Southampton UCU Rotating Header Image


More on the PwC review

We have received a reply from Adam Wheeler, our DVC, to our offer to assist with the review:

Finally, regarding your question about the Business Model Review, UCU have received a number of briefings [I think these were verbal reports at JNC/JJNC: Denis] from management on the purpose and scope of the Review and the progress of this work. UCU members have also been involved in the work by virtue of being staff involved in the review. The University will in time seek to engage with the Trade Unions on next steps, once PWC has finished its report.

Meanwhile, I have been chosen as one of the sampled staff to provide data for the review. There is a pretty obvious bias in the way data is requested. There is just one box for time spent teaching; there is another single box for time spent on research. On the other hand, there are 49 boxes allocated to detailed ancillary, administration, and support activities. We are asked, at short notice, to distribute our average monthly hours amongst these tasks, with a granularity of no less than one hour per activity. As I calculate it, based on the University’s assumption of a 35-hour week, we should have 134 hours to distribute. So we will have to scatter ones and zeros around the support boxes. Given that there are lots of such boxes, I can only assume that the purpose of the data gathering is to generate high apparent support costs to justify the purchase of Watson and other expensive outsourced products. To be paid for, presumably, by a further reduction in academic-related staff.

There are, however, a few free-text boxes. Perhaps colleagues might use them to explain the amount of time they spend “fighting” managed print? Or struggling to get a timely and effective response from our already shrunken central services—counselling, legal, and HR come to mind. Or dodging the alarming number of rats that are scurrying across campus.

Denis Nicole

PwC Business Model Review

The University is currently conducting a Business Model Review in partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers. Your UCU branch has offered to provide input to the review, but our offer has not yet been taken up. Meanwhile, as part of the process, survey questionnaires have been sent to a number of staff. The first version for Academic staff did not have ethical approval and was withdrawn on 22nd July. An amended version was approved in August. Meanwhile, another survey has been sent to MSA staff. That too does not seem to have ethical approval, but it has not been withdrawn. Both ask staff to estimate, at very short notice, the proportion of their time that they spend on various activities.

We are rather concerned about the likely trajectory of this review. PwC have an agenda of their own, The 2018 university, which envisages outsourcing a number of support activities. They also say: Gone are the days of lecturing, tutorials, reading library books and then exams. Disruptive digital technologies are and will transform education forever.  We understand Deakin University in Australia was advised by PwC to invest in IBM Watson to deliver student advice. Yes, that’s the IBM Watson that won the American Jeopardy quiz show. Coming to a student services near you. Meanwhile, Manchester University are cutting 68 IT staff; we have contacted the UCU branch there to check whether PwC are involved.

Denis Nicole