Meeting Update: Joint Staff Consultative Committee (JSC)

Jeff Waistell reports the following key points from the last Joint Staff Committee of March 8, 2017:

Resource Allocation Model: detailed work on the RAM has not yet started, although minor changes had been made to the way budgets were being constructed for 2017-18.  Alison Cross agreed to invite the Director of Finance to attend the next meeting of the committee.

Facilities at Wheatley campus post Business move: Professor Julie McLeod had been chairing a group to oversee the usage of facilities at Wheatley following the relocation of the Business School to Headington. The aim was to ensure a positive staff and student experience for those working and studying at Wheatley. Phil Stuhldreer reported that those areas which would be staying at Wheatley had been meeting with EFM project managers to agree which buildings would be used, potential office layouts and facilities requiring modest investment.  It had been agreed that catering would be provided in the refectory, that there would be a cash point in the library (although this would be subject to achieving a minimum usage) and that the scope for offering some of the items sold in the shop was being explored. The final details were expected to be agreed shortly.

Associate Lecturers: permanent contracts had been offered to around 16 Associate Lecturers. UCU were concerned that not all the contracts had been received and that one person deemed eligible appeared to have been overlooked.  UCU were asked to contact Ben Cooper about individual cases.

Student Recruitment and University Finances: Alison Cross reported that it was proving to be a challenging year for Brookes in terms of recruitment. Overall, while applications were down, especially international PG and in nursing, offers were less affected. SMT had agreed that tariff should be maintained and, ideally, increased as evidence across the sector indicated that medium and lower tariff universities had experienced a relatively larger fall in applications.   Faculties and ASA were working hard on conversion activity, ensuring that applications were processed promptly, and some departments were piloting firm unconditional offers. The Registrar had set up a group to review recruitment activity and plans were being developed for clearing. Longer term, the University would need to strengthen its market intelligence and marketing activity, as well as seek to improve its performance against some key metrics in the NSS in order to compete effectively with other universities.  Paul Inman and Oxford Brookes International were also working to improve international recruitment. The University was on target for meeting its planned surplus for 2016-17.

Estates: Alison Cross reported that work would soon start to develop the plans for Harcourt Hill, as well as the requirements for TDE. Some staff at Harcourt Hill were concerned there would not be enough space to accommodate individual offices for all those members of staff that currently had their own office.  Alison explained that the configuration of Harcourt would need to reflect university space planning guidelines and that not everyone who currently had an individual office would necessarily retain this. It was also suggested that it would be helpful to provide an outline timeline for the development of Harcourt. [The committee was subsequently directed to an article in OnStream published on the 9 March 2017, which addresses this.]

Mediation: the University made reference to mediation as a potential solution in some employment policies, yet there did not appear to be resource to draw on when formal mediation was required.  HR explained that the University had trained a team of mediators some years ago, when the method favoured was to have two mediators working together. This proved to be problematic as not all colleagues completed their training and the use of internal mediators lapsed. He added that not all cases were susceptible to mediation, for example where not all the parties were willing to participate. However, external mediators had been used on occasion. Jon mentioned that a good alternative resolution in the past had been to have a collaborative approach between the staff member, manager, Union and HR. Alison agreed that well trained union representatives, open dialogue with HR and early intervention were helpful.

Contracts: concern was expressed about the amount of time it took for contracts to be issued for new members of staff.  HR explained that the last 18 months had been exceptionally busy for the HR department due to the implementation of CORE and changes in staffing.  At certain points of the year, HR had hundreds of contracts to process so the sheer volume of work can lead to delays. A business process review, led by Helen Ellis-Jones, was underway to look to streamline and improve key HR process. The longer-term aim was to develop SLAs.

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