UCU / Unison Proposal for University Restructure – July 2024

UCU / Unison Proposal for University Restructure – July 2024


Source: Surveys above conducted by the Heads of School of SoBE and SoA.


In light of the ongoing consultation process on the University’s ‘Strategic Transformation Process’,  we would like to take this opportunity to present an alternative vision for the University’s structure  and decision-making bodies which can enhance the democratic and genuine academic voice of the  University’s staff.

Key objectives of the proposed two-faculty structure are to allow ‘for future growth and  opportunities for (cross-disciplinary) collaboration’, to support areas of excellence, and create  vibrant sustainable learning environments.

At a quorate UCU Branch meeting on Friday 24th May 2024, a majority of attendees supported a  proposal to develop an alternative model for the University’s restructure which would involve a  return to a School-based structure and the removal of the current Faculty-based structure.

Our school-based model draws on organisational research (see below for references) that suggests that a horizontal structure  is a positive advantage for promoting collaborative and innovative working practices. As a result  capacities to deliver on the key objectives of cross disciplinarity, excellence, agility and resilience will  be enhanced. Given the concerning findings in the recent staff surveys in terms of morale and staff  voice, these proposals could go a long way to addressing many of these concerns.

An initial proposal was submitted to VCG on Tuesday 18th June 2024 for consideration at their VCG  Meeting on Monday 24th June 2024, where a number of queries and challenges were raised with  regard to the practicalities of a proposed move to a School-based structure and the introduction of a  University Senate.

Following this, a number of responses and revisions have been made to the proposal, and are thus  detailed below.


Maassen and Stensakar (2019) From organised anarchy to de‐coupled bureaucracy: The transformation of university  organisation, Higher Education Quarterly 73: 456–468.

Commons (2018) Four Forces That Prevent Change in Organizations: How to Become an Innovative Organization  Behavioral Development 23(1): 14–21.

Ahmetoglu, Scarlett, Codreanu and Chamorro-Premuzic (2020) The impact of organizational structure and work autonomy  in fostering entrepreneurial tendencies and job performance Evidence-based HRM: HRM: (8) 1, 128-143.

———————————————————————————————————————————— 1. UCU Proposal – Overview

As you will be aware, the University’s current proposal is to reduce the number of Faculties from 4  to 2 as part of the ‘Strategic Transformation Process’, suggesting that this reduction could result in  estimates of “a saving of £700,000 to £900,000 per annum”:


Our proposal is to instead remove the Faculty model in its entirety, thus reducing the number of  Faculties from 4 to 0. This would provide additional cost-savings which would help mitigate the  need for any further job losses envisaged within the proposed ‘Wave Two’ of the ‘Strategic  Transformation Process’.

As part of the University’s proposal to reduce the number of Faculties to two, the consultation  documentation identifies a new structure which would result in the ‘slotting’ or redeployment of a  number of ‘at-risk’ senior management and professional services staff into new roles.

Our proposal is that any staff placed ‘at-risk’ through the removal of the Faculty model would be  redeployed into the new School-based structure, whether through redeployment into an  equivalent role within a School or Directorate, or within the PVC roles within the proposed new  VCG structure.

Furthermore, the proposed ‘New Two-Faculty Structure’ outlined in Diagram 1 on p4 of the  ‘Strategic Transformation Programme Consultation Document’ appears to add an additional level of  hierarchy in the University’s management and decision-making structures, which reduces the staff  voice:


Our proposal is that the University should instead establish a University Senate – replacing the  Academic Board – as the academic authority of the University, with a role to oversee the teaching  and research of the University, with responsibility for academic quality and standards and for the admission and regulation of students. The proposed Senate’s membership would be drawn from  within the University, with equal representation from VCG, academic staff, professional services,  and the student body.

One of the key reported objectives of the proposed 2-faculty structure is to allow ‘for future growth  and opportunities for (cross-disciplinary) collaboration’, to support areas of excellence, and to create  vibrant, sustainable learning environments.

Our proposal for a School-based model draws on organisational research that suggests that a  horizontal structure is a positive advantage for promoting collaborative and innovative working  practices. As a result, capacities to deliver on the key objectives of cross disciplinarity, excellence,  agility, and resilience will be enhanced.

———————————————————————————————————————————— UCU Branch Survey – Process and Responses

UCU circulated these proposals for comments and feedback from UCU members with regards to the  potential benefits and drawbacks of our draft proposal to remove the Faculty-based structure, and  to move towards a School-based structure with the establishment of a University Senate.

Please see below for the collated responses to this survey:

Do you have any comments about the potential benefits of the Branch’s proposals? (43 responses)

  1. The new model would enhance the voice of staff across the University regards to the decision making processes, reducing the management hierarchy of the University. It would also create an

opportunity for additional cost-savings which would reduce the requirement for the loss of front line jobs.

  1. We should also propose to save costs with silly expenditures e.g. Gather and Gather that charges 3 times the cost of any food, and costs of trips that have to be hired with specific overpriced companies. We need more transparency of why the university is doing this.
  2. I agree that this will help to better democratise the university – university structure as it stands is very senior manager-heavy, despite the fact that ultimate power in terms of decisionmaking seems to be enacted by a few in VCG
  3. The current drive towards cross-disciplinary collaboration mooted in the two-faculty structure addresses a problem created by the academic framework, driven by VCG. Academics repeatedly voiced concerns about our programmes needing more, not less, flexibility and opportunities for  cross-disciplinary collaboration, and through repeated lack of meaningful consultation (ie the  usual window dressing after decisions have already been made and put in action behind the  scenes by VCG), were ignored. Those concerns have been repeatedly vindicated, and are now  implicitly ‘in writing’ – though they address only the effects, ignoring a major cause. I think it is  crucial to be inclusive and we get buy-in from all parts of the University and Unite on this. I’d  therefore suggest that any references should be to ‘Schools and Directorates’ – eg not ‘ School based structure’ but ‘Schools- and Directorates-based structure’.
  4. This solution has the virtue of likely making savings on salary costs and arresting what has been a very long cycle of centralization and proliferation of middle management at Brookes. It would also save us the task of backfilling the “strategic” justification for the faculty structure proposed  by the VC Group. The schools are relatively more coherent, relatively more organic in their  constitution, and the synergies and harmonies they possess are more intuitively understood than  the proposed faculties.
  5. In a way, I cannot see what the function of the 2 Superdeans would be so I would support the senate model. However, I feel,- especially given the gravity of the situation,- that I do not have all the facts/background info to make an informed choice about this. But it might trigger an  important conversation as so far we have not heard anything about any competing models for  restructuring and why the 2 faculty model is the best one. If it is all about saving money then the  senate option would save even more money, I guess.
  6. It is good to see that this proposal linked the structure of an organisation to its capacity to work across internal boundaries.
  7. Decisions about teaching and research often appear to be made by people invovled in neither and many university processes hamper rather than aid staff working. The current faculty system does not seem to promote cross-disciplinary working, and moving to a two faculty model  suggests this would only happen within faculty rather than across the board. Eduction staff have,  for instance, identified that we have more in common with psychology and sociology than with  history, with whom we are currently partnered. A focus at school level would be stronger without  being in a wider faculty. A senate certainly sounds more democratic and might provide a stronger  staff voice.
  8. I share others’ concerns about how the University is being structured less democratically so thanks for these thoughtful proposals
  9. Senate proposal is likely to afford all staff (SMT, professional & academic) with greater opportunity for meaningful collaboration and democratic accountability. Staff and students are also more likely to identify with their individual schools than one of two all encompassing  faculties.
  10. It seems to me that there are two parallel directions that the proposal calls for… 1. The democratisation of decision making and 2. The devolution of power to schools. The first is clearly outlined but I do wonder if a little more needs to be made of the second.
  11. University governance is currently far too centralised, and the VCG lacks necessary accountability. The governers are not providing that role and academics have little voice. The proposed UCU branch changes would do a lot to give academics a voice in the university decisions which affect  them. It is ultimately likely to lead to better governance, which should benefit everyone. I suspect  our financial situation wouldn’t be in such a mess if some of the financial decisions that were  made had been put to a senate.
  12. The UCU proposal is clearly a much better idea and gives Schools a better more direct avenue to SMT, will improve both democracy, accountability and ownership because staff will feel they are part of a process rather than pawns in an empire.
  13. This also supports better interdisciplinary activities in line with the strategic transformation desired outcomes. Separating arts and humanities from the sciences is a huge barrier to interdisciplinary research
  14. I think the senate proposal would have a positive impact on getting the different voices of the university structure heard as acknowledge in the text. I also believe that this could be one step closer to a more democratic process being adopted at Brookes when choosing positions of  leadership. In my perspective I think it would be very ehalthy if these posts were filled in by vote  by the respective bodies. Candidates should ‘work for it’ rather than being appointed based on  obscure processes.
  15. flat structure
  16. The main benefits that I can see is that such a proposal would address to some degree the democratic deficit within the university and might allow for decision-making which is more closely related to the knowledge and concerns of those who actually have to implement decisions  in delivering teaching and research. We might also want to consider putting forward the idea that  management posts up to and including head of school roles should be rotated rather than  permanent, in order to increase accountability?
  17. Senate could be rotating academic / admin staff
  18. I like the potential for more bottom-up input, which will help implementing decisions that make sense from a pragmatic point of view and that would boost the morale of the staff. It is the option with greater potential for financial savings.
  19. None
  20. Greater student identification with and thus maybe active engagement with schools would be a highly likely outcome of a zero-faculty model. The same might also be said for staff, who probably often ignore or don’t really engage much with info communicated by the Faculty [as opposed to  their subject or school]. A renewed focus on the actual core business of a university, with  decision-making devolved from the centre to the schools, e.g. re marketing, perhaps even  admissions, as it used to be. A greater voice for staff, which would build morale and have lots of  positive knock-on effects.
  21. It’s a great idea because it would presumably allow the grass roots working academics, who best understand the working situation in the university, more influence over decision making. 23. Hopefully, more independence and better representation of individual schools 24. The Branch’s proposals ensure that cost savings are made without the concomitant reduction in staff voice or forcing of schools into uncomfortable unions as we would see within the  universities own strategic transformation proposals.
  22. More autonomy for schools, which are closer to market and sector expertise. This would be helpful for admissions approaches etc, which do not always work well through centralised

mechanisms. It would also probably be helpful for portfolio review. A senate seems a much more  responsive idea than the Academic Board, which seems toothless and remote from many aspects  of the university which have an indirect impact on quality of courses etc.

  1. senate gives more on-going genuine input of well informed staff into university direction which for all consultations about any major change project previously seems to be ignored (eg previous re-structure and eg banner implementation) – illustrative of fact that current  consultation/feedback mechanism is ‘fake’ consideration of staff views. The current illustration of  ‘fake’ consultation is eg no ‘Business’ in faculty A title and no ‘Technology’ in faculty B title seems  to be either ignoring the obvious critical mass of income streams or a deliberate ploy to then ‘  appear to ‘give these back’ in response to the feedback.
  2. No
  3. They are fresh and interesting. Faculty SMTs feel largely out of touch- i.e not listening to expert advice about current market needs for CPD education in digital healthcare which would create revenue and therefore preserve jobs
  4. The current hierarchical structure has contributed to unprofessional conduct by some managers such as bullying and bystanding, where “executive” teams defend and replicate the behaviour of those seen “above them” rather than protecting those “below them”. A more horizontal  structure would remedy this by distributing power more evenly.
  5. Removal of multiple tiers of management between academics and VCG, may simplify and rectify communication difficulties associated with the current model of ‘command’ which is too slow and cumbersome. What is inherently wrong with the current (and 2 Faculty model) is the potential  (and sometimes reality) for managers to make decisions about matters they are ill informed  about, and for the inherent difficulty of senior faculty members to respond either through their  adminstrators or only respond to ideas and requests that have been filtered through a ‘chain of  command’, which can result in messages/request/information being filtered through this process.  A senate is a good idea, but would need to replace Academic Board.
  6. This proposal would bring back the academic voice – it seems crazy to me that the decisions and strategies are developed by people who either have never taught/done research or taught so long ago that they wouldn’t have a clue as to what teaching is like/requires these days.
  7. 2 monolithic faculties would seem too large in scope and remit to offer much in the way of coherent strategy. Whilst a schools based structure would offer both a clear vision and more dynamic character for staff and students to cohere around. Could cross school research groups  be established though to foster collaboration as found at LSE for example?
  8. Stronger identities for individual schools; smaller distance between members of staff and decision makers; more democratic; increased likelihood of identification with one’s disciplines; reducing the power of overarching management teams
  9. The Two-Faculty structure proposed by the University reduces academic representation at the top level, so a University Senate could be a good alternative solution making sure that all schools are equally represented.
  10. I think its a great idea but I suspect its possibly come too late – the current economic climate seems to means that this is all happening post haste. I’m wondering whether the learning here might be to spend more time thinking about future proofing in “ordinary times”- and also linking  showcasing what other universities are doing that we could copy at Brookes.
  11. This should create a structure in which Schools will be free to collaborate on programme development. This is a major strength of this proposal. This creates greater agency for Schools. 37. Much reduced distance between Executive Management and programme delivery. Likely to provide cost savings.
  12. Hopefully School level governance will mean a closer and therefore more detailed understanding of the issues affecting each School and can therefore approach these in a tailored manner rather than a broad brush approach.
  13. It’s a rational solution and enhances institutional democracy
  14. Anything that increases the ability of academics themselves to make decisions about the direction of the university would ensure that we feel personally responsible for good and bad outcomes, and reduce the sense of helplessness that currently besets us. Cutting out complex  managerial structures would thus be doubly valuable – it saves money and allows a important  measure of agency for academic staff. The observation about school boards being able to instruct  senior management feeds into a wider issue which I think could be given even more emphasis;  healthy institutions historically had a model in which front-line staff had junior administrative  colleagues to whom they could delegate. The savings made by the reduction of senior  administrative posts through a move to a zero-faculty model could allow for the establishment of  low-level administrative positions which would reduce academic workload.
  15. Well it would be a lot cheaper potentially.
  16. Just a question about representation of adjunct and other casually employed staff in the Senate, and about where postgraduate students would fit (with students? academics?). As the university moves toward the one-campus model, this proposal makes good sense. Also would ask the VCG  to run a cost savings analysis on our proposal for comparison!!ee
  17. This would be better for staff and students. We’d be able to make changes that help us.

Do you have any comments about the potential drawbacks of the Branch’s proposals? (36 responses)

  1. N/A
  2. The cost savings and benefits made in the case to the BOG in my view need to be overwhelming and complementary, and have clearly signposted carrots (and possibly implicitly signposted sticks). Perhaps framing proposals as benefits to VCG could be helpful? The argument that, by  concentrating power in the centre VCG have made its credibility and this university and  unacceptably vulnerable, and that reducing the pressure on VCG’s decision making in fact will  make it more robust and less vulnerable to workplace disruption going forward, could hold some  sway. Rather than reducing its power, the argument could be made that this structure would  allow them to increase their focus, and access to risk-mitigating expertise. Utopian perhaps.
  3. It would be good to consider how the financial management would be handled, given that the current funding environment is very different to that prevailed 25+ years ago. 4. A system of schools and senate could lead to greater confusion. There is a need for a clear, shared vision, which I am not sure we currently have. The culture of an institution is not always  dependent on its management structure. Structures can help or hinder, but alone will not  necessarily change attitudes. Unless underpinned by a real shift in ways of working, this type of  change may only result in the equivalent of rearranging the deckchairs. Helping to make the  workforce feel valued would be a good start!
  4. I have heard nothing from senior management to make me believe our proposals will be taken into proper consideration. For example, the business school Dean told us yesterday that he has already applied for what is basically a promotion (as part of a restructure, that I have been told,  he himself recommended). Yet, he insisted that this is a genuine consultation
  5. I fully support this but I don’t see much chance of agreement from VCG, given the personalities involved.
  6. I would like to see more detail about how the flat 0 faculty structure would work in practice. For instance we currently have a faculty Associate Dean for Research in HLS. What would replace this? Would we just have research leads in each school who would take up that role, or would  there be a single ‘generic’ dean of research responsible for all the schools, or several deans of  research each with specialty overseeing a number of schools, or something else? I like the  proposal but it needs more detail on questions like this.
  7. The SMT will simply dismiss it because it was NIH (Not Invented Here) – Here being SMT group. 9. I feel leadership roles in the schools should be term based and rotate between senior staff in the school to prevent entrenched, overpaid leadership who replicate the faculty style leadership 10. Not applicable in my case since I think the proposals would be a positive step forward 11. Even with joined up schools into faculties we have had very little cross disciplinary exchanges which is vital to get real impact into society. Being separate schools ironically would given us  more autonomy to reach out for exchange with other schools esp if we create a rotating senate  of mixed staff
  8. Some schools may be more financially vulnerable than others and this may be exposed and exploited in this model.
  9. I ma not sure how I feel about the likely scenario in which such a structure ends up being associated with more (rather than fewer) jobs at risk.
  10. None
  11. Are there any costings to demonstrate that a zero-faculty model would save money if all the staff now being paid to lead existing schools and faculties have their salaries protected? Can it be shown that any of their time could be released back to actual teaching? Conversely would doing  that make the current staff costs seem even more problematic?! How many schools are  envisioned and would their Heads all join VCG? My point in the section above raises the spectre  of increased costs – things like marketing, web development and admissions would probably have  to be strictly central to save costs – but their current centralisation is a real problem. One other  possible drawback might be the development of really different cultures within the various  schools – this is already obvious in my Faculty [e.g. 3 different subjects across 2 schools combine  but the students have developed vastly different expectations and have begun to complain when  one subject does not yield to their demands as another subject apparently would] – this could  make cross-school teaching potentially quite difficult. Finally, there has never been proper  recognition of the service done by one school to another in teaching their students, because the  money does not apparently show up in the budget of the school teaching students registered for  another degree [most obviously at level 4] – if interdisciplinary teaching is desired then the  budgets need to reflect the work that staff do in teaching students not registered within their  subject/school.
  12. Might it result in decisions needing to be taken by larger groups of people? This is more democratic but has the drawback that the decision-making process can be much more time consuming. It would be a good idea to consider how such problems can be mitigated in this proposal.
  13. Whole schools targeted in the “portfolio review”?
  14. Many colleagues are very attached to the current faculty framework and it would be a shame to embrace the principle of moving away from the faculty structure. However, it seems that this will happen no matter what. So, the Branch’s proposal is definitely a step in the right direction.
  15. It would be important to think about how each school would manage its costs – some schools (such as school of arts) contain courses which are much more expensive to run than others and

this could be a risk. It would also be important to consider whether schools would find a way to  work well across schools. We don’t want a return to even smaller silos than we had in the current  structure if we are to develop more interdisciplinarity.

  1. I am concerned that a schools based model will put smaller schools at risk – I suggest some indication of need to merge /re-configure some schools may be needed as part of a schools based model
  2. No
  3. Not all departments currently align with a school (not in HLS, anyway). Where schools do not currently exist would they derive from current departments? More clarity would be helpful on an imaginative idea
  4. I fear that the VCG and Faculty Executives will strongly resist any attempts to diminish their power over us, so the framing of the proposal needs to be considered carefully if it is to succeed. 24. Would the proposals result in any cost savings? The proposal to redeploy staff into a School structure would not result in any savings and may not be transformational.
  5. May require more significant restructuring of professional services in the short term to enable the school model to function well, but better this than another change down the line. 26. I was quite looking forward to belonging to a Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (I am a social scientist in the Business School!)
  6. If there are too many people in a Senate, it might be difficult/take longer to make decisions. I’d like to see both structures and know pros and cons there are of each, including estimated financial savings to be made with each.
  7. none at this stage
  8. No.
  9. I am open-minded about the zero Faculty structure but I am not clear how this structure will result in any cost savings if the “staff placed “at risk’ through the removal of the Faculty model would be redeployed into the new School-based structure, whether through redeployment into  an equivalent role within a School or Directorate, or within the PVC roles within the proposed  new VCG structure”.
  10. Sometimes it’s helpful to speak with someone at Faculty level if there are disagreements or lack of support at School level. I think it would be helpful to know who to turn to in this instance? 32. Representation of students on a board responsible for academic quality and standards runs the

risk of allowing students to “mark their own homework”, to use the currently fashionable phrase.  We should reflect very carefully on whether that element of the proposal might be  counterproductive.

  1. It might mean that management is more remote but it’s reduced to Senior Management only with HoD and PLs taking on much bigger workloads. I don’t know whether this is a good thing because it might put vulnerable Humanities subjects further at risk if those making the decisions  have zero to do with them or academics teaching them. I worry that Brookes is losing out badly  by not understanding that the Creative Industries are massive and with the right facilities and  back up can and will recruit extremely well.
  2. It is amazing!
  3. It depends on how the senate is ultimately structured. I would hope we get to elect representatives and that there is a term limit for senate members so they don’t become too entrenched.

———————————————————————————————————————————— Proposed Structure – General Principles (Original Version)

Management Structure

– Vice-Chancellor’s Group would consist of Vice-Chancellor, Chief Operating Officer, Chief People  Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Registrar, PVC Recruitment & Partnership, PVC Research and  Innovation, and PVC Education

– Deans would be replaced by Heads of Schools; Schools would have Deputy Heads to support day to  day operation of Schools

– Number of Schools might be reduced where there are natural synergies (eg Built Environment and  Architecture)

Senate and Committee Structure

– Senate would replace the Academic Board, as the academic authority of the University, with a role  to oversee the teaching and research of the University, with a responsibility for academic quality and  standards and for the admission and regulation of student

– Senate membership would be drawn from within the University, with equal representation from  VCG, Heads of School, academic staff, professional services, and the student body / Brookes Union

– Senate status would be parallel to that of VCG within the University decision-making structure

– Existing cross-University Committees would sit under VCG and Senate, reporting directly to both  bodies

– Figure 1 organogram below illustrates indicative Senate, VCG and Committee structure:


Figure 1 – Illustrative University Structure, including Board of Governors, VCG, Senate, VCG, and Committees

———————————————————————————————————————————— Proposed Structure – General Principles (Revised Version)

Management Structure

– Vice-Chancellor’s Group would consist of Vice-Chancellor, Registrar and Chief Operating Officer,  Chief People Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Academic Registrar and Director of ASA, PVC  Recruitment & Partnership, PVC Research and Innovation, PVC Education and Student Experience,  and PVC Strategy and Development; scope for 1 representative from ‘Heads of School Group’ on  rotating / nominated basis

– Each PVC would have one / two Associate Deans drawn from existing at-risk ADRKE, ADESE and  ADSD pools (Associate Dean Recruitment and Partnership [1 x Home & 1 x International];  Associate Dean Research and Innovation [1 x Research & 1 Knowledge Exchange / Innovation /  Consultancy); Associate Dean Education and Student Experience (1 x Education & 1 x Student  Experience); Associate Dean Strategy and Development (1 x Operational Strategy & 1  Interdisciplinary / Inter-School Strategy)

– Deans would be replaced by Heads of Schools; Schools could have Deputy Heads to support day to  day operation of Schools (particularly in larger Schools by student or staff FTE); a ‘Heads of School  Group’ would sit underneath VCG in order to foster interdisciplinary cooperation between  Schools, and to facilitate strategic decision-making in collaboration with VCG.

– Number of Schools might be reduced where natural synergies (eg Built Environment &  Architecture)

Senate / Academic Board and Committee Structure

– Senate would replace the Academic Board, as the academic authority of the University, with a role  to oversee the teaching and research of the University, with a responsibility for academic quality and  standards and for the admission and regulation of students

– Senate membership would be drawn from within the University, with equal representation from  VCG, Heads of School, academic staff, professional services, and the student body / Brookes Union

– Senate status would be parallel to that of VCG within the University decision-making structure

Alternatively, the existing Academic Board structure could be revised to strengthen the equality  of representation from VCG, Heads of School, academic staff, professional services, and the  student body / Brookes Union (i.e. through additional representation of academic staff,  professional services and student body on Academic Board)

– Existing cross-University Committees would sit under VCG and Senate / Academic Board, reporting  directly to both bodies

– Establishment of a Dispute Resolution Committee to resolve disputes between VCG & Senate /  Academic Board, with equal representation from VCG and Senate / Academic Board (respectively),  and Vice-Chancellor having casting vote as Chair

– Figure 2 organogram illustrates indicative Senate / Academic Board, VCG and Committee structure:


Figure 2 – Illustrative University Structure, including Board of Governors, VCG, Senate / Academic Board, and Committees (Revised)

———————————————————————————————————————————— FAQs and Responses to VCG / VC Questions

1) Is the move to a School-based, zero-Faculty structure dependent upon the establishment of a  University Senate?

No – whilst the central principles of enhancing the staff voice and decision-making capabilities  would be enhanced by the introduction of both structural developments, each separate element  of our proposals could be considered separately on their own merits.

Furthermore, there may be certain elements outlined within each of the separate proposals which  might not be feasible, but these could be discounted from each proposal without undermining the  entirety of the proposal.

2) How could this work better than it did thirteen years ago, when there was a SMT, an Executive  Board and eight Schools, and the move to a Faculty structure was prompted by a sense that  decision-making was slow, inefficient and ineffective, with many decisions, in effect, being made  twice?

Operational decision-making would be delegated to Schools in a decentralised manner, which  would increase the speed of short-term, day-to-day decision making on the majority of academic,  research, knowledge exchange, and consultancy activity. 

Strategic decision-making for medium-term and long-term issues would be retained centrally by  the VCG, Senate / Academic Board, and various cross-University Committees – and this would not  necessarily deviate from the current practices… or those proposed in the creation of two new  large Faculties.

3) Where would the work currently undertaken at Faculty level be done, without a proliferation of  school level posts? – not just re senior posts like Deans, but also e.g. SSCs

There would likely be a need for the creation of some new School-level posts within the proposed  structure, with the redeployment or slotting of some senior roles and the majority of junior roles.  Whilst there would not be a necessity for Deans per se (unless the current Heads of School were  retitled as Deans), other senior Faculty roles currently at risk (e.g. ADRKEs, ADSDs, ADESEs,  Executive Office Managers, Heads of Operation) could be redeployed into other School-based  roles (as Research Leads, PLSEs, Admission / Recruitment Leads, School Operations, etc.). Roles  such as Faculty SSCs which already tend to have alignment with particular Schools & Programme  areas could be easily assigned to specific schools, as the actual SSC workload would remain the  same.

4) Where would accountability sit, with two different decision-making bodies?

Ultimate accountability for the University’s performance would remain with the Board of  Governors, given that it is responsible for determining the overall mission and setting the  educational character of the University, the University’s key objectives, academic plan, and core  strategies, and monitoring the performance of the University. The VCG and University Senate /  Academic Board would be reportable to the Board of Governors for the delivery of the University’s  mission.

To avoid situations where deadlock or disputes emerge between VCG & Senate / Academic Board,  there could be the establishment of a Dispute Resolution Committee to resolve disputes with  equal representation from VCG and Senate / Academic Board (respectively), and Vice-Chancellor  having a casting vote as Chair.

5) Who would chair Senate, and who would be arbiter between the two bodies in the event of  disagreement (overlaps with the accountability question)? How will reporting lines work for new  committees if they have Senate and VCG in parity above them? What if VCG and Senate disagree?

The University Senate / Academic Board would likely be chaired on a rotating basis between the  various parties represented (VCG, students, academic staff, professional services). In the event of  a disagreement between VCG and the University Senate / Academic Board, a final decision on such  matters could be escalated to the Board of Governors for arbitration and/or final decision making. 

Alternatively, a Dispute Resolution Committee could be formed with equal representation from  the VCG and the University Senate / Academic Board, with the Chair of the Board of Governors  having a casting vote to avoid deadlocks.

The many benefits of a University Senate are outlined in the article below: Other models of University Senates at other HEIs are illustrated below:

6) How would selection for Senate work?

The selection process for a University Senate or enhanced-status Academic Board would run  similarly to the current process for Academic Board – but with enhanced representation for  academic staff, professional services, and the student body.

7) Who would line manage the eight Heads of School?

The new PVC positions proposed in the consultation process could be delegated as the Line  Managers of the Heads of School, depending upon their past experience and working relationships  (given that they’ve all been slotted into provisional roles as former Deans).

8) As a group, it [VCG] had considered alternative structures, which had included schools; however,  it had been disregarded given colleagues prior experience of this type of structure, and the  disadvantages this ultimately would bring such as more siloed working. It would be helpful if the  Unions could elaborate on this point and how they envisioned those boundaries would be removed.  How would eight schools achieve more inter-disciplinarity than in a faculty structure (four or two)?

Long-serving staff who served indeed the previous School-based model have argued the  introduction of Faculties led to more top-down forms of decision-making, and less space for  departmental and modular influence over programme design. Interdisciplinary programmes are  notoriously difficult to develop and run successfully, regardless of the structure. 

However, there is every reason to believe (or, more to the point, no reason not to believe) that  bottom-up initiatives that ensure staff investment, pedagogic oversight and genuine opportunities  for synergetic developments are most likely to be successful and to deliver the best student  experience and outcomes. 

In our model, the role of the University would be to foster these synergetic opportunities as  follows:

  1. a) The cross-University Committees would have a key remit for delivery of interdisciplinarity in terms of academic delivery, research and knowledge exchange, strategic planning, and quality Given that the Committees would be drawn from each School and have key senior  staff from each school in attendance, this would foster inter-School, inter-disciplinary operation. 
  2. b) The successful model of the current cross-University Interdisciplinary Research Networks could be used as an exemplar of how this interdisciplinary approach could be fostered in other elements of the University’s approach, such as teaching and learning, consultancy and innovation.
  3. c) It could also be the case that one of the proposed PVC positions for Faculty A or B could have a specific remit for delivery and oversight of interdisciplinary / inter-School cooperation to deliver key objectives of the University in this regard.
  4. d) Furthermore, the Heads of School could form a ‘Heads of School Group’ which would sit underneath VCG in order to foster interdisciplinary cooperation between Schools, and to facilitate strategic decision-making in collaboration with VCG.

9) There were no sensible costing plans provided within the alternative proposal. It was queried  how this model would drive efficiencies. It was considered, that if anything, the alternative proposal  would require an increase in resources in order to work across the number of units proposed. Where  will cost savings arise if current staff are to be redeployed into Schools or PVC roles? Which roles in  schools do you have in mind (I’m not aware of many vacancies)?

Although it is beyond our capabilities to provide a full costing of a zero-Faculty, school-only  structure – and given the lack of full modelling conducted by the University / VCG on this option in  their own business plan – our own estimates of this are necessarily speculative.

However, given the modelling of the current proposal of a ‘2.5’ Faculty model and the need for  some posts to be added back in to a ‘zero-Faculty’ model to offset workload, it is estimated that  the cost savings for a ‘zero-Faculty’ model would be in the region of £1.3m to £2m using the  University’s own rough estimates. However, ultimately the operationalisation of the University  structure via redeployment, slotting, and ringfencing is for VCG and senior managers to work out. 

10) Where will people issues be resolved?

The People Committee (which was omitted from the previous proposal in error) has been  incorporated into the new organogram above.

11) It was an interesting proposal; however, the principal responsibilities of the Academic Board  were drawn from the University’s Instrument and Articles of Government; as the senior Academic  Committee of the University. There was no substantive reason for the Instrument and Articles of  Government to be fundamentally changed, and it would be unusual and irregular practice even on  review of the Instrument and Articles to make such a change.

If they have to be changed to enable the proposal to be implemented, then they should be.  Alternatively, the remit of Academic Board could be changed significantly to strengthen its status  to reflect an enhanced role as discussed in the Senate.

12) It [the proposal] proposed to take out a layer of senior management and the emerging model  appeared to make the University leadership group unwieldly. It would, in essence, take the  University back to pre-2011 when OBU had 8 schools, an SMT and an Executive Board. This had led  to ineffective, inefficient and slow decision making.

Slower decision making may be a positive in some cases – such as in the case of a major restructure  of the University such as that currently proposed at the moment. Other examples which benefit  from slower decision-making such as this include the development of Estate masterplans, large  capital investment, portfolio reviews and development, and academic framework reviews.

Furthermore, there is a need to differentiate between operational and strategic decision-making.  Operational decision making could be quicker at a delegated level, and strategic decisions could be  reserved to VCG / Board / Senate.

13) It was considered that the alternative structure lost sight of the main strategic objective around  the portfolio and building work on this. It was queried how this would work in a larger, and more  fragmented structure.

How the two-faculty structure facilitates ‘portfolio’ and building work is not articulated in the  management’s proposal – we have asked for a clearer rationale for this and have not been  provided with any. Again, this could be shaped at the strategic level, but then actioned from the  bottom up using local knowledge which is better than centralised knowledge in VCG & MRE… as  it’s in everyone’s best interest.

14) The underlying thrust of the document appeared to be about democratising decision-making but  there was no evidence of how this type of structure would be managed, who would make the  decisions and how the overall governance framework would work in practice. It was stressed that  democratisation was not the fundamental aim of what the VCG was trying to achieve, which was  fewer siloes, a better portfolio and more cross-disciplinary working. Further details were required  regarding how this would work and how the alternative structure would aid the principles behind it.

We are happy to debate or discuss this – responsiveness might be a more acceptable word than  democratisation. The principles and operation of this structure could be further worked out by the  University. In essence, this would involve: a) more decentralised decision making; b) more power  to Schools; c) Senate to give more say to staff (but this could be within an enhanced staff voice on  Academic Board); and, d) less distance from VCG to Schools.

Given the concerning findings in the recent staff surveys in terms of morale and staff voice, these  proposals could go a long way to addressing many of these concerns.

15) It was recognised that other models had been discussed thoroughly as part of this exercise; and  that perhaps, it would be helpful to show the alternative structures that had been considered and  why these had not been regarded as feasible solutions.

Agreed – can we see these?

16) A technical issue had been identified in that individuals such as SSEs, Academic Administration  Managers (staff below the level in the consultation) that sat at Faculty level, could not be  redeployed as there was no equivalent in Schools. It was considered that this would increase costs as  it would result in redundancies.

There would likely be a need for the creation of some new School-level posts within the proposed  structure, with the redeployment or slotting of some senior roles and the majority of junior roles.  Whilst there would not be a necessity for Deans per se (unless the current Heads of School were  retitled as Deans), other senior Faculty roles currently at risk (e.g. ADRKEs, ADSDs, ADESEs,  Executive Office Managers, Heads of Operation) could be redeployed into other School-based  roles (as Research Leads, PLSEs, Admission / Recruitment Leads, School Operations, etc.). Roles  such as Faculty SSCs which already tend to have alignment with particular Schools & Programme  areas could be easily assigned to specific schools, as the actual SSC workload would remain the  same.

17) It was highlighted that even if this was considered to be a feasible alternative and supported; it  was not something that could be granted in consultation. The Board of Governors was responsible  for signing off on the constitution of the Academic Board or Senate. If the Board of Governors did  not agree with it, then it could not be executed.

Of course, but again a debate or discussion with the Governors would be a necessary step in the  process. This is not an ‘all or nothing’ submission from the UCU & Unison, and it would be possible  to de-couple some of the proposals.

Oxford Brookes staff and students letter of support to the Oxford Action for Palestine Solidarity Encampment

The Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P) encampment was started by members of the University of Oxford’s community on Monday 6th May. By this time, over 35,000 Palestinians of Gaza had been killed by Israel in the past seven months; all twelve universities in Gaza had been targeted and destroyed by Israel; an unprecedented number of journalists had been killed; Israel had systematically dismantled healthcare within Gaza; and two-thirds of all dwellings in Gaza had been destroyed. Meanwhile, Israel has placed a blockade on basic services and humanitarian assistance to Gaza. The ICJ determined in January that it is plausible that Israel’s actions amount to a genocide of the Palestinians of Gaza.

It has been reported that the University of Oxford is among the top five UK universities in receiving funds from arms producing and military services companies, and has research collaborations with companies developing weapons and military technology. On 1 May,  the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) wrote to the University of Oxford and 81 other UK universities, alerting them of the potential risk of criminal liability over any investments held in both arms companies and Israeli settlements. Despite repeated calls, the University of Oxford has failed to disclose whether it has direct and/or indirect investments in companies that are complicit in the attack on Gaza, and has failed to acknowledge and condemn the systematic and complete destruction of higher education in Gaza, including the killing of over 5,000 students, 100 professors, and 3 principals.

OA4P are demanding that the University of Oxford discloses its investments, and divests from arms companies as well as any other organisations that profit from Israeli apartheid, occupation, or genocide. OA4P are also calling for an institutional boycott of Israeli universities while genocide, apartheid, or occupation continue, and that the University of Oxford provides support for a Palestinian-led rebuilding of the twelve universities in Gaza destroyed by Israel.

These demands align with repeated calls from Palestinian trade unions to end all complicity and stop arming Israel. We support them and urge the University to take immediate actions to end any investment in, institutional relationships, or procurement contracts with companies and academic institutions funding and supplying weapons to the Israeli military or enabling Israel’s violations of international law through the crimes of occupation, apartheid or genocide. We are also concerned by the Prime Minister’s threatening language regarding these peaceful encampments, and condemn shallow political attempts to distract from the urgent onslaught taking place in Rafah – one that is being enabled by the UK government while most universities remain silent and complicit.

(The text above has been agreed by a group of Oxford and Reading Trade Unions from their statement to ‘Stand in Solidarity with the Oxford Action for Palestine encampment’ – we thank the organisers for letting us reproduce it here).

This letter and call for signatures from members of Oxford Brookes University is to extend our solidarity to OA4P, support the right to protest, and ask members to visit the encampment and support it in any way they can. Donations to the camp can be made by following the link at

Please only sign this if you are staff or student at Oxford Brookes University. Link to Google Form to sign the letter.

This call for signatures is produced by the Oxford Brookes UCU branch, the Brookes UCU Palestine Solidarity group and follows UCU’s national policy, which states that ‘UCU supports all those standing against complicity in genocide, and for decolonisation, freedom, and equality. We reiterate our call for an immediate ceasefire, the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, unrestricted access to humanitarian aid, and the lifting of the siege of Gaza.’ For a list of support from faculty at the University of Oxford, see here.

List of names

  1. Dr Maïa Pal, Senior Lecturer in International Relations
  2. Dr Lili Schwoerer, Teaching Fellow in Sociology
  3. Gerard Ward, Associate Lecturer (Law)
  4. Dana Wentworth, Lecturer
  5. Dr Tina Managhan, Senior Lecturer, International Relations
  6. Andrew Kilmister, Senior Lecturer in Economics, Oxford Brookes Business School
  7. Dr Kate West, Senior Lecturer in Visual Criminology
  8. Hanna Klien-Thomas, Research Fellow
  9. Helene Kazan- Senior Lecturer in Fine Art
  10. Rosamond Lynch, Student
  11. Daniela treveri Gennari, Professor of Cinema Studies 
  12. Francesco Sticchi, Lecturer in Film Studies 
  13. Dr Max Morris, Senior Lecturer in Criminology
  14. Anonymous, Researcher
  15. Tim Jones, Professor
  16. Dr Hazel Dawe, Associate lecturer 
  17. Patrick Alexander, Professor of Education
  18. Jon Wheatley, Senior Lecturer
  19. Stefanos Ioannou, Senior Lecturer in Economics
  20. Chrissie Steenkamp, Reader in Social and Political Change
  21. Louise Stafford, Programme Lead
  22. Shaan Syed, Associate Lecturer
  23. Rachel Ambrose, Mental Health Nursing Lecturer 
  24. Stuart Whigham, Senior Lecturer in Sport, Coaching and Physical Education
  25. Maria Daskalaki, Professor in Organisation Studies
  26. Valerie van Mulukom, Senior Lecturer
  27. Roderick Galam, Senior Lecturer
  28. Dr Ivan Čavdarević, Lecturer in Law
  29. Sue Brownill, Professor
  30. Maya Corry, Senior Lecturer in the History of Art
  31. Cathy d’Abreu
  32. Sam Skinner, Lecturer in Fine Art
  33. Anonymous, Associate Lecturer
  34. Zoë Jordan, Senior Lecturer 
  35. Ahalya Bala, Lecturer in Criminology 
  36. Judy Sandeman, Lecturer
  37. Dr Sara le Roux, Reader in Applied Economics and Decision 
  38. Achas Burin, Lecturer
  39. Jill Millar, Senior Lecturer
  40. Molly Cochran, Reader in International Relations
  41. Alex Goody, Professor of Twentieth Century Literature and Culture
  42. Dr Birgit den Outer, Senior Lecturer
  43. Anonymous staff
  44. Mel Nowicki, Reader in Urban Geography
  45. Judie Gannon, OBBS
  46. Charoula Tzanakou, Reader
  47. Dr Stephen Hurt, Reader in International Relations
  48. Rylie White, 1st year Student for urban planning
  49. Jelena Stojkovic, Senior Lecturer
  50. Zac Coleman, Master’s student
  51. Anonymous student
  52. Claudia Lueders, Lecturer in Politics
  53. Lucy Ford, Senior Lecturer International Relations
  54. Ariadne Kline, Student
  55. Isobel Roberts. Student
  56. Keanu Worley, Student
  57. Liv Gilbert, Student
  58. Paulina Szostak, Senior Admissions Officer
  59. Dr Abbey Halcli, Principal Lecturer in Sociology
  60. Hamish Graham, Masters Student
  61. Maleeha Saad, Student
  62. Tatiana Kontou, Senior Lecturer in 19th C. Literature
  63. Aisha Bashir, Student
  64. Ross Wignall, Lecturer in Anthropology
  65. Patrick Alexander, Professor of Education
  66. Olivia Afonso, Senior Lecturer
  67. Dr Claire Launchbury, TF and SC in Communication, Media and Cultural Studies
  68. Claire Lee, Research Fellow 
  69. Caroline Sloan, Associate Lecturer
  70. Safia Ben Oun, Student
  71. Tim Marshall, Emeritus Professor of Planning
  72. Anonymous, Student
  73. Peter Taylor, Student
  74. Marwa, Student
  75. Marysia Elliott, Student
  76. Stevie Miller, Student
  77. Megan Hobbs, Student
  78. Mirna Pedalo, Associate Lecturer
  79. Warveen Jahwar, MA student
  80. Vincent Brown, Student
  81. shantel okwunakwe, student
  82. Rosa Codina, Senior lecturer in events and tourism management
  83. Thevuni Raju, Nursing Student
  84. Charlotte Maddison, Programme lead
  85. Catherine Kington, Lecturer Initial Teacher Education
  86. Caroline murray, Student
  87. Anupama Ranawana, Alumna and former visiting researcher
  88. Alba Ruso, Student
  89. Jia Syed, Computer Science Student
  90. Krupa Patel, Student
  91. Louise Bilous, Student
  92. Layla Saleh, Marketing Communications Management student
  93. Reo Barborica, Undergraduate Student and Incoming VP: Education & Advocacy of the Student Union
  94. Tamsin Barber, Reader in Sociology
  95. Luka Sweeting, Student
  96. Annabel Waterson, University Administration 
  97. Anonymous, Student
  98. Anonymous, Student
  99. Tyler Stillwell, Student
  100. James Bennett, Student
  101. Moran Hajyahy, LLB Law Student 
  102. Anisa Shikder, Student 
  103. Faisal Younis, Student 
  104. Selina, Student
  105. Anonymous, Student
  106. Eithne O’Connor, Student
  107. Elizabeth Pinkney, Undergraduate Student
  108. Anonymous, Student
  109. Anonymous, Student
  110. Anonymous, Student
  111. Anjola Eke, Student 
  112. Anonymous, Student
  113. Anonymous, Student 
  114. Farhan Arshad, Student 
  115. Anonymous, Student
  116. Anonymous, Student
  117. Anonymous, Student
  118. Anonymous LSS Academic, Senior Lecturer
  119. Riham, Student
  120. Ashley Cushman, Academic Liaison Librarian
  121. Chloe Romero, Student
  122. Catherine Black, Dyslexia/SpLD Tutor
  123. Daisy Tovell, Student
  124. Astoria Zarazel, Curriculum and Student Information Manager
  125. Anonymous, Student
  126. Anonymous, Student
  127. Anonymous, Student




Oxford Brookes University is currently facing a third round of Voluntary Severance (VS). In the first round, in November 2023, the Vice Chancellor’s Group (VCG) decided to close the Music department through a teach-out of the current cohort and by making a Reader and Professor redundant this year. Specific departments in Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and Maths were targeted with VS and redeployment, and 48 people were at risk. Around 20 people left in January, and several departments made large collective sacrifices by proposing fractional contracts to save posts. The second round of VS saw more departments included, and about 8 people left. 

In the current third round, over 800 people have been sent a VS letter across all four faculties. The VCG now says it needs to make £6.5m savings, or 5% of staffing costs. This could mean well over 100 people leaving by the summer, and more savings in the next academic year have already been announced as necessary. On top of staff cuts, the VCG is pushing changes to workload planning tariffs, reductions in research hours, and potentially a major restructuring.

Since the third round was announced by email to all staff on 19/03, and despite these staggering numbers, no meeting has, to this date (18/04), been organised by the VCG or the faculty Deans. There is no doubt that there is a national crisis in the UK today facing all universities, and especially post-1992s. As of today, over 40 universities are facing cuts, closures, and restructurings. 

External factors as well as inflation are contributing to this. Yet Brookes’ UG student numbers increased from last year, and staffing costs have not increased. Up to now, we’ve been considered a healthy university.

So why is Brookes suddenly in such a bad financial situation?

Is it as bad as they say? Yes, but for very different reasons than those claimed by VCG

Has it been mismanaged? Yes. For a longer financial analysis, see:

Here are some reasons why:

  • Brookes has one of the highest levels of external borrowing in the UK as percentage of total income (92.3%) according to HESA’s 20/21 data.
  • This debt is due to a range of questionable expenditures including estate development (student housing, new buildings and facilities, acquisition of new properties) financed by loans involving strict covenants. These were bad bets
  • Overambitious recruitment targets: for example, in June 23, the VCG budgeted, based on faculty projections, with a 21% increase in PG recruitment for 23/24. These projections inform future investments and give creditors a false sense of the university’s potential finances.

SAVE OUR BROOKES! What can we do? We need:

  • Transparency: better communication on the financial situation and a policy to ‘open the books’
  • A pause on any major capital investments and reversal of new plans
  • Prudent recruitment targets that do not lead to further financial gambling
  • Reduce costs of VCG through senior management pay cuts
  • Establish a Joint Staff Committee where staff and unions have actual negotiating power with management and with accountability for management’s decisions
  • Establish a robust and contractually binding working hours and duties agreement 
  • Support national call for reinstating a student cap and pressure VCG to lobby UCEA and Government



Help us develop a new model of financial viability that includes staff and students in decision-making, make sure VCG negotiates with us locally on workloads, organise nationally with other branches.

JOIN UCU ( to help us build this vision and pressure the VCG and the Board of Governors. This branch achieved important concessions this year but we could achieve so much more if more people join us.

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Oxford Brookes UCU – Financial Analysis Summary April 2024

Oxford Brookes UCU – Financial Analysis Summary


As discussed in recent Branch meetings, we have compiled a summary of the financial analysis conducted by the UCU Negotiating Committee during the recent formal consultation process on compulsory redundancies to share with our Branch members.

To this end, we have shared the following headlines at recent Branch meetings under 6 key points which are articulated in more detail below.

Key findings:

  • Oxford Brookes is heavily indebted and is in the midst of an ambitious capital development programme that drives the redundancy proposals coming from management – and the current voluntary severance scheme.

Oxford Brookes’ capital development programme and financial strategy has left the University in a precarious position in terms of debt-to-income ratio.  In the most recent publicly available data on the University’s financial performance returned to HESA in 2021/22, the University had the highest ratio of ‘External borrowing as a % of total income’ in the UK at a rate of 92.3% (

This in effect means that the University has exhausted its capacity in terms of borrowing to fund its capital development programme, and in turn, left itself in a precarious position as there is no capacity to restructure its borrowing commitments and covenants at a time where interest rates have increased significantly. It has therefore turned its attention to making cost-savings to shore up the University’s finances in the short and medium term.

  • A recent decision to bring forward work on the Clive Booth Student Village leads to a massive drain on cash this year, which required a new overdraft / revolving credit facility being put in place to cover cash “troughs” in the current and future financial years.

Brookes was offered a deal to bring forward the commencement of construction work at Clive Booth Student Village. In return, they would get additional work included in the originally planned price, with the Board of Governors approving a change to the project that would deliver an additional building for the same approved budget, with the additional building being left as a shell construction.  

However, this decision required a significant outlay of cash in the 2023/24 financial year in return for this change to the project, resulting in increased financial pressures as the University’s cash balances were deployed at an earlier point in light of this.

  • Management plans do not explicitly recognise the trouble associated with such low cash positions, but the logic of their plans is clear: find savings to rebuild cash more quickly and to allow further capital work to go ahead.

It has become abundantly clear to us that the urgency of the cost-saving measures sought by the end of the 2023/24 financial year was clearly linked to concerns with the University’s cash-flow situation and the debt-to-income ratio.  

When pressed upon this within our negotiation meetings throughout the consultation process, the University management initially refused to move their position regarding the capital investment plan – with a central argument that they would not consider reducing capital investment whereby these investments would be ‘income-generating’. We have continued to express our opposition to ongoing capital investment when jobs are at risk.

  • The “external forces” that management evoke are seriously exacerbated by decisions they themselves have taken.

Given the University management’s refusal to acknowledge the impact of internal strategic and investment decisions, it has become apparent that the VCG and Board of Governors has sought to externalise the problems the University faces through its constant reference to increased inflation, pension costs, real-terms decreases in the value of UK/Home tuition fees, and a downturn in international recruitment.

However, whilst all of these external factors are affecting Brookes as it has the entire higher education sector, all of these external factors were entirely predictable. The proposed job losses at Brookes are due to the fact that the University’s level of indebtedness and requirements to generate large surpluses on a regular basis leave the University with no capacity to deal with any short-term financial headwinds.

  • Brookes now has: (i) debts three times higher than the sector average and (ii) cash lower than all but a few institutions. If we were looking at a benign period in English HE funding, it would be concerning. As it is, it looks reckless.

As outlined above, the level of indebtedness of the University is one of the central drivers of the urgency of cost-saving measures. The University’s lending covenants require urgent reductions in the level of debt-to-income ratios in the 2024/25 financial year due to the strategic mismanagement of the University’s finances, with the challenging financial circumstances in the HE sector and increased interest rates leaving no room for further renegotiation of its lending commitments in any way which would not be highly detrimental.

  • Staff will bear the brunt and this is unlikely to be the only round of cuts in the next year or two.

The UCU Negotiating Team provided an extensive list of non-pay saving suggestions to the University during the consultation process – and has continued to do so alongside Unison colleagues during the current discussions on the more recent cost-saving measures which included the recent voluntary severance scheme.

However, it appears that the University’s financial peril, and the lack of scope left for significant non-pay cost-saving measures given that most of these have been exhausted, means that the recent move towards reductions of 5% in staffing costs is a direct consequence of the University’s financial mismanagement. Notwithstanding a shift in the University’s position on the planned capital investment, the urgency of the timescale for the savings required in the 2024/25 financial year means the blame for this lies at VCG’s door.

To find out more about our campaigns and how to join and support UCU, see:

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Update on New Phase of the Campaign

On 11 March 2024, the closure of Music is still ongoing and both members of staff facing CR were served notice last week.  This is a very sad time for Oxford Brookes and we will continue to fight this any way we can.
Brookes’s communication on the VS and compulsory redundancy situation states that aside from colleagues in music (and we are still fighting this), all staff who were at risk of redundancy no longer are. In large part this was because the union argued that the VS scheme should be widened so those whose jobs were at risk could be saved – and also because we persuaded the management to accept reductions in hours of those colleagues in the at risk groups to protect their jobs.
Whilst this can’t be counted as an unadulterated victory, members are in a better place than would have been without the branch’s efforts.
The threat of industrial action will also have helped persuade management to think again.
Unfortunately, this is just the beginning, and the negotiating team along with UNISON branch officers will be meeting regularly to negotiate and propose non staff cost savings: so my message is that the stronger we are as a union, the greater our chances are of avoiding job cuts through redundancies in the future.
Please continue to support us, and please ask colleagues who are not yet members, that they should join UCU: the more we are the stronger we are.
Here is what your reps are pushing for at the moment:
1.)  In response to the university’s proposed revisions to its currently incomplete Compulsory Redundancy Policy, we have counter-proposed a Redundancy Avoidance policy and have refused to further discuss the university’s initial proposal until we receive a formal response on our counter-proposal.
2.)  We are initiating a cross-program, cross-faculty (i,e, university-wide) “Save Research at Brookes” committee to put a stop to the competitive race to the bottom in terms of research allocations and other  measures in place that have traditionally supported research (such as teaching buy-outs, sabbatical schemes, university funding and research centres). The aim of this committee will be to share information and strategies that can help to maintain research as a priority of the institution and as integral to our teaching.  We believe this will be incredibly important as the university continues to look for ways to save costs and as teaching demands rise as a result of VS and increases in the number of vacant posts (as staff who leave are not replaced).
3.)  We are demanding that staff members who agree to VS and/or are made redundant be treated with due respect for their contributions at Brookes and that efforts are made to enable them to retain their Brookes’ email addresses, library access and access to their offices, as necessary, for a reasonable amount of time after they leave their posts.  We understand that there are security issues involved, but the branch position is that staff who voluntarily leave should not be treated as security threats; rather, they should be treated as valued alumni.  This is especially important with the quick time-frames in which VS and CR have been implemented.

Save Our Lecturers Protest, 15 February

The Save Our Lecturers campaign held another protest on 15 February. Sadly, compulsory redundancies are still threatening members of staff.

There will be a branch meeting on 5 March, 4-5pm to update UCU members on the latest developments.

UCU’s ReclaimHE campaign will officially launch on 28 February, and more information can be found here.

Speech from a member of staff who, after 20 years of work at Oxford Brookes, has taken voluntary redundancy.

Update from our campaigns organiser. While the threat of industrial action did achieve some results, compulsary redundancies are still on the table.

THIS IS NOT THE END: Response by UCU exec to Brookes VCG announcement on 26 January

This is the Brookes UCU exec team’s response to VCG’s announcement sent to members on Thursday 1 February 2024


We are writing to give you an initial response to the VCG’s announcement on the ‘Outcome of consultation on University cost savings measures’ on Friday 26 January. We held exec and branch meetings on Wednesday 31 January to discuss and clarify this announcement and its various implications. Apologies for the long message but there are several issues we need to report and clarify our position on.

To restate our official position, we are officially in dispute with the university, and we held a consultative e-ballot mid-December 2023. We asked the membership two questions:

  • Do you support taking strike action in response to proposed compulsory redundancies and suspension of staff progression and promotion?
  • Do you support taking industrial action short of striking (ASOS) (excluding a marking and assessment boycott (MAB)) in response to proposed compulsory redundancies and suspension of staff progression and promotion?

On both questions members who voted did so affirmatively by more than 86%with a majority of our membership participating in the e-ballot. We decided then to wait until the end of the consultation period scheduled for 17 January 2024, at which point we submitted a 22 page report to VCG including a variety of cost-saving alternatives and arguments for why the VCG’s process had been highly inadequate and unfair. Individual departments also submitted their own reports and proposals.

Following the latest announcement, we believe important progress has been achieved thanks to the threat of industrial action and detailed negotiation. There is no doubt that the stronger we are, the more we can achieve. History and Anthropology, thanks to significant sacrifices from staff, have been declared safe, for the time being, and their VS pools are being closed. The VCG has agreed to open the VS scheme to other departments, which is a way to try and mitigate the threat of compulsory redundancies.

However, these new measures will also cause a range of further problems for staff and students. Crucially, 2 people remain at threat of Compulsory Redundancy (CR) in Music, and this is simply unacceptable to us. Several departments (English, Architecture and Film), where pools of VS schemes remain open, are still on hold as to whether they are safe or not from CR. Their situation is dependent on the outcome of the new VS scheme. Music and Maths are still to be closed.

There also remains significant problems and questions regarding policies and procedures for cuts and redundancies, and regarding impact on remaining staff. Information shared with us reveals that in some cases, such as English, staff’s workloads could increase by 50%, and this was calculated before even the new round of VS.

Regarding impact on students, PhD, MA, and UG students are losing their supervisors and advisors with very little to no extra support. Students remain confused by the situation and are having modules closed at very short notice.

The full impact of VS on staff and students this semester remains very unclear and unsettling, and we are still collecting information from you about this, so please get in touch with any updates.

The response from VCG of concerns raised by the Students’ Brookes Union remains particularly unsatisfactory to us, especially in relation to 1) MA and PhD research students losing supervisors, 2) the vague promise of more wellbeing support, and 3) the need for much clearer and more accessible communication to students about the cuts.

Another important decision made by VCG regarding students (and linked to proposals for savings) is the announcement that the University will be charging students for any modules they have to repeat, even when they have received a disregard based on exceptional circumstances. We are very concerned about this change of policy and how it will negatively impact students awarded disregards and students with disabilities, caring commitments, and health issues.

To recap, this is where we think things stand:


  • Reduction of CR from 28 to 2 full time staff members
  • Broadening of VS scheme (though this comes at significant cost and is still being done on a questionable basis regarding the selection of departments)
  • Progression from L to SL for those at the top of the scale
  • More inclusion of UCU/staff in negotiations as we believe our involvement has been central to the progress achieved

Ongoing (and new) problems:

  • No one is safe: We have been given no guarantees that there will not be the need for CR in the future; in fact, we have been explicitly told that in the current ‘environment’ no such assurances can be given.
  • 2 people still at risk of immediate CR.
  • Closure of Music and hence CR of remaining staff (3.5 FTE) during and at the end of the teachout.
  • Closure of Maths.
  • Impact of VS on staff and departments and on students – in terms of workload, continued uncertainty, and student experience.
  • The rationale and implications of the broadening of VS
  • PhD students, MA students, UG dissertation students losing supervisors and potential risk of ‘fire and rehire’ if supervisors rehired as ALs

In sum, this process has shown that no one is safe, both from financial decisions being made by VCG – which we continue to question and ask for more information on –  and from a range of external problems, which most universities in the UK are suffering from as well. We need a strong union to be able to push the VCG on all of these issues, as they are likely to continue and even get worse. We disagree with the VCG’s narrative that this is a problem caused only by external problems. 

We believe that the redundancy proposals are driven first and foremost by the university’s ambitious capital development project which, as indicated in the HESA report, has led to Brookes being the second most indebted university in the UK with anticipated cash flow problems. We believe it is this that is driving the sudden need for redundancies after assurances (just in October) that the university was in strong financial health with a rosy future ahead. In other words, yes, we are in a challenging, post-92, sector-wide environment, but the ‘external factors’ that university management keeps pointing to were not only foreseeable, their impacts have also been exacerbated by decisions by Brookes management to invest in buildings in the belief that this would solve the university’s financial problems.

We now understand that the University is extending the VS scheme to programmes where the SSRs are deemed inappropriate (this is a rapidly evolving situation, and we are seeking clarity on how and why departments have been included). If this concerns you, you should already have received a letter setting this out from the VCG. The VCG has stressed to us that this does not mean that those programmes are at particular risk; and currently there are no plans for further job cuts, but these are not being ruled out. There will be a series of meetings over the next few months between the employer and the unions to discuss and propose further savings, in the hope that these can be achieved without going down the CR route, which of course we would oppose vigorously.

To conclude on our response, following discussions yesterday, the Branch Exec thinks that at this stage, considering various factors including the ongoing uncertainty about the exact number of CRs, and the extension of VS, it is not in our best interests to trigger an industrial ballot at this point in time. However, this remains a very significant threat, especially as we continue building and reacting to the increasing workloads and problems faced by staff and students as Semester Two teaching begins.

We believe that this branch needs to continue campaigning on the following fronts, and we NEED YOUR HELP! Please contribute any way you can to maintain this campaign, which is undoubtedly going to continue for a while. #stoptheSHAMcuts.

Our goals remain:

  • The removal of remaining staff from CR.
  • The mitigation of impact of VS on remaining staff (in terms of workload) and on staff who may be offered this opportunity yet (in terms of growing unease about the futures of their departments, etc).
  • Achieving a commitment from VCG to open their books to staff and unions.
  • To push for the development of a UCU standing committee that has regular access to financial and strategic data so that we can avoid future compulsory redundancies
  • To achieve an agreed policy framework and procedure (with regular meetings and sharing of relevant financial data and strategic reports) so we can work with the university to avoid future compulsory redundancies – as recommended by national UCU policy guidance
  • To achieve a commitment to implement changes in procedures and organisation of admissions, marketing, recruitment, and website/IT departments, where affected staff have raised significant concerns in terms of how this is affecting their ratings as departments and thus putting them at risk of CR and VS.

Rally Report and Campaign Update 13/12/23

Dear members,
A lot happened last week, so here is a report from our event and the student protest. Please find below also an update on our upcoming actions, most urgently the need to vote in the consultative e-ballot by 12 NOON on Thursday 14 December, and how to support the campaign. Thanks!
– Report from ‘Stop the SHAM cuts’ launch rally and student protest on 6 Dec 2023
Brookes UCU organised a very well attended event on campus last week with 80 people present from both the staff and student community. Dr Jo Grady (General Secretary, UCU) spoke passionately about what is happening at Brookes and around the country in terms of terrible managerial decisions and attacks on the arts and humanities. Aberdeen and Stafforshire universities are also facing redundancies at the moment, and we witnessed large redundancies earlier this year at Brighton, Liverpool, and Goldsmiths, for example. Jo pledged to help and support the campaign through a national fund for campaigning, as well as the national strike fund, if things had to sadly get to that stage. We are not alone, and we will not fight this alone, was the key message.
Members of our negotiating team updated us on the very frustrating obstacles, delays and challenges they are facing when asking management for clarifications and rectifications due to problematic calculations.
A very eloquent student representative of the Save Our Lecturers campaign spoke and reported from their communication with management, which left students feeling patronised and ridiculed, and even more angry against the decisions which, in spite of management’s claims, will necessarily affect them, especially postgraduate cohorts, which seem to be always be scandalously forgotten, in spite of the unique and long-term contribution they make to our institution.
Dr Barbara Eichner (Reader in Music), Prof Alex Goody (English and Creative Writing), and Dr Tom Chambers (Senior Lecturer in Anthropology) made emotional and powerful pleas for supporting them as directly affected staff. They related specific info about the research and pedagogical merits of their departments, and why these cuts are morally shameful, financially challengeable, and ridiculously shortsighted.
Chris Jarvis, Oxford City councillor and Leader of the Green Party Group, spoke first as an alumnus of the Brookes MA History cohort, and reminded us of the value of providing education to local students, in small cohorts, who otherwise would not be able to attend university. The decisions to cut staff and close departments directly affects Brookes’s ability to carry out this social mission of resisting an increasingly elitist university offer. We need to keep post-1992s teaching arts and humanities! Let’s not go back in time, again! Sadly, these cuts are ideological, and another symptom of a short-sighted and managerially quantified neoliberal society.
On the same day, students from the Save Our Lecturers campaign staged a sit-in protest inside JHB forum. You can read a report of the protest here. Thank you so much to the students who are leading the way in terms of campaigning against these cuts!
– The Brookes UCU consultative e-ballot will close at 12 noon on Thursday 14 December. Don’t forget to vote! We have requested access to UCU’s national strike fund in case our ballot returned a vote in favour of industrial action in the new year. If action is decided, there will be financial support for it.
– Wednesday 13 December: STUDENT PROTEST IN JHB FORUM AT 12PM! This is the students’ last chance to get attention before everyone leaves, go support them!
– Students are also lobbying students to contact the SU to voice how they are affected by the cuts, and show their support for the campaign, as otherwise the SU cannot do much in terms of support for us.
– The Branch is meeting on Thursday 14 Dec to discuss the results of the e-ballot consultation.
– The Branch’s campaigns officer (Maia) is meeting reps from other branches facing cuts (e.g. Aberdeen, Staffordshire) on Thursday 14 Dec (organised by UCU national and Jo Grady)
– ‘DON’T LEAVE STUDENT RECRUITMENT TO THE MARKET!’ We are contacting Oxford MPs Anneliese Dodds and Layla Moran to launch a campaign to re-introduce some kind of targeting and planning of student recruitment at national level to protect universities like ours from suffering unfairly from student recruitment problems. Please support this by also writing to your MP and demanding that student recruitment is not just left to market competition. We are working on providing a template for this, so we will be back in touch about this.
– We are continuing to seek support from the Chancellor Patterson Joseph, who spoke on Twitter about gathering information before making a statement. We hope to hear from him this week and will continue to lobby him.
– We are also requesting minutes from the Board of Governors meetings when the cuts were discussed.