total of 525 staff applied for the University’s Voluntary Severance Scheme (VSS) in the last academic year, an Exeposé investigation has revealed.
An FOI request found that the one-off redundancy scheme attracted 13 per cent of all University staff from September 2014 to July 2015. 146 applicants came from Campus Services, the department largely responsible for university cleaning and maintenance, whilst Academic Services saw 100 employees logging their interest in severance.
The University ultimately made offers of voluntary severance to 312 staff whilst the overall net reduction in personnel was around 112 full-time employees.
An 18-month salary payback was offered to the scheme’s applicants depending on length of service. It cost the University £7,480,000 in one-off payments with a projected annual recurrent saving of £5,659,000 from 2016/17.
The music office was one of the departments hit by the staff streamlining process. Four employees in the music office, who performed extra-curricular administration for the entirety of Exeter music, took voluntary severance. Following their redundancies, student volunteers were left in charge until the end of term. Two new full-time Guild employees in the music office, who performed extra-curricular administration for the entirety of Exeter music, took voluntary severance.
Following their redundancies, student volunteers were left in charge until the end of term. Two new full-time Guild employees have now been appointed to manage the University’s music services.
Viv Inglis ExTunes President 2014/15 said: “The loss of staff in the music office has been extremely poorly handled; student volunteers have had to pick up too much slack and many have struggled with responsibilities thrust upon them. The ExTunes committee had to cover four paid members of staff’s workload on top of our exams.
“Whilst the redundancy scheme is in theory an optional choice, the music staff, whom I knew well, were practically forced into it.”
Commenting on the changes to the University Music Office, VP Activities Katie O’ Connor said: “When the University decided to close the Music Office, the Guild worked with the University and students to ensure that a vibrant student music community continued to exist on campus through enhanced provision for ExTunes and other student led music groups.”
Chris Musgrave, Unison officer for the South West, offered impartial advice to those staff applying for redundancy. Musgrave commented: “In these specific circumstances the scheme was voluntary and the terms were generous. No member was forced to go and although the numbers leaving employment were high in my experience, the individuals concerned decided, after advice, that the offer was in their best interests.”
Musgrave continued: “There is a concern about the workload of those staff that remain, however. We have a good working relationship with the university and will be working with them closely over the coming months.”
The University announced its Professional Services Transformation in January 2015 as part of its bid to enter the QS World Rankings’ ‘Global 100’, in which it currently places 161st. It intends to save £25 million per year in order to increase investment in research, academic staff and improved facilities.
Jacqui Marshall, Interim Chief Operating Officer, was positive about the scheme’s popularity. She said: “This is one of the successful measures we have taken to support us in our ambition to become one of the best universities in the world.”
Guild President Laura Jane-Tiley said: “The Guild will continue to work with the University to ensure the outcomes of the Professional Services Transformation remain positive for students and results in greater investment in the student experience.”
University employees who accepted voluntary severance were unavailable for comment due to a contractual clause. The agreement prevented them from being able to “disclose to any third party the details of the settlement or make any insulting or negative comments about the University of Exeter”.