What is the process for Ask Executive?


Please confirm:

• How many questions were received by Ask Executive in the period 1 Jan-30 June 2014.
• How many questions were answered.
• What was the process for deciding which questions were answered.


Thank you for getting in touch.

There have been a total of 43 questions received for publishing on the RSS Channel in the period of 1 January 2014 – 30 June 2014 (excluding those sent for inclusion in the Executive Question Time event and the Stafford Consultation meetings).

Of those received, 40 were published.

It is only myself that has access to the Ask Executive email account.  Once a question is received, I completely anonymise the email contents before sending on to the most relevant member of Executive for a response.  We always aim to have the complete post published within the week, however, during busy periods, in the event that extra advice needs to be sought from expert colleagues around the University, or the relevant member of Executive or myself is away from the University, it can sometimes take longer.

The only circumstances in which a question would not be published on the channel (aside from missing an email due to human error on my part!) is if it uses inappropriate language or may cause offensive, if it uses the names or personal information of individuals and may be deemed as derogatory, or if the subject matter is judged to be inappropriate for the the forum and could be better dealt with elsewhere.  In these cases, the individual is contacted by myself and asked to rephrase the question to protect anonymity, or they are given an explanation from Executive as to why their question cannot be published.

If you would like to discuss the process or have any further questions, please feel free to get in touch.


Judy O’Brien, Communications Manager

j.l.o’brien@staffs.ac.uk or ext: 4345

Why is our news so Stafford focussed?


Why is all the news published in University News is Stafford focussed, the birthday honours list for example, what about the fact we have a Shropshire Campus with approximately 30 staff and 400 students over here?


Thank you for getting in touch.  The University News, Events and Announcements is made up of a mixture of corporate information from the University’s Executive Office, and information sent to our Communications and Press teams by members of each Faculty and Service.

We are always happy to hear from colleagues from across the University with regards to promoting their good work externally, and each Faculty and Service has a ‘RSS Rep’ who is responsible for gathering and sharing news from their area to share internally.  If you would like more information please contact Communications Manager Judy O’Brien on ext: 4345 or email comms@staffs.ac.uk – thank you.

Why is my inbox still full of AllStaff emails?

Why does my inbox continue to be clogged up with all staff emails containing nothing relevant to me? I thought we had switched to RSS?


When the RSS Channels/University blogs were introduced as our main way of communicating information across the university, it was decided that the use of all staff email would be dramatically reduced in response to staff feedback about ‘over-clogged’ inboxes. This practice has continued with only a few relevant individuals across the University now able to send all staff emails in the rare cases where it is felt necessary due to the importance of the content.

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Why are Blackboard down times scheduled to coincide with exams and assignment hand-ins?


Why are Blackboard down times scheduled to coincide with exams and assignment hand-ins?

On 18 December staff in the School of Computing received an email announcing that Blackboard would be unavailable on 5/6 January and were told that this had been scheduled from the start of term. This was the first that I, and as far as I know other members of teaching staff had heard of this.

Exams began on 7 January which meant that students needed access to revision material. My students were scheduled to hand in via Blackboard on 6 January. Term had finished on 14 December which meant a scramble to email students to ensure they knew they had to download in advance/that the assignment hand in had been extended.

Can IS: (i) avoid scheduling downtime for the week preceding the January exams, the week preceding the start of the summer assessment period, the week before the referral week.  (ii) email teaching staff well in advance to inform them about downtimes so that we can make sure our students know.

Information Services publishes a calendar of planned maintenance via the web and also provides updates of this regularly via RSS.

The first weekend of every month and the last weekend following the end of term was approved by Deans/Directors (at the Information Strategy Group) as the agreed period when IS may need to schedule planned IT maintenance.

The work on 5th and 6th January was the essential replacement of end of life core network equipment which would become unsupported if not replaced. This upgrade had been scheduled to utilise one of the defined maintenance periods and was publicised as follows:
•The downtime was first notified via RSS on 1st October as part of the published schedule to August 2013.
•A reminder was published on RSS on 23rd November and again 18th December.
•It was also included on the IS blog.

RSS is the University’s communication mechanism and we use this to publish information about planned downtime. We have added the following message now to these communications asking that staff consider the impact of the planned downtime and let colleagues and students know if they think it will have an adverse impact:

We do publish the details of this Scheduled IT maintenance unavailability in as many places as possible to give advanced warning, but appreciate it is sometimes difficult to inform everyone especially distance learners. If you feel the work detailed below may affect your colleagues or students please can we ask that you pass this information onto them too, to ensure all are aware of any interruption to their access to resources and services. As always if you have any queries please contact the service desk

Moving forwards, a cross University group is in the process of being formed to refine the principles agreed by ISG to minimise the impact on University activities.

Why are important development sessions scheduled during prime teaching times?

I note that the open staff sessions for the development of leadership behaviours are planned for prime teaching time. Unfortunately, this means that I shall not be able to participate because I shall be teaching for the two hours of the session in Stafford.

It is very disappointing that Executive and faculty managers continue the recent trend of scheduling important events at times when academics are engaged in their primary responsibility (for example, the recently announced roadshows by Professor Gunn are also at times when I shall be teaching).

Is this a deliberate or accidental tactic to prevent many academics from engaging in the processes that shape the university?

Thank you for the question. We appreciate there is never an ideal time to run these sessions. We are however in the process of arranging an additional session to run on a Wednesday afternoon which we hope will be well attended.