Vice-Chancellor's Office

Updates and events both on and off campus

Let's Talk Q&A: Learning & teaching

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📥  Let's Talk Q&A

November 2015

Q - Given the large number of international students can you provide more cultural awareness and cross-cultural communication training for staff? (Summary of question and response at Let's Talk)

A - Professor Colin Grant: Yes, currently we are working with Staff Development on this issue. We had a forum in July bringing together a wide range of staff and also the Students’ Union to discuss what it is to engage in an intercultural space. This is ongoing and a number of training events have taken place with more to be done in the future.

I particularly want to highlight the work of the Students’ Union in fostering a culture that values an intercultural community and their work with myself, other members of the SMT and central University services on this front.


November 2015

Q -  I am sure everyone is aware of the ongoing refugee crisis on the borders of Europe, and many universities across the UK and Europe have created funded scholarships for refugees. Over 1,000 members of staff and students have signed a letter (which is yet to be delivered) asking the University to fund at least ten scholarships and partner with the Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA) to support refugee academics. So I have two questions:

  • Do you appreciate the strength of feeling among the University community?
  • Will you do everything you can to make those ten funded refugee places a reality?

(Summary of question and response at Let's Talk)

A - Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell: The key is that we need to work out what to do, and how to do that effectively. There are things that we could do, but what we would like to do in this situation is do the best that we possibly can.

We need to be looking at what other universities are going, and learn from their best practice.

We are signed up to CARA and we have had at least one academic come to the University from CARA, but we have had other academics come as well, from outside CARA. We haven’t made a big noise about that because it is to do with integration and treating people with equality. But now we are facing an international crisis of such a scale that it is difficult to know what is going to be most effective for the sector as a whole. I am currently exploring a more strategic response from across the sector with other people.

Professor Colin Grant: I appreciate the depth of feeling here at the University. Impact is absolutely critical to anything we do. There has to be real impact, concrete tangible improvement in people’s lives arising from any University action. We have engaged quite strongly with CARA in the very recent past, we had a senior academic in Pharmacy & Pharmacology come to Bath with his family.

Beyond that I think the University is well placed with real academic expertise in Social & Policy Sciences and other departments, with specialists who look at migration, repatriation of refugees, microfinance and interfaith understanding. This puts us in a good position to have significant dialogues with people who do have the wherewithal to make a difference in a wider region. Discussions are ongoing.

Update: Senate has agreed to discuss a report at its next meeting.


November 2015

Q - When do you hope to roll out PREVENT training to staff?
(PREVENT is part of the government counter-terrorism strategy, designed to prevent people from supporting terrorism or becoming involved in terrorism themselves)

A - Mark Humphriss, University Secretary: The University is required to provide PREVENT training to relevant staff as soon as possible as a result of the PREVENT Duty coming into force in September 2015. Our approach to PREVENT was considered recently by Council. Training and awareness-raising will be provided to relevant groups, including many student-facing professional services staff. I am currently liaising with our regional PREVENT coordinator on plans, which will start in early 2016. (Mark Humphriss, University Secretary)

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Let's Talk Q&A: Staff experience

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📥  Let's Talk Q&A

November 2015

Q - When can UoB staff expect to next have an opportunity to contribute to a staff satisfaction survey? (Tim Ratcliffe, Academic Skills Centre) (Summary of question and response at Let's Talk)

A -  The survey is due to start data collection March 2016 and finish in April.


November 2015

Q - Why doesn’t the Uni offer any job share roles?

A - The University does offer job share roles. In fact, in the last three months two jobshare partners have been recruited by the University into job-share roles. Under the University’s Flexible Working & Leave Policy all staff are able to make a flexible working request including a request for flexible working and job sharing. Nearly a quarter of University staff are employed part-time, including job sharers. There are a number of successful job shares in the University, for example in our Academic Registry. (Peter Eley, Acting Director of Human Resources)

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Let's Talk Q&A: Catering & food outlets

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📥  Let's Talk Q&A

November 2015

Q - The sign for the Claverton Rooms clearly states ‘Staff & PGR students only’. This is being ignored as there are many PGT and undergraduates using the space. Is there any way to enforce the rule?

A - Jane Loveys, Director of Accommodation & Hospitality Services: It is difficult for Hospitality staff to identify if those using the area are PGT or UG. We recently collected the annual VAT stats in each outlet over a two- week period which requires the till used to identify if the customer is PGR/Staff or PGT/UG. This gave the opportunity for Hospitality staff to remind any PGT/UG of the usage policy of the Claverton Rooms. (Jane Loveys, Director of Accommodation & Hospitality Services)


November 2015

Q - At the start of September the cost of coffee in the Claverton Rooms went up by 4%. Why is this rise so much more than my pay increase?

A - Hospitality costs have increased more than 4% as a result of increases in the costs of ingredients cost increases and staffing. Hospitality is not a centrally funded department and therefore needs to cover all costs.  (Jane Loveys, Director of Accommodation & Hospitality Services)


November 2015

Q - Is there anything that the University can do to discourage the sale of alcohol and its consumption on campus? Silvana Stanford, School of Management

A - Restrictions on the sale of alcohol on campus, such as from the Fresh outlets, would only be partially successful due to the ready availability of alcohol through supermarket delivery services to campus and from the large number of retail operations in the city. The Parade Bar is a food and drink outlet and although it sells alcohol it does not run any drinks promotions. All campus Retail staff and those Hospitality staff who work in the licensed areas undertake appropriate training to give them a sound knowledge of the law and responsibilities associated with selling alcohol and, for instance, will not sell alcohol to a person who is in an intoxicated state. The University’s Managing Substance Misuse Policy sets out the expectations on staff around alcohol use in working hours but makes clear that any organisational “interest” is restricted to how substance misuse might impact work attendance, workplace safety and/or performance at work. Where this is identified as a workplace issue then the University will actively seek to support employees via the University’s Health, Safety and Environment team, HR, Occupational Health and counselling to address these issues. Beyond that, the University’s Health, Safety and Environment team does not currently directly provide general wellbeing advice around alcohol consumption or the associated health impacts of alcohol use, however it does signpost external sources of support and will consider this as part of its overall wellbeing approach. (more…)

 

Let's Talk Q&A: Equalities & Diversity

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📥  Let's Talk Q&A

November 2015

Q: Why is nobody responsible for staff with disability? There is someone for students with disability but no one coordinates things for staff.

A: All of our HR Advisors and Managers are trained to advise managers and staff on staff disability issues. HR staff also have the support of specialist advice and input from the University Health, Safety & Environment team and specialist advice from Occupational Health. We have an Equality & Diversity Adviser (David Skidmore) who has an overview of disability issues affecting both staff and students and an Assistive Technologies Manager in Computing Services who supports staff and students with disabilities with technological support. The Equality and Diversity Committee of course also seeks to ensure that disability issues are being appropriately covered by the University. (Mark Humphriss, University Secretary)


November 2015

Q - What is being done to address the lack of diversity in SMT and Heads of Departments? (Apart from the VC soon they will all be white men!)

A - There is a lot of work being done to improve the gender and diversity balance of the senior management team and Heads of Departments.

The University is currently recruiting for its third Aurora programme after two previous successful programmes. This programme encourages women in academic and professional service roles to think of themselves as leaders, to develop their leadership skills and to help institutions to maximise the potential of these women.

There are many actions which are being undertaken in connection with the Athena SWAN scheme designed to support the recruitment and retention of female academic staff. These actions range from training in unconscious bias and recruitment chairing for all those involved in recruiting academic staff to working arrangements and carrying out exit interviews with any female academic member of staff who is leaving the organisation.

The University is a member of WISE, a group which promotes women in science, technology and engineering. Important academic roles are now being advertised through WISE. (Peter Eley, Acting Director of Human Resources)

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Let's Talk Q&A: Pay and Conditions

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📥  Let's Talk Q&A

November 2015

Q: How does the University make provision for increased demands on professional services that result in the wake of new courses or large research grants? Should it be required that academics account for these demands when making their plans?

 A: The University’s planning process includes consideration of additional demands for professional services. It is important that all those submitting planning requests take account of key impacts of proposed developments on professional services. (Peter Eley, Acting Director of Human Resources)


November 2015

Q - It is difficult not to notice the unfortunate catering staff shivering in the cold and damp most days whilst serving snacks on The Parade outside 3W. When this kiosk first appeared it was erroneously thought it was a temporary arrangement for the freshers, and in the warmish weather in late September/early October it seemed like a reasonable idea. However as the temperature will eventually drop throughout the winter, is it acceptable to expect people to stand outside for hours at a time with no source of heat. We have raised this with catering, and a mat has been supplied, and warmer clothing.
There is an expectation that a more permanent kiosk may be built; however serious consideration should be given to provide an outside heater for when the weather gets colder. We would not wish to see staff going down with winter illnesses exacerbated with excessive exposure to the cold. It is a lovely idea to provide winter warmers for our paying clientele but it would be a shame for it to be at the expense of our hard working and dedicated support staff. Wendy Lambson on behalf of Catering staff

A - The manager responsible for the area always considers the external temperature when assessing if the stall will open, and will continue to do so. The staff who work on the coffee stall outside 3W are rotated every hour, and have been provided with full outdoor clothing and a heater.

Accommodation & Hospitality Services are working with Estates to source a suitable kiosk for The Parade. Preliminary research into a purpose-built kiosk has indicated a comfortable work environment can be incorporated and they hope a proposal can be approved for the early summer 2016. (Jane Loveys, Head of Accommodation & Hospitality Services)


November 2015

Q: Will the University consider progression/promotion for professional staff (and I don’t mean through applying for another internal job) to lessen the divide between academic and professional staff?

A: Within the University’s pay structure for grades 1 to 9, all staff are able to  progress up their payscale with effective performance and there are also discretionary points where staff with exceptional performance can progress.
In terms of grading, roles within the Education & Research job family and in particular academic posts have a unique nature which enable them to develop over time to make the best use of the expertise and skills of the postholder. There are very few other roles in the higher education sector and in other sectors of employment that have as much flexibility in this regard. This allows staff in these posts to progress as the posts develop in line with University’s Career Progression document.

In the main, professional service roles have a more prescribed scope and a post is established to achieve specific requirements within a set funding envelope. This results in less flexibility for grade progression of an established post which means that promotion will most frequently occur by the postholder applying for and being interviewed and selected for a higher graded post. This is the case for the vast majority of employees in professional service roles in higher education and generally outside of higher education sector. There are some training or developmental roles in some professional service departments in the University that have a degree of progression. In addition, staff may request a job grading review where a post has been required to develop. (Peter Eley, Acting Director of Human Resources)


November 2015

Q - Is the policy of keeping staff on zero hours contracts actually beneficial for the University? Or do you think it helps to create contempt against management?

A - Casual, hourly-paid or zero-hours contracts can be of great benefit to the individual worker, the department and the University where they are used and managed properly. Such contracts provide a level of flexibility for the individual, which allows them to work around other commitments such as study or childcare, when they would be unable to meet the obligations of a permanent or fixed term post. For our students this allows them to gain important work experience and earnings that fit around their study, which they would otherwise not be able to secure. For the department and the University casual contracts provide a fair and flexible way of covering unexpected peaks in workload.

There is clear guidance from HR on where and where not such hourly paid contracts should be used and on alternative working arrangements that should be used in other situations. It is important that all those engaging such staff follow this guidance. (Peter Eley, Acting Director of Human Resources)

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Let's Talk Q&A: Student experience

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📥  Let's Talk Q&A

November 2015

Q:  In an ever more complex world, what is being done to encourage students to think, learn and problem solve in an interdisciplinary way? 

A: As a University with a long tradition of aligning both our research and teaching provision to real-world demands we have an ongoing interest in this area.

In terms of encouraging interdisciplinarity in our students, this is perhaps most clear in the way we think about our curriculum. We encourage students to take units from a wide range of options, including those from outside their discipline. But there is also an increasing number of new programmes developed which emphasise interdisciplinary thinking specifically, such as the B/MEng Integrated Engineering Design, the BSc International Development with Economics and the MSc Modern Building Design. Those are very recent examples of newly approved programmes.

The University is also involved in 13 different Doctoral Training entities, all of which encourage interdisciplinary research. The Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) funded South West Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) in particular has a number of interdisciplinary streams, such as PhD Environment, Energy & Resilience (Psychology, Economics, Education and Management).  (Gwen van der Velden, Director of Learning and Teaching Enhancement)


November 2015

Q - The Library provides referencing advice to students. However, there are a range of different referencing systems in use across the University. Some even seem to differ within a department depending on which lecturer is marking the work.  Would it be possible to standardise the referencing systems used, as UWE have done with UWE Harvard, so that the library can provide accurate guidance and students can reference with confidence? If it's not possible to apply this across the University, would it be possible to have one for each faculty/school or, at least, one per department? Alex Clarke, Library

A - The Library would be happy to support any department, school or faculty that wished to adopt a single referencing style, and they can see the benefits from the students’ point of view. However, it also understands that there may be sound reasons for adopting different styles in different subject areas, with preferred referencing styles differing not only across academic disciplines but also across communities and between publishers.

The Library has for a long time provided referencing support, guidance and teaching to staff and students in response to department or school practice and preference. This has included its popular general referencing guides, which are used as exemplars in other University Libraries, and also style sheets on some of the most commonly used referencing styles in the University’s subject disciplines.

It aims to provide students with skills which will continue to be useful to them in their future careers, whether in academic research or outside it and so it concentrates on the principles of referencing. Once learnt, these make it easier to adopt different referencing styles as required and to make best use of our electronic reference management packages so they can convert references between styles in a meaningful and accurate way.

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Let's Talk Q&A: Transport & parking

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📥  Let's Talk Q&A

November 2015

Q - Could we have some more motorcycle parking please? Especially around 4S, 3S and 1S.

A -  The University is constantly reviewing cycle, motor cycle and car parking facilities in an effort to balance current needs with available space; it is also keen to encourage drivers out of their vehicles onto ‘greener’ modes of transport. I understand that conversations have already taken place between the Security Services and some members of staff regarding this issue and available capacity for motorcycles is being made opposite 3S and also close to 2S. In addition, arrangements have recently been made for an additional motor cycle shelter to be constructed by 8E and facilities for covered shelter on the new 10W site (Brian Schofield, Head of Security Services)


Q - Can you confirm if there are plans to resurface the car park adjacent to 2S please? Mark Skinner, Student Services

A - 2 South will shortly be vacated and the site will be redeveloped. A timescale has not been established for the redevelopment, but in the meantime it is very unlikely that the surface could be tarmacked as the trees, which are protected, rely on the rain water penetrating the soil to survive.


November 2015

Q - Do you think it is justified and moral to fine members of staff who have fully paid up front for their parking to be fined at the same rate as those who may or may not be members of staff who haven't paid for parking at all? I found myself in this situation recently as my permit was out of date - I had not received the recent permit in the post as usual yet I had paid for my parking via salary deduction. I believe that these fines are unjust and spurious as the University has not suffered any financial loss. I'd appreciate your comment.  Nic Delves-Broughton, IDPS 

A - The University Security Services staff and contracted company First Parking LLP (who deal with the parking notices once issued) work to guidelines set down by the University to ensure fairness to all and to maintain the integrity of the system as a whole. There is also an appeal process within the scheme that follows national guidelines.

Cars found to be displaying an expired staff parking permit are issued with a warning notice before being given a charge notice.

Vehicle owners have a responsibility to demonstrate that they are permitted to be parked on Campus and are issued with a permit to display in their vehicles to assist Security Services staff when checking car parks. This responsibility is clear and included in the conditions letter sent out with each permit. (Brian Schofield, Head of Security Services)

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Let's Talk Q&A: Green initiatives

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📥  Let's Talk Q&A

November 2015

Q - What future plans (or policies) are there around green energy generation - eg: solar panels for roofing, both from a green point of view but also independence from cost/market?  

A - We already have two large solar photovoltaic systems on the East Building and the Chancellors’ Building, both of which were the largest in Bath when installed. We also have six solar thermal systems providing hot water to student residence buildings and to 4 West. The new 10 West and 4 East South buildings will have large solar systems on their roofs, and we will continue to investigate the further use of renewables when technically and financially feasible.

Our main focus is on reducing demand (‘the greenest energy is that which you don’t use’) and have cut over a £1million from our consumption costs while we have also been growing significantly. We do, however, also generate our own power through our two mini ‘power stations’ - Combined Heat & Power (CHP) systems -  in the STV and Chancellors’ Building and we are set to produce around 8% of our own electricity from these and then recycle the waste heat on site. These highly efficient systems have the advantage of scale over solar panels – the panels on the Chancellors’ Building take a year to generate the same amount as the CHP units generate in a week. (Peter Phelps, Energy & Environment Manager)


November 2015

Q - Does the University believe it is acting in an environmentally responsible manner by selling glass bottled drinks whilst providing very few glass recycling bins compared to those for plastic and paper? How is the University improving opportunities for its staff students and visitors to responsibly dispose of perfectly recyclable glass so that it doesn’t go to landfill?

A - The University used to have a number of glass recycling bins located on the Parade; however, despite clear labelling, these were often used incorrectly and became too contaminated to send the contents for recycling, so the bins were removed. There is still one glass recycling bin by the bus stop which is available for all to use.

To improve the capture of glass for recycling it has been agreed that all Hospitality outlets which sell drinks in glass bottles will ensure that there is a glass recycling bin within the outlet for staff, students and visitors to use, and staff working in those outlets will continue to segregate any glass for recycling.  All staff can also recycle glass by speaking to their building’s portering team to ensure a suitable place is agreed for glass to be left so that the porter cleaners can remove the items for recycling.

In addition, all the University’s general waste is pre-treated before being sent to landfill with a current recycling and recovery rate of 70%; this ensures that any glass which is not captured in the recycling stream should not end up in landfill. (Liz Russell, Waste & Recycling Manager)

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Let's Talk Q&A: University finances

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📥  Let's Talk Q&A

November 2015

Q: Many universities have large endowments. What is ours, and what (if any) plans are there to invest in this way long term, or is the priority to use, for example, alumni donations for immediate needs?  A: The University’s endowment at 31 July 2015 was £5.117 million. The University cannot invest in its own endowment so it can only be grown by legacies and donations, both of which we actively seek out. Most gifts to endowments come in the form of legacies and as a young institution, this has not been a major source for us until recently. However, a key element of the Look Further fundraising campaign (the 50th Anniversary fundraising campaign launched in June) is to ask more people to include the University in their will, so that, in time, the endowment will grow significantly. (Diane Aderyn, Director of Finance & Commercial Services) (more…)