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View from the VC

Today (Thursday 21 May), the Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell updated all staff, in his regular View from the VC email. You can read the full View from the VC below.

Dear all staff,

This week I held my first-ever open staff forums over Zoom. Thank you to the more than 500 of you who took part - I hope you find them useful.

If you haven’t been able to attend, recordings will soon be available online and I will also provide written answers to the questions I was not able to get to during the sessions.

I won’t give a long written update this week as the forums provide lots of detail about the current state of play at Sussex and across the sector. I’m planning on holding more sessions in the coming weeks too.

I will, however, share with you three important developments that have taken place this week.

The first is that our governing Council has approved the voluntary severance scheme that we proposed to them to address the significant financial challenges we are facing. We will share more details about this with you soon, including details of how colleagues can apply if they wish to, and what the package will entail.

For now, I want to share with you in full a joint statement from the University of Sussex and Trade Union Representatives on the Combined Joint Negotiating Committee:

The University has entered into constructive consultation with the campus trade unions on the terms of a Voluntary Severance Scheme.

Over the past four weeks, detailed discussions have taken place on the principles and content of a voluntary severance scheme. The discussions between the University and the recognised trade unions (UCU, UNISON and Unite) have taken place at a sub group of the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC), which was specifically established jointly to discuss voluntary severance.

Initial proposals presented at the sub group by the University were examined by the unions who offered constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement, many of which have been accepted.

Following these talks the proposed scheme was presented to the full JNC on Friday 1 May. After further final discussion, it was confirmed at the JNC that the scheme will now be presented to UEG and Council for approval.

The other news is that Brighton & Hove City Council yesterday gave planning approval for our West Slope redevelopment. This is welcome news. However, we will only be doing minimal work on this for the time being until we have a clearer picture in the autumn about how we have fared with recruitment.

I know from open forum questions and at the finance webinars this week that some people do not understand how or why we are pushing ahead with this at a time of significant financial constraint. The answer is that the finance to build and operate the residences will be raised by Balfour Beatty, our partner, so there is almost no financial outlay for the University. This inward investment and the subsequent transformation of this tired part of our campus will be hugely positive for our students and, indeed, staff.

We will only decide on restarting the capital works, which are also required for investment in the campus IT network and other utilities (so are not just for the purposes of West Slope) in late autumn after we have considered our financial position.
Finally, I had to visit the campus this week for the first time since lockdown and it was such a pleasure. While I’ve adjusted to living through a screen, just seeing the campus and working in my office lifted my spirits. In this context, many people have been working hard to ensure that we can gradually re-open further areas of the campus and also prepare for the autumn. I am really grateful for the dedication and hard work and am really delighted that some of the science laboratories will be open from next week. Heads of Schools will circulate details to affected staff. We haven’t yet finalised our plans for autumn but will do so shortly. Underpinning all of this work is an absolute commitment to prioritise the health and safety of our staff and our students.

We will be offering further opportunities in the coming weeks to engage with me and other members of the executive, especially with so many important developments taking place and more to come. Please do look out for those invitations and, as ever, we will continue to let you know about all significant updates.

Best wishes

Adam Tickell

By: Sean Armstrong
Last updated: Thursday, 21 May 2020

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