Southampton UCU Rotating Header Image

What Are You Worth? The University’s Proposed Pay and Reward Plans

UCU members have already been alerted about the University’s proposed new Academic Reward and Recognition strategy. Details of the proposals can be found at

When this topic was first raised by Human Resources last year your branch executive were extremely keen to talk about how staff might best be rewarded for all their efforts. Having gone through yet another massive organisational change and stripped administrative and support staff to the bone, and somehow delivered on increased income, high quality teaching and research despite this, we hoped this would be a chance to suggest how the University could show its appreciation for its staff.

However it has become clear that – rather than focusing on the important issue of valuing and recognising staff contribution and effort – these proposals represent an extension of performance management and significant changes to agreed academic roles.

Southampton UCU are very concerned about these proposals. Responding to your feedback we summarise the key issues here:

Much of the thinking behind the proposals is based on the performance and potential matrix – often referred to as “the nine box”.  While certainly a popular way of ‘assessing talent’ this model of Human Resource management it is hotly debated and disputed. (It is worth noting that it closely resembles the asset stripping approach used by the GE–McKinsey to “prioritize its investments among its business units”

The proposals threaten a number of important features of the current pay framework which UCU members will remember fighting for in 2004. First they remove incremental progression. Currently staff progress to the next pay point on the basis of satisfactory performance. This continues until staff reach the top of their pay level or move into the Higher Responsibility Zone (HRZ). While incremental progression is not automatic – increments can be withheld if performance is deemed unsatisfactory – most staff welcome this financial recognition of their continued performance (especially at a time when inflation is running at 5%). Southampton UCU believes that our members want to keep incremental progression.

The proposals, as they stand, potentially break up the job families – by introducing levels of competency within each level the model is effectively splitting each grade. Instead of 7 levels we would have 21- each with pay ceilings and restrictions on progression. Already Human Resources are considering introducing an ‘apprentice academic’ grade which would break the minimum pay point for academic  (ERE) lecturers and would allow the University to employ ‘lecturers’ on lower pay than agreed in 2004. Such an alteration to the job families and levels breaks the nationally agreed pay framework and would effectively mean that Southampton would be forced into protracted, time-wasting local pay negotiations and possibly continual local disputes over pay and grading. (Your UCU executive are perhaps understandably concerned about the burden on local UCU activists and the likely reduction in volunteer members available to undertake casework and protecting other rights for our members).

Given the high volume of casework presently undertaken by Southampton UCU related to harassment and bullying of staff by managers we are anxious that the proposals give considerably more power to line managers, and  open up further opportunities for subjective assessment of  performance and potential victimisation of staff. Alongside this there is a threat to academic freedom as line managers will have control over what is regarded as competent performance, and are free to proscribe certain research topics or activities as they set expectations.

Finally we are concerned that all too often Human Resources and the Senior Management of the University – perhaps because of their own financial position – see wages and promotion as the only motivators for performance.  In our discussions with our members many of them tell us that while they might make more money working in the private sector they have deliberately forgone financial rewards because they want to transmit and develop knowledge and to share expertise with the next generation and fellow researchers. This public service ethos stands in stark contrast to the ‘business models’ currently driving much of the University strategy. Perhaps this is why – during the mass voluntary redundancy exercise of summer 2011 – many of our members commented that rather than seeking personal pay rises they would prefer to keep academic and administrative colleagues in post to deliver teaching and research effectively in the University.  In addition the proposed model assumes that everyone should always be aiming to move up to the next level. We feel that this undermines diversity and flexibility policies and may prevent some from achieving work-life balance – and it also ignores the possibility that highly talented, well-performing staff members might be happy to continue to deliver excellence at a certain level/grade without the desire or expectation to move up and thus increase their responsibility/workload/hours.

We are concerned that like many schemes in the University these proposals are being pushed through too fast with inadequate consultation and negotiation. Following discussions with regional and national UCU officials we have told the University that we are concerned that the University does not appear to be complying with our recognition agreement that matters of pay and reward are subject to negotiation with UCU, and that under our agreements UCU is the “sole representative agency” for such discussions.  We have asked that the Provost and /or Director of HR commence proper negotiations with on the new academic reward and recognition proposals.

As ever – if we are to effectively represent your views – we need your comments and concerns – so please email with your thoughts about the proposed changes to your pay and terms and conditions.



Professor Catherine Pope

Southampton UCU


  1. Suzanne Reimer says:

    It would be interesting to find out where else in the UK has been forced to adopt performance-related pay? Have any colleagues heard about this elsewhere?

    Royal Holloway appears to have a PRP scheme: see But note that a recent equalities monitoring report noted that PRP wasn’t made available to the consultancy firm monitoring levels of inequality last March! see

  2. Kanchana N. Ruwanpura says:

    Cathy and UCU, This is such an excellent, forceful and much needed response to this corporate mania of our UEG. I find the fact that these proposals were never discussed with UCU incredibly problematic and the fact that the University attempt to rewrite our contracts (is this legal and possible?) demoralizing. Keep up the good work and hope that our colleagues wake up from their malaise and resist!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *