Transforming Our Professional Services



Find answers to frequently asked questions about the TOPS Programme

Q. Is TOPS just about cost cutting?

No. TOPS is not about cost cutting but is about simplifying processes and becoming more efficient, creating opportunities for collaboration and partnership and empowering staff to make things better.

Q. Does ‘becoming more efficient’ mean we will be expected to do more for less?

No. It doesn’t mean doing more, but it does mean doing things differently. For example, if we can simplify high volume transactional processes then the time and effort that we have saved can be redirected into other value-adding professional service activities. To achieve this, UCL will need to invest in its people, processes and systems.

Q. Is the aim of TOPS to centralise all professional services? Will we lose our local services?

No. The proposal is not to centralise or decentralise all services, or to have a one size fits all, but to consider how best to deliver services to meet the aims of the programme. TOPS aims to make it much, much clearer where, when and why professional services activities are done. 
TOPS is also about connections. Rather than thinking about services as either being local or central, it is about services being connected and everyone understanding how things get done.

Q. Does TOPS apply to all professional services staff?

The emerging ideas for the future of professional services (TOPS emerging ideas) cover all professional services staff, whether in departments, institutes, faculties or professional directorates, that contribute towards core funded professional services and processes or support the delivery of core infrastructure. This therefore excludes research or workshop technicians, staff that support clinical trials and research grant funded professional services staff directly engaged by research projects.

However, it is our intention that a wider pool of professional services staff will participate in the Communities of Practice strand of the Programme. Communities of Practice encourage collaboration by bringing together colleagues who work in similar roles, but who are based in different parts of UCL, to share knowledge, develop good practice and enhance career pathways.

Finally, through working at UCL nearly all staff interact with and use administrative systems and business processes and will see the benefits of the TOPS Programme including more effective and efficient services.

Q. What is the UniForum survey and how is it linked to TOPS?

UniForum is a sector leading survey, benchmarking professional services costs and user satisfaction across higher education institutes in the UK and globally. 

The survey is a tool that signposts areas for further consideration and presents an initial evidence base for planning for improvements. 

Colleagues across UCL initially completed the survey in 2015 and 2016. And these early results placed UCL at the bottom of the Russell Group.

The Transforming our Professional Services (TOPS) programme was established in October 2016, partly in response to the initial survey results and with an aim of improving service effectiveness in order to increase satisfaction.

In 2018, almost 4,000 colleagues across UCL – that’s 30% of UCL staff - completed the Service Effectiveness Survey and satisfaction with UCL’s services has improved significantly. We’ve moved from the bottom of the Russell Group to the median and we’re above the median in around half the surveyed activities. We’re also the joint most improved university from the global benchmark group of 33 universities (across the UK, Australia and New Zealand) and are the most improved university in the UK.

Q. Will TOPS impact my job?

The work to determine how service quality can be improved, and satisfaction with our services increased, is still underway. Until we have more detail on the shape of the Programme, the extent and scale of change is unknowable. But, in simplifying processes and becoming more efficient, creating opportunities for collaboration and partnership, empowering staff to make things better, we can expect that the way we do our work will change.

Rumours in 2016 that UCL’s Council has agreed to 280 redundancies arising from the first phase of implementing the Transforming our Professional Services Programme, are not true.  As we have said consistently, no such decisions have been made.

Q. How will the change be managed?

If jobs change, we will follow UCL’s organisational change procedure, consult and attempt to avoid staff redundancies through assimilation and by seeking opportunities for redeployment. The intention is to avoid compulsory redundancy, although this may be required as a last resort, especially if there is an adverse change in the external funding environment.

Q. Why did the TOPS programme start communications and engagement from summer 2016, when the programme was in the early stages?

The TOPS programme communications and engagement is underpinned by a number of key principles, including being open and transparent to keep the UCL community up-to-date and engaged with the programme progress. 

Starting communications and engagement from summer 2016 has enabled the UCL community to:

  • Develop an understanding of the programme aims and objectives, to provide feedback and ask any questions.
  • Help shape the emerging ideas for the future of professional services via their input to the initial phase specifically the service design workshops, engagement and information gathering sessions.
Q. Have any decisions been made about the changes to be implemented as part of TOPS?

TOPS has started to implement a range of projects across UCL, from a new recruitment system to work transforming our finance services, launching a new Professional Services Hub and defining principles for a Faculty Blueprint. We’ve also established a number of Communities of Practice across professional services and have introduced a new Career Pathways Framework in CAM.

You can find out more about these projects by: