You’ll be aware of both the work on shape of the next academic year and the work on financial planning (and there will be further updates on both). Looking at the implications of both of these strands of activity has raised questions about the viability of our study leave plans for the next academic year.
First, while we have an aspiration to teach face-to-face as much as we can next year, it is becoming increasingly apparent that we will need to have significant contingencies in place for online delivery for some of that time and that will involve additional work beyond what would normally be expected in preparation for a new academic year. In addition it is also possible that during the course of the coming year we may need to duplicate delivery if we either double stream (f2f and online) or if we have (in some areas) different intakes (eg Oct and Jan). We must also be aware that there is the risk that we may experience high levels of illness and that we will have vulnerable colleagues who we will need to shield.
Second, our financial projections are pointing to very significant income shortfalls (these are difficult to quantify with certainty but could be of the order of 20% of current turnover). Some of this shortfall will be managed by cutting back on our capital expenditure, by eliminating planned surplus and by borrowing. But we will also have to look very closely at all items of expenditure; we will have to realise some significant savings and, inter alia, that means we will need to avoid any new spend on sessional teaching and reduce where possible our existing spend.
Thus, there is severe pressure on the expenditure side alongside a reasonable expectation that we will need additional teaching support. This situation means that we have to look at our current provision for university-funded study leave. While the importance and value of study leave is not in question, these are genuinely exceptional circumstances. As a consequence, we have reluctantly taken the view that we will have to ask all Departments to suspend/postpone University-funded study leave for the academic year 2020-21. We would hope that currently agreed study leave can be reinstated for 2021-22.
Please will you look at current University-funded study leave commitments and advise your colleagues that they will need to postpone their leave to ensure that they are available to support their departments during this difficult time – and particularly to provide support to contingency planning work for different approaches to delivery and help with expenditure control. And can I ask you to all look very closely at spend on sessional teaching and try to cover as much as possible from your existing establishment (including those staff who are postponing their study leave).
I know that a number of staff have already asked to postpone their study leave because the current situation means that they cannot work as planned. We are, in effect, asking you to make this the default position for all staff with University-funded study-leave. If there are compelling grounds to continue an agreed allocation and there are no adverse implications for costs, then a case could be made to your VP/CoF (but these exceptions are expected to be very small in number). Everyone who postpones will get their study leave in future (ideally next year) and the burden is one that will be shared because we will of course have to roll forward study leave plans for all, not just the current cohort.
I know that this may not be entirely a surprise to some of you, but I appreciate that it will be a huge disappointment to many of your colleagues. If it would be of help to you in dealing with this news, I will send you an email that you could forward on to colleagues so that the bad news comes from me rather than from yourselves.
Professor Christine Ennew OBE