Departmental administration staff face redundancies amid further restructuring proposals


Durham University has begun rolling out plans to restructure academic departments, a move that will see some administrative staff ‘in scope’ to face redundancies or receive a new proposed role.

The proposals come following the recent Operations Review, which faced backlash from students and staff as 4000 people signed a petition urging the University to reconsider planned restructuring. 

Set to be in place for the 2019/20 academic year, the proposed changes will affect administrative staff across all faculties, with the aim to establish a more “equitable level of administration” within the University. 

The number of Grade 5 roles will be reduced from c.67 to 45.

Documents seen by Palatinate state that in some cases there will be fewer posts in the new structure than existing similar roles. The number of Grade 5 roles will be reduced from c.67 to 45.

Members of staff were informed whether they’d be ‘in scope’ for these changes during a briefing on Thursday morning, with the consultation period beginning on Friday. 

Professor Antony Long, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost told Palatinate that the proposals, part of Phase 2 of the Faculty and Department Review, aimed to create a new framework across faculties and academic Departments “which will offer a fairer and more even distribution of administrative support across the University”.

Some members of staff will be able to ‘slot in’ to a proposed role that fits a high proportion of their existing duties and responsibilities.

Others will have to go through a ‘job matching’ process that will see a current staff member’s post matched with a proposed post that they could move into.

An internal document, in Palatinate’s possession, states that “there is no ducking the fact that however we approach any matching exercise, there will be disruption.”

If there is no job match in the staff members department or another department, the University state they will “support colleagues to explore other opportunities”, which can include redundancy or redeployment. The University has committed to avoid any compulsory redundancies wherever possible.

Jon Bryan, a UCU Regional Support Official for the Northern Region, told Palatinate that “these changes will be causing uncertainty for staff.”

The University and College Union (UCU) is aware of the proposals and, along with GMB, Unison and Unite, will continue to be consulted on the changes taking place in the University.

Jon Bryan, a UCU Regional Support Official for the Northern Region, told Palatinate that “these changes will be causing uncertainty for staff.

“All trade unions will be offering support to their members, either through advice or being accompanied to individual consultation meetings. We will continue to make comments and present alternative proposals to the University.”

The UCU is not ruling out any form of action at this stage but Mr Bryan stated that “It is always our preference to do things through agreement, wherever possible.”

The University told Palatinate that the review was not motivated by cost-cutting: “Although there may be changes to some job titles, grades and potentially some movement between Departments, we will seek to avoid compulsory redundancies wherever possible and expect any that do arise will be minimal in number.”

The University did state that a target saving of £450,00 was set for review

However, the University did, in a document seen by Palatinate, state that a target saving of £450,000 was set for Phase 2 of their review and that currently only £400,000 is being saved by the overall project, 5% of the overall budget for academic and faculty staff budget.

Professor Long told Palatinate that the University’s main drivers for the changes are “to improve efficiencies and ways of working, provide better career development opportunities for our professional staff, create consistencies between Faculties and Departments, and improve the coherence of job roles and responsibilities.”

The University also anticipates “that students will benefit from improved efficiencies in our administrative processes, enhancing their learning experience”.

With administrative staff being involved in supporting staff and students working throughout departments, it is unclear at this stage how students within each department will be affected by these changes.

Image: Jim Barton from Creative Commons via Flickr (cropped to a smaller size).

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