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Heads of Department Message 18 May


As promised on Friday, I have drafted an email that you can share with colleagues explaining the position with respect to plan savings around sessional teaching and the need to ask colleagues to think about rebalancing workloads. This is very much based on Fridays message to yourselves; I am happy for you to cascade from me or to tailor as you think best.




Dear Colleagues

When we confirmed our decision to postpone University-funded study leave for the coming academic year, I explained to Heads of Department that we would also need to manage our spending on sessional teaching for the coming year. This decision was based on the challenge facing the University to deliver significant savings. You will now be aware that the savings target we face is around £50m for 2020-21 and we will be aiming to do that while trying to protect as much of our core activity as possible.

Currently, across ARC, the planned spend for next year on sessional teaching/teaching support is just under £11m (which probably represents about 15% of our spending on the direct cost of academic staff delivering teaching). We need to work to a target of reducing this by at least 50% (across ARC, so this is 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 you in terms of getting assessments moved online – thank you for all that you have done to ensure that our students can progress and graduate. But of course it isn’t going to stop there because there is now the task of preparing to move our established delivery model to a blended one. And this will already be requiring a rebalancing towards teaching and student focused activity within workloads.

I appreciate that targeting a reduction in sessional teaching spend and asking colleagues to rebalance their workloads towards teaching will not be popular but it is necessary. Given the savings target that we face in order to get us through the coming year, I have asked HoDs to be prepared to:

  • ask colleagues to adjust their workloads towards teaching. It is difficult to make any sort of general statement about exactly what this rebalancing might mean but using our normal assumptions of 40% of time for R&T staff being allocated to teaching activity (that’s not just contact hours but all teaching-related activity), then even small movements in the amount of time devoted to teaching activity overall (not simply contact time) can have a meaningful impact. Increasing the time devoted to teaching over the course of a year by, for example, 2 hours a week on average will make a significant difference;
  • ask colleagues to be more flexible than normal in terms of the type of teaching they deliver – and that might mean a willingness to take on the some of the small group seminar/tutorial that is often delivered by sessional teachers.

The message about reduced opportunities will be particularly hard for our sessional teachers. We’re very aware of that and this decision has been taken with considerable regret. There will still be some opportunities for individuals to take on sessional teaching and for PhD students, this will be through the new GTA contract (as we’ve been promising). I hope departments will give appropriate consideration to individual circumstances when appointing sessional teachers and its worth remembering that for self-funded students, there is the option of accessing hardship funds if they are struggling as a consequence of lost teaching opportunities.

Thank you and best wishes


Professor Christine Ennew OBE