Are there any plans for academics to be involved with planning the Library move?

QUESTION:

Firstly, I would like to say I’m very happy with the decision to move the Library. I think it’s a great idea and if done correctly will certainly improve the student experience, the Library has always been a little awkward to get to especially when it’s raining! Looking down into the concourse from above to see the Library should look very impressive.

My question is, are there any plans for academics to be involved with the committees which will be planning the Library move to the Octagon concourse? I think it is very important this move goes well and we create a space that works well for everybody, staff and students.

 

ANSWER:

There has already been engagement with faculty management teams regarding all the implications of the move including ensuring that the transition is as seamless as possible and minimising any impact on the current users of the Octagon (especially those who use it as a base for learning and teaching).  Bernard Shaw and Duncan White will continue to work with faculties and actively encourage academic input and involvement throughout the process.

 

Can Exec answer some questions about the sale of Nelson Library please?

QUESTIONS:

Having just heard about the sale of the library building to the County Council, including 3 acres of land, I would like to ask the following on my behalf and also as I have been asked this by current students?

1. How will the reduction in parking that is bound to happen at Stafford be addressed as we have lost 3 acres? I dare say the exec car parking spaces will not be sacrificed! Where exactly will the boundaries be? How will we stop the parking fiasco that happens at Stoke not happening at Stafford?

2. How will the fact that classes happen in the bottom of the octagon now, and labs are full up be addressed if we will lose labs to the library – how will this help student experience? Especially as this will happen from January and classes are currently scheduled to happen in that space. As it is our specialist lab is timetabled 9-8 most days to fit our current students in. Also the current timetabling plan for students will not allow classes to happen after 6pm for daytime students

3. How will the fact that the library is open until much later than the octagon building is now, and is often open almost 24 hours?

4. How come the students were not asked about this, as most of the ones I have spoken to are angry at this decision.

5. How does this move actually help student experience, as the space at the bottom of the octagon does not equate at all to the space in the library

6. Why could the library not move into the Beacon and say reduce the exec space held now? The Beacon has more free space now as Engineering has moved out – after all this move is for ‘student experience’. Or even better sell Blackheath lane to allow the school to be built there (still opposite Weston Road), and move the Nursing school to Beaconside – thus helping the gender balance

7. Will we loose our walking access to the technology park – the link being something that encourages new businesses to spring up there

Please can we get an answer to this asap as most ‘controversial’ ask execs seem to get ignored.

Thank you.

 

ANSWER:

We are not anticipating any loss of car parking that would make any difference to the usage of the site. We have too much space in Stafford and this is a sensible means of removing some excess space that generates income that can be utilised well. The library will operate as it is for the remainder of the year and will move into the lower part of the Octagon. The activities that currently utilise that space will move elsewhere.  There will be no loss of service through this move.

More detailed answers to your specific points can be found below.

 

1) There will be no loss of car parking that makes any difference to the usage of the site. Whilst it sounds like a lot of land, it is actually a small parcel of the whole site.

2) Appropriate replacements rooms have been agreed with Estates by representatives from the faculties concerned.  The plan for the decant to these new spaces is being undertaken with a target of minimum disruption to the teaching already timetabled.  Faculty technical staff are fully involved and engaged with the planning process.

3) I see this as an advantage (assuming that the changes planned can include the access and security monitoring of specialist lab spaces). Student access can be greatly improved by the clustering of resources like this.  My view of a long-term viable campus (irrespective of the Estates Strategy) will include this clustering as a key ingredient due to the prohibitive cost of specialist technical equipment.

4) For reasons of confidentiality and commercial sensitivity, this matter could only go through University Committees. In addition to which there is no reduction in service, rather an improvement in many ways. In addition, Students’ Union representatives were aware owing to their membership of university committees.  Kris Winpenny has already contacted me (7th October) to request his inclusion in the planning group which moves the project forward.  I have already informed Kris that his involvement is very welcome.

5) Two points come to mind here, one being my answer to point 3 (above) but also Nelson was always in a relatively distant corner of the campus and accessing it during the evening meant a detour.  By relocating the library into the Octagon it will become part of the heart of the campus creating a more vibrant atmosphere moving forward.

6) This was considered by the group which included representatives from the faculties but it was agreed for the reasons above that the best location was the Octagon.

7) I will need to check this further, but my understanding is that there will not be an impact upon this access.

 

Regards,

Michael

Professor Michael Gunn LLB, FRSA
Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive

Why was consultation on major change not undertaken anonymously?

QUESTION:
Can you explain why consultation on an import and major change such as the proposal to consolidate administrative support into three hubs was not undertaken anonymously?

Personally, I was very happy to be associated with my responses. However, these are very substantial changes being proposed, and they are open to considerable criticism. By forcing people to identify themselves, you risk stifling debate and using tacit fear to cow people into accepting your proposition. This is particularly true for the very Admin staff who are most affected.

I note that the survey questions themselves were hardly exemplars of survey design, with loaded questions throughout. Combined, this suggests very strongly a desire to consult only as a box-ticking exercise, rather than to properly inform major organisational change.

 
ANSWER:
We have recently held a number of all staff roadshows about changing our adminstrative structures and outlining the different options that are available to us. This has included the ‘hubs’ model, which we shared as the model that looked to have the most advantages for us, from this very early stage.

As part of these roadshows we made it clear that this was an engagement opportunity prior to any business case being worked up and prior to any consultation. This was a chance for staff to genuinely share their thoughts on this – about whether it would work or not, whether there were other options that would be better and the chance to feed in very detailed information about specific matters that we would need to take account of for any future design of any future structure. The most important part of the survey was about gaining a detailed understanding from staff about their roles and things we would need to take into account. We made it clear in the presentation that this was a chance for staff to share their own specialist knowledge with us, so that we could reflect on this as part of the development of the business plan proposal.

Given that this was the purpose it would be pointless for this to be anonymous – because the specific detail that staff shared we would want the opportunity to go back to and understand more – which we would not be able to do without a name. This was an information gathering exercise – not a voting process on a concept. I would also like to confirm that the thought that peoples comments if negative, were some how going to then impact upon whether they gained a role in the new structures is not logical. This is about designing the structure for our future based on business needs – not about engineering the removal of people based on whether someone was in favour of the proposed approach. This latter concern would somewhat defeat the object of this whole programme of work!

With the final point of the survey design, it is important to understand that this is not some abstract research piece. This was a practical information gathering exercise which was done with the best of intentions to ensure we had as much feedback as possible before designing the business case and before moving to consultation. It is unfortunate that genuine aims and a genuine chance to engage staff in a mature way has not been picked up by some.

Will i-Expenses be evaluated?

QUESTION:
The new i-expenses is very complicated and time consuming (for overseas claims it is taking hours to complete). The various guides in themselves are lengthy and complex, some of the buttons/ options do not work and the system is not at all intuitive. Is there going to be any evaluation of the system?

 
ANSWER:
i-Expenses was introduced in July and is being supported with user guides in addition to face to face training. As with any new system, there is an element of getting used to the system and learning ‘shortcuts’ to simplify the process. These include the ability to duplicate lines and attach bulk volumes of receipts. Financial Services are happy to individually train staff on the entry of more complicated claims and can be contacted through James Bennett on x3358. Finance are unaware of any buttons/options that do not work and would ask that such occurrences are reported to Helen Holt on x3542.

With regards to evaluation of i-expenses, this is planned towards the end of the year when users have had sufficient time to become familiar with the key functions.

Can a shuttle bus drop-off point be added to College Road?

QUESTION:
I have been using the shuttle bus to travel between sites for meetings and training etc and find it very convenient.

Would it be possible for the shuttle to drop off and pick up at College Road as well as this is where I normally need to be and quite a few of the people I have been travelling with as well.

It is quite a long walk from Leek Road especially for people with mobility problems.

 
ANSWER:
Thank you for the feedback. We have only been operating the shuttle service for a very short time and need to properly understand demand before we look at making any changes. We do appreciate the benefit of having more than one drop off and pick up point, so will consider this as we review the effectiveness of the service.

Why was the X1 bus service removed?

QUESTION:
Can you please indicate the reasons why the X1 bus service was replaced by a number of minibuses and whether the rumours now circulating are true that it was due to the University no longer able to afford the costs involved in supporting this service?

 

ANSWER:
The University has, for the last few years, subsidised the X1 bus route to provide an inter-site travel option for our students and staff between the Beaconside and Stoke-on-Trent campuses. The restrictions of bus timetabling to try and meet everyone’s requirements meant that the arrival and departure times were not meeting student demands. Feedback from students and staff has been negative so we wanted to address this. We had lengthy discussions with Bakers Coaches and London Midland, who were also a partner in the X1 but found that we could not significantly improve the timetable. We had to consider the cost of the subsidy against the quality of service for our students and reached the decision that we could no longer justify the investment. We decided instead to invest in a free shuttle service between campuses as an alternative that we hope students and staff will appreciate.

Can we stop colleagues moving visitor reserved cones please?

QUESTION:
Can the executive do something about colleagues who seem to be using parking cones for their own purposes please?

This is making a frustrating situation with morning parking even worse.

 

ANSWER:
If our colleagues are using cones for their own personal use then this is extremely disappointing. The Campus team uses cones to reserve spaces for visitors at the request of our colleagues and in an attempt to support university business. We know anecdotally that people often move these cones to use the reserved space for themselves, which causes stress for the visitor who arrives expecting to be able to park and creates a bad impression of the University.

Clearly we will need to review the use and location of traffic cones which may make it impossible for us to reserve spaces other than close to the lodge on Leek Road. We all have a responsibility when it comes to the management of our car parks so we all need to think about how we can help.

How can parking fines be given when barriers aren’t active?

QUESTION:
We all know that car parking spaces are at a premium in Stoke, but can the following be explained?

How can payment for permits be taken, and fines applied to people who have parked inappropriately, when the barriers are open at both College Road and Leek Road campuses, meaning that anyone can park on our campuses?

 
ANSWER:
We began enforcement procedures in January to manage the serious Health and Safety concerns that indiscriminate parking causes. We issue parking charge notices to make sure that the campuses are safe and accessible.

The car park barrier to the side of the Mellor building has been hit by a lorry and we are waiting for it to be repaired by the contractors. The new barriers are being installed at Leek Road as part of the campus improvement works and are not yet in working order. As soon as they are commissioned and handed over to us then they will be in operation.

Could the University provide subsidised/free rail travel between Stoke and Stafford?

QUESTION:
Dear Executive

I am an academic member of staff living in Stoke and mainly working in Stafford, although my Faculty is based at Stoke. I do not drive to work – I used to get the X1 bus but now I get the shuttle, train or catch a lift with colleagues. I am also keen to promote collaborations between staff and students between campuses.

Would it solve several issues at once if the university were to provide subsidised/free rail travel between Stoke and Stafford and link the Stafford campus to the railway station with a free shuttle bus service?

This would simultaneously address car parking issues, facilitate inter-campus meetings, promote collaborative working between staff and students, solve current difficulties with the shuttle bus service, link the Stafford campus to the rail network (which would benefit everybody) and make a definitive and strong statement of intent reinforcing the University’s green credentials.

Thank you.

 
ANSWER:
Thank you so much for making this suggestion. We are always grateful for ideas and will look into the feasibility of this with the various parties that would need to be involved.

 

Why are redundancies made?

QUESTION:
I have heard a lot of worrying rumours about redundancies.

Apparently seven IT specialists have already lost their jobs. The cleaners in the halls of residence have been given notice and the other cleaning staff are waiting to hear their fate shortly.

I am a little confused over this. I may well have missed something, but I thought that last year academic posts had been reviewed and this autumn it was the turn of admin staff. How do the IT people and the cleaners fit in with this?

Please could you confirm or deny these rumours and let staff know whether there are any further plans in the pipeline. I would also be interested in why these redundancies have been made. I hope it is nothing to do with savings being made in order to pay for the building works. It has been quite common in the FE sector, for example, to see brand new college buildings being paid for by laying off staff.

 
ANSWER:
Thank your for the question. The University will always attempt to ensure the highest levels of job security, in the context of our changing business needs. Recently the area of the Academic Development Unit has been reviewed and regrettably some redundancies are likely. There are also changes being made to the services provided in Commercial Services which has put some staff ‘at risk’.

We are working hard to try and redeploy staff wherever possible. I am unsure as to the reference to administrative staff in the question, but clearly the recent new ways of working roadshows explained to staff that structures are likely to change for a number of professional support staff areas post SITS implementation. On the latter point a recent all staff e mail signalled the opportunity for staff to get involved in this piece of work. We cannot comment on your understanding of the FE sector, but the changes are not linked to the building work being undertaken.