18 Jul 2012

OU confirms decision to end direct employment of staff in Continental Europe

The Open University’s Council has confirmed its decision to end direct employment of staff (Associate Lecturers and academic-related) based in Continental Europe. This will be subject to due process in each of the countries involved.

The decision – which affects just over 100 staff – was agreed in principle by the Council in March subject to a report on the outcome of a four-month consultation process. The Council concluded at its meeting on 17 July that the report contained no evidence or information to suggest that the proposal should be changed.

Nigel Holt, Director of Human Resources at The Open University, said: “This decision has not been taken lightly and is no reflection on the high standards and quality of work provided by our staff in Continental Europe. As well as carefully reviewing staff and union submissions, the Council also focussed its attention on the extent to which the changes might affect the service the University provides to its students.

“The impact the decision will have is recognised by the University and we are committed to working supportively with staff affected and we will, where permissible under country legislation, be offering a package that we hope will achieve this change through voluntary means.

“One of the main reasons for the changes is the complexity associated with maintaining business operations and direct employment in 10 countries across Europe and ensuring these are fully compliant with the varying regulatory, legal and fiscal regimes in the various countries. This is in addition to having a requirement to do the same in the UK and Republic of Ireland.”

The Open University remains committed to expanding the number of students that it teaches internationally and maintaining an international perspective in its teaching, including face-to-face tutorials where appropriate. It has also made a firm commitment to continuing and building upon the high-quality support that students outside the UK and Ireland receive in their studies.

The University is very aware of the quality of the student experience for those studying in Europe. The vast majority of students in Continental Europe do not have a tutor in the same country as themselves, and a majority of these students have tutors based in the UK. In the light of this decision all students will be supported by UK-based tutors, an approach which is already proven to deliver an excellent learning experience for our students.

Notes to Editors:
1. This decision was confirmed at the meeting of The Open University Council on Tuesday 17th July with changes to come into effect between 31 July and 31 October 2012.
2. The consultation included the University and College Union (UCU), the Works Council (Betriebsrat) established in Germany, and staff consultation meetings in Belgium, as well as conversations and correspondence with individuals and small groups of staff.

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