University to offer widespread redundancies
Cambridge has invited its employees to consider applying for voluntary redundancy between now and 18 March 2011
by Jemma Trainor
Saturday 29th January 2011, 16:38 GMT
The University of Cambridge has offered all academic and non-academic staff the chance to take voluntary redundancy, in order to ease the pressure of budget cuts in a 'period of challenging external financial pressures'.
Between 24 January and 18 March this year, Cambridge will be introducing its Voluntary Severance Scheme, a discretionary system designed to allow employees to voluntarily apply for resignation.
All employees of the University are eligible for the scheme with the exception of those who have already accepted other voluntary severance terms, and those who are due to retire in less than a year.
Staff who wish apply for the Voluntary Severance Scheme must complete a four stage process before their redundancy would be granted. They must begin by completing an 'Expression of Intent' form and submitting it to the Voluntary Severance Coordinator.
Following this, their application will be considered by their Department or Faculty Board, their School Committee and finally by the Voluntary Severance Committee.
There will be no right of appeal for decisions at any stage, and if successful, the applicant will be entitled to a lump sum equivalent to one year’s gross salary.
The ultimate aim of the University is to reduce its long term staffing costs, as they have admitted that current financial constraints mean redundancies for certain post-holders could become a very real possibility. However, the University has also made it clear that the Voluntary Severance Scheme may not absolutely rule out the need for redundancies.
Cambridge has stated on its website that "A VSS scheme can facilitate…change, but it does not preclude the need for specific redundancy programmes in parallel with a University-run VSS scheme."
A spokesman for the University told Varsity: "The scheme will allow approved applicants to leave the university and will assist the university in supporting any restructuring activity during these times of financial constraint. The scheme is just one of a number of ways in which the university is seeking to control costs whilst adapting to ever-changing research and educational needs."
"The university does not have a targeted reduction in posts or a set amount of money to save through this scheme. Any savings that can be made will contribute to the university’s long term sustainability."
CUSU President, Rahul Mansigani, has expressed concern at the prospect of staff redundancies as a result of the difficult financial situation the University is facing.
"Significant cuts to the universities budget, begun under the Labour government, and escalating under the Coalition, mean that the University is being forced into a very difficult financial position. This scheme is completely voluntary, but CUSU fears that compulsory redundancies may be proposed, which could be very harmful for the staff concerned and the University as an institution."
"These should be avoided: the University must do its utmost to protect its staff and students."
In response to the circulation of a letter regarding the Voluntary Severance Scheme, Dr Jason Scott Warren commented that the move was “a very worrying sign of the speed at which the University is moving to implement budget cuts.”
He expressed a concern that “the reference to 'business interests' in the text of the letter itself only goes to show how far the University's higher administration has internalized the values of the marketplace.”
Dr Ian Patterson, an English fellow at Queens, concurred,“employment decisions need to be made on educational, not merely "business" grounds.”
Furthermore, Dr Patterson suggests that “other options” such as “increasing expenditure on teaching staff at the expense of managerial staff” have not been adequately considered.
Dr Scott Warren urges students to write to the Vice-Chancellor and the University Council to complain about the Voluntary Severance Scheme. “The basic story is that students will in future be paying much more for much less.”
Details of the scheme have been published online at http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/cam-only/offices/hr/policy/severance/