The University’s overarching aim is delivery of academic excellence, which demands not only resource and investment, but also freedom for academics to devote their time to research and teaching, rather than administrative tasks. Currently our overall core salary costs represent a higher proportion of the cost base than at many of our peer institutions. Indeed there is prima facie evidence that our support structures and processes are sub-optimal, thereby contributing to our high salary cost. This fact, together with significant adverse changes to the external environment within which we operate, has increased the urgency of achieving a major transformation in how we support the academic endeavour.
The initial phase of the Support Process Review, combined with feedback over a long period from across the organisation, provides clear evidence that the University’s present support structure:
This situation is partially attributable to historic under-investment in, and commitment to, a single set of ‘fit for purpose’ processes and systems that can be applied across the University. Indications are that the current situation cannot be improved significantly by small operational changes at the margin, but will require a major programme of transformation, underpinned by continued investment in improved systems and processes.
In order to successfully deliver a change programme, it is essential that the University’s senior managers set out a vision of what the change must deliver. This document sets out this vision, as endorsed by the University Planning & Resources Committee (UPARC).
We aim to provide an effective and efficient support structure which:
In order to achieve these, we have set the following goals (to be quantified during the establishment of the programme):
For each identified process there will be a single process owner with clear responsibility, accountability and authority for the design, service quality and overall delivery objectives of the process and any IT systems that support it. Process owners will have the necessary resourcing to exercise their responsibilities, which are to:
Process owners will operate in a consultative way to ensure that the needs of those impacted by the process are met. In this way, we aim to foster an environment of mutual respect and trust between those who provide support processes and their ‘customers’. Processes will be standardised in order to achieve efficiency gains, and only process owners will be able to authorise variations to the University standards.
Because the same processes and systems will be used everywhere, support staff will be able to move more easily between similar roles in different parts of the University. Members of staff who provide support to faculties, academic departments and divisions will be deployed in the most appropriate place, using the following principles as a guide:
Technical and other support staff whose roles are specific to their unit and not part of University processes will continue to be managed from within their units. Members of staff who are accountable for delivery of University processes will be trained and managed through the process owner line. However, where members of staff are physically located in faculties and departments, they will also be accountable to those to whom they provide a service. A transparent and consistent rationale will be applied to determine the level and type of resource deployed between different faculties, schools/departments and divisions. A centrally managed pool of staff will provide resource to cover resource gaps (e.g. vacancies, maternity cover, and secondment to projects); the pool will also support career development. In all cases, process owners will be responsible for providing training to ensure that members of staff delivering University processes are doing so effectively. Support staff resilience will be improved through appropriate staff flexibility (mobility and knowledge base), appropriate career opportunities and succession planning, effective staff development and the nurturing of a ‘professional’ culture.
Process definitions and IT systems needs and specifications will be challenged and informed by user groups comprising both academics and the relevant process community to ensure that the resulting developments are fit for purpose. All systems developments will be based on an agreed enterprise-wide IT system architecture, with no duplication of systems at departmental, faculty, or central locations. Where possible, the flow of information will be managed through common electronic systems, with data captured electronically. System support resources will be aligned to support development, maintenance and delivery of the enterprise-wide systems.
The annual financial planning process will be grounded on an annual review and prioritisation of strategic academic and support goals that are in line with the University’s long-term financial imperatives. There will be a closer and visible link in budget setting between investment in academic infrastructure and the necessary academic and financial performance to deliver the benefits of that investment.
The annual academic budget setting process will focus less on negotiating the cash contribution or surplus in a FIS Income & Expenditure account and more on agreeing and setting the key targets that academic units are expected to deliver, e.g.
The annual support budget setting process will focus on the total resource requirements of each major University support process, service or specialist activity. Support budgets will be set with input from process owners, Deans and representatives of the key users of that process or service, and will determine the number and profile of support staff to be deployed within each Faculty, School/Department and Division to operate the process or service.
A small group of representatives from across the University has started to develop a ‘target’ organisation structure for the delivery of support processes. This will be subject to rigorous challenge and testing with appropriate senior managers. Whilst this is being done, a detailed implementation plan will be developed, which will include an assessment of all current projects and programmes in order to establish whether and how they will contribute to achievement of the goal.