By Oscar Elmon & Anna Tatham
Two students from University College met with Vice Chancellor Stuart Corbridge and Martyn Evans, Interim PVC for Colleges and Student Experience last week, in order to further discuss the implications of proposed staff restructuring.
It was suggested by the University that students should consider decreasing the capacity and scale of their large events and balls in response to concerns about the continuity of student-organised events.
Professor Martyn Evans told Palatinate: “We are currently in the process of consulting College staff whose roles may be impacted, and until this process has concluded we are unable to confirm the final shape the proposals will take. We will, as always, do all we can to avoid compulsory redundancies.”
The University recently announced its College and Operations Review, which strives to improve “efficiency and effectiveness” and “enhance the overall student experience”, as previously reported by Palatinate.
“Appointment to the new structures will occur” in May and the University anticipates that by the end of June the new structures may be in place, “subject to the outcome of consultation activity”.
Students from across Junior Common Rooms have previously expressed concern over the impact plans will have on organising college events, a key part of what distinguishes Durham from quasi-collegiate universities.
students that volunteer teams would be required to complete a major share of the work when it comes to events and balls
The University advised in their meeting with University College students that volunteer teams would be required to complete a major share of the work when it comes to events and balls.
Professor Evans stated: “The changes we are proposing may have an impact on large-scale, complex student events, which we are discussing with student representatives. We are reviewing processes, procedures, and planning associated with these events to ensure their viability in the future.
“We are currently in extensive discussions with both staff and students about the possible impact of the proposals for them, following the relevant consultation frameworks.”
Despite expected redundancies, the University has affirmed they seek to avoid an outcome that sees Durham become a quasi-collegiate university, comparable with the likes of York and Lancaster.
The collegiate system is, and will remain, an integral part of our university identity.
Evans said: “The collegiate system is, and will remain, an integral part of our university identity. All operations staff in the Colleges Division will continue to have a clear mandate to support and enable colleges to express their individual identities.
“The purpose of the review is to ensure that our residential student experience services are operating as well as possible and are resilient for the future.”
the University has affirmed they seek to avoid an outcome that sees Durham become a quasi-collegiate university, comparable with the likes of York and Lancaster.
Meanwhile, students have expressed concerns that face-to-face time with operations teams would be reduced, causing more responsibility to be put on students and causing a potential lack of organisation.
When asked about the extra bookings currently made by staff at University College, including bookings for other colleges, commercial events, charities and outreach projects, the University stressed that Castle does have a particularly efficient JCR, and is different from other colleges due to the range of events it hosts.
The University acknowledged in an email to all students that it had received “a number of emails expressing concerns regarding the aims of the College Operations and Catering Review”.
Coco Huggins, a student with three years’ experience on Castle’s June Ball committee, told Palatinate: “The pressure on students at Castle is already evident. We only have a handful of dedicated student support officers who also take on admin, secretarial and master/vice-master roles to look after around a thousand undergrad and postgrad students.
“Despite this, the University wants us to expand even more, meaning JCR welfare officers are required to fill the gap.
“The potential threat to welfare provision because of a lack of staff and centralisation is a serious issue.
“The JCR exec are having to fill the gap of a lack of basic provision by the University. It’s just not sustainable for a university to push for continued expansion and cut staff.”
It’s just not sustainable for a university to push for continued expansion and cut staff
In regard to the proposed removal of operations and services coordinators within college, it was also acknowledged that the new operations supervisor would be combining multiple roles, and may function on a lower pay grade.
Professor Evans continued: “It is proposed that the focus of some roles will change as a result of the proposals and that there will be a different model of service provision. That said, we evaluate all professional services staff roles, between grades 1 and 9, using a role evaluation tool used across the higher education sector and no member of staff will be asked to undertake activity as part of their role which is not commensurate with their pay grade.”
Palatinate has reached out to a number of University staff across various colleges for comment but is yet to receive any responses.
While JCR and MCR presidents were first informed of restructuring plans on 15th March, term ended on 22nd March, which gave students only one academically timetabled week to provide feedback to the proposed changes.
This consultation phase formally ends on 10th April. The University established in the meeting with students from University College that due to a strict timeline, there is very little room to extend this process for the purpose of reconsidering the proposals.
Photograph: Ieuan Jenkins from Creative Commons via Flickr