Dear Keele UCU Members,
As some of you might be aware, last week Senate members were provided with two papers for consideration related to the future of Music programmes at Keele. The first was a proposal for Senate to formally approve the withdrawal of all Music programmes at Keele, the second was a proposal to explore how Music provision would be continued on campus after the Music degrees were withdrawn.
The papers were tabled without consulting staff or trade unions as mandated by the University Management of Change policy. Keele UCU wrote to both Vice-Chancellor Professor Trevor McMillan1 and Senate members2 demanding for the paper to be withdrawn or re-categorised as ‘for discussion’. Keele UCU values the role of Senate as a democratic entity of the university to openly and fairly discuss academic matters but will continue to ensure that appropriate procedure is followed.
As a result of Keele UCU’s action, the proposal was temporarily withdrawn from consideration at Senate. [see letter from Vice-Chancellor Professor Trevor McMillan below3]
We welcome that a vote on the future of Music at Keele has been postponed . However, Music is not yet safe and Keele UCU calls on senior management to commit to preserving the University as a broad-based institution. This entails engaging in a meaningful discussion with colleagues in Music to explore all options for maintaining its viability.
As always, we provide details on our website as a record of the correspondence we have had and for transparency.
Yours in solidarity,
Keele UCU Committee
1) Letter from Keele UCU to Vice-Chancellor Professor Trevor McMillan
30th November 2020
Dear Vice-Chancellor, dear Trevor,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to our letter dated 26th November. Whilst we welcome your commitment to a full and detailed consultation, there appears to be ongoing disagreement between Senior Management and campus unions regarding the scope and substance of the Management of Change Policy.
In your reply (and Rachel Adam’s latest clarification) you state that engaging consultations before Senate has formally approved the proposals would be premature, that consultation should only commence once a decision has been made, and that it should focus on mitigating the negative impact of the proposals. This position appears to be fundamentally at odds with the express language of the MoC Policy, which states unambiguously that ‘managers considering change’ that may impact on staff should consult with staff and unions on ‘proposals for change’ and as a ‘basis for determining any final decision to proceed or otherwise’. These provisions can only be interpreted as mandating consultation before a decision has been made to proceed with proposals.
This is confirmed by the stages which, pursuant to Section 4.1 of the Policy, ought to be followed where it is considered necessary to restructure a School/Department/Unit/Section, or where proposed changes are likely to substantially impact on the role of members of staff. We would like to draw your attention to the specific order in which the stages are listed:
Stage 1 – Management Planning
Stage 2 – Consultation
Stage 3 – Decision to Proceed
As I am sure you can appreciate, the wording of the policy leaves little room for doubt: consultation must plainly take place before a decision is made to proceed with proposals for change. This, we should like to add, is entirely consistent with the ICE Regulations 2005, ACAS Guidance, and employment case-law which all provide that consultation must take place when proposals are at a formative stage and before making a decision.
UCU considers this matter to be of the utmost importance for the future of industrial relations at Keele. If Senior Management will not accept what is the clear and unequivocal meaning of the MoC Policy, then UCU will have to take the position that we are in formal disagreement over this matter. Given the importance of these policy questions and the context of rapid and profound changes being proposed by Senior Management which will affect all staff moving forward, we would like to suggest submitting our disagreement to ACAS for mediation or conciliation without delay.
2) Letter from Keele UCU to Senate members
1st December 2020
We hope this letter finds you well and that you are your loved ones are all managing to keep safe in these challenging times. We are taking the unusual step to write to you to alert you to a matter of significant concern. The PVC and Executive Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor have tabled a paper on The Future of Programmes in Music and Music Technology at Keele University for the next meeting of Senate on 2nd December 2020. The paper asks Senate to formally approve the immediate withdrawal of all programmes in Music and Music technology at Keele.
We must regretfully inform all Senators that this paper has been tabled in violation of core University policies. The Management of Change (MoC) policy [see annex] mandates a clear process that managers considering organisational change must follow. This process applies whenever it is considered necessary to restructure a School/Department/Unit/Section, or where proposed changes are likely to substantially impact on the role of individual members of staff (Section 4.1). The Senate paper (Section 4 ‘staffing’) acknowledges that the policy is applicable here.
The mandated process revolves around a consultation process with staff and recognised trade unions. Managers considering change ought to prepare a comprehensive consultation paper and engage in appropriate consultation with staff and unions ‘as a basis for informing management decision-making’ (Section 4.4.1) and ‘with a view to reaching agreement on the way forward’ (Section 4.4.3). The process outlined in the MoC Policy follows specific stages. We would like to draw your attention to the order in which the stages are listed in the policy:
Stage 1 – Management Planning
Stage 2 – Consultation
Stage 3 – Decision to Proceed
The wording of the policy clearly mandates the University to consult with staff and unions before the decision is made to proceed with proposals. This is consistent with ICE (Information and Consultation of Employees) Regulations 2005, ACAS guidance, and case-law, which all provide that consultation must take place when proposals are at a formative stage and before making a decision.
The proposals which you are asked to formally approve have not been discussed with any relevant stakeholders. There has been no consultation or even discussion with staff, students or
unions. In fact, the Senate paper acknowledges that consultations shall commence only after the proposals for terminating music programmes have been formally approved and ratified by Senate (Section 4), i.e. after the fact.
Should Senate approve – or indeed discuss – the proposals at this stage, it would place the University in violation of its own policies. University policies are not optional or facultative. They form an integral part of the University’s system of governance, which University governing bodies have a statutory obligation to uphold (see Office for Students, ‘Terms and Conditions of Funding for Higher Education Institutions’, listed as a ‘key governance document’ on the Keele website).
The University – as acknowledged in its Corporate Governance Statement – must also conduct its affairs in accordance with the Higher Education Code of Governance. The Code states in unequivocal terms that universities must protect their institutional reputation by ensuring that the institution ‘complies with its instruments of governance’ and that the institution’s constitution ‘is always followed’ (Principle 1).
The University’s own statutes and ordinances state that Faculty Deans ‘shall be responsible for the management of the Faculty […] in accordance with the University’s policies and procedures’ (Ordinance B2). The University Policy Framework provides that ‘all members of the University must comply with University Policies’ (emphasis in original) and a breach of policy constitutes a disciplinary offence which can give rise to disciplinary procedure against students and staff (Regulation B1 and Staff Disciplinary and Appeals Procedure).
Senior Management’s position appears to be that instituting consultation under the MoC policy before Senate has formally approved the proposals would be premature and that consultation should only commence once a decision has been made and focus on the implementation of the proposals. It is hard to see how this position can be reconciled with the explicit wording of the MoC policy, which states unambiguously that managers considering organisational change shall initiate consultation on proposals for change prior to any final decision to proceed or otherwise.
UCU fully supports Senate’s involvement in discussing and deliberating Senior Management’s proposals. But this must take place with full regard for due process and in conformity with agreed policies and procedures. Should Senate agree to deliberate on these proposals before consultations have taken place, it would for all intents and purposes abolish the MoC policy, with potentially far reaching consequences for the University’s governance, statutory position and institutional reputation. We call on Senators to defer formal approval of the proposals until such a time as meaningful consultation with all mandated parties has taken place.
With kind regards,
3) Letter from Vice-Chancellor Professor Trevor McMillan to Keele UCU
2nd December 2020
Dear Keele UCU,
I remain disappointed that you do not accept that there is a role for Senate decision-making in relation to academic matters as an important early stage in the consideration of changes required in the University and I continue to refute your assertion that the approach that has been taken with these programmes contravenes the requirements of the Management of Staff Affected by Change Policy and Procedure. There has never been any intention to reduce the place of staff and Trade Union consultation in a process that has not yet reached that stage.
It would be undermining the authority of Senate if the paper on the future of Music programmes was deemed to be for discussion only, but perhaps that is your intention. Senate decision-making should be focused on meaningful execution of its duty to consider academic matters using the breadth and knowledge of senators from right across the university.
As is right and proper, Senate has the option to reject any proposal or to request further consideration of a matter prior to final decision. But that is a decision for Senate.
Sadly, the open letter that you have sent to senators containing views that we believe to be erroneous, have meant that any discussion today would lack the focus that Senate needs on the academic issues in question. I have therefore taken the decision to withdraw the paper: “The Future of Programmes in Music and Music Technology” from the Senate agenda today.
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