On the First Day of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, my VC gave to me, restructure of the university

From: Justin Marks

To: all-staff

Priority: Urgent

Subject: A Message From Your Vice-Chancellor

Dear Colleague

As we approach the winter holidays, a time of reflection for us all, I am amazed to realise that I’ve been your Vice-Chancellor for a whole year. It’s been a year of discovery for me, finding out what unique attributes Burston Central has to offer and thinking about what value I can add to the mix.

I wanted to update you on the progress of planning for our new strategic planning process.  As you remember from my beginning of year message, I have committed to reviewing and reinvigorating our strategic plan. This work takes place in the context of the Government’s recent Green Paper on Higher Education, the effective axing of all of the bodies which influence HE provision in England, and the swingeing cuts experienced by our myriad FE partners in the Comprehensive Spending Review, which may have an impact on their ability to continue in the HE sector, even with the modest fees we charge.

I really want to make sure that we continue to consolidate, and indeed accelerate, our significant progress. Earlier this term, the Times Higher Education list of the world’s top 800 universities put us in the 601-700 band. This is a great achievement, but we can do better. We need to focus more tightly on the aspects which will help us to do so.

To maximise our ability to react nimbly to the challenges facing the sector, I have decided to embark on an ambitious restructure of the university. Looking around at our main benchmark comparators, and those institutions which we aspire to resemble, it is clear that the most effective universities have already consolidated their activities.  To paraphrase the great ….. “faculties and departments are so last year”. We will instead move to a system of institutes which will provide a multi-disciplinary approach to solve research problems. The next stage in the process will be for heads of these institutes to be appointed, after which they will select the most appropriate staff to enable them to become world-leading in their multi-disciplinary research area (Stage 2). Finally, those who prefer to focus on teaching will be allocated to one of three ground-breaking ‘teaching hubs’ which will provide tuition in Arts and Humanities, Social Science, and Science, for all of our undergraduate and taught postgraduate students (Stage 3). This model forms the cornerstone of many European Higher Education systems and will help us to be more aligned to our international partners.

We anticipate that this reorganisation will suit 96% of our academic and administrative staff who told us in the staff survey that they would prefer to have time to focus; it will streamline their activities and channel them into the most effective direction for their skills and proven previous outputs.

Stage 1 will get under way shortly, with applications for the Directorships of the World-Leading Institutes being advertised through a prestigious Executive Search Agency in the next two weeks. We anticipate that these posts will be filled by colleagues with the highest international research reputations from across the world: I’m sure you’ll all agree that we are right to think way beyond the local! Once in post, these Directors will direct Stage 2 of the reorganisation. They will study anonymised CVs and social media profiles to make their allocations of both academic and administrative staff. In the unlikely event that two Directors ‘weigh in’ for the same person, we will have an arbitration process.

Heads of the three teaching hubs will be appointed shortly from within our existing pool of heads of department, and academic and technical colleagues who didn’t join one of the Research Institutes will be allocated to the appropriate Hub on a straightforward subject basis, which should keep things simple.  Administrative staff will be able to apply for key roles in the institute teams or the hubs.

We do not anticipate any retrenchment as part of this process, it’s a simple reorganisation to optimise use of our resources, so don’t worry about your jobs.

We expect the institutes to be up and running by the start of the new academic year. I’m sure you will all do your utmost to make this a smooth transition which is seamless for students.

May I take this opportunity to wish you all happy holidays and a fruitful new year.



11 thoughts on “On the First Day of Christmas

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