Posted on 11/12/2011
Windsor Building Auditorium
The Principal, Professor Paul Layzell presented an update on College priorities and plans at the Autumn Term Open Meeting.(13 December), followed by an extended question time.
Follow this link to view a copy of the presentation:
Q & As from the meeting:
Q: Is it possible for there to be more opportunities for academics and staff to talk to Council members?
A: It is important to distinguish between the role of members of Council and the role of managers. Council is not involved in the detail and everyday management of the institution, which is the function of the Senior Management Team. Lay members are unpaid and need to maintain an independence from day-to-day operations as their role is to provide good governance for the College and to scrutinise the decisions we make from an independent perspective. They contribute wisdom and experience from other walks of life. However, I do believe that Council members need to understand sufficient detail about College life if they are to fully discharge their governance responsibilities. As a result, we provide opportunities for Deans to give periodic reports to Council and we are looking at other ways to support Council members in their role.
Q: There is a sense that we can’t trust the Senior Management Team, for example when an injunction was taken out against the students involved in the occupation.
A: I am pleased that the students in occupation showed their interest in the College and voiced opinions about the White Paper – and there are many areas where I agreed with them, and some where inevitably we disagreed. In some ways, one might argue that student protest, including occupations, are part of the student experience. However, it is important also to know when to stop a particular course of action. We did not take out an injunction, we took the very first steps towards that, which would only have been implemented should the students have remained beyond the end of term. Once the students showed willingness to leave, I stopped and withdrew the case immediately and we have continued to work with the students’ union to encourage discussion through the more appropriate channels. I was very open about my decision to start legal proceedings once we reached a certain point, so I feel that should not compromise trust between us.
Q: Looking to the future, to understand the structural changes, some institutions have groups set up a Redundancy Avoidance committee, who meet to try to avoid redundancies rather than wait for a crisis mode.
A: I’m not convinced by the idea that setting up a separate group would help to tackle the problems. We already have a Joint Negotiating Committee with our staff unions and that should be the forum in which to consider such matters. If people feel that the committee is not working, then we need to fix that and not just set up another group.
Q: What do you think about Royal Holloway spending money on legal fees?
A: We are looking at ways to save money through ideas such as a shared legal service, but the best way to bring legal fees down is to find ways to reconcile issues in a more timely fashion and avoid the need for high legal costs.
Q: I was at a departmental committee meeting this morning, and talking about trying to recruit more AAB students. What do you say to parents who remark on the large amount of rubbish around campus?
A: I agree that we need to present ourselves in the best possible light. I will ask Stephen Bland, Director of Facilities Management, to ensure we have the right cleaning schedules, in much the way we do at Graduation. I hope also, you, like me , would be prepared to pick up the odd piece of litter.
Q: Most organisations who are involved in next year's Olympic Games have been given tickets. Will Royal Holloway be allocated tickets and if so, how many and how will they be used?
A: Organisations that have been given tickets are sponsors of the Games which we are not. The majority of the cost of the Games (£2bn) is being funded by the private sector and they are called Partners, Supporters, Providers and Suppliers depending on what their contribution is. These are companies such as Coca-Cola, Cadbury, British Telecom and John Lewis. They are allowed to display the London 2012 logo and publicly advertise their involvement.
We did ask LOCOG (London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games) whether we could obtain some tickets for the rowing or canoe sprint which we would have used as prizes for staff and student competitions on our web page but unfortunately the answer was no.
We have however secured a visit to the Olympic Park at the end of January of which two places on the tour will be competition prizes for staff and two for students, however this is still in the planning stage. Not quite in the same league as Games tickets I know, but we did try!
Q: Study Group, Pearson and Kaplan - when were the entry of these for-profits into RHUL discussed by staff?
A: Royal Holloway has always worked with for-profit organisations, and indeed a sizeable proportion of our funds come from private sources.
However, as core income is now at significant risk, we decided in our Manifesto earlier this year that we would see to work more with external organisations who can increase the number of different types of students who can benefit from Royal Holloway and also diversify our income sources. This was discussed with staff at our open meeting in March and updated in June.
But it’s important to remember that Pearsons and Kaplan are not 'entering' Royal Holloway - we are going out to them; they are not teaching on our campus or taking our student numbers, but providing additional, important income alongside our traditional sources that are now at risk.
Q: What steps have been taken to implement the decision at Council for lay members of Council to be present during negotiations between UCU and Senior Management over the proposed academic restructuring and redundancies?
A: At Council we agreed that a group of four lay members would review our business case, alongside the submission UCU put forward, but not to be involved directly in the collective consultation. This will happen in early January.
Q: The exit from the College onto Bakeham Lane becomes very congested and leads to long queues of campus traffic most term time evenings. Are there any options open to the College and/or local Council to improve this situation? Thanks.
A: In the campus draft Masterplan we looked at the option of splitting traffic into and out of the campus. We are still exploring the contents of this document with Runnymede Borough Council and in the context of the entrance/exit to the campus these discussions will need to include Surrey Highways.
Other alternatives have been considered, such as widening the road heading from the main entrance to Bakeham Lane, but in reality this will simply condense the queues on the campus road and contain them in a shorter distance, rather than necessarily making their navigation quicker.
So, until we are able to come up with a more radical and comprehensive solution it seems there is little we can do to alleviate the queues, except perhaps to encourage people to adopt more staggered departure times or wherever possible to leave cars at home and use alternative forms of transport to and from the College or to car share. Our carbon management plan and the need to reduce the impact of commuting carbon within our footprint will lead us to promote these alternatives more vigorously in the coming years.
Stephen Bland also suggested at the meeting that we look at more car sharing and the possibility of staggering the times at which staff leave.
The Piggery Gate will be an exit for the Olympics, so there may be an opportunity to look at reviewing this as an exit after experience has been gained from the Games; however there is a lot of local opposition to such an exit, especially if it involves traffic lights on Egham Hill.
Q: There has been a change in the composition of the panel that reviews non-academic performance awards. It is now conducted at a much higher level involving a Vice-Principal, the Director of Operations, the Deputy Director of HR and the EO officer. In the past the panel included union representatives who could often give peer insights into the roles under review. Could you tell everyone why this change has been made and why union representation has been excluded from the review panel.
I am unaware that there has been a change to this process, but generally I would say that it would not be appropriate for individual staff members’ salaries and performance awards to be discussed with the union, who are there to negotiate collective terms, not individuals’, unless they are specifically asked by that individual to do so. I’m happy to ask HR and Geoff Ward to look into this.
Q: Science students carry out vital year 3 research projects, funded by a portion of their departments' unit of resource, currently £170/student/year. £100K would provide each such student with at least £200 extra. Current legal and consultancy expenditure is probably several fold that. Us being an educational institution with charitable status, would the principal agree to set a cap, publish and minimise such expenditure, and aim at transferring a substantial component to direct student spend?
A: The College has not had an effective annual planning process for several years. This year a new process has been established and is currently underway under the leadership of the Deputy Principal. In this process, departments have the opportunity to make proposals for changes in resourcing levels, including staff, space, equipment and consumables.
Q: I feel very proud of our students standing up against the cuts. Have you echoed their voices? and how?
A: I am also proud that we have students who are engaged in public debate and prepared to stand up and be counted.
The College echoes many of the students’ concerns by working through the 1994 Group of Universities, of which we are a member. That group pulls together evidence around the impact of government policies and interacts directly with ministers, advisers and civil servants.
The question on student fees is a matter that is now closed as far as government is concerned; Parliament has voted on the matter. However there is still a lot at stake with respect to the HE White Paper, in particular the uncertainty it has caused around how many students we are able to take in future and our ability to attract them.