Important Updates on Ballot/VR/Consultation/sub-JSNCC

A report from branch Vice-President Christopher Burden-Strevens:

Over the past two weeks UCU Committee and Reps have received a large number of enquiries about the following issues, all of them responded to in the report below:

  1. Meeting dates
  2. External advice
  3. Ballot to defend jobs and research time
  4. Extensions to the consultation period
  5. Counterproposals
  6. Planned cuts to research time
  7. Voluntary Redundancy scheme
  8. Selection criteria for ‘teaching out’
  9. Timeline of the process: VR, decisions, counterproposals, and teaching out

Meeting dates

In response to requests from members the Branch held an Emergency Branch meeting at 11am on Thursday. Committee & Reps will be meeting next week to agree a date and time of the next Branch meeting. We will provide you with plenty of advance notice of the date and time of the next meeting, with reiterated apologies from me for the unavoidably short notice I gave you for Thursday’s meeting.

External advice

We have received a lot of feedback from members concerned about the long-term financial viability of the Kent2030 plans, and also from members concerned about a number of different legal issues. At yesterday’s Branch meeting it was agreed in principle by the Branch that we should continue to seek external advice on both of these issues (financial and legal), with no member speaking in opposition. The Committee will discuss this next week and return to you with updates at the next Branch meeting, including if necessary motions for you to vote on with respect to use of Branch funds for seeking this external advice.

Ballot to defend jobs and research time

Defending our members jobs and defending your research time within the Workload Allocation Framework are central pillars of our ongoing local dispute with Kent management (text available here). A ‘YES’ vote for action, meeting the required 50% threshold, is the single most important thing that we can achieve in the coming weeks to defend jobs and research time. We need leverage to fight for you. Please post your ballot as soon as you can. You should by now have received a ballot paper in the post. Returning it in the post as soon as possible is absolutely essential. If you have not received a ballot and need a new one, please let us know here.

Extensions to the consultation period

UCU have pushed hard on this in our discussions with management, noting that many members ‘at risk’ have been concerned about the limited time to draft counterproposals, especially given the delayed and sometimes patchy nature of the information provided to them.

As you should by now already know, management have agreed to extend the consultation period by one week ‘across the board’, i.e. for all 10 subject-areas at risk of closure and for all academic staff currently ‘at risk’. Close of consultation will now occur at the end of the day (23.59), Thursday 7 March (rather than Friday 29 February). The deadline for applying for Voluntary Redundancy (on the “enhanced” Voluntary Severance terms that UCU have negotiated) has therefore also been extended by one week, to Friday 7 March. If you wish to submit a counterproposal (individual or collective), you must do so before the end of the day on Thursday 7 March. If you wish to apply for Voluntary Redundancy, you must do so before the end of the day on Thursday 7 March.


The University’s first ‘Counterproposal Review Panel’ met today, and has many further meetings scheduled for the coming two weeks. Your counterproposals are reviewed by a panel including Directors of Divisions and the head of Human Resources. UCU is an ‘attendee’ at these meetings; we observe process and pick management up on any inconsistencies or potential causes of unfairness. UCU is not a decision-maker in these meetings and is not allowed to comment on the content of counterproposals.

If you are currently working on a counterproposal, or if you have already completed a draft and are awaiting the final deadline of March 7, we advise you to send your counterproposal to Matt Howard ( so that UCU can also look at it and offer suggestions.

Planned cuts to research time

The University is currently discussing a proposal to reduce the proportion of time allocated to research (for staff on Education & Research contracts) to 20% of time, and that allocated to scholarship (for staff on Education, Scholarship and Professional Practice contracts) to 10% of time. At present, depending upon your Division, you may have anything between 20%, 30%, or 40% of your working hours notionally allocated to research or scholarship.

UCU have received a considerable amount of worried feedback about this from members, coming from two main directions:

  • Education & Research staff in Divisions currently allocated 40% of time to research (e.g. in KBS and AH) are understandably concerned that cutting research time by 50% will have harmful negative impacts upon the University’s research-related QR income, and will add significant pressure to teaching-related workloads.
  • Education & Research staff in Divisions currently allocated only 20% of time to research (e.g. in NATS and CEMS) are understandably concerned about the current fairness of the allocation of research time across the institution, given that many of these areas are outstanding national and international leaders in research and should be supported further by the institution.

At the branch meeting on Thursday it was argued that UCU should be pressing management to ‘level up’ across the institution in a fair way, rather than ‘levelling everyone down’. Importantly, a proposal to do so must also be affordable and address the University’s concerns about fairness and cost.

A working group is now being formed to submit a proposal to management during the current ‘Engagement Period’ on research and scholarship time. It is hoped that this proposal will arrive at a genuinely affordable solution that restores fairness across the institution: for example, by

  1. levelling up research time in those Divisions which have not benefitted from more research time in the past;
  2. mitigating the worst effects of the proposal to cut research time in other Divisions, and lessening the proposed reduction as much as possible (e.g. those currently on a notional 40% research time);
  3. allowing for outstanding REF- and QR- performing areas to bid for more investment to support research time and increase growth.

Work on this mission-critical issue is ongoing and UCU will lend as much support as it can to any proposal that protects research time (and therefore, jobs) across all Divisions within the University.

Voluntary Redundancy scheme

UCU Committee and caseworkers have received an enormous number of enquiries about this that are too difficult to digest in a single paragraph. We are having routine discussions with HR and in sub-JSNCC about these issues. Further to today’s sub-JSNCC meeting, and as promised in Thursday’s Branch meeting, I am therefore digesting these into an FAQ below which I would ask you to please read carefully if your role is currently at risk.

  • “Up until what point can I apply for Voluntary Redundancy?”:
    • You can apply for VR up until the close of consultation, i.e. 23:59 on Thursday 7 March.
  • “How much will I receive”?
    • UCU have successfully negotiated ‘enhanced’ Voluntary Severance terms for all staff who apply to VR, providing an extra security net to the tune of thousands of pounds. The calculator has been updated and you can calculate your VR payment by downloading the attached Excel spreadsheet to your device. This is a minor win; every person who feels like they can no longer stay is a huge loss. But it is an improvement on where we were a few weeks ago, made possible by your strong action and UCU pushing.
  • “Can I apply for VR if I have not received notification in writing that my role is at risk of redundancy?”
    • No.
  • “If I apply for VR, will I remain on the register to be considered for redeployment?”
    • Yes. You will remain on the redeployment register until your agreed departure date from the University. You will only be taken off the register if you deliberately opt out of it.
  • “If I apply for VR, will I be less likely to be considered eligible for staying for another year or two to teach out my programme?”
    • No. We have received repeated assurances in writing from HR that applying for VR is not prejudicial in any way for being considered for teaching out. The University is currently drawing up its criteria for selecting staff to remain in order to teach out. Having applied for VR is not one of those criteria.
  • “If I apply for VR now and remain for a further one or two years to teach out, will I still receive a VR payment when I leave at the end of that one or two years?”
    • Yes.
  • “If I apply for VR now and remain for a further one or two years to teach out on a fractional contract (e.g. 0.6 FTE rather than 1.0), what payment will I receive when I leave?”
    • Your VR payment will be calculated on the basis of your contractual teams at the time of applying for VR. For example, if you are on a 1.0 now and apply for VR, and then stay for one or two years to teach out on a 0.6, your final VR payment when you leave will be calculated on the basis of your salary and contract right now (e.g. the 1.0), not on the basis of what you will be doing for the next one or two years (e.g. the 0.6).
  • “Can I apply for VR now and then withdraw the application after I have heard the outcome of counterproposals relating to my subject area?”
    • Yes. UCU have negotiated that the ‘cooling off’ period be extended until after consultation has closed and after you have heard the outcome of counterproposals relating to your subject area. You will then have the opportunity to withdraw your application to leave under VR.
  • “Do I have to agree a departure date of 31st July 2024? Wouldn’t agreeing that prohibit me from being considered for teaching out?”
    • No. This is up for negotiation on a case-by-case basis. If you apply for VR with a proposed departure date of 31st July 2024, you may still be offered the opportunity to stay to teach out for a further year or two. You will be considered for teaching out on the same terms as everyone else, regardless of whether or not you have submitted a VR application. At that point it would of course have to be agreed that your departure date would be later than 31st July 2024 in order to facilitate the teaching out. In any case, if you wish to be considered for ‘teaching out’ you must make that clear in your VR application and write to your Division’s People Partner.
  • “Therefore, do I have to agree 31st July 2024 as my date of departure from the University under VR?”
    • No. Voluntary Redundancy is just that (voluntary) and your date of departure is a matter of negotiation between you, your caseworker, and the University.
  • “Let’s say I apply for VR now, wait to hear the outcome of counterproposals in my subject-area, and the ‘cooling off’ period ends. Can I still withdraw my VR application much later, say, well after I have heard the outcome of counterproposals in my subject-area?”
    • In theory, yes, but this is a risky strategy. If a member of staff is to be made redundant, the University is planning to issue ‘notice letters’ to them in the week beginning 25 March. After notice of redundancy (i.e., that letter) has been issued, withdrawing an application to VR  becomes more complicated.

What this means for you: this is really a matter for casework, not for blanket ‘one size fits all’ advice, but a basic ‘safe’ approach for you to take if your role is at risk of redundancy is this, in the following order:

  • Use the Excel spreadsheet (attached to Christopher’s recent email) to calculate your VR payment under the enhanced terms, and evaluate your circumstances.
  • Apply for VR before 23:59 on Thursday 7 March.
  • Make it explicit in your application that your first preference is to be considered for ‘teaching out’. First and foremost, you wish to stay in your role with a departure date later than 31 July 2024 in order to facilitate teaching out. You will only agree to leave voluntarily on 31 July 2024 if all other avenues are exhausted, i.e. if you are not selected for teaching out and if counterproposals in your subject-area are not successful.
  • If you wish to stay for teaching out, write to the People Partner in your Division making it clear that you have applied for VR as a last resort, and that you wish to be considered for ‘teaching out’ as your first preference.
  • Wait to hear the outcome of counterproposals relating to your subject-area in March.
  • If you are not satisfied with the outcome of counterproposals, speak again to your caseworker. You will need to decide whether to negotiate an exit on 31 July or on a later date, or whether to withdraw the VR application altogether.
  • If you wish to withdraw your VR application, you should do so before week beginning Monday 25 March.

Selection criteria for ‘teaching out’

Today at sub-JSNCC a draft paper was presented on the criteria that would be used for selection of staff to ‘teach out’ programmes if they do close. This paper is ‘closed’ until it has been approved by Programme Board and so I am not able to share its contents. At today’s sub-JSNCC meeting UCU have pushed on two points:

First, that the selection criteria need to be revised to consider more carefully any potential EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) breaches; for example, the criteria need to consider very carefully whether the breadth of someone’s teaching, the amount of what they can teach/have taught, and so on have been affected by periods of absence owing to ill health, reasonable adjustments, or caring responsibilities. This case was brilliantly made by Trude Sundberg (our EDI Lead) and management were receptive.

Secondly, that it would be discriminatory against staff with longer records of service (chiefly older staff) if salary cost/pay grade were a factor in the University’s decision-making about who to select for teaching out. We impressed upon management the need to decide these matters on academic contribution and expertise, not on staff cost. Again, management were receptive to this argument.

Above all, the purpose of our sub-JSNCC meetings with management is redundancy avoidance and so we have impressed upon management time and time again, and will continue to do so, that our duty is to fight for our members’ jobs. We will not dig our own graves. In these discussions we are pushing hard on ensuring that we keep as many of our members ‘on the books’ as possible for as long as possible, to make sure that people have time to find opportunities for retraining, redeployment, or for continuing to deliver their areas of expertise within the University.

Timeline of current consultation, redundancy, counterproposal, and teaching out process

UCU have requested at sub-JSNCC that the University provide a timeline of the entire current process: in other words, setting out on what dates the University will be opening and closing processes, and on what date people should expect to hear outcomes of counterproposals, decisions on the future of their subject area, and VR decisions. Management have agreed to provide this timeline and a draft version is currently being prepared, to be released to staff next week. We will keep you posted.

Thank you for your time in reading all of this and I apologise for the length of this email, especially on a Friday afternoon at the end of the day. The amount of work that we are doing on a wide range of issues is absolutely enormous and it is very difficult to digest all of it and make it ‘pithy’; these matters are complex and need time. I hope that rather than worrying you (which it might), this message still reassures you that we have your back and are doing everything we possibly can.

A reminder that:

  • If you are drafting (or have drafted) a counterproposal, we recommend sending it to so that UCU can help.
  • If your role has been placed at risk of redundancy and you need caseworker support, please complete this form.
  • A good result in the next ballot is critical for negotiating from a position of strength; please post your ballot to defend jobs and workloads. If you haven’t received one yet, click here.
  • For comments, suggestions, and enquiries, please write to, who will triage it and send it to the best member of the team. Emailing anyone else is likely to cause delays and it will take you longer for you to hear back from us.