Contact details:
Professor George Lunt
Deputy Vice-Chancellor

» submit an item · an event

Internal News - 19 July 2006

Information about the serveries in 4East & 5West

Message from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor

I understand that there is considerable disquiet on the part of some colleagues about the planned changes in catering provision in 4East and 5West and I am sorry that information about the changes has not been communicated as effectively as it should have been. Although the plans are not yet finalised, I would like to explain below some of the background to the changes.

During discussions that form part of the Annual Planning Cycle, the state of the serveries in 4East and 5West arose and the two academic departments in question put forward proposals for significant expenditure to improve these areas of “their” space. Both areas have had many years of regular use and there is no doubt that they need major refurbishment.

The discussions also highlighted problems of resource allocation and accountability in that the serveries are currently staffed and managed by the Central Catering Unit but are located within territory often considered to be “departmental”. From a Central Catering perspective the serveries are not financially viable, they are a very cost-ineffective way of delivering expensive services to a relatively small number of people.

One option that was discussed with the Heads of the academic departments in question was that the departments could consider taking on the responsibility for refurbishing the space and delivering catering services themselves. The departments did not consider this to be an attractive way forward.

It was proposed, therefore, that “the University” would fund the refurbishment of the spaces with a view to creating two areas that seek to combine elements of social and catering space with the provision of much-needed informal work space – the sort of areas that might be best described under the general term “cybercafé”.

The basic plan is that both areas would have a layout of coffee-bar style tables and chairs, coupled with some fixed work-spaces equipped with fully networked PCs; the whole area to be wireless-enabled and furnished with network connection points for individual laptops. The concept is that people can combine catering breaks with “social computing” i.e. checking/answering/sending emails, doing their web surfing, etc., or of course, as at present, use the space simply to chat with colleagues at coffee/tea breaks. Catering provision would take the form of high quality vending machines coupled with self-service “kitchenette” facilities.

The exact details and style of offerings is still to be worked out and will probably vary with location. Although still located within the overall “footprint” of an academic department, the new areas would be part of the University’s general public space, i.e. open to each and everyone of our staff and students.

It is recognised that in the short term some colleagues may find the changes less convenient than the current arrangements but irrespective of the final form of the new areas the current arrangements are simply not sustainable.

The University finds itself in a position of having scarce resources at a time when the demands on the resources are ever increasing. We must therefore satisfy ourselves that whatever services we deliver to our community are managed in as efficient and cost-effective way possible.

In the case of catering, we believe that the planned changes in 4East and 5West will deliver a greater range of services to more of our community in a more cost-effective way than at present. The changes are planned in the context of longer term plans to achieve a very considerable enhancement of informal catering arrangements in the context of the major 4West rebuilding programme.

George Lunt, Deputy Vice-Chancellor