Disgruntled Kingston University support staff have been left bitter and angry after plans to reorganise the university’s administration service left 260 employees either having to reapply for their jobs or being moved.
The proposal, which is expected to come fully into force next year, is meant to improve student experience while reducing costs but it has been met with criticism from staff who said the confusion and uncertainty caused by the process was “no way to treat people”.
The move will mean many staff who work in areas like course administration, admissions and dealing with student requests at front desk offices being forced to compete with each other for new roles or left “displaced” and potentially redundant.
One senior administrative member of staff said: “I’ve worked here for a decade and I am suddenly being told ‘well, actually you need to apply for another job’ – that is not even the same one. Of course I am not very happy about it.”
While some staff will be automatically slotted into similar roles, the move means that people whose job description meets 70 per cent of the requirements for a new role will be put into a limited competition process, while the rest of the staff will be “at risk” and can only apply for any remaining vacancies, with no assurance of getting a job.
Some will be asked to apply for jobs at lower pay grades – meaning they face a pay cut, although the University will guarantee salaries at their current level for five years.
“I am in limited competition because more than one person is a fit for the same job that I will be moved to. I am talking about people I know and that I have been working with for a long time and now I am put in competition with them,” the senior administrator said.
One complaint of staff is that the way their skills are being assessed often does not relate to the jobs they do.
“We all feel that we have been badly treated,” another administrator said. “There are not many people here and we are dealing with admin for the whole faculty. We need more people not less. It is very unsettling and I think a lot of people will take the voluntary severance option and leave.”
At the same time, employees are concerned that relationships with academics, students and the handling of long-term situations will be damaged.
The same administrator said: “The plan to centralise almost everything means that the knowledge of courses and individuals is going to be lost. Whether it is dealing with students on modules, or admissions or the other admin jobs, that individual handling of people will go.
“It is a traumatic process – very few of us have secured jobs and although we can reapply, everyone is very disheartened. I know the front desk people are all worried.”
Although the University promised to freeze the wages for five years, even for people who will be given roles of a lower grade, the affected employees said that it was not about the money.
“I don’t care about the salary being the same, it still looks like a demotion in my CV. When you build a career you are trying to move forward not backwards,” the senior administrator said. “Taking care of our students is what we care about, it is at the forefront of what we do. This is demoralising for staff in many senses.”
The proposal, which will completely change the way the University’s student management structure currently works, is part of the Process Review Programme – a scheme that oversees the overall student and staff experience.
The Process Review states: “It is not possible to know how this will impact staff. The intention for all parts of the Process Review Programme is to make positive changes while minimising the risk of redundancy for staff.”
Staff were given details of the reorganisation earlier this month and the proposal is now under consultation until December 17. KU sent out a detailed letter to staff offering them a chance to give feedback before it makes “any final decisions”.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Operations) and University Secretary, Matthew Hilton, said: “Making sure we provide our students with a good experience through efficient administration processes is a vital challenge for the University. To meet this, a proposal for a new way of approaching student management has been put forward.
“The proposal is based on a highly detailed analysis of what we currently do and how we do it. A huge range of activity has been mapped and representatives from all the university’s faculties and many of its departments have explained what they think is required.
“Because the proposal addresses a crucial area of university life, staff from across the organisation – whether working in student management or elsewhere – are being encouraged to share their views on the planned changes before any final decisions are made.
“The consultation period lasts for 60 days until mid-December. It will be followed by a review of all the feedback before a final model for student management is confirmed in the first half of next year.”
Other areas of the university have already been through reorganisation, including IT and finance.