Can industrial action salary savings be donated to charity?

QUESTION:
Union members wonder if, as a gesture of goodwill, and since we are approaching Christmas, Executive would donate a percentage of the salaries saved by members taking Industrial Action to a local foodbank or similar charity.

 

ANSWER:
Thank you for the question. The university has considered the request to donate some or all of the money withheld from the industrial action to a charity. However, given that all university money is derived from students, many of whom are themselves in challenging financial positions, it is felt that we should ensure that any money that is not spent on staffing on these days is channeled into our expenditure targeted at improving the student experience.

Questions around the Estates Strategy

We have received the following questions leading on from the recent publicity about the future of the University’s estate:

• How does the University hope to build a trusting relationship with stakeholders and try to rebuild its tarnished image after yet another negative headline in the media?

• Why has it taken so long to produce the campus review, surely there must have been interim findings that could have been made public for discussion rather than releasing, what is in effect, a final decision at the end of the review?

• The setting-up of ‘The-Student-Voice-Save-Stafford-Campus’ facebook group, could have serious implications when it comes to both recruitment and retention and does not bode well for the NSS. How does the University management team hope to gain students trust, especially as they are so remote from students?

We would like to thank you for your questions and continued interest.  As you will be aware we have shared openly the response made to the newspaper story and we now have some further communications to undertake. We are unable to respond to all of the questions individually while the process is ongoing but can assure you that the points you raise are being fully considered.

Further updates on the consultation will be provided in the new year.

 

Can we adopt the Oxford method of calculating TAS?

QUESTION:
As we are looking for means to become more efficient can we copy the Oxford method of calculating TAS – currently academics are being asked to fill this in 6 times a year at Staffordshire University, Oxford manages it by just collecting the data once.

The Oxford academic activity survey (AAS) gathers data on the different activities undertaken by the university’s 1 700 academics. Each week around 35 academics are selected at random and are asked to fill in a sheet, which details how many hours they have spent on teaching, research and other activities. Every academic is asked to fill in the survey once per academic year (during the 52 weeks between October and September).
http://www.eua.be/libraries/publications_homepage_list/full_costing_progress_and_practice_web.sflb.ashx pg33

 
ANSWER:
Our TAS system was implemented in line with the TRAC guidance at the time. Whilst specific guidance required a minimum of three schedules to be completed in a one year period, response rates below 100% required statistical sign off. It was agreed the collection of six rather than three schedules per year would ensure our data sample met statistical verification requirements. Over the last couple of years the requirements of TAS have been reduced and the option to adopt Work Load Planning models (if these are TRAC compliant). Unfortunately we do not have an alternative model that meets the criteria at this time.

Oxford do complete one TAS return per year, however this is a five page document that is considerable more complex than ours with the implication that the time differential between returns is negligible.

The TAS system is however a process that has been unchanged for a number of years and given recent changes to TRAC guidance could be reviewed. This is an in house system and given the current student system implementation priorities it is unlikely to be a priority at this time.

Can Exec provide clarity around the Staffordshire Newsletter article?

QUESTION:
Hello.
Several students have asked me about the article in the newsletter http://www.staffordshirenewsletter.co.uk/Stafford-uni-campus-remote/story-20313142-detail/story.html and what source of student data was used. They have also set up a facebook page which has had over 300 likes in the space of 3 hours https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Student-Voice-Save-Stafford-Campus/465903490184706 which seems to illustrate the opposite opinion.

How and when are students and staff opinions on this matter going to be gathered as none of the students who have asked about this have had the chance to be consulted.

In light of the approaching NSS, it would be useful to have some answers for the students concerned.

Thank you

 

ANSWER:
With regards to the article which appeared in the Staffordshire Newsletter last week under the headline ‘Students don’t like Stafford claims University boss’, we are aware that this article has prompted a large online response among Stafford students and we will be meeting with students in the near future. We would also like to share with you the content of our response to the Newsletter article which gives greater context to the discussions which took place with Stafford Chamber:

 

Dear Editor,

We are dismayed at your sensationalist reporting on the recent Stafford Chamber meeting hosted at Staffordshire University to consult with local businesses on the future of Staffordshire University’s estate.

The meeting was part of the University’s on-going consultation on the Estates Strategy and was similar to a meeting held in October 2013 for the membership of the Chamber in Stoke.

We feel that the quotes included in your article were not fully representative of the open and transparent discussions which took place, and failed to provide important context to those discussions.

We have surveyed our students and staff for their opinions on the pros and cons of both our Stoke and Stafford campuses. Invitations to participate in the survey were sent to 12,362 students based on the Stoke and Stafford Campuses and 1171 Alumni – our recent graduates. Response rates to the survey were in the region of 17 per cent.

Findings from this research shows that students like the idea of a self-contained campus in a town or city best and a rural, self-contained campus was the least attractive option. Although students at Stafford have a slightly more positive attitude towards rural locations, they still preferred the concept of a self-contained campus in a town or city.

The research has shown that students in Stafford are concerned about the gender imbalance that exists at our Stafford campus, access to social opportunities, food outlets, public transport links etc. The quiet atmosphere, physical appearance and equipment and facilities were cited as positive aspects.

The fact that we are engaged in discussions with Stafford Borough Council about looking at alternative sites nearer Stafford town centre was not covered in your report. It is important to stress here that no decision has yet been made and all options are still being considered.

During the 12 months consultation period, we have consulted widely with staff, students, schools and colleges, local authorities, MP’s and politicians, business organisations including chambers in Stafford and Stoke, employers and the Stafford Landlords Association. It is important that we take on board the views of as many Staffordshire stakeholders as possible in considering the future of the University and its estate.

An update on the consultation is currently being prepared for students, staff and other stakeholders, after which there will be a final opportunity for individuals and organisations to input any other comments and views. The consultation continues to work towards the proposal to be considered by The University’s Board of Governors at its meeting at the end of January 2014.

Yours,

Mark Hattersley

 

How can technical staff progress within the University?

Executive Question Time question that wasn’t addressed during the hour programme due to time restrictions:

QUESTION:
As a young Technical member of staff how can I move up career wise within the University?
ANSWER:
Appraisals form an essential part of each technician’s career development. During these discussions, development to support the individual’s career aspirations can be suggested, aligned to the needs of the department and the wider University. There are a number of opportunities available to support each technician in their current role and to assist in progressing further along their career path. Development opportunities available internally can be found in Development Matters. Alternatively, each technician is eligible for free membership to HEaTED, as the University has an institutional subscription.

In recent months, HEaTED has undergone significant change and has broadened its portfolio greatly to enhance technician career development. Registration is free on the HEaTED website, by visiting www.heated.ac.uk and clicking on the ‘Register Now’ button on the homepage to ensure notification is received of future events . In addition, technicians have the opportunity to register for the Online Community Groups via the Community Groups Homepage and can also use this online group to suggest topics, presenters, venues and activities for future Regional Network Events.

Technicians whose role involves teaching/facilitating learning will also be encouraged to gain an Associate Fellow of the HEA. This is another career-enhancing opportunity which helps to broaden a technician’s role and potential. Similarly those technicians who aspire to move into management posts can sign up for a number of management development workshops and/or qualifications such as the ILM First line Management course.

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Can staff work from home in the run up to Christmas?

QUESTION:
Will staff be allowed to work from home in the run up to Christmas?

 

ANSWER:
There are no restrictions in place regarding ‘working from home’ during the two weeks leading up to Christmas and normal approval protocols apply.

We have explained in an earlier response that we would not anticipate Faculties/Services approving ‘working from home’ on Christmas Eve. Anyone who has not booked leave on this day will be required to attend the University to provide appropriate cover. If there is appropriate cover in place, then of course working from home can be approved at the line managers discretion.

Why does the University not implement the living wage?

Executive Question Time question that wasn’t addressed during the hour programme due to time restrictions:

 

QUESTION:
As more and more local and national employers, including universities move to paying the Living Wage, how does the University justify not paying the Living Wage in light of significant numbers of University staff earning in excess of £50K?

 

ANSWER:
Thank you for this question. The living wage is an hourly rate, set independently and updated annually. This currently stands at £7.65 per hour outside of London. A ‘Living Wage Employer’ agrees through a signed licence with the Living Wage Foundation, to pay all staff the living wage. Each November, the Living Wage Foundation announce the new hourly rate and accredited employers then have six months from the date of announcement to implement the rise. This is calculated by the Centre for Social Policy at Loughborough University. The living wage is not the same as the national minimum wage, the latter being legally enforceable. This stands at £6.31 per hour. According to the BBC approximately 140 employers have actually signed up to the living wage.

The University has kept under review the ‘Living wage’ debate. To put this into context, the living wage of £7.65 per hour is higher than the hourly rates of spinal points 1-4 inclusive. There are a number of issues with the Living Wage. Firstly, it does not recognise all of the different benefits that organisations may provide to staff – this will vary greatly from one employer to another – we as an employer have excellent terms and conditions including our final salary pension scheme. Secondly, we are part of the UCEA national pay bargaining negotiations. Therefore the salary levels on the pay spine are nationally agreed and are the outcome of these national discussions.

If we were to implement the living wage we would have UCEA/Unions determining the pay for one group of staff and the Centre for Social Policy at Loughborough University dictating this for other staff – which may cause problems if one inflator is higher than another. Finally, we often acknowledge that this region is one of the cheaper areas to live within the UK. The living wage is one rate for the whole of the UK which tries to cover the cost of living on a national basis – which of course will be different to the cost of living on a regional level, which in our case is almost certainly likely to be less.

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Is there a conflict between employee schemes and restructures?

Executive Question Time question that wasn’t addressed during the hour programme due to time restrictions:

QUESTION:
Is there a conflict between schemes such as the Employee Engagement Survey and Investors in People and the restructure of service departments and subsequent redundancies? How does this streamlining of important areas help student recruitment, which is increasingly important in Higher Education?

 

ANSWER:
We believe that Investors in People and Employee Engagement are not in conflict with internal restructures within the University. Both Investors in People and Employee Engagement are frameworks for measuring improvements in the work environment whilst restructures are about aligning areas with the business needs of the organisation. Neither Investors in People nor Employee Engagement are about individual staff as both operate within the context of the wider organisation. There is, therefore, a synergy with, rather than a conflict between the Investors in People and Employee Engagement frameworks and the restructuring. Applying both of these frameworks to the University ensures that there is measurement and monitoring of the extent to which it remains fit for purpose in all areas, maximising efficiency and effectiveness in terms of how staff are recruited, led, managed and developed.

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Who is the ‘Stafford campus’ meeting for?

QUESTION:

This was in the Express & Star last night, can executive confirm who this meeting is for, is it Executive and the Governors or is it for all staff to attend?

article

 

ANSWER:
An article was featured in Thursday’s Express and Star publicising a breakfast meeting due to take place on campus on Tuesday. The meeting has been organised by Stafford Chamber for their membership and is not an open invitation to a wider audience. The meeting is part of the University’s on-going consultation on the Estates Strategy and is similar to a meeting held earlier in the year for the membership of the Chamber in Stoke.

An update on the consultation is being prepared for staff (and other stakeholders) after which there will be a further opportunity for staff to input any other comments and views. The consultation continues to work towards the proposal to be considered by The University’s Board of Governors at its meeting in January.

Does the University allow gender segregation?

QUESTION:
In light of Universities UK green lighting of gender segregation, http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/nick-cohen/2013/12/the-segregation-of-women-and-the-appeasement-of-bigotry/ , can our Exec categorically state whether or not they would impose such a policy at this institution?
ANSWER:
We do not allow segregated events of any kind at Staffordshire University as it would contradict our equality policy.