution. So while we will still measure and look at target margin its really not going to be of much value to us as an indicator next year. I think the message will be about focusing on costs savings and income security/generation.

And, just to confirm, both PSG and CCSG have some challenging targets to work to so that collectively we will all be working towards that £50m target.

Sessional Teaching

You’ll recall from the message about study leave that for next year we’re looking to avoid new spend on sessional teaching and reduce our planned spend. Currently, across ARC, the planned spend for next year on sessional teaching/teaching support is just under £11m. We need to work to a target of reducing this by at least 50% (across ARC, so not an individual departmental target). I think this is a credible target for ARC as a whole. Postponing study leave brings in teaching capacity to the value of approx. £2m; a slight rebalancing of workloads (even as little as asking for two extra hours of teaching related work over the next year) could potentially save £6m. And then of course there may be savings associated with reduced options and reduced student numbers.

I know there will also be additional teaching work (and that this will challenge any savings targets); already we’ve asked a lot from colleagues in terms of getting assessments moved online and now there is the task of preparing to move our established delivery model to a blended one. And this will already be demanding extra time from colleagues across all departments.

There are some difficult messages here – and I know they will be unpopular with many colleagues (whether because we’ll be looking for people to do more teaching related work, or whether because there is an objection to the principle of cutting spend on sessional teachers). But given the savings target that we face in order to get us through the coming year, I think we have to be prepared to:

  • ask colleagues to adjust their workloads towards teaching and as you will have seen from the high level figures above, even small movements in the amount of time devoted to teaching activity overall (not contact time) can make a big difference;
  • ask colleagues to be more flexible than normal in terms of the type of teaching they deliver.

The message about reduced opportunities will be particularly hard for our sessional teachers. So, as before, I will draft something that you can use if you wish for both sets of colleagues. (I will do this over the weekend and you’ll have something early next week.)

And as you think about what teaching you cannot cover within a more flexible workload distribution and look at sessional teaching options, I’m sure you’ll give full consideration to individual circumstances and needs. And its worth remembering that we do have hardship funds which may be of particular relevance to self-funded PhD students.

Finally, details on implementation of the new GTA scheme will be coming your way next week.

UKVI Audit

You might remember that we were subject to a UKVI Audit in February in connection with or sponsor’s licence. The good news is that we’ve passed the requirements to continue to sponsor at Tier 4 (and the Tier 2 letter will follow although we aren’t expecting any difficulties). There are some changes we will need to implement but nothing that is too surprising. So a piece of good news!

The Junction (aka “the Old Sports Centre”)

You may recall that this space was being refurbished to provide Innovation space, the PGT hub and a large flat floor space that could be used for a range of events as well as for examinations. And of course it was due to be ready for our end of year exams. Obviously, its not going to be used that way for this year. But I thought you’d like to be aware that we have now taken possession of that space and the refurbishment is essentially complete, barring some fit-out.

Student/Applicant/Offer holder Comms

Messages concerning our intentions about the shape of next academic year (campus will be open, social distancing/safety, high quality blended experience) will be sent early next week. We will also send communications about the alumni bursary scheme – we’ll off up to 200 such bursaries to our own alumni – including finalists; these will be worth between 30% and 50% depending on fee level. Allocations will made based on academic achievement and we’ll talk to Departments about desired numbers in their areas (so you will have an input to the total number awarded to your Dept but we will not be asking you to manage the individual allocations. In addition the universal 10% alumni discount which was agree by ARC for 2021-22 is being brought forward and will apply for the current year (but not in addition to the bursary!)

Business Continuity Work

Most of the workstreams have started – there is overlap and interdependency so a lot to do in terms of co-ordination. Penny Roberts is on the overall Programme Board, Matt Nudds is on the Campus Restart Group and the Faculty Directors of Administration are connected in to a lot of this work. It’s a massive programme of work and there has been a lot of internal redeployment to support the recovery programme. I will send out a more formal request, but if you have colleagues on the professional services side who would welcome a development opportunity and who can be spared, there is a real need for more staff to get involved supporting the business recovery programme.

Comments from Monday’s HoDs Forum

I know many of you made comments at Monday’s HoDs Forum and there wasn’t enough time for these to get a response. A full set of Q&As is being prepared based on these comments and should be available next week.

Probation for R focused and T focused roles

You’ll remember that we have agreed to extend probation for R&T staff by 6 months (and this will be essentially automatic). There have been some queries about probation extensions for T-focused and R-focused roles. As these are much shorter probationary periods the feeling was that a blanket period of time did not make much sense, but that we should be very sympathetic to any such requests. Where you do need an extension, please just process through the normal route with the expectation that requests that are related to the current crisis will be approved.

Caring responsibilities

Just a quick plea about understanding the needs and challenges facing staff working from home in difficult settings and with significant caring responsibilities. We don’t want to force those staff into having to take significant period of leave to manage those responsibilities, so I hope you can encourage managers in your departments to be as flexible as possible when dealing with the difficult working conditions that some of our colleagues may face. And in particular, the more flexible we can be around timing, the better.

Thanks everyone – sorry there is such a lot here, but I’ve had a bit of a backlog that I wanted to share before the weekend. And we are due a bit more warmth and sun this weekend so I hope you enjoy it.




Professor Christine Ennew OBE