Your Bristol UCU Newsflash, 5th July 2017

1) Restructurings – Finance Services & Timetabling and Examinations Office

Restructurings within Finance Services and Timetabling and the Examinations Office were announced at the end of last week. Both have 6-week consultation periods.

The proposed Finance Services model has been developed by our new Chief Financial Officer. It proposes a much strengthened senior leadership team to support the growth of the University’s financial activity.

There are many changes proposed. Over 100 staff are at risk of redundancy: there are three large ring-fence slots (where there are too many staff for the roles available) of around 80 people plus a further 25 staff whose roles will disappear or be reconfigured in the proposed structure.

The CFO plans to consult more widely on his plans during the the consultation period.

The proposed Timetabling/Examinations structure merges the Examination Office, Timetabling, Graduation and Room Booking functions. This is of a smaller scale but still puts a number of staff at risk of redundancy.

2) Governance Review

Bristol UCU reps have responded to a number of proposals from KPMG – the Governance Review ‘Green Paper’ – concerning reforms to Senate, University Committees, Faculties and University consultation processes.

These recommendations are many. UCU’s general position, unsurprisingly, is to call for more staff involvement in decision-making, particularly non-managerial staff. We would be opposed to scaling back the size of Senate, for example. Indeed, we would push for greater non-managerial staff representation on Senate along the lines of the work of Scottish HE colleagues [pdf].

For talk of ‘a lean and agile approach to governance’, a more telling fact is the 29% of respondents who are confident that their ideas and suggestions are heard by decision makers, as highlighted in the recent Staff Survey.

A straw poll of UCU reps suggests that the consultation around Governance have been the preserve of senior institutional managers, rarely filtering below a Head of School level.

3) UniForum

The University has launched the UniForum benchmarking programme. UniForum is a benchmarking methodology developed by Cubane Consulting. It has been adopted by a group of Russell Group Universities to compare their institutional data peer-to-peer.

According to Cubane, the aim is “to provide University Executive Teams with insights into their support services’ efficiency and effectiveness, helping make better informed strategic choices”.

The programme involves:
Benchmarking all non-academic operations at an institutional level, to equate cost, both staff and contracted suppliers and services.
Collection of normalising datasets, including information on all Academic Staff.
Survey of staff on effectiveness of current service provision.

UCU’s concerns are:
UniForum benchmarking is creating the potential for jobs losses in professional non-academic services. Cubane actively markets that their work leads to change;
The data is flawed. For example, managers are required to provide a percentage time allocation to activities for every person listed in their area. A task with less than a 10% allocation will not be recorded, thus potentially leading to a downgrading of roles.

4) ‘… too often it is a one-way street’

UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt spoke at the TUC on the issue of casualised working practices. She noted workers needed to be given much stronger rights, not simply allowed to ask for them.

She went on:

“when it comes to flexibility, too often it is a one-way street. I don’t see examples of two-way flexibility. I see people exploited and with no option for recourse. If it is to genuinely be a two-way street then employees need to have clear rights and a contract, not just the option to ask for them”

It is quite shocking in this day and age that we allow these kind of practices and for employers to hide behind the pretence that both employer and employee benefit equally from flexibility”