Newcastle University Executive Board response to UCU report “Moving Forward from Raising the Bar”

Executive Board response to the Newcastle UCU Branch paper “Moving Forward from Raising the Bar:  A report on lessons learnt for Newcastle University”


  • Each academic unit should identify its own needs to create the most conducive environment for research improvement.

Executive Board are happy to agree to this recommendation.  This already happens as part of the annual unit strategic planning meetings which are held at the beginning of the calendar year to review each unit’s academic performance.  As the UCU paper notes “Each unit must be accountable, both internally and to the rest of the university, for what it is doing to improve (where necessary) its research culture.” (p.16).These meetings explore the unit’s environment and culture and discuss the necessary forward planning required to improve both research and teaching performance.  The outcomes of these meetings are then discussed with EB in an away day format and feed into the University’s overall approach to improving research and teaching performance which is led by the relevant PVCs and coordinated by the relevant University Committees.

  • Fully implement the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, which Newcastle proved a world-leader in by signing in May 2017.

Executive Board fully support this recommendation.  This will be monitored by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research Strategy and Resources and University Research Committee.

  • Restore trust in the PDR system by negotiating it with the unions.

The annual appraisal system is currently being fully revised as part of an overall review of our HR procedures.  UCU will be involved in the development of the new system.

  • Improve communication and listening by:
    1. Expanding Professorial Fora to encompass the entire research community.

As we discussed informally, this is extremely difficult but I will continue to run Town Halls, produce regular monthly newsletters and invite all eligible staff to the annual Academic Board meeting.  As you know we have also recently had focus groups to examine aspects of our developing research strategy and researchers across all faculties and all grades were invited to these.

  1. Opening space on staff home page to recognised trade unions.

The new intranet will have the facility to create a closed collaboration space for UCU members.

  1. Promoting better consultation with Heads of Academic Units.

As we discussed, I now meet on at least a biannual basis one to one with the Heads of Academic Units and we have added an Away Day to the normal Heads of Unit Fora which is aimed at further improving liaison between myself, Executive Board and Heads of Academic Units.


  1. Improving operation of key governance bodies.

It is my belief that this is now less of an issue since Senate now includes a diverse range of members who, over the past nine months, have shown great interest in the business of the University with numerous constructive debates on a wide variety of issues. I know that there are UCU members on Senate in an individual capacity which should give you further reassurance that this key governing body is performing its duties appropriately.

  • Senior managers should review relevant academic literature before embarking on changes

Recommendation accepted.

  • Establish an interdisciplinary Newcastle Centre for Critical University Studies

As we discussed informally, those individuals interested in critical university studies should, in the first instance, form themselves into a research grouping. If this subsequently grew into sufficient critical mass with evidence of excellence in the field, it could, at a later date, make a case for formal University Research Centre status.


Professor Chris Day

Vice-Chancellor & President

 28 September 2017

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