Important Update on Negotiations For ‘At Risk’ Members

I am writing on behalf of the UCU Committee to give a number of important updates about progress achieved in negotiations with management over the past week regarding


  1. Voluntary Redundancy (VR) terms;
  2. Members’ concerns about whether they should apply for VR and when;
  3. Members’ concerns about selection criteria for colleagues allocated to ‘teach out’ subjects if they close;
  4. Complaints about missing business cases for the closure of individual subject-areas, or missing information needed to draft counterproposals;
  5. Extensions to the statutory consultation period.


The UCU Committee & Reps have received extremely helpful comments, feedback and questions about the above areas of concern from members over the past week; *thank you* for keeping in touch with us about this and reporting your concerns to us. I am now able to give an update on progress made in these areas and guidance on what you should do next. If you are in an ‘at risk’ subject-area and if your role is at risk of redundancy then please give me ten minutes to read this message in full. I am sorry for the length of this email, but it contains vitally important information that you must know if your role is currently at risk of redundancy.


  1. Voluntary Redundancy (VR) terms:


Many members are rightly furious that EG made the decision to close the Voluntary Severance (VS) scheme on 10 January, before giving any indication of which subject-areas were at risk of closure. The voluntary scheme now on the table (VR) is, in management’s own words, less “generous” than the VS scheme. UCU negotiators have repeatedly made the case to management that it is unacceptable and unfair that staff in ‘at risk’ areas were given no indication that their areas were at risk; they assessed whether or not to apply for VS based on the only information at their disposal at the time, which was that their programme revisions had been agreed by CASC and that the future of their discipline at Kent seemed, therefore, secured. In consequence many staff were put at a disadvantage and are now being offered the chance to leave only on VR terms, which are considerably harsher than the “enhanced” VS terms.


We can now report that the University has agreed to “upgrade” the current VR terms to match those of the “enhanced” VS termsThis means that applicants to leave the University voluntarily will receive the same payment under VR terms as they would have achieved under VS terms. UCU has requested a new ‘VR payment calculator’ from HR that reflects the increased payment and this will be forthcoming from HR next week.


To be clear: every member of staff leaving Kent is a loss. We are already so stretched as it is and can’t keep going on much longer taking on more and more work with fewer and fewer staff. Persuading management to agree to our demands on this is therefore a minor win, but it is an improvement on where we were last week.


What to do next: if you were willing in principle to move on under the “enhanced” VS terms, but could not make an informed decision at the time because you were not given the necessary information about proposed course closures, then departing on “enhanced” VS terms is now an option that is available to you.

  1. “Should I apply for VR? Can I withdraw an application? When will applications to VR close? What if I’ve applied for VR but then a counterproposal that could save my role gets accepted—would I be able to withdraw my application then?”


There has been far too much uncertainty surrounding these questions to this point. We have been making the case to management that it is unacceptable that we are now two weeks into consultation without staff having received clear guidelines about this that could enable them to make an informed decision.


At our request, management have now agreed to extend the ‘cooling off’ period, delaying it until after consultation closes and after counterproposals have been considered. This means that, if you apply for VR during the consultation period, you will still be able to withdraw your VR application after you have heard the outcome of counterproposals relating to your subject-area.


What to do next:  This does mean that you are now able, if you wish, to make “in principle” applications to move on through VR (under the “enhanced” VS terms), and can then withdraw that application if you wish after you have heard the outcome of any counterproposals submitted by your subject-area which might protect your role.

  1. Selection criteria for ‘teaching out’: “Who will be selected? What guidance is available on who will be selected to ‘teach out’ and who will not? Will I still be considered for ‘teaching out’ if I have applied for VR and if this application has been accepted?”


UCU have requested that University management provide transparent selection criteria to answer members’ questions on these points. We have received concerned enquiries from members about (for example):


  • Whether a successful applicant to VR would not be considered eligible for ‘teaching out’;
  • Whether decisions on which staff the University retains for ‘teaching out’ will be based on the individual staff members’ salary costs, or upon other criteria (i.e.: “will the University only keep staff on lower grades for teaching out?”);
  • Whether a member of staff who has applied for VR can also signal their wish to be included in ‘teaching out’ plans (and therefore withdraw their VR application in order to remain at Kent to do ‘teaching out’).


Disappointingly, the University has not yet produced such criteria, so members are in the dark.


UCU have today requested that management draw up these criteria and make them available to staff as soon as possible. Management have agreed to do this. We have today received assurances from management that there is no relationship between applying for VR and being considered for teaching out. In other words, if you choose to apply for VR, you will be considered for ‘teaching out’ in the same way as colleagues who have not applied for VR. You will not receive prejudicial/negative treatment in being considered for teaching out if you have applied for VR. Disappointingly, however, management have not yet given us a clear answer about whether staff on lower grades will be preferred for ‘teaching out’ in comparison to staff on higher grades.


What to do next: as you consider your individual circumstances, our advice is that you treat allocation to ‘teaching out’ and applying for VR as two separate processes that do not have a bearing upon each other. You should not consider your eligibility for ‘teaching out’ as a factor that should influence your decision of whether or not to apply for VR.

  1. Counterproposals: absent business case, poor or missing financial information, poor rationale, contradictory and belated guidance on counterproposals


We have received a lot of feedback from members that the business case for the proposed course closures is woefully inadequate. The ‘Case For Change’ document (making the business case for all these course closures) is often based upon assumptions that are not properly evidenced. The subject-areas at risk only received guidance on counterproposal acceptance criteria on Wednesday, when *two weeks* of the four-week consultation period had already passed (further on this under ‘E’ below). The guidance on counterproposals itself is contradictory, demanding that counterproposals give evidence for potential for growth while at the same time insisting that counterproposals should not attempt to make a case for growth. Subject-areas have been given patchy, incomplete financial information in a diffuse format, spread across several different documents, that are not easy of access and have not been received in a timely way. The ‘at risk’ subject-areas themselves have received no costed business case for closure. The written ‘rationale’ for closure of subject-areas provided amounts to no more than a few sentences.


Management have now agreed to provide each subject-area at risk with a more detailed business case for the proposed closure of each of the areas at risk than has hitherto been provided. In particular, UCU have asked for this document for each subject-area to set out, explicitly, the figures and assumptions that have led to the University’s calculation that a programme is no longer viable. This may give colleagues currently drafting counterproposals a clearer sense of precisely what rationale for closure needs to be contradicted and rightly proven otherwise. However, management have warned us that this document is still likely to be short (1-2 sides of A4).


In sub-JSNCC we made the case that this is the bare minimum and it is disappointing in any case that such a document for each subject-area was not provided at the very start of consultation two weeks ago. We are disappointed to report that management have not agreed to provide an extensive, fully-costed, business case for each subject-area. Negotiators will continue pushing on this. They have, however, undertaken to provide a more detailed rationale of 1-2 pages explaining the financial and market case for which a course has been deemed in their view “not viable”.


What to do next: if you are in a subject-area at risk and are currently drafting counterproposals, we advise you to wait to receive the further information above before submitting your counterproposals and to amend counterproposals accordingly.


  1. Extension to the consultation period:


In view of all of the lack of clarity about the many issues above it is unacceptable that so much of the consultation period has been wasted on requests for information, incomplete or non-existent guidelines, unclear (or indeed undecided) procedures, and that so little of the consultation period now remains to formulate counter-proposals and for UCU to help affected colleagues. UCU have accordingly requested an extension to the consultation period and at sub-JSNCC today we continued to articulate the many urgent arguments for an extension.


At our request management have agreed to grant extensions to the consultation period for subject-areas that request it. The University are not offering a blanket extension to the consultation period as such, but rather to hold open consultation (by a further 1-2 weeks) for colleagues or subject-areas that request an extension, with extensions to be confirmed at the next sub-JSNCC meeting on Friday 23 February.


What to do next: if you and colleagues in your subject-area would like an extension to your consultation period, please write as soon as possible to stating this and specifying the (reasonable) length of extension that you are requesting. Please do this before Friday 23 February.


There remain many, many causes of frustration here about the way in which this process has been handled. UCU caseworkers, negotiators and the Committee have been working harder than ever to represent and support members through this and we will continue to do our very best. At the same time, really important progress has been achieved this week and we are profoundly grateful to you for your support. It is only your collective solidarity, your will to work with us and your willingness to vote to take action that has strengthened our hand and enabled us to gain important ground this week on these issues. Thank you so much again.


A reminder that:

  • If you wish to request an extension to your subject’s consultation period, write to before Friday 23 February.
  • For comments, feedback, suggestions and general enquiries, write to so that your email can be triaged and directed to the appropriate member of the team.
  • If you have been placed at risk of redundancy and need caseworker support, please complete this form.


In solidarity,


Christopher Burden-Strevens

On behalf of the UCU Committee