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Pausing SEP to support our business activities, in response to Covid-19

26 Mar 2020

A message from Patrick Hackett, Student Experience Programme Chair, and Professor April McMahon, Student Experience Programme Executive Sponsor

University campus

Dear colleagues,

The global COVID-19 situation has brought about a series of unprecedented changes and a period of uncertainty, for both the UK and the wider global community. As a consequence, the demands on our staff and students in terms of their time, the sometimes unaccustomed tasks they are carrying out and of course their wellbeing, are significant. The additional pressures for many of our colleagues at this time with the need for home schooling, caring responsibilities and wider family concerns, cannot be overestimated.

The number one priority for our University at this time, is to sustain our core business across teaching, learning and research. In particular, with the extreme changes to school examinations and the uncertainty this brings, we need to protect our applications and admissions activities, along with the wellbeing of our colleagues, to ensure that we continue to see the most promising students come to study with us, here in Manchester.

To enable us to focus our efforts in doing this, the Student Experience Programme Board have recommended that the majority of the Student Experience Programme (SEP) is paused, until there is greater clarity about when normal operations will resume. This will free up a large number of colleagues (across all levels of the organisation) to return to their business as usual activities, which is where our priorities must now sit. The University’s Strategic Change Sub Committee (SCSC) has agreed this approach.

The Programme Team is now reviewing the original planned activities to assess where a limited amount of work may continue, without drawing on significant business resource from the Faculties or central Directorates. The Programme’s paused status will be initially reviewed after three months.

What does this mean?

This means that consultation on the proposed people and structural changes across applications and admissions and student marketing and recruitment will cease and no structural changes will come into effect for the start of the 2020/21 academic year. Similarly, the new technology and processes that were due to be released at that time, primarily Campus Solutions 9.2, will also not be implemented at that time.

As the proposed restructuring activity is now paused, the University is no longer seeking to achieve any specific number of post reductions at this time. However; in recognition that a Voluntary Severance Scheme has been opened as part of the process to date and a number of colleagues have already applied, the Scheme will remain open for applications (to those who are eligible) until 14 April 2020. After the closing date applications will now be assessed on an individual basis and in some cases, voluntary severance may still be mutually agreed. Colleagues may also withdraw their voluntary severance application should they wish to do so, by emailing: hrprogrammes@manchester.ac.uk

It is also acknowledged that this pause in activity will also bring concern for colleagues on fixed term contracts and secondments, be they in roles we did not make permanent pending outcomes of SEP, providing backfill to colleagues seconded into SEP, or appointed directly into the Programme team itself. The Programme’s Leadership are very much aware of this and is taking this into account as a high priority in their re-planning. This includes rapid analysis of business-critical areas and activities that are carrying a large number of fixed term contracts, not least in the areas where new structures will not now be in place for October.

All Student Experience Leadership colleagues from the Faculties and central Directorates who are currently assigned as Chairs, Theme Leads and Representatives to the Theme Working Groups will be released back to focus on their business as usual roles. For the Technology and Process workstreams, there will be an immediate, brief pause on transition workshops and associated activities whilst the Programme team re-plans. During this time, Programme Leads will liaise with senior leaders within Faculties and central Directorates to identify those Product Owner and Implementation Team members who may be able to be released temporarily from their secondment on SEP, to support their business as usual roles.

This is a fast moving situation and at the present time, we do not have all of the answers to the questions many colleagues will have. Timelines, activities and resourcing will undoubtedly change and, once more of that detail is known, this will be communicated. Immediate FAQs around the pausing of SEP are already being collated and we will publish a first version of these next week and email affected colleagues directly, to signpost these.

The University still remains committed to delivering the Programme. The Student Experience absolutely matters and to reiterate - we will be continuing with as much activity as is possible to progress across SEP whilst some activities are paused, in preparation for re-starting the Programme fully in due course. 

We are hugely grateful for the engagement and support of many colleagues, and will be looking forward to working again with staff and students across the University to maximise the benefits of the Programme when we do re-start.

To summarise, the immediate impact of pausing SEP to support our business as usual activities at this critical time, is outlined below. Further communications will follow over the coming weeks and a detailed FAQ on the matters surrounding this pause will be released next week.

  • There will be no structural changes to the organisation for the start of the 2020/21 academic year.
  • The Voluntary Severance Scheme for eligible Cohort 1 colleagues will remain open as planned, with applications now being considered on an individual basis.
  • Campus solutions 9.2 will not be released in October 2020. 
  • All colleagues from the Faculties and central Directorates who are currently assigned to the Theme Working Groups will be released back to their business as usual roles.
  • Engagement sessions and other activities relating to Cohort 2 Themes will be paused.

If you have any immediate questions, please email the Programme team at: studentexperienceprogramme@manchester.ac.uk. We acknowledge that there will be some questions that are not able to be answered until the re-planning work has been completed, however colleagues will endeavour to provide as much guidance as they are able to at the present time.

Patrick Hackett, Student Experience Programme Chair

Professor April McMahon, Student Experience Programme Executive Sponsor