UCU Warwick: Statement of Expectation on Education Strategy and Workload Management

Warwick UCU has submitted the following statement of expectations to University management, asking that Warwick (a) acknowledge now that staff will need to develop fully online teaching for all modules running in Term 1, in order to give staff time to skill up and plan appropriately; (b) create a university-wide framework for workload management; and (c) acknowledge the extra work that moving online will entail by providing an incentivised system of deferred benefits.

UCU Warwick: Statement of Expectation on Education Strategy and Workload Management

Warwick UCU is aware that the 2020-21 academic year will bring many challenges for the University. Union members and their representatives are no different to the rest of University staff: we understand the current situation and are committed to supporting one another in upholding the world-leading operations of the University in research and teaching.

We are concerned, however, about the University’s recent announcement outlining the shape of the coming academic year, which suggests that staff will be expected to deliver f2f (face-to-face) teaching wherever possible, and to be ready to switch to a fully online provision with minimum notice. This means that all classes will need to be prepared in advance as both f2f and online experiences, in anticipation of these eventualities.

Planning and preparing for this scenario inevitably creates a substantially increased workload for staff directly involved in teaching as well as those supporting the student experience, and the University’s communication has not adequately acknowledged this extra demand on our labour. Creating new online resources and preparing for new methods of teaching all require significant time for training, pedagogically robust redesign, and delivery; indeed, it would be entirely misaligned with Warwick’s commitment to high quality teaching, and in many cases entirely impossible, to simply transfer f2f pedagogies online. The projected cuts of the sessional teaching budget, the potential of working with reduced staff (as staff may be ill or may need to shield), and the take up of the VLS scheme will only add more pressure to our workloads. The extra workload required to meet University demands for online teaching will require significant extra hours of work, and it is highly likely that research output will suffer as a result during the next academic year.

Unfortunately, the University of Warwick has no University-wide framework for workload management. This means departmental workload models vary widely across the University, and some units of operation have no quantitative workload management in place at all. While development of such a model has been mooted by University management in response the last round of industrial action, progress has been rudimentary so far, with many issues still to work through. Warwick’s situation already falls well short of concrete efforts to ensure adequate duty of care undertaken by other institutions. The absence of a workload framework further complicates the ability of the University to deliver a dynamic combination of face to face and online teaching in the next academic year.

Based on the above analysis, Warwick UCU believes that the University is already aware that staff will need to be prepared to teach all modules running in Term 1 wholly online. Being transparent with staff now would allow them to train and plan appropriately, protecting their welfare and ensuring the quality of their teaching. To meet these goals, Warwick UCU calls on the University to urgently prioritise the creation of a proper workload framework, to be ready by the end of August 2020.

The workload framework should specify the following:

  1. Confirmation that the notional working week for teaching staff is 36 hours according to contract. UCU’s interpretation of contractual obligations is that although employees in Grades 6 to 9 have technically opted out of the work time directive, they still have the right to withdraw this agreement at any time, particularly where workloads become excessive. Any workload should specify 48 hours a week as an absolute maximum.
  2.  Time allocated for the additional work needed to develop and deliver online and blended versions of modules, as well as how departments will integrate any extra hours into existing modelling.
  3. How any additional hours, above the relevant thresholds, will be compensated and incentivised by deferring benefits over a reasonable timescale; based on amendments to the WTD (UK Government 2020), such a timescale might be two years. Opportunities for deferred benefits might include a future time-off policy to recognise additional working hours through the provision of additional annual leave entitlement, automatic renewals for temporary staff or extra research time.
  4. That probation, promotion, and performance management processes reflect the additional teaching and administrative burden placed on staff a result of the crisis, and that these processes are properly communicated and implemented at the departmental level.

No return to campus until it’s safe: Warwick UCU’s Five Red Lines

(for a PDF version click here)

Warwick UCU is participating in good faith with the Health and Safety Committee of the University of Warwick in the hope of securing the University’s commitment to ensuring that any return of staff and students to campus is safe, secure, and voluntary.

At present, while some members are reporting pressures to return faster than they feel comfortable with, we are hopeful that the University will respond to our efforts to ensure that the reopening of campus is in line with the latest Health and Safety guidance and the University’s statutory obligations for meaningful consultation with campus trades unions.

To this end, we have prepared the following ‘Red Lines’ that must not be crossed in order to ensure that the move to reopen campus occurs safely (1). These will be presented to the University’s Health and Safety Committee Meeting in June 2020.

Note: We recognise that the situation is fluid, and that there have been conflicting messages about the University’s plans, and so we reserve the right to update our Red Lines in accordance with new information or policy.

Warwick UCU’s Five Red Lines

1. Safe in society

  • New cases of COVID-19 need to be low and falling, with a sustained downward trend and confidence that all new cases can be identified and responded to promptly. This applies at regional level, with reduced cases and a falling reproduction number or R value (below 1), confirmed region by region before decisions regarding reopening of university campuses are considered.
  • In addition to routine testing, protocols are needed to ensure full coverage testing occurs promptly across university and other worksites following any case of Covid-19 being confirmed.


2. Safe on campus

  • The relevant authorities (UK; Scottish; Welsh; and Northern Irish) must have coherent plans which include parameters for appropriate physical distancing and safe levels of social mixing, applicable to HE campuses/workplaces as well as any travel required to and from them.
  • To help ensure physical distancing, all HE staff and students who can work and study from home should continue to do so.
  • In line with WHO guidance (2), masks must be mandatory for on campus interactions, with the University to supply these where necessary and to provide a means to enforce their use.


3. Safe university buildings

  • No teaching or other activity should take place indoors unless it is safe to do so in accordance with the state-of-the-art research regarding required levels of physical distancing and ventilation;
  • Proper physical distancing must be maintained for all campus-based activities;
  • Risk Assessments must be conducted with the recognised campus trades unions for all sites of work
  • Staff must be given workload recognition for the time taken to complete Risk Assessments to allow them to do this properly.


4. Safe for all colleagues

  • Equalities considerations given priority: the University must do more to protect the health and jobs of vulnerable workers or those who do not feel safe in coming to work;
  • To follow best practice in avoiding the risk of discrimination and stigmatisation, there must be no forced disclosure of pre-existing health conditions (3);
  • Equalities Impact Assessments must be completed to ensure that the differential risks relating to BAME staff, disabled staff, older staff, and staff in other categories who may be more vulnerable to Covid-19, are fully considered.

5. Safer communication

  • Full Transparency: Staff require clear and consistent communication now to allow for adequate and preparation for the next academic year;
  • Staff need to be involved in any return to work planning;
  • Workload: the University must better acknowledge the risks of increases to already burdensome workloads to avoid further negatively affecting the mental and physical health of staff members;
  • The University must communicate how any additional-workload burdens relating to the Covid-19 crisis will be addressed and compensated for.

Staff should be aware of Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 see here or here for more information and contact your local UCU representative if you have concerns about the safety of your workplace.


1 See also national UCU tests for safe returns to on-campus working https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/10935/UCU-HE-on-campus-return-tests/pdf/ucu_covid19_hetests.pdf

2 https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how- to-use-masks

3 See https://sites.google.com/view/accesscampusalliance

Warwick UCU Recommendations for Online Teaching during the Covid-19 Crisis

Ensuring that Teaching is Safe, Accessible, Non-Discriminatory and Effective: Warwick UCU Recommendations for Online Teaching during the Covid-19 Crisis

Warwick UCU is fully supportive of the University’s commitment to maintain student learning by replacing planned contact time with alternative learning provision for the duration of the UK Government’s restrictions. We recognise too that henceforth online learning may become a more central part of our teaching provision as part of a ‘blended’ approach.

We want to ensure, however, that all online learning is developed in a way that gives priority to the learning/working goals and conditions of students and staff. This means that the University needs to consult with the union and departments to ensure that any alterations to our members’ ordinary working conditions are carried out in a sensible and responsible way.

With this in mind, UCU has requested that the University sign a Memorandum of Understanding providing assurances to our members with respect to six main areas of concern, outlined below. We include policy requirements and/or commitments in response to the extraordinary circumstances we face as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure that online teaching is accessible, safe, non-discriminatory, and effective.

1. Health and Safety

We ask that the University prioritises the health and safety of all its staff – which includes protecting staff workloads to avoid stress injuries – by ensuring the following:

  • That staff who are at risk, or who live with household members at risk, be given the option to teach fully online, with no requirement to do face-to-face teaching.
  • That staff are given proper training and support, and supplied with necessary hardware, software and infrastructure to do their work. Required support includes sufficient paid training for sessional tutors.
  • That risk assessments are undertaken for all online teaching.

2. Equality and Diversity

  • The University should recognise that equality and diversity issues are at the forefront of its online learning policies. This requires working closely with the Social Inclusion Committee to ensure that those with protected characteristics and caring responsibilities are not subject to adverse discrimination. We welcome the Provost’s acknowledgement that “overall, women tend to have more caring responsibilities, and these may be more time consuming at the present time with the added pressures of factors such as home-schooling and shielding.” In light of this adverse impact, we ask that changes to the length of the working day – which can be used to increase flexibility for all staff, including those with protected characteristics and caring responsibilities – must be carried out sensitively and with proper consultation to avoid both direct and indirect forms of discrimination.

 3. Provisional vs. Permanent Changes to Working Conditions 

  • The University agrees that all online teaching requirements brought into place as a result of the COVID-19 crisis are provisional and temporary, and that any moves to normalise online teaching should be properly negotiated with unions and departments.
  • The University pledges not to set up partnerships with private companies aimed at online teaching provision without proper consultation.
  • Any new policies will be communicated in a timely manner, giving departments not less than three months where possible, to allow tutors as much time as possible to prepare their teaching in advance.
     

    4. Departmental Autonomy and Academic Freedom

  • The University will respect the principles of departmental autonomy by avoiding overly prescriptive regulations concerning contact hours, teaching methodologies and platforms and strategies for delivering online content.
  • Timetabling of classes will be carried out by departments to allow maximum flexibility of delivery, particularly where in-person contact is not possible for health and safety reasons.
  • The University will not use any temporary moves to online teaching to transform or alter how modules are run within departments. A particular concern here is those departments whose teaching is organised around the provision of smaller modules, and those in which teaching is primarily research-led.

5. Performance and Intellectual Property Rights

The University will take concrete steps to respect the performance and intellectual property rights for new online materials, including the following provisions:

  • Extend the Lecture Capture Service Policy to both blended and online teaching.
  • Develop a new consent form to account for the activities and materials associated with blended/online teaching that reflects the permissions academics normally grant the university.
  • Amend Regulation 28 Paragraph 2(c)(ii)(E) as follows:
    – Replace ‘other materials for face to face student teaching’ with ‘other materials for face to face, blended or online student teaching’
  • Online instruction should not include requirements regarding the default recording of teaching. While some teachers may record their lectures, recordings can be detrimental to the ethos and goals of interactive classes/seminars. As with lecture capture, recording of teaching sessions should remain opt-in.
  • As with lecture capture, online teaching should be limited to “the University’s current students on the University’s access-controlled systems,” in which ‘current students’ refers to the student cohort of a particular module for which the tutor chooses to use lecture capture recordings.
  • Where teaching sessions are recorded, such material should not be used for educational provision during industrial action OR after the tutor’s employment at the university ends.
  • Where teaching sessions are recorded, such material should not be used for disciplinary or performance management purposes.
  • The university should provide a Guide of Conduct for students who receive online teaching that specifically prohibits the self-recording of online teaching sessions and their distribution. Provision for disciplinary action should be included in this agreement where it is violated by a student, unless specific arrangements have been agreed to beforehand by student and tutor.

6. Workloads and the STP/VAM Budget

  • Moving teaching online, particularly under conditions of blended learning, requires significant extra labour. This task will be unmanageable if the University attempts to move online while cutting the teaching of those on casualised contracts, including Teaching Fellows, STP and VAM. We thus ask that the University protect STP/VAM budget lines, both to uphold its commitment to protecting jobs, and in the interests of protecting staff workloads (and thereby meeting its health and safety obligations). We would particularly request that the research time of junior colleagues be ring-fenced.
  • All extra activity needed to produce online materials should be recognised as part of staff workloads. This activity includes additional work performed over the summer to prepare for online classes in the autumn. We note that the university’s projection of 2 hours per tutor per week as sufficient for preparing online instruction drastically underestimates the time required in most cases. We note as well that these hours are to be taken from academics’ contractual weekly research time, which must be subject to further negotiation.
  • Increased teaching loads must be acknowledged in probation and performance management targets and timelines.