How will the University ensure our offices aren’t freezing after a break?

QUESTION:

Dear Ask-Executive,

When I arrived back at work this morning after the vacation, I discovered that my office was at a rather wintry nine degrees centigrade. This isn’t the first year I’ve noticed that office temperatures don’t seem to meet health and safety minimum standards* after the Christmas break, so I’m wondering what plans the University will be putting in place to deal with this recurring issue.

*I know that the sixteen degree rule of thumb is no longer binding, but nine degrees scarcely seems “reasonable” either.

Happy new year.

ANSWER:

There have been a couple of buildings that have felt the cold early this week. The University has a Staffordshire University Heating Guidance – Final that is freely available. This states that a temperature range of 17 through 23°C will be maintained. Generally we try to maintain internal temperatures at 21°C, although a margin of error is to be expected with a range of building ages and structures and varying ages of heating plant.

A heating schedule was created that allowed the service to be set to “anti-frost” only, over the Christmas break. However, this schedule ended by the 4th Jan (or 3rd, where buildings are known to take longer to regain a comfortable temperature).

Where problems are still being reported, we are investigating an appropriate “warm up” time, and will endeavour to ensure that university buildings have gained sufficient heat for comfort after periods of disuse, in readiness for reoccupation.

However, it would appear that in the case of the Brindley and Flaxman buildings, technical faults beyond the Building Management System control have occurred, which have interrupted the normal circulation of heat. These faults are being investigated at present.

The 16°C minimum temperature is often cited but has never been a statutory minimum. It is, however commonly used as a minimum guidance temperature for sedentary work and is regarded as the “reasonable” lower limit for internal temperatures.

Why isn’t the heating left on?

QUESTION:

Can someone explain why the heating appears to go off at approx. 2.30 – 3pm every afternoon please? Many in our office (Brindley) work past 5 – 6pm and it is decidedly chilly by this time.

ANSWER:

As the weather has been very mild for November, we have been attempting to conserve energy and finances by tailoring the boiler outputs to suit actual weather conditions. Our larger buildings such as Henrion; Flaxman; Mellor and Brindley are all prone to overheat if the heating is on and the weather remains mild. Therefore, operating hours of the heating has been pegged back to mid afternoon to prevent too much overheat. However, last week, as the weather appears to be cooling off, we began to extend the operating hours to compensate for the cooler weather. Hopefully, we can strike a balance between those who are too cold and those that are actually too hot (then open their windows to cool down and let the heat from the radiators out).

As ever, we try to provide as comfortable a working and studying environment as possible, whilst keeping the heating regime as economical as possible.

Why is the heating on already?

QUESTION:

It is the end of September, and still warm. Why is the heating on? It came on last week, and some classrooms are far too hot. Surely the heating should only go on (like mine does at home) once it is generally cold?

ANSWER:

The heating has been put on to offset the cool mornings and switches off after a couple of hours. Some of our buildings, however, experience solar gains in the afternoon and this, combined with the residual heat in the pipework may have led to warmer than desired temperatures. We have altered heating setpoints and timeschedules to better control room temperatures during this temperate period leading up to the proper heating season.

When will we be updated on the Estates Strategy?

QUESTION:

Following the announcement of the planned closure of the Stafford campus and relocation to Stoke back in January, there seems to have been a long period of silence on the matter since.

Can Executive tell us more in more detail the plans of when, where and how the move of everything from Stafford to Stoke will take shape. I can understand such matters are complex and nothing should be rushed, but surely some plans of how the move would take shape were made to inform the initial decision whether to move everything up to Stoke or not. And in the 6 months since I would expect that these plans have been firmed up, yet we have not heard a great deal more about it.

No communication or poor communication on such a large change will inevitably lead to rumours, concerns over job security, demotivation and uncertainty amongst staff. Worst of all is University staff having to admit “we haven’t been told” when potential students and their parents at open days, or visitors, or existing students ask; when the move will happen, where specific departments will go, how will everything fit onto one campus, if we will have new buildings, how will we manage the parking and many other questions.

ANSWER:

In March of this year, when we announced that we would be working to a September 2016 date for moving to Stoke on Trent, we said that we would provide details of our proposals in the Autumn. Therefore, in September we will be announcing to staff and students, where we are up to with the Estates Strategy.

Much work is being undertaken in order to prepare robust plans for accommodation, learning and teaching facilities and the logistics around the move itself and Deans and Directors are briefed regularly on progress. In terms of future students, we ensure we clearly state in our communications our intention to relocate to Stoke on Trent and, to date, we have not had feedback to concern us.

There will be a chance for staff to comment and provide feedback after the announcement in September.

Are we dispensing of water coolers?

QUESTION:

Is the rumour true that the University are dispensing of all water coolers and, if so, are there any plans for suitable cold alternatives?

ANSWER:

As far as we are aware there have been no proposals or decisions made to remove all water coolers from across the University. This is certainly not something that has been discussed within Executive.
The idea may well have come from the Green Impact initiative, specifically, the silver Green Impact award. This asks the team to meet the following criteria: ‘not have any bottle-fed water coolers or, if it does, it has a valid reason for not having replaced bottle-fed water coolers with mains-fed versions’.

This is encouraged as bottle-fed water coolers are typically 150% more expensive to run than mains-fed water coolers (34.0 pence per litre vs. 0.22 pence per litre respectively) and both dispense the same quality water. Mains-fed coolers also have significant additional environmental impacts through food miles.

As Green Impact is currently voluntary, this criteria is encouraged as opposed to enforced. Another initiative local management are asked to consider where feasible, is the removal of disposable plastic cups and the fitting of timer clocks to water coolers to save energy during non-operational hours. Staff are reminded that tap water within kitchen areas across the University is also of drinking quality unless otherwise stated on site.

When will other departments be relocating?

Question:

Now that we have received confirmation that Computing and Technology will move to Stoke during the summer of 2016 can you tell us when you anticipate other departments to relocate?

There is a lot of uncertainly amongst staff and I think it is fair to say some people feel that we are not being kept ‘in the loop’.

Answer:

The University has announced that we will vacate our Beaconside campus with all computing and entertainment technology degrees moving to our Stoke-on-Trent campus in the summer of 2016. As highlighted in the original communication shared with all staff and students in January, Health Sciences courses will remain in Stafford at our Blackheath Lane site. Although the University is investigating opportunities to relocate this part of our course provision to a town centre location, these are longer-term aspirations.

As part of this decision, we have committed to keeping all student facing services fully operational until the students relocate in September 2016 – this will require the staff providing these services to remain at Stafford until 2016. For other, non-student facing areas, there may be the opportunity to relocate from Stafford at an earlier date and in fact, it may be advantageous to do so to avoid everyone having to move at the same time. Any plans to move earlier than 2016 would however be dependent upon the space being available at Stoke and would be done in consultation with the department and staff affected. It is unlikely that any moves will take place until summer 2015 at the earliest.

There may also be the need to relocate staff on the Stoke Campus to enable refurbishment works to be undertaken. These plans are currently being developed and will be shared and discussed with staff when complete.

How long has the University known about S-O-T City Council’s investment?

QUESTION:

How long have the university known about the Stoke-on-Trent Council’s plan to invest in the University Quarter and was the decision to close the Stafford campus dependent on the council’s investment? Surely we cannot be expected to believe that that the two decisions are not co-dependent!

ANSWER:

Throughout the consultation period the University has undertaken meetings with both Stafford and Stoke councils to discuss potential requirements were we to invest further in either of the campuses. The University has been clear with Stoke City Council that if we are to invest in the city that we would expect support and investment from themselves.

We must stress, however, contrary to the headlines that have appeared in this morning’s The Sentinel, no decision has yet been made on the levels of investment, new teaching facilities, car-parking or student accommodation required by the University.

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 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

 

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.