On the 29th June, the Vice Chancellor announced in an email to staff members that due to financial pressures caused by Covid-19, the University was exploring many ways of reducing costs. This included a review to staffing costs, and proposing voluntary staff redundancies.
What is Voluntary Severance?
Voluntary Severance, or Voluntary Redundancy, is a mutually agreed and voluntary early departure from employment. Staff members with the option of Voluntary Severance will be offered redundancy and financial package sometimes referred to as a ‘Settlement Agreement’. Voluntary Severance is entirely voluntary and no pressure should be placed on any individual to apply for the scheme.
Winchester Student Union stands in solidarity with our colleagues at the University who are facing Voluntary Severance.
We wanted to issue this statement to share some information with students that will better inform them of the situation. We apologise for the length of time that it has taken to coordinate this update; we were not involved in a lot of conversations on this until the end of last week, and wanted to be able to signpost to University updates for guidance on any questions that students may have.
We appreciate the incredibly hard financial situation that the University finds itself in. The COVID-19 pandemic has hugely impacted the Higher Education sector; and as a Student Union, we also experience this and understand the difficult situation it creates.
Staff at our University have been working tirelessly over the past few months to ensure a good educational experience for students despite the global pandemic. We as a Student Union, on behalf of our members, have been entirely grateful for this hard work and dedication.
We therefore have the expectation that the University will maintain regular contact with students about this, and communicate any potential changes to staffing and the impact it may have on students and their studies.
We understand student concerns about staff to student ratios, impact on studies and staff members no longer being at the University; both during critical summer months for postgraduate students, or on the return of undergraduate students in September. We echo these concerns – heading into an academic year like no other, it is imperative that students feel they are correctly supported by their programme staff and can receive and ask for support where necessary.
The University has emailed all returning students with an update and have also released information on the Intranet – this includes two Open Meetings. There will be one for students going into the second year of an undergraduate course or continuing a Foundation course, which will be held on Thursday 16 July from 4:00-5:30pm. There will also be one for third or final year undergraduate students or returning postgraduate (taught or research) students, which will be held on Tuesday 14 July from 1:30-3:00pm. These meetings will give you an opportunity to speak to Senior Management and ask any questions or raise any concerns you may have. You will need to use your University email to access these meetings, and you can find the links on the Intranet or in your email. The Student Union will be in attendance at these forums.
Winchester UCU have launched a petition calling for University Senior Management to take a pay cut, to support staffing levels and stand in solidarity with staff members facing redundancies. Should you wish to find out more information on this proposal, or sign the petition, you can find it at this link: https://bit.ly/3itoRtq
Winchester Student Union stands in solidarity with our colleagues who are facing Voluntary Severance, and send our best wishes in this hugely difficult time.
Why are staff cuts being considered?
The staffing budget contributes to over half of the University of Winchester’s costs. Heading into a difficult and uncertain financial year, this is an area that therefore needs to be reviewed.
How many University staff members are being affected?
The University have announced that they are seeking a reduction of 21.5 full-time equivalent posts across the institution. We know that the University are consulting with both trade unions, UCU (Academic Staff) and UNISON (Professional Services) on this.
Will I be told about any of my lecturers that may be leaving?
We do not know the University’s plans to communicate this information to students, however, we have the expectation that they do so in due course. We do know that many lecturers and academics are directly discussing their risks of job loss with students, in order to keep them informed. We would encourage the University to communicate with students about any staffing changes that may impact their course or studies directly.
We are unlikely to be able to answer Faculty or Programme specific questions. If you have questions about the impact of Voluntary Severance on your individual studies or course, we would recommend you direct these to your Programme Admin team.