Measures to protect University finances – responding to your feedback

Dear colleague,

Over recent weeks I have shared with you information about the measures we are taking to protect and secure the future of the University. In that time, many of you have been in touch with questions, concerns and suggestions, and I want to thank you for taking the time to contact me. Your feedback is really important, and I want to respond to what you have told me and my University Executive Board (UEB) colleagues.

You have expressed concern about the uncertainty of our financial position and about the steps we may have to take to secure our future. Many of you have indicated that you would like clearer and more regular information about our position, the options available to us, and the decisions we are taking. I will, therefore, continue to provide regular updates, offering as much detail as possible. I have also asked three colleagues to give you regular information on key issues in the staff update:

  • Jo Jones, Chief Financial Officer, will provide information on our evolving financial position, including our reserves, surplus/deficit, cash and borrowing.
  • Professor Wyn Morgan, Vice-President for Education, will provide updates on our student recruitment position and our safe return to campus, including our plans for the next academic year.
  • Ian Wright, interim Director of Human Resources, will provide updates on the collective consultation and the work we are doing with our trade union colleagues.

I would also like to take this opportunity to address some of the specific questions you have asked around staff issues, particularly about the likelihood of compulsory redundancies and pay cuts.

We are committed to you and aim to protect jobs as much as we possibly can. To date, we have fully protected the earnings of all staff. With the exception of fixed-term contracts, which had a pre-agreed end date established from the outset, we have not initiated any compulsory redundancies since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis.

In addressing our financial challenges, our primary focus remains on non-staffing budgets and expenditure. We have stopped all non-essential spend, and stopped or paused over £30 million of planned capital expenditure. We have asked all areas of the University to reduce their budget forecasts for next year, and these are likely to represent a further £17 million of non-pay savings.

As you will know, we have also explored a range of voluntary measures. We will save £12 million next year through the Voluntary Severance Scheme. We are now in a position to share further details of a range of voluntary cost saving options available to staff, including a temporary reduction in working commitment, the purchase of additional annual leave, a period of unpaid leave, or an unpaid career break. Please visit the voluntary schemes web pages for further details.

In addition, once we receive final details of the government support package for research, we will be able to assess how it may help to improve our financial position.

However, there is a risk that these steps may not be sufficient. In my last email, I set out details of a consultation with our trade unions on a range of other measures that we may have to implement in the next financial year. I would like to stress that this consultation process is not about compulsory redundancies; rather, it is about steps we can take to avoid redundancies as much as possible.

The consultation will cover ways in which we could reduce our costs in the new financial year by making temporary changes to some of our terms and conditions of employment. Of course, any pay reductions will also apply to members of UEB, and in determining how to apply any reductions, we will seek to minimise or eliminate the impact on those at the lower end of the pay scale.

I remain hopeful that we won’t have to implement any of these further measures, and I can assure you that we will only do so if our financial position makes it absolutely necessary.

I know that this is an incredibly difficult time for you, professionally and personally. I remain genuinely grateful for the contribution you continue to make, in the most challenging of circumstances.

Please continue to share your feedback at internalcommunications@sheffield.ac.uk – it is really valuable.

With best wishes,

Koen Lamberts
Vice-Chancellor