IT review and UCU action
A message from Professor Ruth Whittaker, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education and Students) sent by email to all students, 1 December 2020
Some of you will already be aware of planned strike action and action short of a strike by some members of staff who belong to the University and College Union (UCU). This action relates to a dispute about a small number of potential redundancies resulting from a major review of our IT services and plans for modernisation.
Strike action will take place on 2, 7, 10, 15 and 16 December and UCU members have been asked to work to contract from 3 December.
As UCU members represent a proportion of staff at the University we anticipate only limited disruption in most of our Schools. But please be aware that those UCU members who do choose to strike are not legally obliged to inform the University in advance that they are doing so.
Your Head of School will be in touch should they believe that there may be sustained disruption as a result of strike action in your School. Please check your personalised timetable via My Brighton on a daily basis for any updates during the strike period.
I am aware that a lot of anxiety has been created by some information circulated to students about the IT review and I would like to take this opportunity to clarify the situation.
The University recognises the vital importance of IT provision in supporting teaching and learning, especially during the pandemic. I would like to make it absolutely clear that we are not, as has been suggested, ‘sacking’ or closing our IT team and will continue to invest in enhancing and improving IT provision.
The current IT review began in September 2019 and one of its aims, building on your feedback, is to enhance the frontline support available to students. This means having the right staff, with the right skills, in the right places and at times where they are most needed.
The new IT model will bring a number of direct benefits to students by enabling for instance:
- The ability to book personal appointments to have issues with your personal devices fixed rather than having to wait for a weekly computer clinic.
- Increased operating hours for the IT Services helpdesk.
- A new ‘app store’ that enables you to access and remotely download software to your personal devices rather than having to go in person to the Computer Store.
- A new, integrated, Learning and related Technology support team for the staff in your School.
- A more flexible and dynamic approach to end-user computer support that allows resources to be deployed quickly to where they are most needed across the University.
I am pleased to say that the vast majority of existing IT staff are being retained in the new structure and have already been assigned to new roles. Regrettably, a small number of roles are no longer required to deliver these enhanced services and the colleagues affected by this are currently being supported through a formal consultation process.
This approach is consistent with the University’s long-standing commitment to avoid compulsory redundancies wherever possible.
More broadly, the University continues to invest in IT and related support to enable you to be successful in your studies. Over recent months this has included investment in:
- My Brighton – our new student portal that gives you access to key information and services all in one place via laptop and mobile devices.
- My Studies – our enhanced virtual learning environment.
- Digital Access Fund – providing financial help for those students without access to a suitable laptop or broadband/wifi connectivity so that they can engage with remote learning, more information can be found here.
- On-campus computers – providing access to more equipment and extending the hours for which these can be booked.
I know how tough this year has been for you as students, as well as for staff, and that these strikes will only add to anxiety levels. Every member of staff, in every role, is working so hard to ensure we can provide the best possible student experience in these incredibly challenging times and your feedback is crucial in helping us do that.
Your School will be best placed to deal with any specific issues you may have regarding your course. Should you have any other questions or further concerns you can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.