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.

Should the Business Villages be closed down?

QUESTION:

Should Staffordshire University Business Village be hosting a number of mortgage/financial advisory companies, some trading under several names?

The original rationale behind the project was for postgraduate students launching their own businesses to have low-cost facilities to help them get started, I’m not certain we have a single ex-student company using these facilities.

Surely it’d now make greater financial sense, given the very low rents we charge for the units and the failure of the original project aims, for the university to now remove the business units and use these facilities for teaching/staff office space?

ANSWER:

Thank you for your interest in the Business Villages. We host a variety of businesses based upon an entry and exit policy which creates a diverse community of clients,including business and professional services, and graduate start-up companies should they choose to occupy these premises. This delivers a business service on campus, a client base of Small and Medium Enterprises, and a focus for our knowledge exchange and Working with Business engagement strategies.

Since the opening of the Business Villages, we have supported 71 student companies with their physical space requirements.
We have not failed in this respect and many of the student companies now choose to occupy space in the City and beyond (BIC, Hot House, Lightwood Works, Keele Science Park, Federation House and Media City).

Many local and international,visitors, including specialists in incubation and enterprise, comment on the vibrancy and the diversity of activity in the Business Villages that a mixed economy of mature and established business co-located alongside new start-ups can stimulate, including opportunities for mentoring and inter-trading.

The mix of student enterprises and the availability of funding for subsidised rent has changed over the course of the years and many companies now operate entirely online or are more creative in nature and require studio/work space rather than office space.

Currently there are four ex-students in Stoke Business Village and six in Stafford Business Village. We recently had 16 current and former students working from the Creative Village, prior to its closure in February in order to accommodate teaching facilities and staff relocating from Stafford.

Historically there has been an average of four students per year in Stoke Business Village over the last three years, and seven students in Stafford each year for the last three years.

The use of all space including the Business Villages is currently under review as part of the Estates Strategy.

Enterprise and Commercial Development, the Faculty of Business Education and Law and Campus and Commercial Services already use the Business Village as office space, thus freeing up teaching and office space elsewhere for other staff, for example, B184 in Brindley will shortly be vacated by staff relocating to the Business Village leaving the room ready to be re-purposed for Teaching.

Is the relocation to Stoke-on-Trent shortsighted?

QUESTION:
Recent reports suggest that up to 4 Universities are interested in purchasing our Stafford Campus, and with today’s news that Wolverhampton University are exploring the possibility of delivering Courses in the centre of Stafford, does the Exec’s recent decision to ‘strategically re-entrench’ ourselves in Stoke now appear short sighted and counterproductive?

ANSWER:
We are unsure which reports you make reference to but can confirm that there have been no discussions with other universities on the future of our Stafford campus. As previously stated, we would not sell to another University unless there were exceptional circumstances, such as a research centre, to consider.

The University of Wolverhampton’s intention to open a mini-campus within Stafford is good news for the town and does not affect our decision in any way. Our research showed students generally prefer a edge of city campus, with brilliant learning and teaching facilities and good public transport links and social activities – our Stoke-on-Trent campus provides all of this.

We suspected that Wolverhampton had an interest in Stafford when we made our decision to relocate the majority of our provision to Stoke-on-Trent and it had no bearing on this important decision. We will retain a strong presence in Stafford with our highly rated health courses and a range of higher education courses delivered through Stafford College. We are continuing to investigate opportunities to move our health provision to a more central location.

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.

Will all facilities in Stafford be replicated in Stoke?

QUESTION:

The executive have stated that the facilities/equipment at stoke will, at least, be equivalent to existing facilities/equipment in Stafford, will this be the case for all facilities presently on offer at Stafford?
If the answer is no then surely we need to know as soon as possible, so that on open days we can be completely honest and inform prospective students that the will be no TV Studio etc, once the move is complete!

 

ANSWER:

We will ensure that students have the facilities and equipment necessary to undertake their programmes and would expect this to be at least to the standard of those provided in Stafford.

While we cannot commit to replicate the facilities as they currently appear in Stafford, students will continue to have access to industry standard equipment to enable them to develop the skills employers are looking for.

Prospective students can therefore be reassured on these points.

Will there be accommodation for partner college students?

QUESTION:

I have a number of students who undertake their first year of study at a partner college. Due to the location of the College a number of the students use the Stafford Campus accommodation during that time. What provision will be made for the removal of what was a key attraction for this course?

 

ANSWER:

There will be an ongoing need for accommodation in Stafford to support the Faculty of Health students.  As part of this, we will also look to provide accommodation for partner college students where required.

Why are ‘change of base’ payments for travel made through salary and not as travel claims?

QUESTION:

I note a previous question regarding travel cost support for Staff whose place of work changes. Having been moved in September I have been receiving these payments. My question is why are these payments for travel made through our salary and not the normal travel claims? Paying through salary means they are subject to tax etc. virtually halving their value.

 

ANSWER:

Thank you for your question which on the face of it does seem as if we are operating a different arrangements for both types of travel claims.  The reason for the difference, however,  is that we are allowed by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to pay for business journeys tax free which includes travelling between sites and visits to customers etc.  HMRC do not allow us to pay  ‘ordinary commuting’ which means travelling  to and from home on the same basis and this has to be taxed.  The Change of Base allowance is a contribution to the additional travelling costs you incur as a result of travelling from home to work and therefore unfortunately we are bound by the HMRC regulations and are required to tax this allowance.

Will the move have a negative impact on student recruitment?

QUESTION:

Does the VC not think that it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black when in his latest email he states and I quote that “I would be remiss if I did not state clearly how damaging industrial action would be for our students and our University” when the decision has been made to move students to Stoke, a decision which could well have a disastrous effect on student retention and recruitment?

 

ANSWER:

We are very aware of the need to ensure that students are disrupted as little as possible, during any industrial action and likewise, throughout the move to the Stoke campus.

The reason for making these changes is to ensure the our students have the best experience possible and we can provide then with the best facilities and equipment. A larger primary campus will enable us to deliver a more vibrant and modern estate, both factors we know students are looking for. It is therefore believed that when delivered, these proposals will in fact have a positive impact upon recruitment.

Who will decide what services are required to remain in Stafford?

QUESTION:

Who will decide what services are required to remain in Stafford to support the Nursing & Health students, and subsequently how many jobs will remain?

When are we likely to know what, and how many, jobs are available?

 

ANSWER:

We will be consulting with the Faculty, staff and students to determine what facilities are required to support Nursing and Health students and how these can best be provided.  The outcomes of this will be built into the consultation with staff with regards to future roles and opportunities.  The timing of this is partially dependent upon the planned date of relocation – this is currently Sept 2016 with the potential for September 2015 being reviewed.  This aspect will be determined in the next few months.