Further to the Extra-ordinary meeting last week, we wanted to send around an update on workload issues.
Trac sign off
Firstly, thanks for your time in reading and responding to the TRAC / SWARM sign off post and, for those of you who are academics, for taking the time to consider whether you are able to sign off TRAC. Some of you who have chosen not to sign it off may be receiving emails asking them to do so. We have drafted a template email that you may wish to use as a basis for your response (see your mailbox).
What is the impact of not signing off TRAC, both personally and for the institution? At a personal level, some members have refused to sign off TRAC for the last few years and have had a couple of follow up emails asking why, in response to which we have outlined our position and refusal to sign (as in the example letter below), and that has been the end of it. At the institutional level, TRAC is linked to future research income. TRAC data determines the rates that UKRI allows us to charge in order to recover the overheads associated with research activity. If, say, more than 25% of the University staff on TRAC were to refuse to sign, we understand that the University would go onto ‘default rates’, which would be worse for the University than the current rates. However, there is a tolerance for the amount of people that sign off, and there needs to be a minimum 75% sign-off rate for each discipline. It is precisely this link to research funding that makes it a helpful tool in bringing to the University’s attention our concerns with workload, when other methods have not been as successful as we would like. We know that this is having an impact at the highest levels, which is great news!
UCU representation on workload issues
Following the survey that many of you kindly responded to a few months ago, the Academic Workload Planning Meeting have been discussing setting up a ‘Task and Finish group’ to discuss UCU concerns about workload / SWARM. Initially this was to be accompanied by a Reference Group (which would have a sample of staff to track the time that different tasks take in order to review and update SWARM). This Reference Group is looking unlikely to go ahead, which makes the idea of a ‘Task and Finish Group’ less helpful. However, at the same time, it is another opportunity for us to continue to raise concerns about workload and the inaccuracy of the SWARM model. We are currently feeding in comments on the terms of reference for the group and will continue to raise the issue of workload at the Academic Workload Planning meeting and other forums.
Strategy, next steps and input
More broadly, we hope that raising the issue of TRAC returns will help management to understand some of the limits of the current SWARM modelling and help to focus minds on the urgent need to tackle workload issues. Specifically, the need for sustainable workloads and that all staff are consulted about their workloads on an ongoing basis and have input into management decisions.
While this is our overarching aim, if you have any specific views on concrete next steps and / or more immediate / intermediary asks we could usefully push for, while the issue of TRAC/SWARM is focusing people’s minds, would be much appreciated.
Finally, if you have any further questions or queries, please let us know. If there is anything you would like to raise around workload, please contact our H&S workload rep Abi Dymond. The next Academic Workload Steering Meeting is on the 8th June so any feedback before then would be especially appreciated!