April 21, 2020

Provost's Update for Academic Heads #24 (February 2020)

Covid-19 – Business Continuity
You may be aware that the University convened a Major Incident Team meeting when the news about Coronavirus (Covid-19) initially broke. More recently we have pulled together a Covid-19 Business Continuity Group, chaired by Chris Twine, to look at appropriate responses to the potential challenges we might face during the coming months. The situation both globally and nationally is now very fluid and we have a need both to react to current issues (e.g. managing impact of delays to Chinese educational system, managing travel to certain locations, managing concerns about the availability of English Language Testing) as well as to consider risk mitigation and scenario planning for a threat that is still undefined in scope, time and impact. A number of sub-groups looking at specific aspects of the situation are being put in place. Amongst other things they will need to think about potential scenarios and the contingency planning for these. The Business Continuity Group are also aware of the importance of keeping you and others informed as appropriate and the web/insite will be kept up to date and any targeted communications will be shared directly as appropriate.
Workload Planning
As you’ll be aware, we have a small group looking at options for a more systematic approach to workload planning. The group is looking at what happens in other similar institutions (via visits and other forms of information sharing) – both in terms of policy and systems – and considering what options might be best for us. There are important benefits from developing a more systematic approach to workload planning – not least because we can deliver greater transparency and consistency across Departments as well as ensuring greater clarity about how workloads should be managed. Anything that the group proposes will need to reflect our diversity and be consistent with appropriate levels of departmental autonomy. With that in mind we will shortly be consulting with you to get your views on how best to progress this work.
New Arrangements for PGRs who Teach (STP Review)
We are now close to finalising the new proposals for PGR students who teach (to replace the current STP arrangements). Consultations with Faculties and with students have been completed and a final proposal will go to ARC in March. This will be a major step in our plans to reduce the levels of casualization in our workforce. Moving our PGR students who teach onto employment contracts will represent a significant development but the work doesn’t end with this as we will now need to look at the changes that will be required to move other STP staff onto employment contracts. That will be the next phase of work for the STP Review Group and you can expect to hear more about this later this year.
Sustainability and the University’s Travel Policy
As part of the work of the new Climate Emergency Task Force, changes are being made to the University’s travel policy and you’ll see a blog referring to these on Monday. In brief the plan is that train travel should become the default for journeys within GB and key Eurostar destinations. This may be more expensive in financial terms than flying but will make a significant difference to our scope 3 emissions. For longer journeys – where air travel is the only option, we will be introducing internal offset charges and the revenue generated will be hypothecated for investment in initiatives to reduce carbon emissions. This arrangement should begin at the start of Q3, but we will encourage colleagues to engage with the new options around train travel as soon as possible. Full details will follow shortly. Green Week – this coming week – will draw attention to a range of sustainability issues and there is lots more happening on campus than many of us think. So you might want to be aware of the range of work that’s happening to sustainability (https://warwick.ac.uk/about/environment/) and also the approach adopted by CCSR (https://warwick.ac.uk/services/retail/sustainability/). And I’m also hoping there will be some news on expected changes to the University’s socially responsible investment policy during the course of this coming week.
Size and Shape 2.0
This is essentially a reminder, having mentioned the issue in my last update. Following on from the work that was completed in 2018 regarding the broad plans for institutional size and shape, we are now starting to explore the next phase of this work and to give some thought as to what our portfolio of degree programmes might need to look like moving towards 2030. Some of you will have already started to look at restructuring and refreshing core curricula and Education Executive is encouraging and supporting additional review and refresh work. But there are longer term questions about how disciplines are developing; how student expectations may evolve and how career and employability expectations may change. All of these will have a bearing on what we should be delivering at the end of the current decade. Within ARC and beyond, we are staring to give some thought to this and during the planning round, we are keen to hear more from you on the longer term developments in your discipline areas.


February 06, 2020

Provost's Update for Academic Heads #23 (January 2020)

Admissions Update

We have now passed the UCAS deadline for the submission of undergraduate applications. I know that you have already had an update on the numbers from SROAS so I won’t repeat that information. The reassuring information is that overall we’re ahead of the sector although we’re a bit behind our competitor set and international applications have held up more strongly than domestic applications. Notwithstanding this news, we feel that conversion activity over the communing months will be important as we work towards securing enrolment targets for the autumn intake. And it will come as no surprise to hear that PGT application growth is strong with substantial increase in international applications but continued downward pressure on HEU numbers.

Coronavirus Update

There are some important updates on the situation with respect to the coronavirus situation – a separate email on this will follow shortly.

League Tables

You will be aware that we regularly and routinely undertake analysis of the University’s league table performance, in both domestic and international rankings. And you’ll have seen periodic updates on insite on the outcomes for individual tables. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the analysis that was presented to Council towards the end of last year (see attached). This uses a relatively simple method to assess our positioning jointly in relation to both the international and the domestic rankings. It offers a strong message around Warwick’s performance relative to many of its competitors, highlighting strengths across both sets of rankings. The League Table Group sees the rankings as essentially crude indicators of our underlying performance in research and teaching; but we’re also aware that despite their limitations they are used by a variety of stakeholders. Accordingly, we continue to monitor and evaluate league table performance and we work closely with colleagues in marketing to explore how best to promote the reputation of the University for the quality of its research and teaching.

Pulse Survey

The Pulse Survey is still open for responses and there will be some further reminders going out to colleagues to encourage completion. The current response rate stands at around 59% - a little bit lower than at this time last year with some of the lower response rates being in academic departments (and I think you may have already had some Department specific information on this). When the reminders about survey completion come out it would be great if you could encourage colleagues to complete the survey. It is something that is taken seriously and is subject to careful consideration – including the free text comments which are of value in understanding the range of issues that are of concern to staff.

Sustainability

Following on from the Climate Emergency Declaration at the start of this academic year, we have established a “Climate Emergency Task Force” help co-ordinate and drive the actions we need to take to meet the carbon targets that have been set. The group has started its work and you can expect to see more information about the work that is currently being done around energy, buildings and transport as well as new initiatives including work around travel policy and offsetting. The brief given to the Task Force is as follows:

  • Make recommendations to enhance the consideration given to issues of environmental stability within University structures and governance .
  • Engage with relevant professional services departments (including Estates and Procurement) to map and inform work programmes directed towards carbon neutrality (scope 1, 2 and 3).
  • Engage with Faculties to inform departmental planning through mapping of educational and research activity, and identify opportunities areas to reduce scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions. For example, finding ways of using less space in carrying out University activity will directly reduce carbon emissions and be more financially sustainable.
  • Evaluate current environmental sustainability activity in the context of the University’s policies relating to environmental sustainability, the climate emergence and broader corporate social responsibility (CSR) frameworks. (Appendix 2 ISO 26000 - Guidance on social responsibility).
  • Engage with CCSG in relation to its Sustainability Strategy
  • Map current and planned activity, identify gaps and draft a Roadmap for Environmental Sustainability.

We will be asking academic departments to think about local interventions that might have a positive impact on our emissions (you’ll see this on the ARC planning pro forma) and we’ll send out some further guidance on things that might be considered at Departmental level. We are working on travel policy and there’ll be a further update on this as soon as we have been able to make progress.

Size and Shape 2.0

Following on from the work that was completed in 2018 regarding the broad plans for institutional size and shape, we are now starting to explore the next phase of this work and to give some thought as to what our portfolio of degree programmes might need to look like moving towards 2030. Some of you will have already started to look at restructuring and refreshing core curricula and Education Executive is encouraging and supporting additional review and refresh work. But there are longer term questions about how disciplines are developing; how student expectations may evolve and how career and employability expectations may change. All of these will have a bearing on what we should be delivering at the end of the current decade. Within ARC and beyond, we are staring to give some thought to this and during the planning round, we are keen to hear more from you on the longer term developments in your discipline areas.


December 18, 2019

Provost's Update for Academic Heads #22 (December 2019)

Admissions Update
We are getting close to the end of the main UCAS cycle (deadline for applications being mid-January) and, of course, this year puts us at the lowest point in terms of the demographic dip. For future cycles we should see demand recovering. In terms of headlines, applications nationally are down 5.2%, our competitor set is up by 1.2% and we are down by 0.3%. (But bear in mind that our competitor set has changed slightly from last year and so comparison with last year’s performance relative to competitor set may be a little misleading). Nationally, offers made are down by 12.8%, and for our competitors, offers made are down by 5% and we are down by 5%. Anecdotally feedback suggests that this reflects some weakness in the applicant pool. As we might have anticipated, the experience by department and faculty is rather variable. There is greatest pressure in the Faculty of Arts, but there are also some marked drops in areas of Science and Social Science. The team in SROAS are working hard to process applications in line with departmental requirements and in a timely fashion, but we will clearly have to look carefully at conversion activity over the coming months.
TAS Returns
Thanks for all your help with these – and I hope the new format is making this process a bit easier. Current response rates stand at 85% which is great news. Some initial analysis of the returns suggests that time allocated to teaching is a bit lower than we might have expected based on previous years’ data. This may simply be an artefact of the new approach (we no longer survey staff on teaching focused contracts because we assume that their time is fully focused on teaching and teaching related activity), but could I ask you to remind colleagues of the importance of ensuring that all teaching activity is fully recorded in their TAS returns.
Anti-casualisation and STP
Further operational details on proposed new processes will be available in the new year. I’m conscious that many of you are concerned that the more structured recruitment process that employment contracts require will be overly burdensome. Can I just reassure you that we will be working to keep this process as light touch as possible and in so doing, we’ll be learning from models that have been implemented elsewhere in the sector. In particular, we have reviewed the Essex model which is recognised as an example of good practice, but there are also a series of Russell Group Universities that have made the move to employment contracts and from whom we can learn (including Exeter, Edinburgh, Sheffield and Glasgow).
Reporting Placements to Student Opportunity
One of the items discussed at a recent meeting of the Rankings Task Force was the QS Employability Ranking Analysis, essentially a league table component that measures the employability of graduates by University. The University’s report for the Employability Rankings includes details of any student placements and to ensure that we are reporting everything that we should be (and taking our rightful place in the table), can I make a plea for all academic Departments to report all placements to Student Opportunity (careers@warwick.ac.uk) using the template found here, once per term please.
Future Funding of HE
It’s probably too early to know exactly what the current Governments plans with respect the HE funding will be but obviously Augar is still on the table and of course the Pearce Report on TEF is still to be laid before Parliament. There is likely to be pressure on support for the so-called “low value” degree programmes and I suspect that we can be reasonably confident that, as a minimum, fee levels will not be adjusted for inflation in the foreseeable future. And the possibility of a fee cut remains. Hopefully we’ll get a bit more clarity in the coming months and of course the Russell Group will continue to advocate for a funding regime that is consistent with the needs of research intensive institutions.
Probation Policy – Progress Update
The draft policy on probation (to formally bring probation requirements into line with the framework for academic progression and promotion) has now been to ASC and there are some minor revisions required. We will then need to have some brief consultation with UCU and hopefully can implement the new policy early in the new year. The new policy will include details of transitional arrangements for colleagues already in the promotion process with the intention of minimising any disruption or additional work.
Quarter 1 Accounts
UEB reviewed the first quarter accounts and forecasts earlier this week. Within ARC, income is up overall because tuition fee income is expected to be around £4m over budget. Research income is projected to be slightly over £150m reflecting some substantial new grants into WMG. However, costs are also forecast to be over budget, largely because there is additional spend needed where there has been significant over-recruitment. Overall, the University is slightly ahead of target in terms of forecast surplus.


November 11, 2019

Provost's Update for Academic Heads #21 (November 2019)

General Election and Voter Registration
You’ll perhaps be aware that we do encourage students to register to vote at the point of enrolment, and many, though not all, take advantage of this opportunity. With the general election looming, we have a responsibility to ensure that all of our students have the opportunity to register to vote from their term time address (they can also be registered from their home address, as long as they only vote once). We understand that some Universities have encouraged staff to highlight the importance of voter registration and have set aside 5 minutes at the start of a lecture for students to do this. (see The Guardian article). We’ve been asked to do the same by both the SU and by UCU and so you may want to mention this to your colleagues.
Philanthropy
The Development Office is restructuring its operations to better position the university to secure philanthropic funds from alumni, foundations, and friends of the university in support of faculty research priorities and student support, in addition to Warwick’s capital plans. In the 2018-19 year, the team raised £7.2 million – the most it has ever raised in one year. This was led by a gift of £3 million from WBS alumnus, Clive Gillmore, to create the Gillmore Centre for Financial Technology at WBS. A gift of £750,000 was also secured from the Wolfson Foundation in support of the Interdisciplinary Biological Research Building to cap off a recent series of gifts from them. While these early figures are encouraging, the team is keen to stretch the university’s ambition, and is open to having exploratory conversations with faculty. Please do get in touch with matt.ferguson@warwick.ac.uk to hear how the team might be able to support your department.
Anti-casualisation and STP
This is the presentation that was used at ARC with HoDs last week to update on the work being done with respect to STP. You may find this helpful for use within your department. There will be more information provided about what is being planned and there will be further consultation on the detail or the proposed new arrangements. For now, perhaps the most important point to highlight is that this work is driven by our commitment to reduce casualisation by moving as many sessional teachers from what are called worker contracts and onto employment contracts. Employment contracts mean that sessional teachers are engaged on the same terms and conditions as other academic staff – they bring better terms and conditions but they will increase costs and they are less flexible but more secure. The move to employment contracts will initially focus on our own students (mostly PGRs) who teach and then further work will target other groups of sessional teachers. You’ll be aware that casualization is one of the concerns that is being voiced by UCU nationally in relation to the current industrial action and the work that the STP group has been doing is part of our commitment to address their concerns.
Environmental Sustainability and the Climate Emergency Declaration
Following on from the University’s decision to declare a climate emergency and commit to targets for 2030, we will be establishing a task force to co-ordinate the actions we need to take to meet our targets. There is a considerable amount of work on carbon reduction that is already happening as part of the broader masterplanning agenda and CCSG are progressing a range of initiatives to reduce our environmental impact (including below). The task force will play a key role in co-ordinating our current work and identifying further interventions that we need to make in order to reduce our environmental impact. One area that is of particular significance is space utilization and we will need to explore options for greater efficiency in the use of space so that we can manage planned growth without significant increases in our carbon footprint.
Too Good to Go
In line with our sustainability work and to reduce our food waste, we have introduced a new scheme called TooGoodToGo which boxes up food that hasn’t been used in the conference centres and sells it cheaply between 2-2.15pm. For more information, here’s the link: https://toogoodtogo.co.uk/en-gb. This will be actively promoted to students but you may also want to highlight to colleagues.
Study Leave – Progress Update
We now have agreement on the planned simplifications to study leave processes. Academic Staff Committee have now agreed the revised policy to accompany the recent changes to regulation and a revised policy will be circulated shortly. This will essentially delegate decision making on study leave applications to departments and will both reduce the routine checking required by HR and speed up decision making. This will hopefully make your future workload planning more straightforward.
Quarter 1 Accounts
Currently the finance team supporting academic departments is short staffed. New appointments are in the pipeline, but with the first quarter reporting in progress, they will be under some pressure and support for Q1 maybe much lighter touch than normal.


September 30, 2019

Provost's Update for Academic Heads #19 (September 2019)


Enrolment Update

As Welcome Week comes to an end and the new term starts in earnest, it’s a good time to update on numbers. Most students have enrolled but there is still time for the outstanding acceptances to translate into new starters. Currently we are forecasting that numbers at the end of October will be about 2% above target. As we stand currently, full-time UG enrolments are slightly below target (but with international numbers stronger than HEU numbers, reflecting the underlying demographics).

At PGT level, enrolments to date are slightly ahead of target and again the strong performance comes on the international side. PGR numbers currently look a little disappointing although the greater flexibility around registration deadlines means that we are less certain about the final outturn. Overall, there is quite a bit of variability in numbers relative to target across disciplines as you might imagine.

National Policy

You’ve possibly already picked up on the story that Government is unlikely to pursue the Augar recommendations for a reduction in fees to £7.5k which is encouraging, but the intention to invest further in FE remains and the Labour Party commitment to the ending of tuition fees suggest that protecting the status quo may be difficult. And the narrative around poor value for money continues to be popular in policy circles. The recent Guidance Letter from the Secretary of State to OfS suggests that value for money must be given “the highest priority”, it talks about a “value for money strategy” and encourages OfS to “exercise your powers boldly”. The letter also encourages OfS to consider a provider level TEF in 2020 and publish subject level TEF in 2021. There is also a strong emphasis on “innovative and flexible provision”. There is particular reference to part-time study, accelerated degrees and a review of regulatory and funding requirements to incentivise such provision.

If you’re interested, the full letter is available at https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/media/1a105d7c-e6ef-4e3d-ab23-bd3e93e01257/letter-from-the-education-secretary-sept19.pdf

Compliance Issues

With the start of the new academic year, there is quite a lot that is happening in relation to compliance. You will all be aware of the last minute need for changes around attendance monitoring – reflecting some of the changing expectations from the border authorities. But there are other areas of activity where it might be helpful to remind colleagues about the significance of a number of policy requirements/frameworks.

The most obvious of these are financial regulations – and these are being reviewed, so changes may be announced during the coming year. In addition it’s probably worth reminding colleagues about policies around conflicts of interest (on the HR pages), around CMA and around GDPR. And the other one that is worth highlighting is probably the Anti-Bribery Act, details of which were announced last year via Insite and this includes information about the available training (see https://warwick.ac.uk/insite/news/intnews2/antibriberytraining/ ). Could you remind your colleagues about this and encouraging those who might find themselves in potentially difficult situations, to undertake the training (it took me about 20 minutes and it is helpful).

The other issue that you might want to think about in relation to the Anti Bribery Act is ensuring that there is an awareness of the need to declare gifts via a gift register. This could be as simple as just requiring an email notification, so it doesn’t need to be complex or bureaucratic – it’s just about ensuring that there is a record of any gifts that have been received by individuals in the department.

Resources for HoDs

Following feedback from the annual HoDs induction programme, we have created a single access point for resources that are likely to be relevant to your role as HoD. I hope this might make it a bit easier to find some of the information you will need from the University’s web pages. The link is:

https://warwick.ac.uk/services/od/leadership/hods_res

And if you have any suggestions for additions/changes, do please let us know.

New School in the Faculty of Arts

The new School of Creative Arts, Performance and Visual Cultures is now up and running and Paul Rowlett is in post as Change Lead (Interim HoD). We are advertising externally for a new HoD to take over in the new year. The new School’s web page with details of the current range of activity is available here.

https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/scapvc/

Academic Processes – Progress Update

In the last “Update”, I explained where we were with respect to a range of academic process changes. Amendments to regulations for study leave will go to Senate shortly and associated policies will be subject to consultation with UCU and reviewed by Academic Staff Committee at the end of October. I will also share a draft with yourselves. Senate will also look at some changes to regulation in relation to probation for R&T staff. These are essentially about simplification but they also formally align the probation requirements with the promotions framework for movement from FA7 to FA8 for R&T staff. There will be further detail in an associated policy and one of the key issues that will need to be clarified relates to transition between the two systems for staff currently on probation. A key message will be that these changes will not alter the performance standards required to pass probation – they will simply provide greater clarity about exactly what is required.


August 19, 2019

Provost's Update for Academic Heads #18 (July 2019)

ARC SIF Bidding Round
An update on the final decisions in relation to SIF Bids – these were signed off by ARC and UEB at the end of the planning round. As you may recall, a key feature of the SIF was the wish to use the investment to generate additional income, such that we could keep the fund going for investment in future planning rounds. Not all of the SIF investments have been income generating – some have been focused on quality enhancement, and some of the investments (eg the CDTs) are about supporting core activities where there will be less easily quantifiable benefits for the longer term. In the current SIF round we again have a mix of such bids. The successful bids are:
  • Faculty level recruitment posts which will be centrally managed via SROAS (and we have clear income expectations);
  • High achievers scholarships to support UG recruitment in the Faculty of Arts (also income expectations via increased numbers);
  • The development of a Law Clinic facility to enable Law students to offer support to the community and enhance their practical skills and to drive additional recruitment (will support improved student numbers);
  • The development of Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) courses which are non-credit bearing programmes offered to trainee Secondary teachers to ‘top-up’ their subject-specific knowledge – eligible students are DfE funded and the initial focus will be on Maths;
  • Investment in IATL to support the work associated with the three-strands of the institutional education strategy for interdisciplinary, internationalisation and student research;
  • Continued support for PAIS to develop their teaching partnership with VUB as part of the broader European strategy.
In addition the SIF will continue to support a number of Departments that are working through their strategy renewals. We anticipate there being a further call for SIF funding later this year.
Admissions and Recruitment
We are well advanced in terms of preparations for Clearing; web pages are live and there is a broad based communications plan for the clearing week. We will be particularly looking to target WP students through this process. Forecast numbers are changing very little on the UG side – we are still forecasting to be around 200 below target for HEU following clearing and about 80 over target for International. On the PGT, there is a much higher level of uncertainty and while we expect to be below target for HEU (perhaps by around 100) we think that international numbers may be closer to 300 over target.
Warwick in London
As many of you will be aware, Warwick in London continues to expand its non-traditional educational activity with summer schools and pre-university taster programmes developing particularly well. And the team continue to support a range of recruitment and outreach events in London – including a programme for next year which many of you will be familiar with. However, the costs of having all staff based in London are high and for the coming year we will be relocating the operational team back to the main campus and will retain only essential office space in London. We will still have access to meeting and event space in the Stanley Building and the team will continue to provide the same support as they have done in the past but from a main campus base.
Changes to Study Leave Processes
The Academic Processes team are currently looking at options to simplify the study leave process and in particular to speed up the decision making process. Delays arise for a number of reasons including the process of checking entitlement (number of terms service accumulated), reviewing at Faculty level and then reviewing at University level. The current thinking would be that an annual check on every applicants eligibility should probably stop and that HoDs would be given an update on current eligibility for their staff. We would ask individuals only to apply when eligible (or eligible with mortgage) and decisions would be made at Dept level with a summary to CoF only. We would need to take a firmer position around the proportion of staff allowed to be on leave and we may need to consider some light touch appeals/exceptions process. You will get to see a more detailed draft of proposed processes in due course, but we think this could lead to much quicker decisions for individuals and departments and efficiencies within HR.
STP Review
The Review Group is continuing its work on the development of an employment contract model for sessional teachers and the intention remains that we should implement this for September 2020 (for PGR sessional teachers in the first instance). We are working closely with UCU and the SU on this and we are close to being able to scope a model which we think is workable. As ever, regulations relating to Tier 4 Visa holders remain a challenge and these do introduce some complexities. We are working on a new set of contractual arrangements and processes but the intention is to retain the existing framework for the allocation of roles/hours. Based on feedback from the SU we will be looking to do some further work around training and guidance. Consultation plans are under development so you can expect to get more information in the autumn.


June 25, 2019

Provost's Update #17 (June 2019)

ARC Planning
We are coming to the end of the annual planning round. Alongside the usual pressures on costs, this year’s plan has had to accommodate the effects of the next round of USS contribution increases and the impact on the Science Park of significant reductions in rental income. FPSC has set a target gross margin for ARC of 29% but the latest draft version of the plan would currently fall short being less than 28%. If all academic departments were able to meet their Gross Margin target, ARC would easily reach the 29%. That will not happen this year but it will be part of the medium term target for ARC as a whole (in the same was as it is for individual departments). The ARC surplus in the plan is up plan-on-plan from last year, but not by enough to meet the challenges of a difficult planning environment. If student number projections are met, ARC should be within £0.5m of its target income. The Plan is now being finalised and will be presented to Senate and Council in July. We are processing the bids to the Strategic Investment Fund and the outcome of this process should be known within a couple of weeks. It might be worth noting that the we’ve done some work to look it “savings” that have arisen as a result of changes to delegations and planning within ARC and the figures thus far suggest that we have been able to reduce the number of business cases required for decision making to about half of what they were in 2016-17 (ie by about 200). In addition we will be accounting for the cost of professional invigilators within ARC for the first time this year and we hope this will further ease workload pressures in some areas of the academy.
Student Recruitment Strategy
SROAS and Marketing have been working over the past academic year to develop a Student Recruitment Strategy to support the Strategy 2030 vision to achieve a student population of 32,000. The external context currently presents major threats, but the challenging period created by changes to demographics will end by the early to mid-2020s, which will present opportunities, both for growth and also for increased selectivity. There is evidence to show that taking a strategic approach to student recruitment does work, and although the University has experience growth in the past, this had been unplanned. The purpose of the Strategy, in addition to meeting the overall University target for student numbers, is to ensure balanced growth through a more diverse domestic and international student community. Further work will be done to analyse competitor information about international recruitment to ensure a better understanding of where the opportunities may be. SORAS has been refreshing the University’s overseas agent network and providing more structure and direction as well as looking to develop a more coherent approach to working arrangements including in relation to information flows, commission rates and other forms of support for recruitment. And as a reminder, we know that prospective students are particularly keen to talk to academic colleagues and often don’t have access to the opportunities presented by open days. Formal recruitment missions do provide such an opportunity, but there are also options to engage with recruitment during normal travel (perhaps via counselling sessions with agents). So if you do have colleagues who are travelling and might be willing to help with recruitment, do please contact SROAS.
University Bookshop
For a number of years, the book shop in its traditional retail format has been losing money as a consequence of changing patterns of book buying and competition from online providers. We have reluctantly reached the conclusion that the level of use is no longer sufficient to justify the subsidy required. The physical bookshop will, therefore, close at the end of this academic year but there will be pop-up facilities available during the academic year and other forms of merchandise will be available via Rootes. Further details will be available in due course but students will be able to order and receive course texts and staff will still be able to buy books via the University. The aim is to retain he ability for books to be purchased but without some of the overheads associated with operating a permanent physical facility.
Update from CSAG
Ramphal Lecture Theatre (R0.21) – Work to replace the seating and instate a robust writing surface should now be complete. Social Sciences Ground Floor CTTR refurbishments – Major refurbishment to 8 teaching rooms on the ground floor of Social Sciences will be undertaken to replace and upgrade furniture, lighting, AV, heating and air handling during the summer vacation period. Student Opportunities Hub – A temporary Student Opportunities Hub would be created in the unit currently occupied by the Bookshop, to operate until completion of the Sports Centre redevelopment, when the PG Hub would relocate to the Sports Centre, and the Opportunities Hub would move to the former PG Hub space in Senate House. Hairdressing Salon (SU Social Building) -The hairdressing salon unit had been allocated to the Students’ Union for expansion of Curiositea. CTTR Study Space – The Oculus had been made available as an open access study zone for the summer exam period. This had been communicated to students and was well received. In future years, prioritisation of study space would be included in the initial timetable construction, in order to better utilise available space. Timetable Improvement Programme – The Personalised Timetable Programme was complete. Lib 1 conversion – Post completion of the Sports Centre redevelopment, Lib 1 would be converted into informal student study space with food reheating provision, subject to identifying suitable space in the vicinity for retail and/or study space provision. Library refurbishment – The RIBA Stage 2 design for the upgrade of basic infrastructure, reinvigoration and expansion of the study environment had been completed, and the project would now progress to Stage 3 design.
Admissions and Recruitment
SROAS have started to look at forecasting numbers for confirmation and the current picture is suggesting that overall we might be around 200 below target for HEU UG before clearing and around 100 over on international students. Plans for a clearing presence are under development although it would seem that we will be looking for relatively low numbers in clearing and in selected areas only. As ever, our clearing activity will need to balance carefully between considerations of entry tariff and the needs of particular courses. For PGT programmes, applications, offers and accepts are all running ahead of last year, although it is more difficult to assess what numbers might finally look like. Finally, looking forward, the open days on Friday and Saturday are heavily over-subscribed and we are no longer taking registrations.
Work on Academic Processes
You will be aware – from earlier consultations around probation – that the academic process review group is continuing to work on a number of HR issues. In particular, we have been looking at the implications for study leave policy of the changes that were made last year to career paths and job titles and we hope to shortly provide updated guidance on study leave which will make it clear that study leave opportunities are option to staff across all career pathways. We have also been looking at probation arrangements given the current diversity in practice across R&T, T and R pathways. There are different views about the merits of 3 v 5 year probation for R&T contracts but the current model has received strong support from HoDs . We are currently looking at options for developing probation arrangements for other staff groups which will provide better support for their career development than is the case currently. I will keep you updated but we will need to engage in discussion with UCU and so the process of change will be a bit protracted.


March 13, 2019

Provost's Update #16 (March 2019)

Interview Panels
This is as much a reminder as anything else and reflects a small (but I think important) change to the guidelines on the composition of interview panels. The specific guidance (available via HR web pages) is reproduced below. As you’ll be aware both women and BME staff are significantly under-represented in our senior grades. There isn’t a single “silver bullet” that will change this situation – rather there will be a range of structural and cultural changes that we need to make. One such change is ensuring that we have diverse appointment panels. Of course, many of you do this already but I thought it helpful just to remind everyone and also to note that to avoid outing undue burdens on the smaller number of female/BME staff at professorial level, we have also introduced some flexibility into the membership (allowing an Associate Prof/Reader to join the panel) and by widening the pool of eligible staff it should be a bit easier to enhance the diversity of panels. Membership of appointment panels. For all appointments “……..this will include considerations relating to equality and diversity. The panel chair will have the right to revise the constitution of the panel should he/she believes it does not fairly represent gender and ethnicity and/or…… For Professorial Appointments Departments can nominate individuals at Associate Professor/Reader level in order to form part of the Electoral Board, however no more than one member of the Board shall be a non-professor.
Reputation Management
This is the theme for this afternoon’s ARC with HoDs meeting. There will be two presentations; colleagues from SPA will provide background on the role that reputation plays in rankings and will highlight some ideas relating to options for more active reputation management. As you will see, this has a strong focus on research reputation Colleagues in Marketing will present some findings from reputation tracking work that we have been involved with and this looks at reputation from the perspective of a range of stakeholders. I hope these two sessions will spark a discussion about how we might think about managing institutional and department reputation in the future.
Update on capital projects
Latest progress/developments include
  • (i) Sports Hub, (ii) Cryfield Village, and (iii) Degree Apprenticeship Centre – all on programme. Sports Hub will open in April
  • Kirby Corner Car Park – now open and with link road works in progress.
  • Car Park 7 demolition about to start and trees currently being removed (this is being done in advance of the nesting season). This is the precursor to the start of the new Faculty of Arts Building
  • Senate House – the refurbishment to create a more central student focused hub is continuing and CSAG recently gave approval for the creation of a Student Opportunities Hub. This will ensure much greater visibility and presence of careers and employability support. The Student Opportunities Hub will move to the space currently used for the PG Hub and the PG Hub is expected to move into the Sports Centre once the new sports hub is fully operational. In addition, the Counselling Service will also be moving to Senate House to improve accessibility to students.
  • Arts Centre – there have been some delays to the start of the second phase of refurbishment work, but some enabling works will start soon and the plan to have the work competed in time for City of Culture remains in place.
  • IBRB at Gibbet Hill – construction work has started.
  • Library – plans are under development for significant refurbishment and enhancement to the Library – detail will follow.
Admissions and Recruitment
As has been the case throughout the cycle, the headline is that applications and offers at Warwick are up compared to the sector and to immediate competitors, although there is significant variation across disciplines. With UG applications, we are still just ahead of our competitors in terms of applications and offers, but we all seem to be behind the wider sector in terms of acceptances. There are two likely reasons - either applicants are taking longer to weigh up their options at our end of the sector; or we're all losing out to a growing competitor either just "above" or just "below" us. Since, broadly speaking, declines are also down it looks as though the first explanation is most likely. We are just about keeping up with last year's conversion rates for home (again supporting the notion that responses are simply taking longer), but we've fallen from 25% to 20% on overseas. For Postgraduate courses, the increase in acceptances is very positive but continues for now to reflect the increase in offers rather than increased conversion/response rates. We're continuing with the approaches introduced last cycle to encourage earlier responses but the dramatic change in responses for one department - which introduced a deposit this cycle - does point to the value in implementing deposits more broadly. The Marketing team are continuing to work with contacts in departments and there are opportunities to engage with Offer Holders through taster sessions, blogs, CRM and we are looking at implementing live chat software to encourage conversion.
ARC Data Sharing
You will recall that back in October we discussed the potential for sharing department level operational data (essentially the kind of metrics that we have been looking at in the planning round) with HoDs. This hasn’t been forgotten about – its just taken a bit longer than expected. But I hope that in the next 2-4 weeks we will have something to show you.
Augar Review
There continues to be lots of speculation around reductions to the unit of resource, options for restricting access to student loans and a range of other possible changes to the funding regime. A recommendation to reduce to the unit of resource seems almost inevitable, but there remains considerable uncertainty about reporting timescales – and likely government responses.


December 21, 2018

Provost's Update #15 (December 2018)


ONS and Augar Review

You’ll be aware that the Office for National Statistics’ review of the ways of accounting for student loans reported on Monday and confirmed what had been widely expected – namely that the Government would have to account separately for that portion of student loans that is not expected to be repaid (something called partitioned loan-transfer). This will have a significant impact on the public sector deficit as, for this portion, the Government will no longer be able to treat “interest payments receivable” as income and will have to treat the loan allocations as expenditure (recorded as capital). Estimates suggest that this might add as much as £12bn to the public sector deficit. Although the overall long term cost of the funding scheme for higher education will not change, the ONS changes will effectively bring the costs of loan-write-offs forward, increasing the current costs and making them much more visible. And this will create further pressure in relation to the outcome of the Augar review, although it has been argued that if the ONS Review makes the costs of the loan system more visible, it may also make it easier for government to reduce its loan-based funding

The latest leak from the Augar review has suggested that students with lower than three D grades would no longer be eligible for student loans (as a way of controlling numbers in order to manage costs). This same story also repeated the fee cut claim (to £6.5k-£7.5k), although with no reference to any top-up funding for STEM subjects. What all this means for funding remains the subject of much speculation and there is unlikely to be much that is tangible until after the comprehensive spending review.

2019 Intake Numbers

For the next session, while overall numbers of new students sector-wide are expected to decline due to the demographic dip, applications to Warwick are currently some 8% ahead of the same time last year (HEU are up by 8% and International by 14%). Nationally, applications are down by 5% but our immediate competitors are seeing an increase of around 2%. Naturally there is considerable variability across disciplines although applications in the STEM disciplines are generally looking most buoyant.

Maternity Pay for Research Students (Scholarship holders)

In case you haven’t heard, ARC has approved a proposal from the Graduate School that all students in receipt of full University-funded student/scholarships (fees and stipend) be entitled to receive maternity, adoption, paternity and shared parental leave pay at the maximum of their current annual stipend rate or Research Council UK (RC) rate, whichever is lower. Further details will follow.

Immigration White Paper

There are proposals for two main changes to existing immigration policy: first, that the UK’s future visa regime would treat EU and non-EU and non-EU migrants similarly and second, that priority would be given to Tier 2 visa applicants who are classified as skilled migrants (this include academics, though not necessarily support or professional services staff). There are a number of existing policies that would remain:

  • International graduates can stay in the UK for a total of six months to search for an employer willing to sponsor them.
  • Newly qualified PhDs can still stay for 12 months.

However, there is nothing in the current proposals that suggests any more flexible arrangement for researchers.

There is an unusually long period of consultation on the white paper and that will create opportunities for the sector to do more work to persuade the Home Office to reconsider its position on arrangements around skilled migrants and students.

ARC Autumn Review

The ARC Autumn Review took place just after the end of term and focused on both a backward look at Departmental performance as well as a forward look at themes that we might wish to address in the planning round. We were also able to sign off target student number targets (which will be a major input to the income budget) and review a number of bids to the Strategic Fund. The Strategic Fund bids are subject to UEB approval and will be announced early in the new year.

ARC Chairs of Faculty also reviewed the Q1 outcomes at Department level and your key finance contacts will be in touch to let you know whether we have been able to extend your spending delegations. ARC currently sits ahead of budget at Q1, partly as a result of additional income from extra students and partly as a result of some delay in filling posts.

CSAG Update

Amongst a number of routine activities, CSAG has been looking at options to make cost effective use of the current Sports Centre once the new facility is opened. With large amounts of flat floor space there is clear potential to make use of some of the space for examinations, for student study/activity space, and for teaching space. The building has a limited life and so the aim is to work towards maximum functionality at the lowest possible cost. In addition, CSAG also reviewed the plans for the refurbishment of the Library and agreed that this should progress to the design phase.


November 05, 2018

Provost's Update #14 (November 2018)

Intake Numbers
31 October was the census date to confirm this year’s main intake of students. There is still movement in numbers – there have been some very late enrolments as well as some withdrawals. So, I will simply share some broad figures (rather than try for spurious accuracy) using the graph below. Provost Update 14 Chart
As you will see, we are ahead of target overall, largely as a result of a significant overshoot in International PGT numbers (as well as smaller overshoots in EU and International UG numbers). In part, the overshoot in International PGT reflects some marked changes in behaviour with many students delaying offer confirmation until they were able to meet their conditions. For the next session, while overall numbers of new students sector-wide are expected to decline due to the demographic dip, applications to Warwick are currently some 8% ahead of the same time last year.
Financial issues
The year-end figures are still being finalised but we expect the surplus to be comfortably ahead of budget, primarily because of underspend in a number of areas. The combination of a good position on recruitment and an over-budget surplus has allowed us to release some of last year’s savings to support expenditure in a number of strategically important areas that are outside of the existing budget. Subject to final approval by FGPC, we will be able to support a number of initiatives which include the following:
  • Health Centre extension.
  • expand the activities of Global Challenges Research Funding.
  • additional funds to the academic equipment budget for 2018/19.
  • to scope work on the old sports centre with a focus on developing and examinations hub and student study space.
  • development of the International Strategy.
  • funding for some further improvement work in the social sciences building
Institute of Advanced Study – new opportunities in response to university strategy
IAS has new external funds to support research Innovation and Internationalisation for academic departments:
  • Early Career Innovation Fellowships will support researchers from all disciplines at Warwick in the translation of research for societal, cultural or economic benefit. This is the “innovation” version of our highly successful Early Career Fellowships, and will be awarded to submitting PhD students and research fellows already in post, for six months in the first instance, usually on a full-time basis. The first fellows are already appointed: Dr Iwona Janicka, (Modern Languages & Cultures) is working on art and speculative design in the criminal justice arena. Richard Whitfield (Chemistry) is developing polymeric materials for controlled-release applications such as drug delivery.
  • Fernandes Fellowships will develop lasting research collaborations between Warwick and Europe. Colleagues can nominate researchers that are currently working at European institutions in tenure-track or early academic positions for funding to visit Warwick for a total of three months. They will undertake a program of research and scholarship with their host and other collaborators. Fernandes Fellows will receive a stipend of £2,000 per month to cover their living expenses here, and travel costs of up to £1,000. The Warwick team will be further supported with up to £3,000 for research, support and training costs.
  • IAS Associate Fellowship is open to current Warwick postdocs. This non-stipendiary fellowship allows access to a range of opportunities to help develop independent research careers; innovation, interdisciplinarity, internationalisation, research excellence, independence and leadership.
Update from CSAG
The Mathematical Sciences Building extension to Zeeman was successfully completed ahead of the start of the 2018/19 academic year and that the space vacated in the Zeeman Building had been allocated to meet a variety of short term needs. Post-completion fit out works are in progress in the NAIC, while the Sports Hub, Kirby Corner Car Park, Cryfield Village Residences, and the MEC building projects are all progressing according to plan. Phase 1 of the Arts Centre 2020 works had been handed over and is in use. Estates are currently procuring Phase 2. The Faculty of Arts Building and the Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research Building are both expected to begin on site in early 2019, and complete early in 2021. Work is also progressing in Senate House to create a more centrally located student hub and this will be delivered over the course of the current year. We will also be exploring options for the use of the Sports Building on Main Campus which becomes vacant once the Sports Hub is commissioned in April 2019. The Beehive (formerly Surveyor Court) is now in use and of the 2700m2 space available, around 2/3 has been allocated to house the Warwick Employment Group, Warwick Conferences Sales and Marketing and WMG.
Reviews and Consultations
There are a number of projects that are starting/continuing under the ARC banner and just incase you aren’t aware, I thought it might be helpful to summarise some of the main ones.
  • STP Review – this will be a light touch review to identify changes that will improve operations and efficiency in the existing system. A sub group of ARC is gathering evidence from key stakeholders and will then come up with a number of recommendations. This same group will also be exploring longer term options to reduce casualization and will scope the work that would be needed to deliver more substantive change.
  • Academic Processes Review Group – we are in the early stages of this work and as many of you know, we’re currently seeking some feedback from HoDs before engaging in much broader consultation with staff and with UCU.
  • Size and Shape and Targets – we have been asking for views from you all on possible student number targets beyond the current planning horizon. This is to help us with some planning work that we do around the evolution of space on campus up until 2030. The same data will enable us to do some longer term modelling around the impact of planned growth trajectories and the financial impact of future funding regimes.


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