A question about Staff Fest….

QUESTION:
I have a question about Staff Fest.

I recently tried to book onto one of the more vocational sessions for Staff Fest but was informed that my booking had been rejected by my line manager as the session did not cover something our department is concerned with.

I can understand there being a problem if e.g. the issue is the need to have cover in place in offices, etc but surely if there isn’t such a problem then the idea of Staff Fest is to encourage staff development rather than to put obstacles into place preventing it.

 
ANSWER:
All the sessions within Staff Fest are designed to be purposeful, forward-looking and to improve skills, knowledge and motivation. Importantly staff attending such activities forms a vital part of the positive employee engagement which the University is so keen to promote. Whilst we feel it is right for staff to have line-manager approval in order to attend any of the workshops on Staff Fest, it is hoped that managers will see the core value in this process of engagement.

 

What is the Academic Development Unit?

QUESTION:
How large is the Academic Development Unit and what is its purpose?

 

ANSWER:

The Academic Development Unit (currently 27 staff), includes a core team of senior managers and relevant supporting staff and distinct teams of service based staff, including Quality Improvement Service (QIS), Learning Development and Innovation (LDI), and the eLearning Facilitator team. The staffing profile is currently under review and the outcome will make efficiency savings in-line with Faculties and Services across the University.

The remit of the Academic Development Unit is to deliver the University Academic Strategy, which has four sections: Programme Portfolio, Learning and Teaching, Quality, Research and Advanced Scholarship. Two senior academics: Dean of Academic Policy and Development and Director of Academic Enhancement lead cross-university groups to deliver different aspects of the Academic Strategy.

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When will we invest in academic staff numbers?

QUESTION:
When is the University going to invest in actual academic staff numbers? We have one of the worst staff student ratios around. The IAP process for years has blocked staff recruitment and we endlessly spend money on Estates, IT systems etc.
ANSWER:
The University invests in additional academic staff when there is a need. An example is the investment in additional staff in Sport and Exercise following an increase in student numbers in the 2012/13 academic year. The university student numbers have decreased in 2012/13 and this has led to an improvement in staff student ratios. The IAP process is for capital expenditure only. Requests for additional academic staff are considered by Deans, with Faculty Management Teams in relation to faculty budget availability and discussed further with the Executive Pro Vice Chancellor and other members of Executive where this is relevant. Through the work of the portfolio review, we will continue to keep abreast of changes in student demand for courses and get better at moving resources from areas of under recruitment to growth areas, which again will be led by the Deans.

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How are we investing in new course design?

QUESTION:
How much investment are we putting into new course design? What’s the process for proposing new courses and getting investment for this development and delivery?

 

ANSWER:
We are putting a lot of investment in staff time and market research into new course design. The process for proposing new courses is first to talk to the relevant member of your Faculty Management Team (Dean, Associate Dean Learning and Teaching, Head of School). If they are in agreement with the proposal, there is a formal Academic Planning Process, which considers new proposals at Academic Planning Group. The first stage in this process is to complete an Outline Planning Form, which is considered and agreed at the Faculty FMT before going to the Academic Planning Group. Deans, Associate Deans Learning and Teaching and Heads of School can explain the Academic Planning process in more detail.

 

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Will software training be reviewed?

QUESTION:
Some time ago, at an all staff meeting, it was mentioned that software training was not part of the academic remit. However, on many awards, academics spend a large percentage of their student contact time in labs and studios, demonstrating and training on software and hardware while instructors remain under utilised.

This seems like a waste of resources on both counts. Does the University plan to take a closer look at these activities, and make changes that could benefit staff and students to improve the overall experience of studying and working at Staffs?

 

ANSWER:
The technical managers have a remit to work with academic staff to arrange for the relevant technical staff to be involved in technical demonstration and this is strongly encouraged. In order to find out more about how this works in particular faculties, the best people to contact are members of the Faculty Management Team (Dean, Associate Dean Learning and Teaching, Head of School) and the Faculty Technical Manager.

 

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Will we be supporting Armed Forces Day?

QUESTION:
Last August someone asked the question, “Why doesn’t the university support Armed Forces Day?”. The questioner went on to ask, “I have noticed that under the Equality and Diversity Scheme, no mention was made of the Armed Forces Day/week in June 2012. As we have many students from and collaboration with the services – I wondered if this was an oversight or a political decision? Many other groups and communities of the public seem to get a mention but our Armed Forces always seem to be forgotten.” The answer given was, “Armed Forces Day/Week is a relatively new celebration that the UK has committed to – strengthened this year with the Jubilee. We will therefore ensure that we support these dates in future.” I have checked the Diversity events calendar for June and no mention is made of Armed Forces Day which takes place on June 29th. Has it been forgotten or have the University decided not to support it after all? Or is it being promoted in some other way? I got the impression from the answer given last year that it would be included in the Equality and Diversity calendar of events.

ANSWER:
This year we will be marking Armed Forces Day by launching a dedicated impact panel on the University website. This will highlight the considerable work we do in partnership with the armed forces, including reference to our part in a newly announced initiative to train troops as teachers, which involves our school of Education.

Could the policy on hospitality be reviewed?

QUESTION:
Hello,
I would like to submit the following question:
Could the policy on hospitality be reviewed to ensure it supports the university’s aims?   During the visit of the external examiners to Stafford Campus, we were informed that they could not be provided with coffee as this was contrary to hospitality policy. Our externals travel for up to 4 hours to reach us and it is appropriate to give them a drink on arrival (Staff bought the externals drinks and paid for the drinks themselves).  I attended a leadership seminar/consultation meeting last semester and staff were provided with drinks and cakes – profiteroles if I remember rightly.  I think it would benefit the university more, and would be more professional,  to treat our externals with consideration and to scrap the cream buns.

ANSWER:
Hospitality can be booked by any department in the University and by any clients who are using our facilities.  The decision to either provide refreshments for visitors or not lies with the visit organisers and it may be that some departments, in managing their internal budgets will make different decisions.  The catering teams will fulfill all approved requests and even when these are at short notice, will try their best to make sure that visitors are looked after.

If the question is implying that the catering team should provide free of charge refreshments for visitors then I’m sorry but we are not in a position to do this unless the University makes this decision.

Concerns about the Cadman Courtyard

QUESTION:
I’m concerned by the usage of the Cadman Courtyard over recent weeks and would appreciate Executive’s response to this. It feels more like a HGV / van terminus than a space that is welcoming and accessible for students and visitors – right now in the middle of Show & Tell there is a bin truck in the middle of the courtyard, as there was yesterday, with similar disruption and noise last week. Last week included one of the entrances (a fire exit at that) having a Brown’s recycling dumpster placed right in front of it. The Cadman Gallery, Careers Centre, Cashiers Office, Open Space, and Courtyard Café all open out onto what could be a real hub for this part of the campus but this I feel is having a negative impact on achieving that.

ANSWER:
The Cadman Courtyard is currently being used by the contractors who are working on the library refurbishment project, so there is more commercial vehicle activity than usual in this area.  Our Estates team have also been asked to provide skips in the courtyard for FACT and the activity around Show & Tell, although these will only be required on a short term basis.

Why were trees removed?

QUESTION:
A couple of weeks ago I watched tree surgeons carefully pruning the mature trees at the edge of the car park behind the Science Centre (and behind the Business Village) at Leek Road. Today I came in to find they had been cut down completely. What was the reason for the earlier pruning if they were to be removed?

On another point, are the trees that have been planted along the side of the Science Centre being looked after? I am not a tree expert by any means, but to my eyes, the new leaf growth this Spring looks decidedly stunted, with few leaves, and with visible curling and browning of those that have grown. Are these trees getting enough water? I imagine that they have cost quite a lot to plant as they are semi-mature so it would be an awful shame if they died – we need them to replace all the others that are being cut down!

 
ANSWER:
With regard to the tree pruning, our Grounds Maintenance Team has an annual, seasonal schedule of work that includes tree management. The team works closely with the landscaping contractors but on the before mentioned occasion at Leek Road, we weren’t aware of how quickly the trees would be removed when the pruning took place.

Why have the light switches been removed in the Beacon Building?

QUESTION:

Why have the light switches been removed from C342 and C346 on the top floor of the Beacon Building? Now the lights remain on all day while the rooms stand empty for most of the day. This surely does not comply with the University’s green policy.

 

ANSWER:

The lighting in these rooms has been updated as part of the teaching room refurbishment programme. This has resulted in the light switches being relocated inside trunking rather than within the plaster surface. The switches will be marked up when the works in these rooms are complete. The new lighting will be on absence detection when fully commissioned, but in the meantime it is necessary to have continual full light for 100 hours as part of the ‘burning in’ process. This extends the life of the tube within the light fitting.