UCL Council White Paper 2011–2021
10 Creating value
STRATEGIC AIM 6: UCL is committed to attracting, rewarding and retaining outstanding staff from diverse backgrounds.
The starting point
UCL prides itself on being an honourable employer, and the results of the most recent Staff Satisfaction Survey demonstrate a high degree of satisfaction amongst staff. More than 80% would “go the extra mile” for UCL, and recommend it to others as a
place to work. There is a strong sense of loyalty, reflected in a remarkably low turnover of staff (7% a year), especially academic staff (less than 4% a year). There is a widespread sense of shared values, and of a community. The survey confirms that UCL staff want challenging and interesting employment, with good management and within a stable and secure workplace.
The nature of university employment
UCL is not a commercial business. It is an institution dedicated to the single objective of academic excellence. Every member of staff contributes to that mission. There are no shareholders. Our measures of performance are academic, not financial. All our effort and all our funding is invested and reinvested in the academic mission.
Academic staff are recruited under highly competitive conditions and UCL values their creativity and innovation. These qualities are best developed in an environment that confers significant personal autonomy within a clear framework of responsibility and
Top academic performance also requires top quality support. Staff who provide technical, management and infrastructure support are equally contributors to the mission. Mutual respect and collaboration are essential to bind the two together, and
high-quality management is a necessary ingredient. Not all staff are natural managers, nor even necessarily see that as one of their responsibilities. Yet it is, and it is of critical importance in enabling and promoting younger staff and in developing and
maintaining the partnership relationship between academic and non-academic staff: this is emphatically not a relationship of master and servant or subservience, but of joint contribution.
A fresh approach to Human Resources
UCL’s academic ambitions call for a transformed approach to human resource management.
We need Human Resources to operate as an enabler and service provider that performs its transactional functions (such as payroll and recruitment) seamlessly and that adds strategic value through its potential to transform the workforce, through improving performance management and ensuring that its leaders and managers have the capabilities to lead and effectively manage the changes that will be required to maintain and improve our academic performance in the future.
A respondent to the Green Paper commented:
“I feel that we need mandatory and high-quality management training for staff taking on any staff responsibility at UCL… [This] will be a challenge to some current academic managers who may feel that they are not sufficiently equipped to take on such responsibilities (and who may not wish to).”
The starting point will be to increase the focus on performance and productivity, and ensure that each staff member achieves their goals and contributes to the academic mission in ways best suited to their strengths and expertise. This will require a strong
alignment between individual goals and performance and UCL’s objectives. It will require a different approach to developing and managing performance.
We will modernise and streamline our human resource management policy and processes such that all staff can have confidence that they are being treated fairly and consistently without needing to resort to procedurally complex, time-consuming and adversarial regulation in order to enforce their employment rights. This will require a review of Statute 18 (which deals with dismissal, redundancy, grievances and discipline) to bring our procedures into line with contemporary employment law and remove unnecessary complexity. Such changes must be introduced in ways that protect and preserve the fundamental values set out in this White Paper, including academic freedom.
The transformations proposed in this White Paper will also impose new demands on leadership and management across UCL. The necessary skill sets are likely to change, requiring greater focus on issues such as strategy formulation, portfolio management,
project and process management, cost control and the effective application of performance development and reward. We will strengthen the support that UCL provides to enhance capabilities and strengthen leadership skills in these areas in the future.
Change is inherently destabilising and needs to be managed through transparent mechanisms for reward on the basis of performance and contribution, improved workforce planning, including planning for succession and more flexible recruitment
procedures. Change management processes need to be led by senior academic and professional staff, fully supported by trained Human Resources professionals.
Equality and diversity
UCL’s commitment to excellence encompasses a commitment to equality and diversity, and we will need to take additional steps to ensure a workplace free from unfair discrimination and based on equality of access. The Equality Act 2010 causes us to take a fresh approach to our thinking in this area.
The Excellence document
UCL pioneered an approach in 2006 in establishing a compact with staff, setting out our expectations of staff performance and our commitment to their support. It provides a reference point for staff seeking appointment to UCL, and in performance reviews and promotion decisions. We will review and develop it in light of the strategic aims advanced in this White Paper.
Current external employment challenges
The legal framework for employment is established principally through European legislation, and is not static.
An imminent change relates to the retirement age. It will not be possible to require an employee with a planned retirement date on or after 1 October 2011 (including staff over 65 with extended retirement dates) to retire on age grounds. Staff may continue
to work until they choose to retire. Staff may opt to retire when they have access to their pension in accordance with pension scheme rules. UCL has been flexible in the past in agreeing arrangements for continued employment of staff beyond the age
of 65 where colleagues wish to do so and where they continue to contribute at the highest levels. These policies will be adapted to the new environment, while recognising the institutional need for constant renewal, and to maintain opportunity for recruitment of new staff of all ages.
Of all staff at UCL (as at 30 April 2011), approximately 68% are from the UK, 19% from other EEA counties (including Switzerland) and 13% other nationalities. For research staff the profile is 53% UK, 28% EEA (including Switzerland) and 19% other. UCL is therefore, particularly vulnerable to recently introduced restrictions on UK
immigration under the Points Based Immigration System (PBIS).
These remove our institutional allocation of visas and introduce instead a permanent national cap. Special provision has been made for scientific researchers, but implementation requires expert management and careful monitoring to manage the risk of stifling recruitment. Above all, it is essential for UCL to be able to signal to the world that it intends to continue to undertake all academic recruitment through global competition. Improved relocation support for international staff will continue to be important to attract and retain the best.
Performance review through regular appraisal is a well established procedure at UCL. The purpose is to review the contribution made by every individual to the success of UCL, to assist every individual staff member, to develop to their full potential, and to identify their strengths and development needs and enable discussion of their career aspirations. All staff are accountable for their performance.
But there is room for improvement in our systems. The objective is to ensure that outstanding performance is properly promoted and supported through a model developed to suit UCL’s particular circumstances as a knowledge-based institution. Universities are not industrial workplaces, for which most performance management systems were designed. The challenge is to develop a process that promotes high performance across the board, and that is respected for its firmness and even-handedness. Performance review is also a way of identifying and handling
under-performance: the Staff Satisfaction Survey indicated that staff felt UCL should be doing more on this front, and in challenging unacceptable behaviour.
This reform does not require an identical approach across UCL, but there are common objectives and, hence, common elements that need to be maintained. Performance review has no value as a ritual, but only as a dynamic process. Heads of Department
and other managers will be supported in developing reviewing, coaching and mentoring skills.
Staff social facilities
UCL currently lacks world-class social facilities for staff. Provision is patchy across the campus and there is a shortfall of central provision. Social encounter and interaction is an essential aspect of high-quality academic life and performance. Proposals to address the shortfall and improve the range and quality of social space on
the Bloomsbury estate are central to the current Estates Masterplan.
STRATEGIC AIM 7: UCL is committed to securing long-term financial sustainability and to sustaining the level of capital investment necessary to achieve its academic objectives.
We must generate and sustain sufficient surplus and cash balances to meet our future investment needs, particularly in light of the reductions in HEFCE income and capital. We will develop an annual budgeting and planning process that will emphasise financial sensitivity to key risks. UCL’s financial forecasts to 2013–14 accept that continued investment in the estate and infrastructure is key to our future sustainability, and assume that £55 million will be committed to commencing implementation of
the Estates Masterplan over the two years 2012–2014 in addition to maintaining the £36 million currently committed to capital expenditure. We plan to invest an additional £2 million a year in research computing from 2011–12 and a further £2.5 million
a year in other research infrastructure from 2012–13.
Development and alumni relations
The aspirations in this White Paper demand additional resources at a time when Government funding for British universities is in serious decline. We will seek to increase significantly the current levels of philanthropic support to UCL. The Development and Alumni Relations Office will work closely with the academic
community to ensure our fundraising activities fully reflect the strategic priorities set out above, focused on student support, key research and teaching programmes and capital projects in the Estates Masterplan.
We will continue to develop strong relationships with alumni and other friends and supporters, involving them where appropriate in helping to deliver our strategic objectives. This will include help with international student recruitment in key countries; provision of work placements and internships to improve employability; and
establishment of a network of enterprise mentors to support our staff and student entrepreneurs.
We will review the rules governing the acceptance of gifts to ensure transparent compliance with UCL’s Guiding Principles set out above.
The Development and Alumni Relations Office will, within five years be recognised internationally as a centre of professional excellence in the sector.
Economies across UCL
Several significant steps have already been taken in light of the funding challenges facing UCL, including:
- freezing of all senior-level pay for the past two years;
- introduction of comprehensive procurement and payment processing systems that have already generated significant savings through driving down prices from preferred suppliers and reducing transaction costs;
- a reduction in the cost base of central services of 6% for two years running and a further 2% in 2010-2011;
- an ongoing programme of administrative reviews leading to greater efficiency and cost reduction.
Our forecasts assume significant additional economies across the whole institution for the coming four years. UCL will become a leaner and more efficient organisation. We anticipate downward pressure on pay awards and further efficiency savings of 2%
a year in core pay and non-pay expenditure.
Staffing costs at UCL run at around 60% of expenditure, a figure that is high by comparison with peer institutions. We will continue to control payroll costs closely, and bring them down. We will maintain the current close central control over new hiring.
We will not offer a general scheme for early retirement, but we may run targeted schemes if particular areas of the institution get into difficulties, and we will develop a new approach to retirement in light of the legal changes discussed above. We will also need to ensure that we have sufficient headroom for investment where this is required strategically. In particular, we will wish to reflect and reward outstanding performance by members of staff, as identified through the disciplines of performance review and
through the annual academic staff promotions round, which will be maintained.
Staff delivering services in support of the academic mission play a key role at UCL. As part of the new approach to Human Resources, we will enhance our approach to career development for staff, offering them opportunities for personal growth and development. A world-class university needs high-quality services but we also need to secure value for money. We will continue to seek opportunities to reduce costs both pay and non-pay through the implementation of projects such as Purchase to Pay, modernisation of our IT systems, and keeping under review the balance between services provided in-house and those purchased from third parties.
There are many providers of service to our students, including tutors, departmental and faculty officers and divisions of Corporate Support Services such as Finance, Registry, Estates and Facilities, and Information Services Division. We will continue to review all services to bring about simplification and integration, and explore where rationalisation, standardisation and convergence can be achieved.
Experience in recent years has shown that UCL has been able to make significant cost adjustments without detriment to our academic mission.
Our professional service functions are distributed between Corporate Support Services, and schools, faculties and departments, sometimes on a basis that owes more to history than to current priorities: for example, around 50% of our IT spend on equipment and salaries takes place outside the Information Services Directorate. Moreover, there are no standards for what should be provided centrally and what locally, or levels of resourcing. This is now starting to be resolved through recent and
current projects such as ROME, P2P, and the review of student admissions, but much remains to be done.
- review and revise the distribution of professional service functions between departments, faculties, schools and corporate services;
- strengthen support for decision-making, building on the work already undertaken by School Finance Directors;
- examine opportunities for greater value for money in transaction processing through the creation of internal shared service centres, shared service centres with other organisations, and outsourcing;
- review all business processes with a view to better deployment of IT, removing duplication and complexity and delivering greater efficiency and responsiveness. It is a common criticism of university life today that academic innovation is hampered by bureaucracy. One of the objectives of the last Council White Paper in 2007 was to reduce the administrative burden on academic staff by simplifying all our business processes and empowering professionals to manage them. This is a continuing process.
Operating more efficiently
STRATEGIC AIM 8: UCL is committed to operating at the highest levels of efficiency, reducing overheads and eliminating waste.
The strategic choices
We do not presently anticipate withdrawing from any major areas of academic activity, though recognising that further disruptive changes in the funding model could compel a different approach.
However, not every department, nor every aspect of every department, is as strong as it might be, and we will seek constant academic improvement and administrative efficiency, by consolidating aspects of teaching and research across UCL. There is scope still for reduction in UCL’s direct and overhead costs without damage to academic programmes. Many of the required steps are already adopted policy in the 2007 White Paper, such as our requirement that courses that are under-subscribed must be closed. Opportunities remain for the enhancement of academic performance and the reduction of costs, involving review of the structure of departments and faculties, reductions in staffing and consolidation in the use of space.
Given the decentralised nature of UCL, this will be more a process of constant review, trimming and investment at faculty and departmental level, than an institution-wide series of pre-ordained cuts. There is no change from UCL policy that each area of academic activity must demonstrate how it will cover its full costs, or make out a case why others should subsidise it. With the exceptional pressure on HEFCE and Research Council income, departments need to be supported in developing other funding streams, such as through additional international and postgraduate students with tuition fees set at full economic cost, and through research facilitation and the pursuit of commercialisation opportunities.
Transforming estates and facilities
STRATEGIC AIM 9: UCL is committed to improving the quality and sustainability of its estate and its use, upgrading its built environment and making optimal use of space.
The estate as an asset
The UCL estate is relatively compact, and the Bloomsbury campus is highly concentrated within one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world. It is outstanding in terms of the quality of many of the buildings, and in its location in the centre of one of the world’s great cities. At its heart is the iconic Wilkins Building, a Grade I-listed building constructed in 1827–28, with a dominating portico and great dome that symbolise the ambition of UCL’s founders. The building provides the eastern border to a quadrangle of great beauty and serenity, housing a range of academic and administrative departments, including the main Library, the UCL Slade School of Fine Art and parts of the Departments of Geography and Earth Sciences.
More efficient use of the estate
The estate represents our largest area of annual expenditure after staff. It presents significant challenges in relation to backlog maintenance and the condition of some of our buildings. Over the next few years, major current projects such as the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre and The Francis Crick Institute will be completed, and other developments and refurbishments that advance our academic mission will require investment.
Upon the completion of a major space utilisation survey in 2010 that highlighted great differences in the intensity of occupation between different departments, consultants were commissioned to draft a Masterplan for the UCL Bloomsbury estate. Following
extensive consultation in its development, a draft was published for wider consultation across the UCL community in April 2011.
Its purpose is to provide a strategic framework for the continuing development and improvement of the Bloomsbury campus for the next 10 to 15 years. It is an appropriately ambitious plan. It will make provision for growth in academic activity and for significantly increased efficiencies in our use of space. It will also provide a
more environmentally-sustainable estate, reducing UCL’s carbon footprint, and enhance its quality for the benefit of all users.
The planning process identified a fundamental requirement for much more openly accessible student/academic work space, and the draft plan proposes to address this by providing a range of hubs across the campus to provide well-serviced space suitable
for study purposes, individually and in groups, supported by appropriate services in each hub, and with administrative services.
It also proposes a single central library located in the Wilkins Building by releasing additional space there, and relocating the science library to this site. UCL’s internationally recognised collections will also be relocated to the Wilkins Building.
Rationalisation of the estate will provide an opportunity for a significant improvement in how UCL provides student services as well as teaching and study space. It proposes a dedicated student centre that will bring under one roof the presently fragmented services as a one-stop-shop, together with flexible space with 24/7 access and space for the student union.
The proposals provide for the upgrading of UCL’s teaching spaces, including lecture theatres and seminar rooms, faculty office space and back-office facilities.
Similarly, new additional facilities for staff will be provided through flexible social space and catering facilities, with meeting rooms and conference space. The draft Masterplan encourages public engagement and supporting a strong cultural events calendar, focusing on the Wilkins Building and the Bloomsbury Theatre.
It proposes four phases of rationalisation and consolidation of academic and supporting activity alongside which we will develop a fundraising plan to maximise philanthropic opportunities to bring in new funds for key capital projects.
Future reviews will extend to the non-Bloomsbury UCL campus, including our extensive holdings on sites associated with our partner hospitals.
Not all activity currently based in central London requires such a location; nor is it possible for much of it to expand in its existing space. Nor does UCL have the capacity to locate major new activity in Bloomsbury, even with the rationalisation envisaged in the Masterplan. The time has come to explore a parallel track, and we are currently examining opportunities for some activity that is not focused on undergraduate education to be relocated to another area within London where large-scale facilities can be provided at a lower cost and with better environmental and financial sustainability. One possibility is the co-location of academic activity and new residential accommodation for students, undergraduate and postgraduate, and also for UCL staff.
Reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions
A comprehensive programme with stretching commitments was adopted by the UCL Council in 2011 and submitted to HEFCE as part of the capital expenditure approval process. A senior appointment has been made within UCL Estates to lead not only implementation of this programme, but also to develop environmental leadership across the whole of UCL.