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Taking action in higher education

Strikes not ruled out as University of Nottingham steps up outsourcing plans

30 October 2019

Staff at the University of Nottingham have vowed to fight plans to outsource up to 125 people working in its IT department.

The University and College Union (UCU) says the university needs to scrap the plans, which would affect around half of the staff in the IT department, and sort out the current problems with its outsourced student record systems.

Almost 1,000 people have already signed a petition calling for a halt to the plans and unions are refusing to rule out strike action.

Last week the university issued an apology for the "significant anxiety, concern and confusion" caused by problems with its Campus Solutions student record management system. Students have been deprived of funds needed for food and rent, have been unable to open bank accounts, and have not had accurate information about when and where their classes are taking place.

The union says that reports of stress and related health issues are on the rise among affected staff, and raised concerns about the significant impact on the most vulnerable students.

Campus Solutions was outsourced in 2017 to IT company Infosys that is currently the subject of a legal investigation after a whistleblower raised concerns about accounting practices. UCU said previous outsourcing exercises led to a loss of experience and warned that the plans risked exacerbating current problems.

The current proposal comes despite a 2017 KPMG review that found three-quarters (76%) of respondents said it was important to develop and retain an in-house IT service at the university.

UCU regional official Sue Davis said: 'These plans are terrible news for the IT department, but also really bad news for the university as a whole. We cannot believe the university is considering further outsourcing of staff while it is still apologising for ongoing problems with its previous project. We have concerns about the impact on both staff and vulnerable students and instead of hiving off key services, the university should be investing in existing staff to improve the current system for students. '

'Previous outsourcing led to a loss of expertise and we anticipate comparable problems under these plans. We are currently in urgent discussions with our members at the university and they will be meeting shortly to consider their full response. We cannot rule out the possibility of industrial action.'

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