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8th February 2016

University IT Director resigns soon after outsourcing conflicts

Less than a month ago, IT workers were informed that the structural shakeup of the department was being put on hold

The University of Manchester’s Director of IT has resigned from his position after three years, soon after the last of the 68 staff, who were offered voluntary redundancies, left the university.

Gerry Pennell OBE, 56, joined the university in July 2013 having worked as a Chief Information Officer at the Co-op group. He will leave with effect from the 31st of March following a period of handover to interim Director Adrian Ridpath.

Pennell was tasked with implementing the university’s ambitious Manchester 2020 transformation programme, the aim of which is to become one of the world’s leading universities by 2020.

A University of Manchester spokesman said: “Gerry Pennell has resigned from his position as Director of IT with effect from 31 March 2016 and will be leaving the University of Manchester. As a consequence, an interim Director of IT has been recruited and Adrian Ridpath will join the University on 15 February. The process of recruitment to the permanent Director of IT position will begin immediately.”

Pennell was head of the department during the university’s outsourcing of IT services, which led to anger amongst the campus unions when 219 staff were told their positions were at risk if 68 did not take voluntary redundancy. At the same time as this announcement, Manchester academics published a book called ‘What a Waste: Outsourcing and how it goes wrong’.

The proposed Framework Agreement was meant to fulfil IT requirements using third parties, as opposed to from in-house, in order to achieve integration, simplicity and value for money. The expected investment required was between £50 million and £150 million. It has now been put on hold, as was announced in an e-mail to IT staff last month.

“In light of the University’s current position, it is now likely that the required significant IT investment will be spread across a longer period of time than the 3 to 4 years originally envisaged,” it read.

“Therefore we will not be progressing with the Framework Agreement at this time but instead will, subject to any required procurement process, appoint a partner to assist with the implementation of Student Lifecycle systems.”

Martyn Moss, UCU North West Regional Official said: “Staff have experienced a difficult and expensive programme of change in IT at the University of Manchester, including losses of jobs and subsequent involvement of private sector contractors.

“UCU were never shown a business case for the change, or even its cost, and we now want the university to transparently audit that process. We are not opposed to innovation, but we feel this particular project needs to be properly scrutinised and a much better case made in the future.”

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