Author Archives: Tim Davies

Financial Sustainability: New ‘No PO, No Pay’ Policy

As part of continued work to identify non-pay savings across the University and ensure our spending is closely controlled, the University will be introducing a ‘No Purchase Order, No Pay’ policy from 14 September 2020. 

The University’s Procurement Team supports Divisions and Departments with getting the best possible value from the goods and services they use, while also keeping track of how much we spend on key suppliers. Introducing the new ‘No PO, No Pay’ policy is key to this, ensuring we have better oversight of what we are spending when while also increasing efficiency by reducing the number of invoice queries. 

Under the new system, invoices will only be paid if they include a valid Purchase Order (PO) number which has been agreed with the supplier prior to the delivery of goods, services or works. This will set out likely cost and delivery dates, along with an agreed payment process for suppliers, bringing us in line with what is increasingly standard practice across the sector. 

Once fully introduced, the move to ‘No PO, No Pay’ will help reduce our overall spend through better management of suppliers, ensuring as much support as possible can be put towards our core teaching and research activity. Detailed guidance will be sent to Finance Managers later this week, ahead of ongoing support with adapting to the new way of working ahead of the change and from September onwards. 

Find out more about our Procurement Team 

Find out more about our Financial Sustainability work 

KentVision: Progress Update

KentVision is a major project underway at the University intended to bring together a number of different administrative processes and simplify how we support the student journey. 

As a complex programme impacting on numerous areas of our work, getting the final scope for this right has been crucial and has required detailed work over recent months. With this now in place, the project is now nearing the testing and approval stage ahead of launching in January 2021. 

KentVision aims 

As well as replacing the expiring Student Data System (SDS), KentVision is designed to introduce simpler and more consistent ways to input, manage and process student data across the University. This will in turn support wider work to reduce bureaucracy and improve the ways we work at Kent. Its objectives are to: 

  • Provide an administrative journey that is clear, informative and seamless to all applicants and students. 
  • Create a united academic administration across Central Services and Divisions, giving us a single source of highquality authoritative data. 
  • Refine student administration, reducing administrative effort for staff across the University 
  • Improve processes and deliver full IT enablement, using standard SITS capability to maximum advantage and enabling fully integrated mobile-enabled services for students and staff. 

Next steps 

After a lengthy and at times challenging initial development phase, the KentVision project is now fully on track against an agreed timeline to launch in January 2021. Key staff will be invited to take part in detailed testing work throughout the coming monthsahead of a broader training programme for wider staff later in the autumn awe prepare for full data migration. After launching in January, the project will move towards ongoing support for staff as they adapt to new system, while also working together with users to identify improvements and ensure we make the most of the multiple benefits KentVision will offer.  

Find out more about KentVision 

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Pay Freeze Proposal: Staff Poll

Message from Alison Ross-Green, Director of HR and Organisational Development

I am writing to update you on where we are with proposals for a pay freeze ahead of a poll of all staff on its introduction. This is absolutely critical to weathering the severe financial impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, and without it further redundancies will be necessary. However, I also know this is not an easy ask to make, and for many staff in professional services who are also anticipating consultation around new structures with attendant worries about job security, this is an additional burden to lay upon you at what is already an anxious time. I am hugely grateful to all of you for your forbearance and understanding as we respond to what are truly unprecedented challenges for the sector.

Risks of failing to pursue pay freeze

Feedback from staff was discussed at this week’s JSNCC, which, unfortunately, led to no clear consensus. While most attendees ultimately acknowledge the need for these additional measures, this is not currently the case for our UCU colleagues who have confirmed that they are balloting their members with a recommendation that they reject both the proposed pay freeze and the Reward Strategy.

This puts us at a point of enormous risk to the University. Failing to pursue either or both of these initiatives will significantly worsen our financial position, along with the confidence of our lenders, and require a further estimated 80 – 120 redundancies to address the additional shortfall. I am very sorry to set out the position so bluntly, but given the seriousness of our situation, I wanted to make sure everybody was fully aware of these realities. There is further information on the component parts of our response to the severe financial impact of Coronavirus in our updated finance presentation. Put bluntly, unless we agree savings to address these one-off losses, we will run out of money to meet our commitments.

All staff poll on pay measures

Given the huge implications of this, it is very important to understand the preferences and position of as many staff as possible before committing to any course of action. I urge you to complete this confidential poll on both measures to ensure that your views can be directly received by the University and considered. I cannot stress too strongly the importance of as many staff as possible responding to this poll within the timescales that we have. The poll will be open until 5pm on 7 July, before we reconvene discussions with Staff and Trades Union Representatives on 8 July. At that meeting we will remain ready to discuss any further constructive proposals that are brought forward but noting that time is now very short to explore any further adjustments to our proposals, assuming viable ideas could be brought forward at this late stage.

Ahead of this meeting, we have looked at what we can do to adjust the pay freeze proposals to respond to the strongest of the concerns raised via JSNCC. While our room for manoeuvre is very limited, and all staff will be affected by a deferral of the national pay award, we have committed to the following in exchange for concluding a local collective agreement:

  • PSD Promotions will be taken out of scope of additional pay constraints in order to avoid any double impact of both the Reward Strategy and Pay Freeze on staff currently affected by restructuring, and to ensure that key new PSD positions can be filled from existing staff (who may otherwise opt for redundancy); 
  • Extra Responsibility Allowances will be permitted to continue, where appropriate and in accordance with existing HR policy;
  • A Recognition for Staff Support Scheme will be established, dividing a £1.7m budget equally among staff affected by the pay freeze at the point in future where key indicators show we have reached a position of financial sustainability. This would be in the form of a one-off payment to staff affected by the pay freeze and still employed by the University once this point is reached. Executive Group will not be eligible for any performance-related payments until these payments have been made; given their exclusion from the proposed pay freeze, promoted PSD staff will also not qualify for the scheme;
  • In acknowledgement of concerns around the equality impact of the proposal, an Equal Pay Audit will be completed within the next 3-5 years, in collaboration with the Staff and Trade Union members of the JSNCC.

Making your views heard

I very much hope that these adjustments, and the consequences of a failure to reach an agreement, will be sufficient for most of you to feel you can support both measures. Your Staff and Trades Union Representatives are empowered to reach an agreement on your behalf so do advise them of your views on the proposals should you wish to discuss further.

Please do not forget to make your views heard by completing our all-staff poll.

Financial Sustainability: End of year spend

Message from Jane Higham, Director of Finance

As you will be aware from the Vice-Chancellor’s recent update, we expect a significant shortfall in our income as a result of the impact of COVID-19 which adds to our already challenging underlying financial position. If we do not take steps to mitigate this, the University will eventually run out of money and be unable to meet its commitments. As I have said before, we can all take steps to help the University through this difficult period and budget holders have a critical role to play through continuing to minimise spend.    

Most urgently, we need your support in ensuring we significantly reduce end-of-year outlay. In previous years we have seen an increase of up to £5m in spending as budget-end nears. This cannot happen this year and therefore any unspent budget for 19/20 must only be used where absolutely essential. Put simply,  as a result of the losses to our income brought about by the COVID pandemic, we cannot afford to spend as we have in the past and we need to conserve all financial resources to support our sustainability in the coming months.    

I appreciate budget holders will continue to get purchasing and expenditure requests from within their School or Department and encourage them to share this with staff as required to help respond In order to assist with our planning, it would be appreciated if budget holders could notify our Procurement team of any significant essential spend that they may be aware of that needs to be incurred between now and year-end, so that we can discuss this in good time.  Similarly, any queries relating to this can also be forwarded to the Procurement Team, who will be closely monitoring spend between now and the end of July.   

Thank you for your continued support with this.

Organising for Success: Consultation timings

Update from Denise Everitt, Project Sponsor and Chief Operating Officer

As you know, we will shortly be sharing proposed team structures with affected professional services staff both centrally and in Divisions. It has been a long process to reach this point and I know how difficult this uncertainty has been for everyone. Thank you all for your patience with this – as I hope you will understand, it has been important to take this time to make sure we propose a University structure that lets us build for the future while reflecting our current financial situation.

Consultation Start Dates 

Consultation will begin for staff in affected teams in each area as follows:

  • W/C 22 June: HR: Phase 1 (Staff savings activity)
  • W/C 29 June: Engagement; International Programmes; IS (Leadership only)
  • W/C 6 July: Student Services; Outreach & Widening Participation
  • W/C 13 July: Professional services staff in Academic Divisions; Research & Innovation Services; Strategic Planning; Graduate & Researcher College; Education; Digital & Lifelong Learning
  • W/C 20 July: Finance: Phase 1

In most areas this will start with group presentations, which will booked by area shortly. Any teams in the above areas which are unaffected by the proposed changes will be also be contacted to confirm that this is the case.

Consultation in the following areas will take place when current strategic priorities are complete: Marketing, Recruitment and Admissions teams (by November 2020); HR: Phase 2 (Devolution) (by July 2021); and Finance: Phase 2 (by July 2021). Alongside this, consultation with Technical Services staff in the Divisions of Computing, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences; Natural Sciences; and Arts and Humanities will take place by November 2020. Any staff in these areas that are placed at risk of redundancy as a result of O4S proposed changes will still be eligible to apply for KVSS during their own period of consultation.

Consultation Timeline 

Within 24 hours of their group presentation, affected staff will be contacted individually to confirm what the proposed structure will mean for them and their options as a result. This will be sent via email. Individual consultation will then take place for 30 days within a 60-day window before the structures are finalised.

Once all affected staff have been contacted, the proposed new structures will be shared across the University on Monday 27 July so that staff can see how wider changes will relate to their own areas.

Selection and recruitment to roles will largely take place in August and September, with new structures operational from the 1 November 2020.

Support and Advice 

This will be a very unsettling time for professional service colleagues, with some having to make difficult choices at what I know is already an especially busy and difficult time. As I’m sure everyone appreciates, we will all need to be understanding of this and recognise the additional pressure that people will be under in the coming weeks.

We will shortly share detailed information on the Organising for Success staff webpages on how consultation will work and what support will be available to staff throughout. Ahead of this, please do also make sure to discuss any concerns you have about this with your manager, HR representative or via the confidential Employee Assistance Programme at any time. You may also wish to seek advice from your elected staff or Trades Union representative.

Can I thank you all for your forbearance and continued commitment to the University over the last couple of years, and I hope that we can soon move to a new structure that will provide both professional and agile support for the University’s activities moving forward.

Denise

Denise Everitt | Chief Operating Officer

KVSS

Kent Voluntary Severance Scheme: Extended deadline

Message from Alison Ross-Green, Director of HR and Organisational Development

As you may be aware, we recently closed the Phase 2 application window for the Kent Voluntary Severance Scheme (KVSS) which was open to specific groups of staff. Our hope has always been that the enhanced scheme would enable the University to meet is target savings of £5.3m for 19/20. While we have had a good response to the scheme so far, further voluntary applications are needed to ensure that we meet (and ideally exceed) this year’s target. Having reviewed funding arrangements, we have decided to keep the scheme open until 22 July 2020 both to maximise savings and reduce the pressure for compulsory redundancies in future years.

The terms of the scheme, aside from the revised timescales appended to it, are unchanged. To help give everyone as much clarity as possible on our financial situation, we have also prepared a short presentation bringing together key information shared on this in recent months. This will also be on the Financial Sustainability staff webpages shortly.

While there will still be individual application windows for staff put at risk of redundancy due to Organising for Success, this extension to 22 July 2020 marks the absolute end of our ability to flex the scheme for other eligible staff and no further extensions will be possible. Where any eligible member of staff feels able to consider KVSS and wishes to benefit from its terms, thus assisting the University to overcome its current financial challenges, then they must apply to the scheme through this last round as no further opportunities will be given.

Lastly, we are aware that some staff are understandably making fine judgements about their financial position if they were to seek voluntary severance and that some reliance may be being placed on enhanced terms (albeit not as generous as KVSS) being available in the future. While the University would always wish to offer some form of enhanced financial terms for those who volunteer for redundancy, we also need to be aware of our worsening financial position as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and that this may not be possible going forward. We will review the position in September, when our recruitment performance is clearer. If we do decide that we need to make changes at that time, the JSNCC will be consulted and Council approval sought.

As before, all staff interested in applying for KVSS are encouraged to discuss with either HR or their line manager for further details about how the scheme works. If you would like to discuss this confidentially or would like impartial advice, please remember that the Employee Assistance Programme is available 24/7, with more information on the Occupational Heath staff webpages.

Financial Sustainability: May Update

Following last month’s update on the programme of activity required to return the University to a financially sustainable footing, work is continuing to carefully reduce costs while specifically targeting increase in income in areas that make sense. 

Staff Cost Savings 

Work has continued with the JSNCC on proposals to mitigate the need for redundancies in order to deliver the staff savings required this year, with a number of proposals either in effect or under consultationThis includes suggested changes to the University’s Reward Strategy, which staff are invited to give feedback on before 5 June, alongside specific proposals regarding promotions and discretionary payments for some senior staff.  

Cash & Capital Approvals 

A number of measures have been introduced to reduce our day-to-day costs, building on the good work already underway in a number of areas to reduce staff costs. This includes restrictions on both credit cards and travel use, work with budget holders to reduce end-of-year spend and tighter control on the use of external providers. 

Business Improvement & Value for Money 

Recent changes to our European strategy are now being implemented, centred around a strong hub in Brussels supported by an increased focus on partnerships with universities across Europe. Alongside this, progress has been made in a number of areas in exploring online opportunities through Future Learn as part of ways to complement on-campus teaching in the future. 

Find out more on the Financial Sustainability and Improvement programme. 

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Financial Sustainability: Credit cards and travel

We are currently introducing a number of changes to how we procure goods and services as part of wider work to reduce our non-staff costs. This is being coordinated by a task force led by Procurement with members from JSNCC and both central and divisional finance, building on the good work already underway in a number of areas to reduce budget spend.

To support this, the Cash & Capital Approvals Committee has approved plans to place restrictions on both credit card and travel use with immediate effect. This will be an essential part of improving our finances, ensuring as much resource as possible can be put towards core University work.

Credit cards 

Credit card use will be restricted to a small number of nominated areas, with all other cards given a £0 limit. Cards with active subscriptions to services such as Facebook, Twitter or Mailchimp will remain open so that these payments can continue, but with all other categories apart from subscriptions blocked. Any other payment card spend will have to be requested via the Procurement Team, who will be in touch with cardholders directly to confirm local arrangements.

Travel 

From today, the Travel Booking Portal will be switched off to prevent any travel booking until the Covid-19 travel restrictions are lifted. Log-ins to Key Travel will be suspended until further notice, with any requests for travel made directly via the Procurement Team until further notice.

Expenditure that would ordinarily be incurred using payment cards or through the Key Travel system should not be made using personal payment methods and reclaimed through staff expenses. Please refer to the Staff Expenses and Benefits Policy for full details of eligible expenditure that can be reclaimed in this way.

Please contact the Procurement Team if you have any questions.

Organising for Success: Project update

Organising for Success brings together various strands of activity to help the University deliver its Kent 2025 strategy and ensure a future we can be proud of. Our six new academic divisions will take full responsibility for their budgets from 1 August 2020while new teams will mainly be in place by September. Proposed team structures will be shared with affected staff towards the end of June, with more detail to follow on timings and how information will be shared shortly. 

Transition work 

Detailed work is continuing to coordinate activity to ensure a smooth transition to divisions as teams come together. Current priorities include ensuring everything is in place with Finance to support divisions as they take responsibility for budgets, and working with HR to prioritise key policies and procedures that need to be updated this summer to reflect the new structure. Work is also ongoing to update key accompanying systems ahead of autumn, with a pragmatic approach wherever possible to ensure continuity in our support of essential activity. 

While their important work will continue throughout transition, this week will also see the final Faculty committee meeting taking place ahead of governance transferring to divisions in the autumn term. We’d like to thank the various chairs and members of our Faculty boards and committees for all their work over a number of years. 

Managers’ engagement sessions 

Engagement sessions for managers in professional services start this week to help make sure they are updated on the project and can support their teams in the coming weeks. As with the last set of briefings, these are designed for those at Grade 7/8 upwards with significant line management responsibilities in areas affected by the current changes. While a number of managers have already signed up, please contact Learning & Organisational Development via ldev@kent.ac.uk if this applies to you and you would like to attend a session. 

For latest updates, see the Organising for Success staff webpages 

Coronavirus

Coronavirus testing

The health and welfare of our students, staff and visitors remains our absolute priority as we continue responding to the coronavirus outbreak.

While the majority of our staff are working from home, a number are still working on site to support students staying on campus. In line with recent government guidance, anyone who has to travel to work and is demonstrating symptoms is eligible for a coronavirus test.

All staff who fit this criteria are encouraged to take advantage of this wherever possible, with more information on how to arrange a test available on the Government’s coronavirus webpages.

Testing is also available to anyone living with staff working on site who are showing coronavirus symptoms.

Find out more about Coronavirus testing 

Read more on the University’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak