Vice Chancellor's Office

VC's open staff forum: 27 February 2018

Presentation slides

VC's presentation 27 February 2018 [PDF 442.39KB]

Presentation video

Questions received online and via text message

I am a member of the school of Life Sciences. Over the past few weeks I've been in discussions with someone in Europe about us sponsoring him for a senior fellowship. Given the cancellation of the Life Sciences building, and given what's happening to university staff pension benefits, what positive (and credible) arguments can one provide to a biomedical researcher to come to the UK and join Sussex?

We remain committed to delivering a landmark sciences building for the University and the wider region. Our decision was not to cancel the building but to make some changes to the plans, and we are currently working through this process. We are committed to life sciences and investing in science is a key part of our long-term strategy. At a recent University Council meeting, we reaffirmed this commitment, and this has been relayed to the Head of School.

The School of Life Sciences has many genuine world-leading researchers, so any new members of staff would be working within an outstanding academic environment. Over many years, the School continues to strengthen its reputation and we are incredibly proud of its achievements.

Could you comment on rumours that contractors have been placed in senior management positions without appropriate training, leading to an impact on staff wellbeing? For example, failure to make occupational health referrals in a timely manner?

I’m not aware of that. Pease feel free to contact me directly to provide more detail on this so I can respond.

In the context of limited surplus, could you explain the reasoning for the use of an external consulting company to drive the planning of the SAAT project?

The SAAT programme is led by a team of seconded Sussex staff, supported by our technology partner, TechnologyOne, with whom we're implementing the new student information system, OneUniversity. PA Consulting are working with us on a lesser scale now that we’re further along in the project.

We simply couldn’t deliver this hugely important programme without external expertise. Clearly we will want to make sure we take this fully on board in house as quickly as possible, and I know that Tim Westlake, our Chief Operating Officer, will be keen to do that. SAAT is central to our student experience improvement programme and we need to get this right

What do you think of the proposal to link VC’s pay to average staff salaries in the institution?

The Office for Students will soon make universities set out the ratio of the university head’s pay to the average salary of staff.

The question of linking VC’s pay to average staff salaries is complex. Some commentators have suggested that such a mechanism would disproportionately benefit leaders of smaller institutions, who would be paid the same as those running larger universities. It’s also unclear how it would take into account staff paid by the hour and workers of outsourced companies.

I do welcome discussions on pay – it’s always going to be complicated, but it’s important and we will continue to be transparent in our approach. 

At Sussex the Vice-Chancellor does not sit on the University’s Remuneration Committee and does not take part in decisions about his salary. Last summer, I told the Chair of the Remuneration Committee and the Chair of the University’s Council that I would not accept any pay rise that exceeded the nationally agreed offer (if the Remuneration Committee felt that to be warranted) whilst I am in office.

In what ways will developments to improve the student experience take into account the unique needs of PGRs? Many seem focused on taught students (e.g. the VLE).

With many more taught than research students, it is important to provide a dedicated focus on postgraduate research students (PGRs).  

This is why there is a strand dedicated to research students in the Student Academic Administration Transformation (SAAT) project, which is led by the Head of the Research Student Administration Office.  

Ensuring doctoral students benefit from the investments we are making in new systems will be a key focus of the Research Student Service Team - which is a collaboration between our PGRs, the Students’ Union, the Research Student Admin Office, the Doctoral School and other central departments.

Early initiatives are focused in three areas: 1) developing a framework of PGR feedback and signposting of services, 2) a review of the structure of the Sussex Doctorate and the process of annual review, and 3) the development of a programme of support and recognition for doctoral supervisors.