Overview of the Vice-Chancellor’s All Staff Address

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Today, the Vice-Chancellor gave his All Staff Address, entitled The next phase of the 10-Year Plan: Shaping our University for the future. Here is an overview of the key points raised by  Sir Christopher Snowdon. 

Phase One:

The Vice-Chancellor opened his speech by saying how he wants to focus on the opportunities which lie ahead, the challenges the university is facing and how they can be dealt with. He stated that phase one of the ten year plan was completed earlier this year when the University raised £300m to transform the physical and digital infrastructure.

Phase Two: 

He then stated that he wanted to address both the size and shape of the University itself, whilst assuring student experience would not be compromised. In regards to this, the Vice-Chancellor stated that the current eight facilities do not play to university strength, and that inter-disciplinary facilities needs to be encouraged. For example, Engineering will now be treated as a single discipline – making it the largest sub group in the country with the highest research power in the country.

Changing from eight to five faculties:

1)Arts and Humanities

2)Engineering and Physical Sciences

3)Social Sciences

4)Environment and Life Sciences

5)Medicine

The Vice-Chancellor then explained that by decreasing the number of faculties, the University Executive Board is convinced that this will help achieve their global mission with a sharper focus. Some of the suggested benefits for doing this were:

  • It will improving coherence of activity for funding bodies
  • It will make us more agile to response to new experiences and changing needs
  • It allows the University to run far more efficiently and effectively by introducing standardised processes and procedures
  • Above all it is a response to the feedback from University staff and students.

The Vice-Chancellor states that in most cases there will be no disruption to current academic units. They will also phase out the term ‘academic unit’ in favour of the traditional description of ‘schools’ and ‘departments’.

Here is a look at the faculties in more detail:

Arts and Humanities: Archaeology, English, Film, History, Modern Languages, Music, Philosophy, Academic Centre for International Students, Winchester School of Art.

This faculty will bring together subjects from the current faculty of humanities and the Winchester School of Art. It will provide a larger faculty with greater resources and funding.

Engineering and Physical Sciences: Aeronautics, Astronautics and Computational Engineering, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Civil, Maritime and Environmental Engineering, Electronics and Computer Science, Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, Mechanical Engineering, Mathematical Sciences, Physics and Astronomy. 

Brings together all engineering and physical science disciplines, including chemistry and combines them with mathematical sciences (formally part of the Social Sciences faculty).

Social Sciences: Social Sciences, Southampton Business School, Southampton Education School, Southampton Law School, Statistics and Operational Research. 

This faculty will hold a proposed new department of Statistics and Operational Research to be spun out of mathematical sciences as it moves. This is a new area that sits in the top 50 in the world, but that does not currently hold any recognition in our current structure.

Environment and Life Sciences: Biological Sciences, Geography and Environment, Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions, Ocean and Earth Science, Psychology. 

This faculty recognises two areas of endeavour that are increasingly important and recognised internationally. A new institute for Environment and Sustainability will also be launched.

Medicine: Cancer Sciences, Clinical and Experimental Sciences, Human Development and Health, Medical Education, Primary Care and Population Sciences. 

This will retain most of its current activity but will also recognise the new centre for cancer immunology.

Timeline for Change

8th November – UEB Away Day to finalise proposal

13th November – Extraordinary Senate Meeting

13th November – All-Staff Presentation

14th November – Start Faculty and Professional Services Meetings

15th November – Council

22nd November – Senate

17th January – Council Away Day

14th February – Senate: Detailed structure (schools/departments)

From February – start change process, build into planning and budgets.

14th March – Council: approve subject structure (schools/departments)

1st August – Implement new Faculties and continue to evolve to new PS structure.

This is not going to happen overnight, and as a result the current faculty structure will continue until July 31st 2018. The new structure will begin with the new academic term on the 1st August 2018.

Addressing the size of the university:

The Vice-Chancellor stated that the staff costs and staff hires has risen at a rate far higher than the university’s growth in student and research income.

Credit: University of Southampton

Academic staff numbers have grown 16% since 2011/12

Non-Academic staff numbers have grown 13% since 2011/12

Student numbers have grown 6% since 2011/12

He suggests that for a period of time it is likely we are going to see some student numbers falling as we go forward as we address equality, gender, NSS and looking to attract the best students to the University. Evidence shows that Southampton University staff costs is not consistent with other staff costs at Russell group universities and furthermore our productivity in some areas remains too low as our research income has now grown as planned.

Like all Universities, Southampton has faced external pressures that have influenced these trends, including:

  • Student tuition fees
  • Teaching Excellence Framework
  • Office for Students
  • Research Excellence Framework 2021 – Changes to include increasing the weighting for ‘Impact’ (from 20% to 25%)
  • Brexit – Impact on staff, students and research
  • Increasing competition both nationally and internationally

Southampton needs to face these challenges head on and the current financial position is not sustainable. The consequences of doing nothing this year would be extremely serious. Therefore, the University must reduce their professional services and academic staff cost by around £20 million which equates to 7% of staff costs.

7% of the staff will not be leaving the University, this is an achievable measure if we work together to find smart solutions.

Potential solutions put forward include:

  • Dean-led planning in faculties (how they may reshape their faculty for the future)
  • Implementation of the Exception Recruitment Panel (already saved 25% of this target)
  • The provision of a targeted Voluntary Severance programme (hoping to reduce between 50-75 academic posts)
  • Removing vacant posts
  • Professional services, Simply Better programme (Assessing the structures and technologies needed at the university)

If the university is unable to achieve the savings needed through these measures then compulsory redundancies will be required.

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Former English Student | Travel Editor 2016-17 |Current MSc. International Politics | Editor at Wessex Scene for 2017-18.

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