The Feedback

The PPBI team and DVC Education's office received emails throughout term 2 with feedback on the current workload planning system and process at Exeter. Some of these were from individuals and some were collated responses representing the views of an entire department. Each college was involved, and the University and College Union were also consulted. 

To preserve the anonymity of respondents we have not detailed every comment relieved, but have grouped the feedback into overarching themes to be addressed. If you feel your comments have been lost, please get in touch with Steph Selway who will be happy to advise what action will be taken relating to your feedback.

All feedback was reviewed by PAG (Provost's Advisory Group) and the Workload Planning Steering Group. PAG is chaired by the Provost and attended by the DVC's and PVC's along with senior PS managers from Planning and HR. The Workload Planning Steering Group is chaired by the DVC Education and attended by representatives from each college along with staff from Workload Planning, TRAC Accounting, UCU and IT services. 

Summary of Feedback

  • Staff were clear that they valued a workload model and did not want to move away from workload planning altogether. However a number of issues with the approach, process and PS support for the current system at Exeter were identified which will be consulted on further in the coming months.
  • Using hours as the unit of time was felt to be an unhelpful measure which encouraged an overly granular approach which sometimes led to a culture of trading activities off against each other. It was proposed to move to a greater minimum unit of time and attempt to streamline or combine certain activities as part of wider roles.
  • Teaching input was overly complex and most staff didn't understand what methodology was behind the different allocations for different modules and activities. It was also noted that data was sometimes not available soon enough in the year and could be out of date by the time it was inputted.
  • Citizenship, S&S and Admin Roles were felt to be 'unhelpfully fuzzy'. It wasn't clear when an activity should be part of citizenship or when it was material enough to become a role. This was felt to be a real opportunity for improvement and clarification.
  • Different policies were in place across the institution with regards to how QR time/The 20%/The research day was or was not affected by other grants, and whether they were ‘full economic cost’. It was also clear that greater clarity on the nature and purpose of QR would be helpful. This will be reviewed at the April meeting of RIEG (Research and Impact Executive Group) with guidance expected after this date. 
  • SWARM as a system showed total workload but not peaks and pinch points in workload, which could be significant. 
  • An issue with the overall materiality of workloads and some practical issues were raised. For example, some staff felt there was no capacity to cover the work of colleagues who are away for extended periods because of sickness, maternity or research leave and that colleagues' absences could lead to an increased workload for the rest of the department or the work creating a backlog for them to return to if activities or roles were not replaced or cancelled for the period of absence. College Executives will be asked to consider how they resource cover for long-term sickness, maternity and research leave. College Executives will also be reminded of the University framework for supporting staff taking maternity etc leave – see - which includes an expectation that staff taking family leave have an early conversation with their manager, before their leave begins, about covering their work and their workload and responsibilities when they return to work. The University’s Positive Work Environment initiative is also considering issues arising from the 2018 Employee Engagement Survey at an action planning event to be held on 12 March 2019, this will include the topic of ‘Effective Resources and Minimising Barriers’ as well as improving staff ‘voice’ to influence decisions and providing the right information and resources – see A full action plan following this event will be communicated to all staff.

Next Steps

The Workload Planning Steering Group determined an iterative approach should be taken to work through the impacts of each change discretely. The first change to be adopted was a review of admin roles (to be renamed 'Leadership Roles'), and finally research grant hours. In 2019/20 the group will consider changes to how taught module data is input. The changes should be supported by an Equality Assessment.

Term 2 2018/19

Leadership roles reviewed at March Workload Planning Steering Group. 

Citizenship definition agreed.

Term 3 2018/19

Scholarship template is sent to all college Research BPs for review and completion

Term 1 2019/20

Revised Leadership roles, Citizenship and research policy are worked into the pilot disciplines

Teaching Input model developed with support from ADE's

Term 2 2019/20 A review of lessons learnt from Teaching Input pilot disciplines takes place with the findings fed back via College Executive Groups. Aim to make any required amendments and move the rest of the institution onto the new model for 2020/21
Term 3 2019/20 Colleges prepare to launch the new model in 2020/21