The freeze will be extended for a further year, but student internships, staff transfers and those funded by external research grants will be exemptLouis Ashworth

The University has extended its hiring freeze for a further year, until 31st July 2021, ceasing recruitment for temporary and permanent posts, secondments and apprenticeships.

The Recruitment Protocol 2020/21 also applies to new or amended posts arising out of organisational restructuring and extensions of existing fixed-term or open-ended contracts.

This follows an earlier announcement in April that the University had “paused non-essential recruitment” over concerns related to Covid-19.

A University spokesperson said that “efforts to fight the global pandemic are placing a heavy financial burden on the entire UK Higher Education sector alongside the rest of the economy. The University of Cambridge is no different.”

The decision to prolong the hiring freeze was criticised by the Cambridge branch of the Universities and Colleges Union (CUCU), who stated that “there are just so many things wrong with this announcement it’s hard to know where to start.”

“We’ve been given no financial rationale for their necessity; we’ve been given no evidence of the impact on inequality; we’re simply being told that these are tough times, and that we’re the ones who have to take the hit”, they continued.

Yet there are some exemptions to the protocol. Student internships, staff transferred to the University, appointments wholly funded from external research grants and short-term assignments that do not exceed £5,000 over the course of a 12 month period are unaffected.

CUCU expressed concern over the latter exemption, stating that it “risks increasing departments reliance on hourly-paid, self-employed workers, thus setting back the progress we’ve made in campaigning against casualisation.”

There are several other caveats to the hiring freeze. The protocol stipulates that: “recruitment may exceptionally take place if the work cannot be covered by existing staff; is funded from external trading sources, College funds, trust funds, donations or endowment funds; there are safety risks if the post is not filled; the post involves activities aimed at promoting BAME participation and achievement; and if there are clearly evidenced and overwhelming academic or operational imperatives to fill the post.”

After July 2021, the University will consider whether the protocol “should continue, either in its current form or in a different form.”

The University Council also announced that the University would not run the titular-only Academic Career Pathways promotion exercise, where staff would receive a title but not the pay increase, proposed in April. They cited legal advice that the measure “would be hard to implement on equal pay grounds.”

The Council additionally reconsidered its recommendation to suspend market pay awards, concluding that they could “be damaging.” However, the awards, which equivocate wages if a similar post outside the University is found to offer a higher sum, will only be given to those “working in a field where specialist skills are scarce and in demand.”

CUCU described this decision as a “slap in the face to everyone who’s been working flat-out for months, all of whom are worth just as much as those at the top.”


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Meanwhile, the University Council has not yet commented on its termination of the Contract Extension Scheme, despite criticism that the move will put staff at increased risk of financial instability.

A University spokesperson told Varsity that: “The Contract Extension Scheme provided a period of financial stability for staff during a time of unprecedented uncertainty. However, given that the University, in common with many other organisations, is facing severe financial pressures it would not be appropriate to continue the scheme.”

Although the Council gave further information on the Voluntary Pay Reduction Scheme, it remains unclear how many staff have signed up. Announced in June, the scheme asks staff earning over £100,000 per year to participate in a voluntary pay cut of 10% (16/06).

The University employs 347 staff members on salaries above £100,000. The combined cost of their salaries comes to approximately £43 million, or 6% of the University’s total wage bill.

The University did not respond to Varsity’s enquiry about how many staff have signed up to the Voluntary Pay Reduction Scheme.