Keele UCU asked its members for comments and views on the communication, handling and impacts of OneKeele. We have drawn on and summarised the main themes and concerns emerging from members’ comments and provide a summary here. This document includes extensive qualitative data gathered from UCU members – the responses are all anonymised and any confidential information has been removed; in addition, any elements which might render members identifiable have been redacted (e.g. references to specific schools/programmes). The sample for our data is drawn from all three faculties in the University; it includes members with a wide range of roles and across different grades. We have consulted our members in two stages by eliciting responses to open questions. At the first stage we asked members the following:
- Have you heard about OneKeele and do you feel that you know what it entails?
- What impacts has the communication about OneKeele had on you and what do you feel are the EDI implications?
- What do you think the university should do going forward?
Subsequently, once the university released a communication about OneKeele on 29th January, we asked members: “What do you think about the email and video circulated last week by senior management, in relation to OneKeele?”. Answers and comments to this question were collated and integrated under question 1 and question 2.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE DATA
This is a brief summary of the data, focusing on major areas of concerns emerging from members’ responses. The collected data provides a wealth of perspectives and voices; the overwhelming majority shares similar concerns and raises important questions; these can be summarized as follows:
- The detrimental impacts of centralization in loss of specialised knowledge and skills;
- The damage that centralization – as an organizational model – brings about and how it negatively impacts on the workings (process and procedures) and on student experiences (e.g. recruitment and reputational damage);
- The potential damages caused by OneKeele on staff including increased workloads, health and wellbeing;
- A significant array of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion impacts across the university at numerous levels;
- OneKeele Timeline is problematic (e.g. jobs being advertised before people potentially concerned are advised about their current positions);
- The communication about and handling of OneKeele thus far is extremely flawed (lack of clarity; poor timing; exacerbating anxieties).
- Making significant changes during a global crisis is irresponsible.
A more detailed overview of the key themes is outlined below.
Centralisation and Its Impact on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Though, as detailed below, job losses were the major concern for colleagues, a large number of concerns were also raised about the impact of centralization upon working conditions: especially in light of seeing colleagues in other institutions with higher workloads or facing further rounds of redundancies after initial restructuring failed to make the promised savings. Key adjectives about centralising key services included terms such as ‘faceless’, ‘alienating’, ‘depersonalizing’, and particular concerns were raised about the loss of specialized expertise in Schools, e.g. School Managers:
“The idea that we can live without the PSS staff in Schools is nuts and reflects yet again that senior management don’t understand how things work on the ground. Meanwhile there are more people than you can shake a stick at in places like [redacted] and other vanity projects. And the idea that we can do without senior school managers is particularly ridiculous. No one wants to ever agree to be Head of School anyway, and without a senior school manager it would be much, much worse. And above and beyond all that, I think it’s just cruel to target these folk. They work hard, do a good job, and are on not huge salaries. But they’re easy prey. Outrageous.”
Others made similar points, highlighting problems caused by existing processes of centralization: “The centralisation so far has not improved the services and processes. On the contrary, it has made them worse. It has increased the time needed to communicate information, and there has been an increase in the lack of clarity about the processes and staff duties. It takes longer to ‘get the job done.” In particular, centralisation was felt to harm interpersonal relationships:
“There are already numerous issues with centralised departments in the university and communication/support given to schools. The whole OneKeele process completely devalues the important relationships and rapport that has been built up by academics and the various professional services staff that operate within a school. Administrative staff with specific knowledge about specific degree courses are invaluable. Trying to centralise these staff is a complete insult to them. In addition, it will represent extra workload for academic staff who will be required to take on even more administrative duties when the support staff are unable to support them because they do not have the expertise of a particular school/subject.”
Members also voiced concerns that decentralising management techniques often prove more efficient than centralised and that elsewhere in the sector, centralisation was falling out of favour: “Give [member of senior management] a management book written in this century. All good organisations are decentralising, not centralising! Bring back self-responsible collegial working teams at the School level with budgets and full timetabling capabilities.” A further concern about implementation related to the over-emphasis on new IT infrastructures in resolving problems, with several colleagues questioning specific aspects of Keele’s infrastructures (e.g. “Amazon is not a particularly ethical or sustainable organisation … but yeah, they do have a lot of cheap server space”) or pointing out that digitising certain processes (e.g. expenses claims) would shift the burden to already stretched academic staff. In light of the centrality of IT infrastructure to the promises of efficiencies in OneKeele, many wondered whether this narrative was masking the reality: PSS job losses and administrative burdens for academic staff increasing.
In addition, staff were worried about the impact of centralisation on the university experience, including student experience: “The retrenchment and decentralisation of all administrative services and the concomitant hollowing out of School flexibility, academic judgement, and student experience”. “I worry that our administrative help in future might become ‘faceless’ and centralised. This will do nothing to aid student (and staff) mental wellbeing and will only knock on to things like NSS.” Some colleagues suggested that further centralization will make workloads untenable:
“some of the areas of focus will have a significant impact on people and our ability to properly do our key jobs of educating and supporting students. I think it will have a significant negative impact on staff workloads and morale, for example by the possible removal of admin and support roles from Schools to central roles. Our technical and admin staff are key to our programmes and not having them in our Schools would have a very detrimental effect on students (they are quite often in very student-facing roles and an integral part of student support in our Schools), and on academic staff (should we lose more admin and technical support, a huge amount of additional work will fall on academic staff – and we are already at or close to breaking point).”
Others linked these changes to equality, diversity and inclusion: “Any thoughts/research done on the likely impact on NSS scores if we lose our School-specific administrators? On academics’ workloads? The knock-on impact on professional development, research outputs, grant capture, etc., growing inequalities at the very time we are supposed to be addressing these through initiatives such as DtC?”. Indeed, reflection about inequalities was a key theme in the data, with members noting that the OneKeele proposals have significant EDI implications. As one colleague states:
‘We are already a Uni with little diversity – OneKeele is unlikely to improve the situation (and if the message that goes out is a crumbling organisation then we are unlikely to attract new staff). […] it is possible that we will look worse post-OneKeele.’
The concerns raised here on diversity are legitimate and are echoed in other comments. Members note that OneKeele is ‘likely to impact on women workers most’; ‘OneKeele will, deliberately or otherwise, impact significantly on female colleagues’. This concern over the impact upon women is a significant one and strictly related to the issue of rising workloads for academics. “Administrative staff with specific knowledge about specific degree courses are invaluable. Trying to centralise these staff is a complete insult to them. In addition, it will represent extra workload for academic staff who will be required to take on even more administrative duties when the support staff are unable to support them because they do not have the expertise of a particular school/subject.” Indeed, the EDI implications of centralisation are numerous and have diverse ramifications; a member shares their “Concern over the impact of centralization (with key adjectives including ‘faceless’, ‘alienating’, ‘depersonalizing’) and loss of specialized expertise in Schools, e.g. School Managers” and the impacts this move has on the many lower-paid staff in PSS (usually middle-aged women – atypical demographic for PSS lower grades across the University). The inference that greater reliance was being placed on digital solutions also resulted in urgent calls for ‘full and particular attention paid to the views of disabled people or those with caring responsibilities’ about the ramifications of these changes.
Timing, Transparency and Impact on Mental Health
The largest proportion of comments related to the timing of restructuring proposals during a period of national crisis, as compounded by the timeline of OneKeele itself and a lack of transparency with regards to whether people’s jobs were at risk. Together, problems with timelines and timing were having a huge impact on mental health and staff wellbeing.
A key concern was the OneKeele timeline and the fact that new jobs had been announced prior to colleagues knowing what the implications of restructuring would be for their current roles. “Normally, when you have a restructure … everyone is told the overall structure, then how their roles fit into it, and colleagues are matched to roles. Those who don’t have roles after this are ring-fenced for the remaining roles. Surely this would be a better way to fill vacancies.” Other colleagues raised similar concerns, stating that a lack of transparency over what will happen was making it hard for colleagues who might be affected to plan for their futures: “threat of job losses seem to be hanging over professional services heads at the moment with no timeline for when this information might be released. Coupled with people feeling isolated working from home and struggling with childcare/caring responsibilities etc. morale is low.” “Be transparent. If this is about redundancies, do not release new roles (3 in HR? 13 in Student Support?) until staff know if their role is at risk so they can be considered for new roles”. “Be honest. Say who is at risk of losing their job then offer them the chance to apply for new roles.” “The University should let staff know exactly what staff are potentially going to be impacted by any changes.” “From previous experience working in the private sector, restructuring plans like this would be communicated and discussed in full detail well in advance and involving all staff, especially if it involved job cuts. The university has done the opposite, keeping information from those who need and deserve to know about it.” “Share the overall vision asap – even if only a draft, at least something. Give options, so staff can plan – Keele operates on goodwill and PSS have been committed for decades, so treat them considerately and fairly and allow them time to consider options”. The unclear timeline and confusion created by jobs being announced prior to restructuring was, in other words, a persistent theme:
“Staff should know what the situation is in order to apply for new jobs or make plans. To keep them in this state of uncertainty is cruel. I’ve heard all this from an administrator – I had no idea before. I was also shocked to learn recently that these plans could lead to taking away our WONDERFUL administrators, and all the experience they have, from Schools. This seems extremely short-sighted. Not only do our administrators support us endlessly and patiently, but they add such a lot to the student experience.”
However, perhaps the following quote best conveys key concerns with regards to transparency: “I believe it is time for the Executive team to lay all their cards on the table and start being upfront with us and have a lot of colleagues that feel this way too.”
Senior management have suggested that the lack of explicit detail about what restructuring will occur is due to final plans being shaped by staff consultation. The fact that new roles were announced in advance of consultation has, however, made colleagues question how meaningful the consultation will be in practice. As a result, a widespread sense of anxiety emerges from members’ responses: ‘The impact is evident on PSS colleagues who feel fearful, stressed and extremely worried about job security’; ‘it is making staff nervous and anxious’. The unknown in relation to OneKeele and its implications, the imminent changes, and the piecemeal information dripping out occasionally all contribute to instilling fear amongst staff. A member encapsulates this as follows: “It seems the “threat” of OneKeele just keeps dragging on and hanging over us like the sword of Damocles”.
The video released to inform staff about OneKeele has – ironically – exacerbated the situation even further. Indeed, members have expressed concerns about the very purpose of the video and about its contents. Echoing numerous comments in the same vein, a member noted: “the video was superficial and poor because we are hearing a lot more about the changes on the ground from a range of sources and the UEC is still, in the view of most colleagues, not publicly stating the whole story. So the video and message didn’t help but, rather, they have stoked a growing sense of anxiety in our School.” The very image of stoking anxiety here points to the issues at heart in this communication strategy, indeed lack of clarity and transparency are repeatedly denounced by members as gross shortcomings from the University management. The rhetorical question “[do they] really think that anyone falls for the ‘disestablishment of roles’ line? Call it what it is – cutting jobs” is a case in point as members overtly call for more transparency, coherence and honesty in delivering messages. Other issues in relation to the video pertain to its timing: not only has this communication reached members rather late (well after rumours and a series of exclusive meetings have been held over several months), it was also released at a rather inappropriate and insensitive time: “I think the timing of the release of the video was poor – on a Friday afternoon when we are working remotely and can’t discuss easily with colleagues, so we have the weekend to worry about it”. The direct reference to the video and its negative impact on members is evidenced here alongside a very important point about discussion: members felt there was no room to discuss among themselves once this video was made available. Others commented on the confusing nature of the process itself: was this meant to be an open conversation? Was this a way to elicit questions? If so, structures to facilitate open conversations with members were clearly missing.
Criticism of communications from senior management:
As noted above, although job losses, rather than communication issues, lie at the root of anxieties, official university communications were felt at exacerbated problems due to poor timing and lack of clarity. There was a broad consensus that communication had been ‘poor’, with recurring themes including a lack of ‘transparency’, ‘negative’ communications style, and a sense that communications are ‘untrustworthy’ or even ‘patronising’. As one colleague puts it: ‘There seems to be a step, or several steps missing from the communications’. Others questioned the format of communications, such as the video, querying why it was staged as a Q&A as this gave a feeling of dialogue when this wasn’t felt to be the case in practice. Concerns were best crystallised by the following quote: “The communication is too piecemeal. I would like to know the full picture, including how it affects my team and role. I am open to new opportunities, but at the moment, until I know the implications for my team and my role, I do not feel best placed to make informed decisions.” What makes things especially worrying, is that some members indicated that even if communications improved there had been such a “breakdown in trust” that they “wouldn’t trust them [senior management] anyway”. Indeed, some members linked unclear university communications directly to their own mental health: ‘The impact the communications have had on me have had an adverse effect on my health and wellbeing.
Other keywords used in relation to University communications include members describing how they do not feel their voices are being ‘heard’, that senior management ‘don’t understand’, that communication is ‘confusing’ and ‘ominous’, and makes members feel they are ‘not adequately informed’. As one member states: ‘They have left me feeling very unsettled and insecure as to whether I am going to even have a job moving forward.’
Consulted members are profoundly dissatisfied with the proposals and the processes adopted to implement them. Fear, anxiety, frustrations, dissatisfaction, disbelief, anger are sentiments which dominate the narratives below. OneKeele – its planning and implementation – is currently experienced as a threatening development. Opaque, vague and scarce communication has contributed to this scenario and the latest video – deemed by some as ‘patronising’ – fails to remedy the lack of transparency, clarity and detail recriminated in the vast majority of comments from members.
Keele UCU asks the University to seriously take into account the results of this consultation and to commit to engaging with and responding to staff’s questions, fears and comments. Thus, moving forward, Keele UCU urges the University to:
- Acknowledge openly to all staff the sentiments traversing this document and commit to listening and responding to the concerns outlined here;
- Initiate a clear, open and transparent communication;
- Share openly the University’s financial picture and how the proposed plan fit into it;
- Revise the proposals in light of this data and reconsider the serious consequences of centralisation (widely recognised in the literature as a flawed, inefficient and antiquated organisational model);
- Rethink the approach and communication strategy: the Oneness invoked by the OneKeele slogan (besides echoing an infamous slogan from dark pages of European history!) is in strident contradiction with the diversity that Keele seeks to achieve (brandishing badges such as REC, Athena Swan, Stonewall, etc);
- Learn to Listen: the comments from members are a sobering reminder that the University does not listen to its staff and continues to be unwilling to learn from those who have the relevant skills and expertise;
- Honour your commitment to staff mental health: a radical restructuring such as OneKeele is stressful and worrying for staff in normal times. Seriously consider the harm to staff health and wellbeing that such a process will bring about in the midst of a global pandemic when everyone has been working beyond their limits;
- Strong leadership is brave and caring: it takes courage to acknowledge that you have failed your staff and to remedy that; showing care and respect through transparency and accountability is the first step.
- In the spirit of co-production – invoked by senior management and HR themselves – it is imperative that:
- the co-design groups will be representative and fit the needs of all staff;
- the process and decisions on the composition of the co-design groups will be transparent and open;
- those likely to be affected will be given opportunities to join the co-design groups;
- the composition of the co-design groups will be made public.
- It is imperative that staff are treated with dignity and respect. While there has been some information provided to campus trade unions, most members of staff are unaware of the extent to which this project will potentially impact on their employment and the workloads of other members of staff. Members of staff potentially impacted by this project have been given insufficient information about whether they need to apply for jobs elsewhere in the University or outside it.
1) Have you heard about OneKeele and do you feel that you know what it entails?
- I have heard, but I am not sure what it entails.
- Yes, I’ve heard of it, but I don’t know the details. It seems very complicated but my inclination is to feel that it probably isn’t, and it’s only made to sound complicated through management and HR speak, probably in a bid to make it sound less bad than it is, and probably to make us all go to sleep. Usual tactic.
- Not heard of it? Tried a search and could not find anything.
- Very first impression was on reading its slogan. Whoever wrote it didn’t know or didn’t care about resonances with the Third Reich! Second impression was that it was fundamentally concerned with providing a managerialist gloss on efficiency savings through reduction in professional staff posts, with probable major implications that were not explored. Implementation of Office 365 was claimed as part of the programme and this has been difficult during the pandemic. Outlook e-mail has caused unwanted problems for myself and colleagues and the arrival of Myanalytics, despite its promise to ensure that it really just wants to help me discover my habits, work smarter and get better rest, is a bit sinister. It is analysing who I talk to at the moment and I would like to turn it off!
- I have heard of it. I assume it is something to do with cutting costs, but also improving admin delivery. I assume it means lots of prof services job changes. I know very little of what these are and whether this also involves academic jobs.
- OneKeele is supposedly a management of change process to optimise the operations at Keele – it was originally led by Dean FMHS and I think it is now led by COO. I think this is effectively a process to reduce the number of staff (primarily PSS) by (at least the claim is) optimising operational systems, processes and procedures. (the former I think is what the real outcome is – the latter points I am not convinced will happen). It is also a process of centralisation (i.e. disempowerment of schools)
- I have heard about it but I don’t know exactly what it entails (something with administrative organisation I believe). So I went back and looked at two emails from Rachel Adams and Marc Bacon from November/December last year, but the information was somewhat vague and I’m not much wiser what the practical implications are.
- I don’t really feel that I understand OneKeele. I know we have had an email laying out the arrangements but it seems like a way to get rid of lower grade staff and up the workload of those who are left. There appears to be an undertone of threat that if you aren’t a chosen one then your job is at risk. I know PSS colleagues are fearful of losing their jobs and/or getting reduced hours or pay in the guise of restructuring.
- Yes, and not entirely. It is being badged as transformation of services and a new operating model, but it’s a restructure. I wish they would call it that and be honest with us.
- I understand it to be a centralisation of professional support functions across the university with cost-cutting and reduction of PSS staff numbers as main driver
- I can’t say that I do know about OneKeele? What is it?
- I have heard of OneKeele and understand that it is fundamentally a cost-cutting measure across Keele, although it is being presented as an improvement. I know very little about it. Details are being kept secret. My Head of School says [s/he] was consulted on some of it but does not know the details. In my view it is being handled very badly and not revealed, presumably because management know it will be unpopular.
- I’ve heard it mentioned often, I don’t know what it entails.
- yes, heard of it, but don’t know what it entails.
- I don’t feel adequately informed about the changes. I can only remember the one communication from Mark Bacon that announced the changes but provided no detail. There was also a communication from Rachel Adams.
- Heard of it but not clear on what it is – something about getting rid of employees and streamlining, but goes on to create multiple sites for advertising Keele job vacancies = confusing messaging!
- In a number of bulletins – seemed to be “streamlining” professional services staff in redeployment and redundancies. Was surprised to be told by my HoS when discussing workload issues that ‘because of OneKeele’ everyone had to have a full WAM and the centre needed to demonstrate all were working to capacity.
- Heard about it being a way to streamline, and an opportunity for new roles. I would suggest it will be more about redundancies.
- Seems clear it will be a big redundancy programme affecting those of us in professional services and school/faculty offices. However I don’t think has been communicated clearly – so far there seems to have been newly created jobs advertised for internal applications only, however there has been no announcements about other roles which may be made redundant. This seems to me to be the wrong way round – if people know they are at risk of losing their jobs they are more likely to want to apply for new roles, and isn’t this usually how restructures are run? Seems more evidence of management acting in bad faith. If saving money is a driver for this programme, where is all this money coming from for these new roles? Management say one thing and then take actions at odds with what they’re saying.
- All [NAME OF SUBJECT] academics have said to me is that they are seriously worried that we are going to lose our course administrator and therefore more work will be put on academics. We know the course administrators are seriously worried about losing their jobs as well as school managers. I think there has been better communication with the support staff than there has with the academics. I think the management team in the school is thinking about the implications of this. In many ways why have all these managers and leadership teams if they are not going to lead and invent new ways of doing things? If the past 10 months have shown anything is that we can cope with change though how much more change we can cope with is a mute matter. The problem with this sort of thing is that it really demonstrates that the oversight of the senate does not work. With Heads of Schools now being appointed by the Deans (not elected by the staff as they used to be) then they generally vote with the management as they have a sworn allegiance to them, the system has become feudal. Universities used to be bastions of democracy, academics responding to student needs, University leaders being chosen by the academics. Now we have management culture, they ask us to jump and we ask how high.
- I had a vague sense of ‘One Keele’ and that it would involve some movement of staff in central services. Until a week ago I (ignorantly) did not realise how extensive the plans were, or that they affected our administrative staff. What particularly shocked me, was the secrecy surrounding the plans (withholding them from staff affected) given that new internal jobs are being advertised. I think this would be disgraceful behaviour in normal times, but during a pandemic…! Staff should know what the situation is in order to apply for new jobs or make plans. To keep them in this state of uncertainty is cruel. I’ve heard all this from an administrator – I had no idea before. I was also shocked to learn recently that these plans could lead to taking away our WONDERFUL administrators, and all the experience they have, from Schools. This seems extremely short-sighted. Not only do our administrators support us endlessly and patiently, but they add such a lot to the student experience.
- My understanding is that OneKeele will lead to a reorganisation that reduces significantly the number of administrative staff in the university, mostly in the Faculty of Medicine and Health, and that management will be focused in faculties and this means School managers will disappear but also that admin staff might move around schools and even faculties as there is a drive to introduce more common approaches to teaching and learning. I also understand, from discussion in my own faculty, that this will lead to more admin work for academics – we have been told that academics will make up any shortfall or school-specific issues as our contracts state that we have a role in admin functions.
- I have heard of OneKeele, but I do not feel I know enough about what it truly entails – I feel we are told only very superficially about its generic aims, but not the real details of what may happen because of it.
- I have heard about it (in the middle of all current changes/challenges), but it is not clear at all what it entails- especially the consequences for schools and staff- – I hope it will not end up in even more admin jobs to be transferred on academic staff to save on PSS.
- I have heard about OneKeele but I’m not sure what it entails other than yet further restructuring of Professional Support Services.
- I know next to nothing. I read the strategic plan. Some article from Amazon.
- Yes, heard of it but not clear of its benefits as most people who mentioned it seem to be put off by it.
- The retrenchment and decentralisation of all administrative services and the concomitant hollowing out of School flexibility, academic judgement, and student experience. This will be a disaster for everyone except the senior management who will gain absolute control over all PSS activities. This is a management coup which will cause chaos.
- Yes, it’s basically a restructuring and cost and job-cutting exercise. Keele has, as usual, insulted the intelligence of staff by glossing it up as a transformational program supposedly achieved by centralisation/efficiencies of admin processes, etc. Does Rachel Adams in her video really think that anyone falls for the ‘disestablishment of roles’ line? Call it what it is – cutting jobs. Centralising processes for cost-saving rarely brings any benefits as the disadvantages outweigh the benefits of doing so. While the program is mainly aimed at PSS and administrators, and is worrying in itself for those staff, it invariably adversely impacts the academic staff and ultimately the students. No doubt covid will be blamed for the need to cut costs but this program was instigated long before the pandemic began.
- University are wanting a more efficient and effective service, so are restructuring all professional services staff, but as yet no overall plan has been shared, yet there must be one as vacancies are coming out which link to this plan for Keele’s future. So, I am concerned as to why senior management are still not wanting to share their vision – even if only a draft, but some idea of what the overall vision they are looking at would be good to have been shared by now.
- As a member of PSS staff I have not been involved in any workshop and from a communication from my head of school today it looks like all staff who have been involved are senior members and no one from pss who is on the ground doing the day to day business. We were briefly informed at the end of November via the VC’s update about the project, advised to look at the webpages for updates, all very distant communication. We were told that a new structure would be shared before Christmas; this has not happened.
- I have heard about OneKeele but do not feel that I have a full understanding what it entails. It is only in the last couple of weeks that I have begun to get a sense of the full impact of this fundamental restructuring of a range of Keele’s professional services etc. There have been a few references to it in the VCs addresses and messages, but this has lacked detail. In fact, the first real indication of the worrying and profound changes it involves was communicated to me in a UCU meeting and not directly from the University management.
- Yes we have been hearing about One Keele for some time now but we are not given the full details. The VC mentioned in his address back in August 2020 that this new operating model was aimed at making savings of £2-£3million. We are only being given snippets of what is happening and this is not fair to all concerned.
- I am familiar with One Keele and have been following the process, although I do not have very detailed information about the future actions;
- I have been getting vague information and glimpses of OneKeele for several months now, and they are quite alarming, raising questions, such as:
– Will the support staff in our School Office remain and continue to give us academics the services we require to perform our teaching duties?
– Why is HR recruiting more staff if OneKeele is supposed to reduce staff costs?
- I think they should spend the time that they put into making cheesy, patronising videos into figuring out what the “new operating model” looks like – and then communicating this to staff. I also note that the email states “The aim of the OneKeele programme is to make processes easier for everyone, improve our service quality and efficiency, and manage our professional services costs more in line with comparator institutions.” I don’t recall the latter statement about professional services costs being in earlier communications.
- I have one comment related to the OneKeele video and the whole project more generally. Communication is poor within [directorate redacted] so this may be my local context but when Senior Managers talk about OneKeele, they speak as if we all know what the project is, how it is going to work and what the aims are. I have heard very little beyond rumours and constantly feel like I’ve missed some information. There seems to be a step, or several steps missing from the communications.
- I thought the email and video were reasonably informative, however I am frustrated that Phase 2 overall structure has been put back a month so that’s another month of uncertainty. It seems the “threat” of OneKeele just keeps dragging on and hanging over us like the sword of Damocles.
2) What impacts has the communication about OneKeele had on you and what do you feel are the EDI implications?
- Since I do not know what OneKeele entails, I am not sure what the EDI implications would be.
- Those daily emails we get just have loads of stuff at the bottom saying how exciting and great OneKeele will be. I don’t have time to read them, and I suspect I wouldn’t trust them anyway.
- What is meant by EDI implications and have no idea about OneKeele.
- It has had a rather negative impact both in the style of communication and content.
- It hasn’t been communicated very effectively so it has had no impact so far and I don’t know what its EDI implications might be.
- In my previous role [redacted] I was aware of some of the important changes being proposed. As an academic a lot of the information is not transparently reported. It is difficult to comment on EDI implications – we are already a Univ with little diversity – OneKeele is unlikely to improve the situation (and if the message that goes out is a crumbling organisation then we are unlikely to attract new staff). I was of the view that a lot of the staff in PSS (particularly the lower paid staff) and essential to the demonstration of the little diversity we have – it is possible that we will look worse post-OneKeele.
- Not much impact on me personally, senior management are doing what they want to do anyway.
- The impact is evident on PSS colleagues who feel fearful, stressed and extremely worried about job security. Sickness absence is notable and therefore reduced admin support
- The communication is awful. It is poor at the best of times but over this matter, it feels worse. I am not scared for my own position but I am fearful for my colleagues and also that my workload will increase even more if this goes ahead as more admin duties will fall to me. I am already working way over my hours every week and I know I am not alone in that. People have got nothing left to give and it is just not appreciated. EDI. I’m not sure.
- The communication is too piecemeal. I would like to know the full picture, including how it affects my team and role. I am open to new opportunities, but at the moment, until I know the implications for my team and my role, I do not feel best placed to make informed decisions. I think it is all exacerbated by the fact that the majority of professional services staff are working from home, it would be easier if we were all physically together and could discuss things. This is why I think there is an even stronger need for clearer communication.
- The “Academic Registrar” position was recently advertised. The job description for this role stated the teams that this person would be responsible for. These were different from the current structure. Colleagues in the former Academic Services directorate had not been made aware of the changes. Some thought that the teams missing from the job description were omissions but then we were informed of structural changes. This caused a lot of confusion and anxiety. There is very little on the person spec for this role – considering it’s a Grade 10 post, virtually nothing in the “desirable” criteria!
- Recently, several (I can’t remember the exact number) Grade 4 HR admin vacancies were advertised. This indicates a change to the way HR administration is done which has caused anxiety for colleagues who have this as part of their role but not all of it. See point above about giving us the full picture.
- Yesterday, 13 new posts were advertised in Student Services, indicating changes to student support processes. Again, this causes anxiety. As we are constantly told about the Financial Sustainability Plan, that there is no money for new posts, the money for these 13 posts must be coming from somewhere. Again, please can we see the full picture? People will not apply for these roles until they know this. Normally, when you have a restructure (well this is my experience anyway) everyone is told the overall structure, then how their roles fit into it, and colleagues are matched to roles. Those who don’t have roles after this are ring-fenced for the remaining roles. Surely this would be a better way to fill vacancies.
- Despair at the likely increase in admin tasks that will fall to academics to do to keep the machine running.
- The only information I have heard is that School Office Managers will no longer report to their Heads of Schools but to the Faculty Business Manager and then to Mark Bacon. Schools will fight this because it is so obviously absurd. I do not know enough to comment on EDI effects.
- Very concerned for admin colleagues – a recent lunch with admin colleague/friend confirmed her worries, causing her much stress. Likely to impact on women workers most.
- I am very worried for the professional services colleagues that I work with. Many are overworked as they are following a series of cuts and restructuring over the last years. I have been at Keele [for more than a decade] and I cannot remember a single year where there was no restructuring.
- Not really aware of communication about OneKeele other than HR have a new website with their own job vacancies on it.
- Does OneKeele cover the MFA system with Microsoft? I feel that has EDI implications for those who don’t have access to mobile phones to receive apps or texts etc.
- It is making staff nervous and anxious, as the entire concept is not really transparent.
- Staff are worried that WFH may be used as an excuse to cut roles, such as admin roles.
- Lack of communications is the main issue here – threat of job losses seem to be hanging over professional services heads at the moment with no timeline for when this information might be released. Coupled with people feeling isolated working from home and struggling with childcare/caring responsibilities etc. morale is low.
- I worry that our administrative help in future might become ‘faceless’ and centralised. This will do nothing to aid student (and staff) mental wellbeing and will only knock on things like NSS.
- This is probably going to affect lower-paid staff more, notably admin staff. The additional burden on academics is, comparatively, a minor issue. The admin staff are, in our faculty at least, predominantly female and OneKeele (if it stops at only targeting admin staff) and in my view OneKeele will, deliberately or otherwise, impact significantly on female colleagues.
- There are already numerous issues with centralised departments in the university and communication/support given to schools. The whole OneKeele process completely devalues the important relationships and rapport that has been built up by academics and the various professional services staff that operate within a school. Administrative staff with specific knowledge about specific degree courses are invaluable. Trying to centralise these staff is a complete insult to them. In addition, it will represent extra workload for academic staff who will be required to take on even more administrative duties when the support staff are unable to support them because they do not have the expertise of a particular school/subject.
- Because of the vague nature of most communications regarding OneKeele, these have created significant anxiety and stress. It seems to be focused on savings and centralising, but some of the areas of focus will have a significant impact on people and our ability to properly do our key jobs of educating and supporting students. I think it will have a significant negative impact on staff workloads and morale, for example by the possible removal of admin and support roles from Schools to central roles. Our technical and admin staff are key to our programmes and not having them in our Schools would have a very detrimental effect on students (they are quite often in very student-facing roles and an integral part of student support in our Schools), and on academic staff (should we lose more admin and technical support, a huge amount of additional work will fall on academic staff – and we are already at or close to breaking point).
- I have some concerns over the incomplete information received. I was under the impression that staff and students needed to be consulted.
- The impact the communications have had on me have had an adverse effect on my health and wellbeing. They have left me feeling very unsettled and insecure as to whether I am going to even have a job moving forward. My line manager has given me no direction or guidance whatsoever which I find highly unlikely given [his/her] position within the School. I’m afraid I have no idea what the EDI implications will be.
- Honestly, I’m a casual staff member, […] How would I have found out about it? I can’t even access my payslips online. […] Given that Amazon is not a particularly ethical or sustainable organisation is concerning, but yeah, they do have a lot of cheap server space. Delivering more courses on a flexible or remote basis could be excellent for many students/staff with disabilities, (including at UG) but that comes with several caveats:
- Teaching Staff wages must not be reduced as a result, nor workloads increased, nor casualisation increased.
- Disabled staff or those with caring responsibilities are permitted to WFH regularly/constantly – teaching staff and non-teaching staff – and supplied with adequate equipment to do so.
- People for who the online model is NOT suitable are given additional support, bearing in mind that for some conditions group work online is utterly nightmarish, or the home environment is profoundly unsuitable
- Staff who lack IT literacy get proper training
- A full and proper consultation with students and staff about effective remote/distance teaching, with full and particular attention paid to the views of disabled people or those with caring responsibilities. For example, for some students and staff, e-resources are not adequate, and they need access to printed material.
- The impact on students in poverty, in poor broadband areas, with unreliable access to networks, and from UK Ethnic backgrounds is properly explored
- There is no outsourcing or offshoring of Keele IT support
- There is no re-use of online materials produced by staff (including lectures) other than by consent of those staff
- Any move towards excellence in Information/Online Research must include a large amount dedicated to decolonising.
- Flexible/remote delivery must not be seen only as a cost-cutting exercise with fringe benefits. It must be genuinely directed at increasing opportunities.
- Could be better coordinated with clarity on benefits for our environment.
- Students and staff will become alienated from the daily operation of the university and as a result nobody will know what to do, where to go, how to access services. The individual needs of faculty and students, catered for by PSS will no longer be accessible. It will also mean the loss of significant school level institutional memory. It will mean a huge increase in administration for academic staff. It will create a rift in understanding between faculty and staff who will no longer be working together. Morale is going to drop even further. Productivity (however you measure it) is going to fall even further. It’s one step away from establishing a call centre in the university. To depersonalise the provision of service in a small university like Keele is beyond stupidity.
- Communication from Senior Management has always been poor and this is no different. Within PSS there is a large number of female/part-time/lower-paid staff, often those with family commitments or caring responsibilities so there will be EDI implications, probably neglected in SMT plans.
- Affected mental and physical health. As I have not seen overall vision then unsure what EDI impact this has, but if aimed at disestablishing higher grade staff, then highly likely these will be older colleagues as they are likely to have worked their way up to high grades over time, so many (females) could be menopausal, which should be considered under EDI as menopausal women suffer with various physical ailments, including losing confidence as it is, so all this piecemeal and cloak and dagger approach to OneKeele is not helping. Massive detrimental impact on my mental health and well-being which is not just at work, but also affects my home life and finances, and now affecting me physically too – lack of sleep, tired, skin rashes developed, swollen ankles, red eyes. Constant worry and uncertainty. Really puzzled, as when compared to previous restructures undertaken at Keele, this time staff seem to be kept purposefully in the dark, so then not able to pre-plan as no options available to make informed decisions about anything – for example if to apply for a certain vacancy, or not. Restructuring, when got to lose posts/roles, is always going to be difficult, but at least be honest and transparent to give people options to consider. We don’t even know what the VS package will be, other than hearing at a VC forum that VS would be available and will not be less favourable than the previous VS package – but still no details given. Some staff may want to leave and not be part of Keele moving forward, so by them leaving, opens posts for those who do wish to remain at Keele.
- We have been advised that there will be roles that will go and as a member of university staff who has and still is working throughout the pandemic and had to adapt to remote working almost instantaneously for it to be briefly skirted over in a short video that you should look at the job opportunities that will be coming out when I do not even know if my role is under threat is I feel a very uncompassionate move by the universities executive. PSS staff are being expected to carry on with the threat of job losses hanging over their heads.
- The communication from University Management had a minor impact on me as it lacked detail of what it involved. Any restructuring is, of course, worrying as it is difficult to know how it will affect me and my colleague’s day-to-day working practices. More recently, the rumours circulating about OneKeele have made me very worried about the impact it will have on my day-to-day teaching, administration duties and how that might impact on my (and my programme’s) research.
- The lack of transparency over the One Keele Project is very distressing for all PSS staff across the University. All PSS staff are extremely worried for their jobs as it is clear that, in order to make the savings that this project is aimed to make, there will be a large number of job losses. It is also extremely unnerving to see these new positions being advertised as part of the One Keele Project as staff cannot make informed decisions as to whether they should apply for any of these roles as they do not know whether their current role is likely to continue or whether it will be disestablished.
- The ‘better for students’ and ‘simpler for staff’ restructuring should be named ‘centralisation’. This is a well-known tool for cost-cutting and has been applied across a variety of areas. Although savings have been made in many instances, it has been far from a success story. The centralisation so far has not improved the services and processes. On the contrary, it has made them worse. It has increased the time needed to communicate information, and there has been an increase in the lack of clarity about the processes and staff duties. It takes longer to ‘get the job done’.
- I find the lack of clear communication, combined with ominous snippets of information that suggest huge changes, very stressful.
- I am worried that the success of OneKeele is measured mainly in terms of financial savings. There seems to be little interest or effort invested in consulting with academics to examine the impact of OneKeele on their day-to-day work experiences. Increasingly, I question the logic of paying me an SL salary and yet tasking me with a deluge of administrative tasks that could either be conducted by smart admin software and systems or qualified administrators. Finally, I do appreciate the need for reform and restructuring in regards with our professional services. The reality in my School is that we have [number #] administrators who have been tasked with insulting admins tasks of manually entering marks across several systems, sending academic staff email reminders about events that we remind ourselves through an online calendar, and objecting to face students and their queries. Due to the nature of their part-time work, it is often hard to get things done outside of the days during which they are at work. Essentially, while we don’t lack bodies, there is no integration, efficiency, effectiveness, ambition, or flexibility.
- OneKeele is causing considerable distress and anxiety for PSS staff in my school and the supposed ‘clarifications’ do little to alleviate them. Some plain speaking??? I also want to underline the serious EDI dimensions of OneKeele…we have yet to have any sight of the Equality Impact Assessment.
- From discussions with colleagues about this change this video and email has, according to most consideration in my School, been a result of two things – the realisation of what the OneKeele cuts will cause in terms of delivering against the core message and the timing of these cuts. This means that it is beginning to dawn on colleagues that a reduction in admin services, whether in actual numbers, moving it to a Faculty model or centralising it even further, will reduce School-specific admin services. The implications for academic workload are also emerging as part of this view of OneKeele. The delay to the programme means effectively that the changes will be implemented over the summer. The previous plan would have seen admin staff departing around the exam period (given annual leave, etc.). In short, the video was superficial and poor because we are hearing a lot more about the changes on the ground from a range of sources and the UEC is still, in the view of most colleagues, not publicly stating the whole story. So the video and message didn’t help but, rather, they have stoked a growing sense of anxiety in our School.
- The Q and A is completely staged: why have a video (with no captioning/signer)? Is it to give the impression of a consultation? Was anyone actually invited to put forward questions?
- The timeline for the start of OneKeele is given as October, but there has been no/little formal consultation:
- What are the implications of Rachel Adams’s statement that ‘there are more applications than we have jobs’?
- What does the new hub and spoke HR structure mean for colleagues?
- What are the implications of the Chief Operating Officer having all the Fac Business Managers report to him? Who did they report to previously? How will this shift impact upon decisions such as the use of funds attached to grants re sessional teaching, admin support, etc?
- New IT system for expenses, travel booking – looks like we’ll be doing more ourselves – any info on this?
- What exactly is happening re support for teaching and research infrastructures? ‘More local’ delivery of services – what does this mean? What is meant by ‘standardised roles’?
- Any thoughts/research done on likely impact on NSS scores if we lose our School-specific administrators? On academics’ workloads? The knock-on impact on professional development, research outputs, grant capture, etc., growing inequalities at the very time we are supposed to be addressing these through initiatives such as DtC?
- Looking at requests for VS – where? By whom? What are the incentives?
- How can pursuing this plan during a global pandemic be considered a good idea? Even remotely considering EDI issues?
- RaISE has already slashed research support. As a recipient of a significant [funding body] award, I should be dismayed if there were to be any further erosion and actively deterred from submitting future applications.
- In response to the question about the video, I think the timing of the release of the video was poor – on a Friday afternoon when we are working remotely and can’t discuss easily with colleagues, so we have the weekend to worry about it. Plus for those living alone no one really to discuss any concerns with during lockdown. I think the One Keele team “think” they are handling all this well. In the video they seem to be congratulating themselves for the work completed so far. Also it didn’t answer the majority of questions we need answering. They also seem to imply they would release more information prior to Easter and then consult afterwards. Again that is poor timing, to drop a bombshell prior to Easter and then leave colleagues worrying over Easter.
3) What do you think the university should do going forward?
- Inform members of staff about what OneKeele is, consult us about its implications and their desirability.
- Drop it! The idea that we can live without the PSS staff in Schools is nuts and reflects yet again that senior management don’t understand how things work on the ground. Meanwhile there are more people than you can shake a stick at in places like [redacted] and other vanity projects. And the idea that we can do without senior school managers is particularly ridiculous. No one wants to ever agree to be Head of School anyway, and without a senior school manager it would be much, much worse. And above and beyond all that, I think it’s just cruel to target these folk. They work hard, do a good job, and are on not huge salaries. But they’re easy prey. Outrageous.
- Address equality and diversity.
- A more collegiate and less managerial approach that consulted more on changes which, on occasion, greatly complicate the performance of one’s job (or should I say role?).
- Hah! Ideally it should market itself much more effectively. It appears to be slowly improving.
- Response:Not sure reducing staff numbers any lower is going to be useful. If the Uni has its back against the wall I think the exact nature of the financial need has to be transparently presented. I think a consultation exercise with all stakeholders will lead to relevant and usable resolutions being found. However, I do have some concerns that the middle management in many cases are not fit for purposes – therefore the consultation should be with key stakeholders (i.e. staff and students).
- Given my limited information, I don’t feel comfortable to give advice.
- Stick to the deadlines they published in relation to comms and be more transparent about the plans for individual departments.
- The University should be looking at other cost-saving methods rather than cutting people. There are far too many managers earning huge wages that are out of touch with the actual jobs in the Uni. Maybe asking the very well paid to not take an increment which to them may be very little, but would indicate a saving would offer a feeling that they understand that some people have a very different experience of working at Keele.
- Tell us the overall picture, be clear about the fact that this is a restructure. Stop advertising large amounts of vacancies until they have done this.
- The University should consult properly to avoid a fiasco.
- Be transparent about what is going on.
- It seems that we are in a continued state of restructuring. We have all noticed a trend in focus and finance towards STEM subjects and away from HUMSS. This is extremely short-sighted. It was not long ago when STEM subjects were struggling to recruit students and seemed too costly to run. Over the last 20 years we have lost so much at Keele to short-sighted strategies of supposed consolidation. This has meant that we were not able to adapt flexibly when the government changed their priorities. One example was the lowering of the student cap for students taking modern language degrees (early 2010s). Keele no longer offered Modern Language degrees and was therefore not in the running. Government priorities towards Humanities and Social Sciences can change quickly. We need to build up our strengths across the spectrum of disciplines to remain flexible and to ensure growth. We cannot do this by cutting HUMSS.
- Be more transparent/clear about goals. New recruitment/vacancies via HR site is not easily accessible and the need to have all these new HR people has not been explained.
- Be transparent. If this is about redundancies, do not release new roles (3 in HR? 13 in Student Support?) until staff know if their role is at risk so they can be considered for new roles
- Be honest. Say who is at risk of losing their job then offer them the chance to apply for new roles.
- I have argued for a long time that we need to see a transparent summary of the accounts, and ask some key questions, such as: why did we build the CSL, refurbish the Life Science building and open a Vet School when we are apparently broke as a university? Why are we still adding new people to central services, such as [redacted], that do not contribute by bringing in students to the university, whilst stripping and denuding Schools and the staff in Schools.
- An audit of spending decisions should underpin “efficiency savings” before any staff lose their jobs. The madness of over-centralisation by a number of UEC members needs to be addressed. This, in my view, leads to a position where School staff, including academics, are disposable. This will induce a race to the bottom where student satisfaction will begin to slide. We have seen this already. International recruitment has also been extremely poor and this was the case before Covid became an issue. This needs to be recognised and the failure of the previous [member of senior management] to improve our overseas student numbers should be understood in terms of impact on finances and reputation. The additional load on academics as well as admin staff will add to the stress and mental health problems we will see. Clearly, the lack of job security, married with a bullying and “grace-and-favour” culture at Keele means that decisions will likely be made by people who keep their acolytes and get rid of the awkward colleagues, that is, people who are good at their jobs who whose “faces don’t fit” – these are all things that have been raised in my faculty. Having said that these changes are emerging all over the sector so the direction of travel will be hard to challenge. So before OneKeele begins the university should publish its accounts and justify (I mean properly justify, not run off some fluffy marketing nonsense) the large spending projects and why they proceeded and have been followed by a proposed major cull of admin staff. The university should also make clear if stage two of OneKeele will do the same to academics.
- Avoid centralising support roles – these moves have already shown that things slip or demand more work from academic staff to be maintained at a workable level. Central support to students is already at breaking point, due to being severely understaffed… if we lose more people from Schools, this would only be worse and the direct impact on students would be incalculable.
- Provide more detailed information on exactly what this entails, rather than the very general claims on the intranet. Publish results of consultations- if there has been one- and take questions (I believe people might want to ask more detailed and specific questions than the ones already in the FAQs).
- Going forward I think the University should let staff know exactly what staff are potentially going to be impacted by any changes.
- Invest in quality teaching staff. Offer remote UG degrees. Develop an MA in Remote/Online learning. Fractionalise contracts not casualise. Prove they’ve listened to student and staff concerns, especially minority ones. Not turn to a hot-desk solution if less staff are on campus, hot-desking is impossible for some disabled staff. Not destroy Keele’s particular advantage of being multi-disciplinary and a self-contained campus.
- Stop making too many changes when we are going through a crisis. Adds pressure on top of the other things we have to adapt to with online teaching and research.
- Give [member of senior management] a management book written in this century. All good organisations are decentralising, not centralising! Bring back self-responsible collegial working teams at the School level with budgets and full timetabling capabilities. Get the place working again. Return power to the university.
- On a general level, the university needs to be honest and transparent with communication, especially regarding such large plans and the huge implications for the staff. From previous experience working in the private sector, restructuring plans like this would be communicated and discussed in full detail well in advance and involving all staff, especially if it involved job cuts. The university has done the opposite, keeping information from those who need and deserve to know about it. OneKeele should be postponed until a full review of the finances is undertaken, all other ways of cost cutting should be investigated (SMT pay cuts rather than the lowest paid would be a decent start), full and open discussions must be undertaken with the unions and all staff, look into opportunities for redeployment, etc. Also assess the impact on students and therefore the Student Satisfaction League – does the university want to slip (plummet) down the table!
- Share the overall vision asap – even if only a draft, at least something. Give options, so staff can plan – Keele operates on goodwill and PSS have been committed for decades, so treat them considerately and fairly and allow them time to consider options. Share the vision, so staff are able to respond professionally with their comments – this makes sure the restructure will be future proofed and nothing major missed. It also allows staff to consider if they see a role for themselves in it, and in what area, or if they would prefer to move on. Give options so staff can plan. There will be staff who want a role but at the end of the day, when comments factored in, and some tweaks made, there might not be enough spaces to keep everyone, but at least then these staff will have had time to digest, and consider their own personal a back-up plan (VS) and had time to utilise HR for getting CV up to date, etc, so time to adapt, and also knowing they inputted to make sure restructure is ‘right’ for the greater good of the organisation.
- I believe it is time for the Executive team to lay all their cards on the table and start being upfront with us and have a lot of colleagues that feel this way too.
- It should consult with schools, faculties and programmes to lay out the proposed changes. It should gain feedback from schools/programmes on what the implications such changes will have in the running of programmes. It should respond to this feedback before going ahead with any changes.
- The University Design Group needs to be transparent and open with all PSS staff. They need to call a meeting of all PSS staff and to show them all, at the same time, the current structure and then alongside it, the new structure so that people can clearly see whether their roles are at risk of redundancy. At the same time, they should then announce what the VS package will be and they should also then start to advertise all of the new positions, not advertise them beforehand like they are currently doing.
- The problem with exercises like this is that if conducted literally and without flexibility the savings will be not as expected, staff will be badly affected. The solution is not to reshuffle units and re-appoint staff. To increase productivity, colleagues in the professional need to be properly trained, placed in areas where they are knowledgeable and can excel, and finally appropriately remunerated. Arbitrary moves without clear understanding of the change management core ideas, which include individual’s motivation and skills mapping, will result in worse services and a toxic climate.
- The University should consult staff and listen to us before they impose huge changes. The recent email dated 29 January 2021 from the chief operating officer, Mark Bacon, says (among other things):
– Line management of Faculty Business Managers is transferring to the Chief Operating Officer.
– Line management of Senior School Managers is transferring to Faculty Business Managers.
These transfers are a recipe for conflicts; they disempower the Heads of School and Deans of Faculties. I cannot help suspecting that they are a power grab by [member of senior management], and I am dismayed that the VC seems to be condoning this.
- My main question is how will this improve the efficiency of administrative support within Schools? Can we have examples of specific examples? Or, will this process simply reduce support within Schools and transfer more administrative work to academic colleagues? Without details, it is impossible to know the implications.