Collective consultation update

Dear colleague,

Further to the Vice-Chancellor's email yesterday outlining recent developments about university applications and admissions, I wanted to write and let you know that we have taken the decision to end the collective consultation with trade unions over potential measures to reduce staff costs.

As we have indicated since starting the consultation in July 2020, the potential measures were intended to make sure that, in the event of an extremely adverse financial situation, we would be able to take action to reduce our cost base to ensure our ongoing sustainability. We have been clear that we would only implement these changes if the financial situation made it absolutely necessary.

Over the past few months, colleagues have worked tirelessly to put us in the best possible position for this coming academic year and beyond. As a result of these collective efforts and changes it is now our view that such an extreme adverse financial situation is less likely to arise. We have also put in place additional steps to mitigate significant reductions in our income.

Since we launched the consultation the University has made considerable reductions in expenditure in many non-staff areas as a result of stopping non-essential spend and reducing budgets for 2020-21. This activity means that our financial position at the end of 2019-20 is better than originally forecast and reduces our forecast expenditure in 2020-21. The recent voluntary severance scheme has also achieved approximately £12 million in staff salary savings for 2020-21.

As well as being able to identify these considerable cost savings, we have made other significant progress in protecting our University finances. We have been able to put ourselves in a position where we can now access more of the government support available and could borrow more if needed.

More recently, thanks to a truly impressive University-wide effort, early indications are that our student recruitment position may be better than forecast. Of course, there remains much uncertainty over whether students can or will attend in September and we won't know the full picture until students actually arrive. I know that colleagues continue to work hard to instil confidence in our students about our ability to deliver world-class teaching in a safe and welcoming environment.

However, recent developments over the past couple of days mean that, despite the continued uncertainty, we can be more optimistic about our future. Firstly, the furore surrounding the A-level results and university places has shown that the pandemic has not put students off going to university and has actually demonstrated an increased demand. Secondly, the Government's decision to change how A-level results are awarded, and the subsequent lifting of the cap on student numbers, also means that we can accept more students who meet the terms of their original offer. In light of this, there is also the potential for further government support and our University continues to push for this.

There are undoubtedly financial challenges ahead and we are still preparing for a significant shortfall in income compared to that originally forecast in the coming year. However, we have always been clear that reductions in staff costs achieved through temporary changes to terms and conditions as outlined in the consultation would have been taken as a last resort and it therefore makes absolute sense that these are withdrawn as our situation becomes clearer.

I know the consultation has been adding to your concerns and worries and I therefore hope this provides some reassurance. I want to reiterate my thanks to you all. It is due to a collective effort that we find ourselves in a much stronger position.

With best wishes

Ian Wright
Interim Director of Human Resources