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From the Provost and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)

Pandemic Reset Program

26 August 2020

Dear colleagues,

Further to the Vice-Chancellor’s emails to all staff on 5 August and 12 August, we are writing to update you on the work that is currently underway to reduce our annual operating costs to enable the University to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University Executive met last Wednesday and endorsed the establishment of the Pandemic Reset Program. The objective of this Program is to develop, consult on and then execute a plan to realise savings in response to the economic impact of COVID-19 and prepare the University for a return to financial stability by the end of 2022.

Ultimately, this Program will directly or indirectly affect every one of us. Its success will position the University to emerge from this crisis well-placed to continue to deliver outstanding education and research into the future.

The Pandemic Reset Program is made up of a number of interdependent workstreams endorsed by University Executive. There are five of these established to address specific objectives identified by the Future State and Resources Taskforces. Each of the workstreams include representatives from Chancellery and Academic divisions and are taking a ‘whole-of-University’ approach to their work. These include:

  • Teaching & Research Redesign - Coordination and assistance to Academic Divisions as they complete their divisional savings plans.
  • Professional Services Redesign – Designing the operating principles and model for extending shared services across the University.
  • Other opportunities for efficiencies - Those that are outside of the scope of the teaching and research, professional services redesign and capital plan redesign workstreams.
  • Capital Plan Redesign - Resetting the 10-year capital plan designed to serve the needs of staff and students, but reducing capital projects and expenditure in 2020 and 2021, in conjunction with the Capital Advisory Group.
  • Human Resources Capability - Underpins all of the Program activity to ensure we consult and engage with, and support staff and stakeholders appropriately throughout the Program.

In addition to these five recovery workstreams, the Program also includes four foundational areas of focus to ensure the appropriate operational frameworks are in place to support our changes. These include: Business Process Ownership, Service Access and Management, Business Partner Model to support the Professional services Redesign, and a Benefits Framework to identify, track, report and realise the value from capital and operational expenditure.

Overview of the Professional Services Redesign stream

Today we are also sharing some early insights into the Professional Services Redesign workstream. This is an important element of the University’s response to the pandemic as it involves the redesign and extension of our professional shared services across the University, with a view to delivering our operations more efficiently and as effectively as possible.

This workstream is examining the extent to which transactional and advisory services should continue to be delivered by individual divisions as opposed to via the shared functions. Put simply, this means extending shared services so that we don’t have multiple ways of doing the same thing. However, this is not about moving to a centralised services model in which all services are necessarily standardised or homogenous. The model is being designed to take into consideration the differing needs of our academic and business divisions, and the process of developing an effective and lasting design of our professional shared services is being underpinned by a commitment to a high level of collaboration.

This is an extension of the work commenced in August 2019 when the Chief Operating Office and Strategy & Culture divisions were established to provide services that were shared across the University.

The University was already working on the next level of maturity in the adoption of a shared services model when work was paused in light of the University’s immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The functions being considered in 2020 are Finance, IT, HR, Facilities Management, Occupational Health and Safety, Communications & Marketing, Student Recruitment & Admissions, Advancement, Data & Reporting and Research - research outputs and post-award agreement administration services only.

This work now has renewed urgency in light of the financial challenge facing the University and forms an important part of the Pandemic Reset Program which aims to ensure interdependencies with other workstreams are effectively coordinated.

We acknowledge that we are now in a period in which there are more questions than answers concerning these changes, and that this may be frustrating. We also appreciate that people may be feeling anxious and uncertain. While plans are still in the early stages of preparation, we will provide updates and answers to questions at the earliest opportunity.

A website providing key information on the Pandemic Reset Program website is currently in development. At present, this includes an archive of relevant email updates, financial facts, answers to many of the questions we’ve received recently, staff support references, and a dedicated email address established for you to provide feedback and ask questions. This site will evolve over the duration of the Program to include further information.

We are already receiving feedback from staff that continues to inform the work within each of the workstreams about the best way forward for the University, including feedback from the various local sessions held within each of the divisions.

We hope to be in a position to provide more detail concerning next steps in mid-September.

In the meantime, we’d like to thank you for your continued dedication to supporting our students, each other and the University community, while we continue to manage the University’s response to the pandemic.

Mark Considine and James McCluskey