Staff news

External review of People and Money

A statement from the Senior Leadership Team on an external review of People and Money.

The University of Edinburgh’s Senior Leadership Team welcomes the findings of PA Consulting’s 'People and Money External Review' * which was commissioned by the University Court, and accepts the recommendations arising from it. While there were, and there remain, robust reasons for the effective implementation of the new HR and Finance system which the Court and the University Executive approved, we acknowledge that the programme was not implemented in a way that took sufficient account of our responsibilities to staff, students, external partners and suppliers. We knew that the programme would be challenging: we did not anticipate the level of difficulty we ultimately had. It is very clear to us that the implementation of People and Money – and, particularly, of its third phase – has been the source of considerable frustration, distress and diminished goodwill for our University community. We very much regret this and we are committed to avoiding similar mistakes in future.

In terms of next steps for People and Money, the report’s findings support our ongoing work on improving how we deliver the programme. We welcome the message that came through PA Consulting’s interviews that there is a broad and genuine commitment across the University to making People and Money work more effectively and deliver the institutional improvements that it promised. We fully understand that colleagues are eager to know more about where we are now and what we still need to do to improve the efficacy of the programme. The Enactment Group has already made significant improvements since the system launched, and has been working for many months on a roadmap of the next stages. For example, the new measure to simplify the approvals process for all requisitions below £250 has recently been implemented: this will simplify 50% of the requisition volume, for which no line manager approval will now be required. Impact assessments are underway on other changes that were proposed by our external adviser earlier in the year.

The roadmap will set out what we want to achieve and over what timescales, it will prioritise activity and define the new governance approach in addition to forecasting costs that will inform decisions on which priorities to progress and when. A refreshed approach to user involvement and engagement will be central with an integrated communication and engagement plan that will ensure we deliver on our commitment to listening to our community, and take action as a result. The roadmap which will incorporate the relevant recommendations from the PA report will be finalised in February 2024.

There are also lessons here for future change programmes, which we are fully taking on board. We are committed to the increased effectiveness of our University and, therefore, to any change programme which seeks to advance this aim. While the implementation of People and Money has had significant flaws from which we must learn, we note that other recent large-scale change projects have been broadly successful: for instance, the rollout of the revised Student Support Model and the Learn Ultra project to move our courses and programmes to a new Virtual Learning Environment. We can learn from these too, especially the differences in approach that underpinned their successful rollout. We must maintain and develop our ability to deliver change, and build the confidence that the University community has in us. This report and our responses to it will support our efforts to do so.

The Senior Leadership Team, as a whole, accepts unreservedly its collective accountability for the leadership of change programmes in the University and future projects will be informed by the recommendations that PA Consulting have made. A Senior Leader ‘sponsor’ will be assigned to lead on delivering our response to each recommendation. Our own review of strategic change and continuous improvement support, which has been running in parallel with PA Consulting’s review, is nearing completion and the outcomes will be communicated early in the New Year. These will include the formation of a new University Initiatives Programme Board, chaired by the Provost, which will provide holistic and joined up oversight of all current and planned change programmes. The Board will ensure we prioritise, monitor and evaluate all change programmes, with particular attention to organisational capacity, resource management, increased engagement and understanding variations in practice across the University.

The report also raises broader issues around communication and trust within the University. The Senior Leadership Team recognises that we need to improve how we communicate and account for our decisions. One important aspect of this will be through fostering greater visibility and transparency. Earlier in the year we resolved to hold some of our regular meetings across our campuses and to associate some of them with visits to Schools and Professional Services Groups, in addition to the larger scale ‘town hall’ meetings that we have already scheduled for early next year. These town halls and other opportunities will be used to gather opinion on various issues including, but not limited to, the status of People and Money. We do not underestimate the challenge of addressing the trust issue that was highlighted in PA Consulting’s report and in our Staff Surveys. We are collectively committed to doing so.

We will continue to provide the University community and the University Court with updates on progress on People and Money, and on the various plans and initiatives outlined above. We are grateful for the assurances that everyone wants the same thing: for the University of Edinburgh to be an even better place to work and study; for our staff to feel valued and trusted; and for improvement and modernisation to be embedded in our operating procedures. We look forward to working together to achieve these goals as we learn from the experience of People and Money and implement the recommendations of the external report.

Senior Leadership Team, The University of Edinburgh


*If you require this document in an alternative format, please contact