Students Staff

25 August 2020

Find out more about our Improving Purchase to Pay project

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 2:47 pm

Earlier this summer we spoke to Carol Saward, our Head of Income and Payments, and Phil Sweeting, our Head of Procurement, about the Improving Purchase to Pay project. We caught up with them to find out how the project is progressing.

We’re making really good progress on the project and have just completed a phase of testing before we let real users test it. This has been really successful and we will start formal testing by end of August. This will cover the whole solution including both the ordering and invoicing elements. We have set up a User Group and members of this group will be involved in the testing.

Can you give an update about the marketplace?
The marketplace enables access to supplier “punch outs” and catalogues which will enable an easier customer experience when placing orders. Colleagues will be able to click a “go shopping” button in Unit4, which will enable them to access supplier’s websites direct, showing live stock levels and improved pricing. This will give people an Amazon type shopping experience. The marketplace will also compare prices across suppliers to help you achieve best value.

As mentioned previously we will be going live with Office Depot, Fisher Scientific and Bunzl Cleaning. We’ve also added two further suppliers who will be available at go live – Insight direct and Amazon for Business.

Tell us more about Amazon for Business
The University has many Amazon for Business and Amazon Prime accounts. We will be providing access to Amazon for Business through the marketplace so there will no longer be a need to have any individual accounts. The marketplace Amazon account will have the same next day delivery benefits as Amazon Prime and all Unit4 requistioners will be able to access it. We’d like anyone who is using Amazon Prime on behalf of the University or an Amazon for Business account to contact us, as these will need to be cancelled and in future the University will not reimburse Amazon Prime membership. This means that all future orders for Amazon will start in Unit4, which will help ensure the correct approvals are obtained.

Can you give an update about the invoicing?
All supplier invoices will be received centrally whether in paper, PDF or XML format, which will include scanning and uploading onto Unit4 to enable paperless workflow processes to be completed. This will improve our entire purchase to pay process, and will allow us understand our ordering commitments showing real time visibility of the accounts payable process which will improve supplier relationships. The new system will increase transparency and usability of expenditure data for budgetary control and forecasting by using Unit4 as a centrally managed and controlled system that is accessible to multiple users.

Will it work with our existing systems like Unit4?
Yes, the integration to Unit4 has been built and is currently being tested.

When will this all be launched? All at the same time?
We are aiming to go live in September. This will incorporate the changes to ordering, including the five key marketplace, as well as receiving all invoices centrally and the new Unit4 workflow associated with the payment of supplier invoices.

How will these changes affect me?
Purchase Orders must be raised in Unit4 before buying any goods and services with a supplier. The purchase order number must be provided to the supplier at the point of ordering the goods or services. Suppliers know that a purchase order number is required before accepting an order from us.

Some purchases do not seem to fit the core ordering process, like service contracts, standing orders, consultancy etc. We will provide further information how to raise these purchase orders on these non-standard purchases before we go live.

Suppliers will send their invoices centrally into an email mailbox, which we will confirm to suppliers when we go live. The supplier invoice will match to the relevant purchase order quoted on the invoice and show on the relevant supplier on Unit4. The Unit4 workflow will then determine if a goods receipt note and/or additional budget approval is required and distribute tasks to the requistioner/approvers to action.

Will training be available?
We will be running training sessions covering the new system along with any changes in existing processes. It is likely these will be through Zoom sessions. We will also have champions across the University who will be able to help with queries. We are also investigating other training options such as Moodle to give users as many opportunities for training as possible. A FAQs document will be provided too.

Do our suppliers know about this?
We have emailed all of our suppliers and are ensuring that the contact details for every supplier is up to date. This is important as it will ensure the correct contacts are receiving orders and remittances. Feedback from all our suppliers so far has been positive and they are pleased to have been contacted.

What is the impact on our suppliers?
We are implementing a “no PO, No Pay” policy – this means that every invoice needs to quote an order number – if it doesn’t we will reject the invoice. Suppliers support this approach as they know quoting an order number will mean that their invoice is processed easier and quicker.

How do I get involved with the project?
If you are interested in becoming a champion for your area, please contact Carol Saward or Phil Sweeting.

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18 August 2020

Building an inclusive remote working environment

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 3:14 pm

Dr Kyle Jerro, Chair of our LGBTQ Forum, and Professor Christine Raines, our Inclusion Champion for our trans community, explain how you can display your pronouns on Zoom to create an inclusive and supportive remote working environment.

You might have noticed that a significant number of  our University community include their pronouns in their email signature, or you may have seen staff and students wearing a pronoun badge. We launched our Pronouns Awareness Initiative in 2018, which helped to build awareness around thinking about pronouns. We encourage our staff and students to state their pronouns when introducing themselves in meetings, and to include pronouns in email signatures, as this helps to avoid marginalisation of our trans, genderqueer, gender fluid and non-binary communities.

From Autumn 2019, our Council adopted the practice of including their pronouns in their name plates used for in-person meetings, and now that meetings have moved to Zoom, they have updated their display name to also include their pronouns.

Now that most of us are working remotely, we encourage every member of the University community to include their pronouns on Zoom.

This can be done by following these two simple steps:

Step 1: Login to Zoom on your web browser, and select ‘Profile’.

Step 2: You’ll see your name at the top of the page – click ‘Edit’ and you can add your                   pronouns to the end of your last name.

For example, our display names now read as ‘Kyle Jerro (they/them/theirs)’ and ‘Christine Raines (she/her/hers)’. If you want to learn more about pronouns, you can read about them online.

We encourage people to include the disclosing of their pronouns at the beginning of Zoom meetings during introductions. For example, “My name is Kyle Jerro. I’m a lecturer in Language and Linguistics, and my pronouns are ‘they/them/theirs.’” All of us including our pronouns in our introductions normalises pronouns.

Using peoples’ pronouns is the bare minimum in supporting trans, non-binary, genderqueer and gender fluid colleagues and students. If you make a mistake, correct yourself, briefly apologise and move on.

Staff can also get involved in our LGBTQ staff network, which includes the LGBTQ Staff Forum and LGBTQ Allies. Staff who are members of the LGBTQ+ community can join the LGBTQ Staff Forum by subscribing to the mailing list, and you can also reach out directly to the Chair, Kyle Jerro at k.jerro@essex.ac.uk. Staff who are not members of the LGBTQ+ community but would like to be involved in advocating for LGBTQ+ people can join the Allies.

You can also read about our approach to supporting trans and non-binary staff, which is a resource for our trans and non-binary staff, as well as for colleagues and managers.

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12 August 2020

A joined up approach to safety on our three campuses

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 10:19 am

We’ve amalgamated the security teams at our Colchester, Southend and Loughton campuses so we can provide a joined up approach to the way services are delivered across our community.

Our security staff

Our security staff

The teams have been amalgamated through the operational management of our Colchester Campus under the direction of Tom Brown, Head of Security and Campus Safety.

This new approach has allowed our teams to become more flexible and dynamic in their delivery of services, ensuring best practice and the most effective and customer focused approach for all our students, staff and visitors.

Some of our key focuses will initially include the increase of customer engagement and the delivery of key training programmes recognising the ever changing landscape within the sector.

Chris Oldham, our Director of Estates and Campus Services, said “An incredible amount of work has been undertaken across the security teams in order to develop our service. A great example of partnership working across our campuses and a One University approach”.

Throughout the current COVID-19 crisis, the teams have continued to work tirelessly to provide a 24/7 service on campus in support the universities operations. The team have also been preparing for a very different start to the academic year, recognising the challenges and continually aiming to improve their service provision.  Specific training has included internal process and procedure updates, wellbeing, fire safety, evacuation chair, safeguarding and much more.

All the teams have also been refreshed through a 3-day first aid at work course and we will be carrying out more training each month to make best use of the time available. We want our officers to be in the best position possible to support our staff and students returning to our campuses in October.

“Our officers have put in maximum effort during all the training sessions and learnt a lot of new knowledge, skills and experiences; they have had their boundaries pushed in live scenario training and something all can be proud of in their conduct of these”, said Tom Brown, Head of Security and Campus Safety.

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4 August 2020

Decolonising research: north-south partnerships

Filed under: Latest news, Research impact — Communications, CER @ 4:42 pm

Professor Rajendra Chetty (University of the Western Cape) and Dr Colin Reilly (University of Essex) are currently collaborating on two GCRF@Essex research projects. Here they draw on their experiences and highlight some of the key issues involved when thinking about decolonisation in collaborative research.

There is an increasing awareness of the importance of collaboration in academic research and a range of research funding schemes which explicitly require partnerships between researchers in the Global North and Global South. When taking a decolonial approach to our research, these collaborations can raise a number of challenges and opportunities.

To decolonise the curriculum, we have to also decolonise the research that will inform our teaching, and decolonise how we undertake that research. This involves actively addressing how knowledge is produced and whose knowledge is valued. The priority for the radical intellectual is to reflect seriously on the ways academic practices signify, restrain, or empower decolonial turns not only in the curricula but also in real-life concerns of domination, emancipation, justice, and liberation of the increasing number of poor people globally. When both North and South scholars collaborate in Humanities research, there is always the danger of who speaks for whom, especially research on the lived experience of the subaltern. In many academic endeavours, it is not the voices or intellectual production of the subaltern that is foregrounded, but rather the interpretation and utility of their experience from a scholar’s (both North and South) perspective.

Having collaborators who are from the ‘Global North’ or ‘Global South’ researching collaboratively does not automatically mean that the research is engaging with decoloniality. The current engagement by decolonial activists with the complex context of the North and South has to include the hybrid spaces of the ‘Norths in the South’, and the ‘Souths in the North’, given the colonial history of spatial injustice. Often there’s a tendency to frame the Global North and Global South as clearly distinct entities, which are in themselves also homogenous. So the Global North partners bring ‘x’ to the project, and the Global South partners bring ‘y’. When in reality it’s obviously more complicated than that.

The North-South dichotomy is reductionist and unhelpful. Rather, we should view our commitment to radical humanism, both in the North and South, and focus on how nuances of the historical process contribute to the invisibility of coloniality, as witnessed recently with the Black Lives Matter discourse across the US and Europe. Walter Mignolo reminds us that we always speak from a particular location in the power structures, be it in the North or South, and no one escapes the class, sexual, gender, spiritual, linguistic, geographical, and racial hierarchies of the modern, capitalist and patriarchal world-system. All knowledges are epistemically located either in the dominant or the subaltern side of the power relations and this positioning is related to the geo- and body-politics of knowledge.

The lack of substantive attention to the lived experience and condition of the marginalized other, the subaltern, is construed as a continuation and reinforcement of colonialism. The need for re-thinking knowledge in the Humanities is urgent given the current context of increased mass social resistance, neo-colonial approaches of developing states and student demands for university reform. An important step is to take some distance from the dominant philosophies, discourses and practices and detect its mechanisms of operation, whether it emerges from the North or South and the places where it has effect. Most disciplines in the Humanities lean towards Eurocentric indoctrination that marginalizes Africa and often reinforce patronizing views and stereotypes about the continent.

In disciplines such as English and Philosophy, European and white values may be perceived as the standards on which the curriculum is rooted. Respectful and effective collaboration between North and South colleagues should therefore assume a political position that makes possible an ‘other’ discursive strategy, other philosophical work, and which opens other spaces of theoretical production. Catherine Walsh clarifies that it is these other places, spaces, and positions, other philosophies and other knowledge that challenge not only the definitions and boundaries of philosophy’s continental-analytical divide, but also the geo-political ordering of knowledge and the questions of who produces knowledge, how and where, and for what purposes.

The dilemma in the Humanities is that Western canonical traditions of knowledge production have become hegemonic, alongside the dominance of conservative scholars, this actively reinforces these traditions in the guise of values and standards. This hegemonic notion of knowledge production involves a particular anthropological knowledge, which is a process of knowing about native/ indigenous/ barbarian others – but a process that never fully acknowledges the other as thinking and knowledge producing subjects. The epistemic traditions of the other are disregarded – a form of  cognitive injustice. Cognitive justice as a prerequisite, recognizes the presence of different forms of understandings, knowing and explaining in the world. The commitment from scholars (North or South) should be towards a radical humanism that engages with the voices of the subaltern. This is a crucial foundation for decolonising collaborative research, which will in turn contribute to the decolonisation of the curriculum.

A Critical Resource for Ethical International Partnerships by the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network provides practical advice for developing equitable partnerships.

If you would like to contribute to this ongoing series of blog posts on decolonising the curriculum please get in touch with Hannah Gibson h.gibson@essex.ac.uk

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