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Is the reform a foregone conclusion — or do employees have a say in the decision-making?

Q&A — The first draft for the future administration at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) is in consultation. We asked Director Søren Munk Skydsgaard where exactly the employees' influence can be seen in the proposal.

The first draft of the design of the new UCPH administration has been released.

It includes the loss of 380 full-time equivalent staff. 190 technical and administrative staff members are to be made redundant in the week starting 4 November, while the remaining 190 staff are to be cut by 2027.

READ ALSO: University of Copenhagen to sack first batch of 190 staff in November

The proposal was written by the programme steering committee, which consists of the rector’s office and the deans. It will be submitted to the the staff-management committee (HSU) twice – first time was on 25 April, the second will be 30 May. The UCPH Board will make a final decision on the proposal on 19 June.

University Director Søren Munk Skydsgaard now responds to some questions about the preliminary draft.

Who is in charge?

Why has the draft been ticked off as a ‘decision’ when a release on KUnet states that the April meeting is a hearing?

»The published recommendation is a draft of the final version, and that is why decision has been ticked off – because the final recommendation is up for decision. But adjustments may well be made along the way. This includes discussions with HSU.«

Does this mean that HSU now has the opportunity to make significant changes to the draft?

READ ALSO: This is how the administration reform will hit staff

»The role of HSU is to discuss the decision draft that we have put forward to the Board. But the decision on what the Board gets is ultimately with the programme steering committee (the rector’s office and the deans, ed.).«

So the HSU can discuss the draft, but has no real co-determination?

The decision on what the Board gets is ultimately with the programme steering committee

University Director Søren Munk Skydsgaard

»HSU can present points of view and proposals that we will consider in management. We always do. This is why it says ‘draft’ on the recommendation. The case may change along the way.«

Do you foresee HSU members presenting views or suggestions at the consultation which will lead to significant changes in the preliminary draft?

»I can’t predict that now. We don’t know what will come up in terms of views and proposals.«

The reason I am asking is that the University Post has spoken to a number of UCPH employees who have felt completely excluded from having any influence on the reform process. They have the impression that while it may be possible to present points of view and proposals, they are not being heard. What’s your reaction to that?

»We have received input with many points of view, which the design projects have discussed and taken into account. In the design process, there has been very specific employee involvement. A lot of things have come into this process. We have discussed our expectations for the future organisation on an ongoing basis – also in the HSU.«

Where is the co-determination?

Can you give some specific examples of where input from UCPH employees has played a role in the current draft?

»There have been a lot of workshops and meetings in the design process that have played into this design proposal. So it is difficult for me to say exactly how the proposals have ended up in the many meetings that have taken place. But the whole involvement of employees has helped strengthen and safeguard the quality of the proposals.«

»In the discussion of the partner model, we have used employee involvement to look at what we need to be particularly aware of, and what the relationship should be between the administrative support and the core activities. How do you contact the administration if there is no partner present at the department — that kind of thing. Everything has played a part in this discussion.«

Can you point to a specific point in the draft where an HSU member has put forward a point of view or criticism that has had an impact?

»There have been some recurring themes that have been discussed in the HSU. The principle of subsidiarity, for example. How do we create a unified administration, which at the same time safeguards proximity. HSU has helped clarify this aspect of it. It is always a bit difficult to say how things would have looked without these discussions. But I would say that the discussions in the HSU have helped strengthen our proposal.«

Managers as satellites

Has the programme steering committee designed the final draft alone or with external help?

»We did it. But with the support of the programme secretariat. I know there is a concern that this proposal has been pulled out of a filing cabinet of a group of external consultants. But that is not how it came about. It is the product of an internal process, and we have received support for this via external consultants.«

Who is the programme secretariat?

»They are talented people, who come from different parts of the university, who have supported the steering committee in getting this work on track.«

We will have a much more coherent administration at the University of Copenhagen, with fewer layers, and simpler support

University Director Søren Munk Skydsgaard

Okay, so management has itself written the final draft. But aren’t you, as management, like satellites in orbit, with no knowledge of how the specific administrative work is carried out at ground level?

»The process is not like that. The final proposal is based on the work of ten different design teams, which have consisted of many people. And then, at the end of the day, it is up to management to decide what to do based on the input that has been received. But the recommendation is based on a large amount of input and knowledge.«

The latest is that we have been told that about 190 administrative staff are to be fired in the week starting 4 November. And that the remaining 190 full-time equivalent staff are to be cut by 2027. Should the remaining technical and administrative staff go to work for the next two to three years worrying about getting the sack, or what is the plan?

»We want to divide the cuts into phases, because we don’t think it’s the right model to cut DKK 300 million in one go. There will be a need for a round of layoffs in the autumn. And after that it is not our intention that there will be more rounds of layoffs. But we cannot guarantee that there will not be more.«

The future will be simpler

You write in the draft that the new administration will have clearly demarcated responsibilities and more well-defined roles to minimize uncertainty and insecurity for the employees. When do you think the administration reform will contribute to less uncertainty and insecurity?

»The sentence you’re referring to is that there needs to be clear expectations to individual employees. As it is now, we find that it is unclear for individual employees what it is that applies, and who it is that decides what. We expect that the reform will simplify the distribution of roles and make it easier for individuals. Some of the things will already be ready next year. Other things – like improving processes and digitalization – will of course take longer.«

What can we look forward to in the new administration?

We will have a much more coherent administration at the University of Copenhagen, with fewer layers, and simpler support. There will also be digital support for workflows that will be easier to operate in. We should hopefully provide better support for education, knowledge and for research.«

»For administrative staff, jobs will be created that will provide better opportunities for development, and for researchers it will be easier to find out who does what. It should be simpler in the future.«