Response from Principal, Richard Thorold, to UCU action

Dear all 

I am extremely disappointed by UCU’s decision to cause further disruption by taking industrial action and for the inconvenience this has caused our students as they are starting their new term. I and my colleagues remain absolutely committed to ensuring that no student will be put at a disadvantage because of this and have put measures in place to help people who feel they need extra tuition to catch up with any work.

I do want to take the opportunity to explain why we find ourselves in this position and why I am so disappointed in UCU’s approach, in particular their current claims about increased working hours which are inaccurate and misleading.

We have set about this restructure because our teaching contracts have not changed in 20 years but the world has moved on and so has education and how it’s delivered.  Our current contracts have clauses within them that restrict us in what we can ask our academic staff to do with our learners.  They are old fashioned and not fit for purpose, limiting the number of hours a lecturer works with learners to 25 hours a week in a 37 hour week contract.  If we are to make sure that our students have the best chance of success in today’s economy then we need to modernise the way we deliver our curriculum, we need to change.

Our absolute priority is to provide our students with the best possible learning, teaching and work place experience which will secure their future and also the future of our college. 

We were committed to the consultations we had with UCU and compromised on a number of significant issues, such as pay protection, salary band width for new roles, ring fencing staff for future vacancies, all in order to bring the process to a swift conclusion for the benefit of our staff and students.

We were not prepared to agree to a restrictive cap on contact hours (ie the amount of time spent with a student, which could be anything from teaching a lesson to supervising study groups or providing one to one support); the need to be flexible and responsive is at the heart of our proposal. We were more than happy to agree to put in place a workload protection policy; we have no desire to make unrealistic demands of our employees and no intention of doing so.

Despite our efforts to reach an agreement, extending the consultation period and involving ACAS, the Union still believes there is trade dispute outstanding on this issue.

We have chosen to press ahead with the implementation of the new structure and many staff have accepted their new posts on the new terms and conditions. There are many talented people in our organisation and the assimilation process for the new jobs was fair and robust (and agreed with the Unions during consultation), giving everyone an equal chance to apply for the jobs available – we wanted to make sure we had the right people in the right job.

The teaching staff contract remains at 37hours a week. Claims by UCU that weekly teaching hours have moved from 24hrs to 33hrs and that there is a reduction in the amount of planning and preparation time, are incorrect and misleading. Our aim is to ensure that learners have as much individual attention as possible but where time for preparation and marking is required, it will be given.

A teaching hour and a contact hour are different.  If a member of staff had 33 weekly hours of ‘contacttime’with learners, this would consist of teaching and learning activities that do not require additional preparation and marking (eg one-to-one support or supervision of independent study). 

If a member of staff has a weekly teaching timetable where all activities need preparation and planning time, they will be given it and would normally be teaching no more than 24 hours, with 12 hours planning and an hour for meetings; this compares very favourably to the sector as a whole. A table showing the difference between the old and new models of delivery is at the bottom of this letter.

At the outset we made a commitment to make no compulsory redundancies and we have stood by that. We pay competitive salaries and have offered salary protection to all those affected, we’ve made no changes to a very generous holiday allocation of 47 days plus 8 bank holidays, and everyone has access to our employee benefits package. In addition we have bucked the trend consistently in recent years by providing our staff with a pay increase year on year.

As I said, we are very disappointed to find ourselves in this position but want to assure our students and customers that we will make sure their studies do not suffer as a result of the action. Buildings will be open as usual for those who want to use libraries, computers or rehearsal studios and we have put arrangements in place to help people who feel they need extra tuition to catch up with any work.

Yours sincerely

Richard Thorold

Principal & Chief Executive


Old Model

New Model

37 hours a week contract





47 days holiday plus 8 statutory days




Normal delivery time:

25 hours per week delivery of teaching and learning


37 hours a week contract


Implementation of Workload Protection Policy



47 days holiday plus 8 statutory days


Salary protection


Normal delivery time:

24 hours per week delivery of teaching and learning requiring preparation/marking


33 hours per week of other delivery (eg one-to-one support or supervision of independent study)


A combination of types of delivery with contact time between the above two scenarios


Additional reductions in teaching duties for specified leadership and coordination duties