Reports of a curious chill emanating from D Floor have reached the subtext inbox. Apparently, Professional Services roles that are vacant are likely to, err… stay vacant, at least for the foreseeable future. Staff have reported to us that they have been told that new or replacement roles that have been approved at departmental/unit and faculty/division level are being knocked back by senior management. There are also reports of maternity cover not being provided, and of regrades being rejected out of hand.
It is not entirely clear what this practice is supposed to achieve, but likely outcomes seem to be an increase in stress and workload, and a corresponding decrease in wellbeing and productivity, for those Professional Services staff whose areas have vacancies. And the reports around maternity cover, if true, and lack of regrades, which are definitely true, send a worrying signal about the University’s progress on addressing its massive Gender Pay Gap. There has been no statement to all University staff about this, but an email to Professional Services managers that was passed to subtext confirms that the University is basically worried about its cash flow. The rather euphemistic ‘vacancy management control’, i.e. definitely not a recruitment freeze, is used to describe what management is trying to achieve in order to meet its ‘Adjusted Net Operating Cashflow’ targets. No doubt there is a flowchart somewhere that explains it all.
Does this mean the University is about to go bankrupt? This seems rather unlikely, but the massive hole in the University’s finances caused by the shambles that is the LUMS extension, as well as various cost overruns on campus vanity building projects… um, the Capital Programme, seem likely to have weakened the University’s financial position. Plus, D Floor will be nervous about the long-overdue Augar review and of course the ever-present spectacle that gives us so much joy, Brexit.
What seems strange, however, is why Professional Services staff are having to bear the brunt of this recruitment chill – could it be something to do with the REF, perhaps? Or with the perception that Lancaster has a higher ratio of Professional Services staff to academics than many of our so-called comparator institutions? Reports from friends of subtext at some of these institutions of the absolute clustershambles that centralising and reducing admin support can result in – for staff, students and pretty much everyone – should give us pause for thought.