This page provides some questions and answers relating to the consultation on Statute XII.
Who is covered by Statute XII?
Statute XII defines its coverage as extending to all those eligible for membership of USS, the Universities Superannuation Scheme. In practice, this means that it covers all academic, research, administrative and professional staff in academic and academic-related grades (generally grade 6 and upwards).
Academic roles include professor, reader and associate professor, as well as departmental lecturers, clinical lecturers and lectors (a small number of whom are in grade 5).
Academic-related staff covered by the Statute are those in research, administrative and professional roles in the University’s grades 6-10, RSIV and ALC6, and their equivalents. The only exceptions are those who chose to retain their support staff terms and conditions on assimilation to the existing grading structure.
Support staff (ie those in grades 1-5) are not covered by the Statute.
Are college staff covered by Statute XII?
College staff are not covered by Statute XII as colleges have their own statutes. The exception is college staff at Kellogg and St Cross, which follow the University's statutes.
Any staff holding joint appointments will, however, be covered by Statute XII in respect of their University contract of employment and duties.
Are the trade unions being consulted?
The UCU, which represents those staff groups covered by the Statute, have been consulted through a series of meetings.
How was Statute XII developed?
The preface to the University’s Statutes provides a useful overview of the history of the University’s Statutes and its constitutional arrangements more generally.
Section 9, on the Education Reform Act 1988, explains the genesis of Statute XII, which replaced Title XVII and Title VIII, Section 1. Section 9 reads:
"Commissioners were appointed under the Education Reform Act 1988 to make statutes for all the Universities in England and Wales concerning the tenure of office and dismissal of academic staff, the procedures to be followed in cases of ill-health, and the handling of staff grievances. The statute made for Oxford by the 1988 Act
Commissioners has been re-enacted within Statute XII in these statutes. It cannot be altered without the consent of the Privy Council under the terms of the 1988 Act. It is therefore properly described as a 'Queen-in-Council' statute, although it does not derive that status from the 1923 Act. Unlike other Commissioners' statutes it also requires the University to make by-laws on matters of detailed implementation."
Details of the relevant section of the Education Reform Act 1988 (pt. II, ch. III, s.148), and the subsequent repeal of this section by the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, are at www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/40/section/148.
What is the University Appeal Court?
In particular, the Court hears appeals against decisions to dismiss academic or academic-related staff on the grounds of redundancy, performance, conduct or ill-health.
The Appeal Court has five members who are not members of the University and who are: a Lord or Lady of Appeal, a Lord or Lady Justice of Appeal, or a Justice of the High Court of Justice (current or retired); or, a Queen’s Counsel of not less than six years’ standing. One member of the Court presides and makes a decision over each case brought before it.
What is the Visitatorial Board?
The Visitatorial Board is a five-person panel, comprising an external chair and four members of Congregation elected by Congregation. It hears matters referred to it by the Vice-Chancellor, when it is alleged that the conduct or performance of an academic or academic-related staff member may constitute good cause for dismissal or removal from office. The Board hears the relevant evidence at a hearing and makes a recommendation to the Vice-Chancellor.
How often is the Statute used?
The Statute is split into ‘Parts’ dealing with different processes.
The Part providing for a redundancy procedure is yet to be implemented in full, although it has been relevant to discussions about redundancies on many occasions.
Due to the difficulties inherent in using the Statute, cases that might otherwise be considered by the Visitatorial Board are often addressed via other, more practical (if often less satisfactory) routes. As a result, there are only a small number of Visitatorial Boards each year (two, on average, in recent years), rather more grievances and Appeal Courts and a greater number again of disciplinary matters resulting in warnings or other disciplinary action by a Head of Department under the provisions of the Statute.
Why is the University considering changes to Statute XII?
The first consultation document outlined various ways in which the Statute is not fully aligned with current employment law, and in which its provisions impede the efficient operation of the University.
The first consultation document stated that the Statute is not fully aligned with employment law. In what ways is this the case?
The Statute has not been substantially updated for over twenty years. Some examples of areas where the Statute is in need of updating are set out below.
- As outlined in the first consultation document, the Statute no longer accurately reflects the legal position regarding the range of circumstances in which a contract of employment may be brought to an end.
- In addition, the absence of provision for a formal appeal from a grievance decision by the University Grievance Committee does not reflect current employment law. In practice, procedures have been developed so that this stage of the grievance process operates as an appeal, but it would be helpful if the Statute reflected this.
The Statute hasn’t been altered for 21 years. Why now?
The operation of the Statute has become increasingly difficult over the last few years, partly due to the change in balance between academic and academic-related staff in the University. Now that the issues arising from the Taskforce on Academic Employment are either largely resolved or in hand, it is thought that it is an appropriate time to consult over the issue of potential changes.
Is the University looking at redundancies / major restructuring?
There are no current plans for any major restructuring in UAS, ASUC or the academic divisions. Minor changes are needed from time to time to address needs as they arise; however, the proposed changes to Statute XII are not being made in anticipation of any redundancy programme.
Is there any connection between these proposed changes and the USS pension scheme?
There is no connection beyond the fact that Statute XII, as it is currently constituted, defines its coverage as those eligible to join USS. If a change were to be made, it would have no effect on anyone's eligibility to join USS.
Why has Council proposed three-member panels?
The legislative proposal aims to enable fair decisions to be reached without unreasonable delay. Council believes that three-member panels will provide a more proportionate and less intimidating means of reviewing employment cases where academic freedom is not at issue. Three-member panels are standard in other employment-related processes, such as employment tribunals established by national legislation to hear individual employment disputes.
No changes are proposed in disciplinary cases in which academic freedom may be at issue. These will continue to be considered by the Visitatorial Board, which comprises four members and a legally qualified Chair, and with the right of appeal to the University’s Appeal Court.
Why is Council proposing to change the initiation of the redundancy process?
Council believes that the current redundancy process is lengthy, intimidating and unwieldy, and that it needs to be changed to one that is fair, proportionate and workable. The current process requires a prior decision from Congregation, which not only entails lengthy delays but also a significant risk that the individuals involved would be identified if the matter is discussed in a Congregation meeting.
Under the new proposals, the case would be referred to a Redundancy Panel, comprising elected members of Congregation, who would be able to discuss the matter in confidence with full access to the relevant detail. This would ensure the names of the individuals involved are kept confidential and that a decision is reached within a reasonable timeframe.
As a safeguard it is proposed that the Redundancy Panel can, if it considers it appropriate for any reason, ask for Congregation's permission to be sought before continuing with the case: for instance, it may be that the Panel sees a matter of principle that should be referred to Congregation. In anticipation that the Panel could reasonably have concerns about academic freedom in a redundancy case, it is proposed that, if the proposed redundancy involved staff with duties in academic teaching or research, then the case would require permission from Congregation before being put to the Panel.
A number of further safeguards have been built into the proposal to enable Congregation to oversee the procedure. A notice period of 28 days would be given to Congregation before a Redundancy Panel could convene. The Panel will also be required to check that the case for redundancy has been properly made and that all appropriate alternatives to compulsory redundancy have been pursued. Individuals at risk of redundancy will have the opportunity to make written or oral representations; they will be invited to bring a union representative with them; and they will have a right of appeal to an Appeal Panel. The decisions of the Panels will be reported (anonymised) to Congregation, both as they are made and in annual summary form, so that Congregation can have meaningful long-term oversight.
Council believes the proposal strikes a careful balance between providing individuals at risk of redundancy with a fair, timely and confidential process, and ensuring that Congregation has proper oversight of the process.
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