SIPS Feedback and Responses

The following sample of items of feedback to the SIPS proposal were submitted by 12 September. The responses are noted and some comments made in red, either amplifying some point or rebutting the response in some way. Items have been listed that avoid being too technical and are generic in nature, but many have a Mathematics and Statistics or Geosciences focus.

It should be remarked that it is especially difficult to find any particular piece of feedback or try to match feedback that was submitted with entries in the SIPS table.

  1. Diversity within a single administrative role is seen as a good thing from the perspective of job satisfaction, as well as career progression. In the DCP, diversity within roles however is greatly reduced. Response: none.
  2. The newly proposed structure risks losing expert knowledge, networks and contacts, sometimes established over many years. Demoting staff affects morale and greatly affects staff motivation and/or ability to perform at their best. Response: none.
  3. Updating Position Descriptions more regularly to meet with a changing (scientific) world is one thing, but taking away or risk losing valued and crucial support staff could be damaging beyond repair. Response: none.
  4. There is no assessment of why things would be better under the proposed structure. Response: none. In fact almost all of the rationale in the original SIPS document relates to perceived lack of communication. Effects on communication are likely, in fact, to be negative in the new proposal, as people are unsure from whom to take instructions, or how to interpret instructions or requirements, and how to resolve split responsibilities or loyalties, when they emanate from different sources. This defect will be exacerbated in the case of the merger of Maths, Geosciences and HPS.
  5. The track record of centralised administrative units is not good and the value of site-specific or activity-specific technical knowledge and professional staff work enhanced by relationships, familiarity and trust with people they are serving is undervalued in the SIPS DSP. Response: none.
  6. The DCP represents a layer of expensive administration on top of the Schools. Response: none. To pay for this and make the proposal revenue neutral, valued staff are forced to reapply for inappropriate positions at lower levels.
  7. The SIPS proposal is the most extensive or extreme in the case of merging Mathematics and Statistics, Geosciences and HPS, so should be deferred until we see how well the model, or some variation of the model, works in other areas of Science. Response: none. In fact the proposal to merge Maths, Geosciences and HPS is so bizarre, wasteful and disruptive that it should be rejected, not deferred.
  8. Preferred model has reporting lines of professional staff directly to respective Heads of School. Dotted lines could exist to the Faculty General Manager. Response: Thank you for this suggestion. The SIPS proposal will align with the reporting lines of School Managers as proposed in the Organisational Design Implementation DCP. Any feedback regarding the School Manager reporting lines should be directed to the Organisational Design Implementation team. The response does not address the issue or attempt to interpret what reporting lines mean, and refers only to the Organisational Design Implementation DCP. That document in fact emphasises (Section 2.3.2) that day to day functional reporting will remain with the Head of School, to ensure that optimal strategic and operational outcomes at school level continue.
  9. Dotted lines of reporting could exist to the Faculty General Manager, whose main purpose would be to support staff through mentoring and the AP&D process. This would lubricate lines of communication and staff could share their experiences with a mentor or advisor, and be informed of opportunities, practices and examples from elsewhere in the Faculty. Response: none.
  10. The proposal to merge administrations of Maths with Geosciences and HPS appears to be based on balancing staff numbers. An illusion might have been created by the absence of physical laboratory staff in Maths. Response: none.
  11. The School of Mathematics and Statistics has one of the highest enrolment levels of any school in the Faculty, and services the most students from outside any school, supported by excellent internal systems. Administration is central to the success of the Teaching Program, and should be retained in the control of the School, as at present, with reporting lines through Course Coordinators, the Academic Program Committee, the Management Committees and Head of School. Response: none.
  12. A shared School Manager for Mathematics and Statistics, Geosciences and HPS does not take into account research and teaching needs and would be unable to cope with capacity. Response: The line management of staff is unrelated to disciplinary research and teaching. The proposal was made 'to compensate for the differences in scale and complexity between schools, while keeping the level of the School Manager roles consistent across all schools in the Faculty' (page 10 of the DCP). In addition, all three entities have an Executive Officer to protect against any capacity-related issues at the School Manager level and has dedicated education and research staff devoted to the specific needs of the academic community. The shared school manager role has therefore been included in the RCP. The response acknowledges that the shared school manager is unrelated to research and teaching and that administrative responsibilities are taken care of by Executive Officers in each school. Therefore, in fact, the conclusion should be that the shared school manager is unnecessary.
  13. The idea of combining the administrations of Mathematics and Statistics with Geosciences and HPS is inherently unstable. To survive in this combination for more than a short period, each school would have to make a conscious decision to limits its activities, downgrade its prominence as a scientific discipline, and be prepared to or expect to contract further. Response: none.
  14. Adding an extra layer of administration that locks together Mathematics and Statistics, Geosciences and HPS reduces flexibility and autonomy, and introduces inefficiencies and ambiguities. Response: none.
  15. Asking our present staff to reapply for positions at levels beneath their present classifications will have a long-lasting negative effect on morale and performance. Response: none.
  16. The data that is used to design the SIPS proposal overlooks the huge range of services and competencies provided by present staff. They work cooperatively in a varied and challenging environment that requires great versatility and commitment. Response: The Transformation Project survey formed part of the data gathering exercise for the Project: the workshops held with staff generated a significant amount of data concerning school and faculty operations. Staff were able to provide qualitative data around peak periods of workload or demand, casual support their role currently requires or any other information they thought pertinent. There is no doubt a survey took place at considerable effort and expense. The response does not address criticisms of the survey, namely the incomplete nature of the data and its inappropriateness in the context of formulating narrow and less appropriate job descriptions, and at lower levels than presently.
  17. Dispersing the present activities of professional staff through artificially limiting their job descriptions, and employing extra new Faculty staff, with roles and functions that are not clearly specified, will be both inefficient and self-defeating, especially if it leads to the loss of our best and most loyal staff and their combined collective wisdoms. Response: none.
  18. A concern is raised that proposed HEO levels in schools are too low, de-value staff and risk a reduction in competence. Response: Thank you for highlighting this concern. HEO levels are not a reflection of the value of any individual staff member but rather a reflection of the duties and responsibilities of a given role. The standardisation of roles across schools has impacted each school in different ways due to the differences in current organisational models. The response does not justify the low levels or allay concerns that competencies are put at risk. The reference to standardisation in such a diverse and varied environment highlights the inappropriateness of the new job descriptions.
  19. A concern is raised that the SIPS DCP fails to demonstrate understanding of the research and education needs of schools or how specialised disciplines need supporting. Response: Thank you for noting this concern. The SIPS DCP was informed by the extensive review and consultation that formed the Transformation Project Final Report (July 2016), discussions with academic and professional leadership at University, Faculty and School levels, and benchmarking GO8 Science General Managers. The SIPS Project Team has sought to understand the research and education needs of the schools and has been responding to specific school-based feedback. All of the factors will support and shape the Final Change Plan. The Project Team may have sought to understand research and education needs of schools, but it has not succeeded. There is no evidence of response to specific school-based feedback, or any ongoing response mechanism. Reference to leadership at the Faculty, University and GO8 level is irrelevant and indicative of lack of understanding and disconnection with the needs of schools at the coalface.
  20. A suggestion is made to combine the role of School Manager and Executive Officer for the School of Geosciences. Response: Thank you for this suggestion. The University's Organisational Design Implementation change outlines the rationale for the School Manager roles which provide high-level strategic and operational oversight for schools. The Executive Officer role provides an important team management role and provides executive support capacity to the school. The two roles provide different functions for the school and should therefore not be combined. This response is in error and possibly confuses roles of School and Faculty Managers. The Organisational Design Implementation DCP (Section 2.3.2) emphasises the importance of the School Manager in the day to day functional reporting to the Head of School. There is no need to combine Geosciences with another school, so the role of Executive Officer may be upgraded to School Manager of Geosciences. The extra layer of management is superfluous.
  21. A concern is raised that HEO levels should be set by schools to suit their requirements. Response: HEO levels are dependent on the position description for roles and the University's classification principles and reflect the duties and responsibilities of the role rather than a local desire for a certain level. Please see the updated and classified position descriptions in the RCP. The response does not recognise the diversity of activity across the Faculty and that standardised job descriptions may not be appropriate for the varying requirements of schools.
  22. A concern is raised that some position descriptions have not appropriately considered workload, peak time periods of work, reporting lines and career progression. Response: Thank you for raising this concern. Position descriptions have been revised and updated in response to staff feedback. Updated position descriptions can be found alongside this document. The standardised nature of position descriptions mean that they are often inappropriate in context. Many staff will have to reapply for inappropriate positions at lower levels, adversely affecting their morale, well-being and destroying viable career pathways at the University.
  23. A concern is raised that the multidisciplinary complexity of the School of Geosciences is unrecognised, for example, by the lower HEO level of the proposed Executive Officer. Response: The multidisciplinary nature of the School of Geosciences is well understood. The proposal that the Executive Officer role classified at HEO7 is due to the additional support and oversight this role will receive from the School Manager. The proposed classification is in line with other Executive Officers of similar scale across the Faculty which have all been reviewed in response to feedback and the roles classified by HR. The shared School Manager between Maths, Geosciences and HPS is unnecessary and creates a superfluous layer of administration. The role of Executive Officers should be upgraded to manage their respective individual schools and their classification should reflect the complexity and particular nature of operations of each individual school.
  24. A concern is raised that the School Manager and Executive Officer in schools create an unnecessary layer of management that reports to the faculty. Response: Thank you for raising this concern. The management of schools is not additional, but is replacing existing management. The proposal is to create joined up reporting lines into the faculty layer to create communities of professional practice to develop skills and knowledge, noting that the majority of roles remain at the local level. The response is incorrect. Merging the administration of Maths, Geosciences and HPS and creating a shared School Manager is additional to existing management and provides no benefits. Bypassing Heads of School creates significant operational risks, especially considering the scale and sensitivities of very large teaching programs.
  25. A concern is raised that the SIPS proposal alters the role of the Head of School. Response: The accountabilities, duties and responsibilities of the Head of School are out-of-scope of the SIPS change proposal. Any feedback regarding the Head of School role should be directed to the Organisational Design Implementation team. The response is incorrect. Operational matters are clearly part of the responsibility and role of Heads of School in achieving strategic objectives. The SIPS proposal takes away direct control by Heads of School, creates ambiguity and introduces potential conflicts of interest.
  26. A concern is raised that without technical staff on-site with relevant expertise in disciplines that the School of Geosciences will be unable to function. Response: The SIPS proposal includes technical support in the School of Geosciences. The SIPS proposal creates the risk of dysfunction by taking away direct control of technical (and other) staff by Heads of School, and adding an unnecessary layer of management and confusion by merging Geosciences with Maths and HPS.
  27. The DCP has not addressed actual work and staffing requirements to adequately support learning and teaching. Response: none. In the case of Maths and Stats, with one of the largest teaching programs in the Faculty, the reporting lines are ambiguous, promote inefficiency and work against operational effectiveness.
  28. The Transformation data used to inform the DCP was not adequate enough to capture the intricacies/details of existing roles. The proposed roles under the DCP will need to be redefined, and draft position descriptions need to be rewritten to capture these responsibilities/duties appropriately. Response: none.
  29. There are many senior roles in the proposed structure, but not enough roles in the Technical Operations space to do the day to day work which supports teaching and learning. Response: none.
  30. With regards to the mapping process, the minimum 50% requirement is met only through the generic duties within the current staff position descriptions. However, the focus of staff position descriptions should be on the major role descriptions, of which those proposed in the DCP do not fit in with any of the existing roles. Response: none.
  31. The SIPS process is premature when the organisational design for Vet Science and Ag is not yet clear. Response: none.
  32. Have other organisational structures been considered, such as aspirational models, where lower staff report to a team leader who has expertise in a said area? Response: none.
  33. Clarification of critical services that will be supported at Faculty and School levels is needed before roles can be defined according to division of responsibilities. Response: none.
  34. We would request a plan on how the transition of corporate knowledge can be effectively managed in the face of change. Response: none.
  35. Regarding the feedback process, will staff from outside the project team be called upon to provide expert knowledge and have input into assessing and addressing the feedback received? Response: none. There is an absence of rigour in the feedback matrix, despite the fact that we work in an academic environment that prizes rigour and peer review in research. Yet the SIPS documents are being relied upon to make decisions that directly affect people's lives.
  36. Making people redundant and re-offering positions at a lower level needs to be avoided. Otherwise the unintended outcome of proceeding in this way would be that the best people leave, and the general morale of the people that stay would be low. Some damage has already been done by floating the proposal for consultation too early, apparently without considering these consequences. Response: none.