University Executive Board minutes - 1 September 2020



1 September 2020


Professor K Lamberts (KL) (in the Chair) Professor J Derrick (JD), Professor S Fitzmaurice (SF), Professor S Hartley (SH), Professor M Hounslow (MJH), Ms H Fraser-Krauss (HFK), Ms J Jones (JJ), Professor C Newman (CN), Professor D Petley (DNP), Mr R Sykes (RS), Professor G Valentine (GV), Professor M Vincent (MV), Professor C Watkins (CW)

In attendance:

Mr I Wright (IW), Ms B Abrams (BA) (Item 1), Dr M Butler (MB) (Item 2)


Dr T Strike (TS)


Dr E Smith (ES)/Mr D Swinn (DTS)

  1. Closed Minute and Paper

  2. Closed Minute and Paper

  3. Closed Minute and Paper

  4. Coronavirus Update

    • General Update
      • UEB noted the University and College Union’s (UCU’s) recent media campaign about the resumption of face-to-face teaching, following the publication of the independent SAGE report. The University’s position remained consistent with current government guidance and the majority of the sector.
      • The Russell Group would continue to press the UK Government to circulate official guidance on face-to-face teaching, which could provide further assurance to students and staff on the measures the University was taking to ensure the safety of campus users.
    • Update from the Major Incident Team

      • HFK reported that confirmed Covid-19 cases were decreasing in Sheffield and that the University was working with Sheffield City Council (SSC) on scenario planning for managing local outbreaks. EFM and Health & Safety had concluded that there was no appropriate space on campus for testing site; there would instead be a site within walking distance of the campus, which would be announced in due course. UEB noted the variation in approaches to testing across the sector. The University was liaising with SCC and PHE over a joint statement on the good testing provision in Sheffield and to offer reassurance to staff and students about the availability of testing, if needed.
      • It was also reported that a joint approach to reporting student sickness had been agreed between Health and Safety and Student Support Services; staff would report sickness through the SAP system. Work was also in train within Corporate Communications to prepare communications templates for the full range of different Covid-19 scenarios, which would be informed by the scenario planning session with SCC. Additional work was ongoing to rationalise the volume of Covid-19 updates to HoDs.
      • Action:
        • To give further thought to a communications plan for staff about reporting sickness through SAP, to include instructions around access and use of the system, and to improve the use of SAP in academic departments.
    • Update from the Return to Campus Group
      • MV reported that the University had continued to experience difficulties in procuring effective clear face masks for students with hearing difficulties and language teaching, with masks not anticipated to be available for distribution to the relevant staff and students until October. With regard to timetabling, it was confirmed that all activities on campus would be included within central timetables to assist track and trace activities and departments were being chased to provide the necessary information. Confirmation was also provided that Accommodation and Commercial Service’s guidance conformed to UK Government guidance on household groups, and was otherwise consistent with the measures on campus. Clarification was provided that the plans for the student residences sites followed the Government guidance for hotels.
      • In respect of buildings and space considerations, it would not currently be feasible for 24-hour buildings (The Diamond, Western Bank Library, and the Information Commons) to continue to offer such opening hours. Other policy decisions around space included the establishment of Faculty reception points and the development of plans for the opening hours or closure of other University buildings, the finalisation of which would be contingent on demands for teaching space and other on-campus activities.
      • During discussion, UEB noted that any closure activity associated with a local lockdown would be informed by discussions with the SCC. UEB welcomed the suggestion that localised outbreaks on campus may be able to be addressed in a targeted fashion, which could militate against more widespread closures.
      • Action:
        • To check that HoDs had received the latest guidance document from the Group.
    • FVPs Update
      • Members reported on recent activities, including a well-received Q&A session with the Director of Health & Safety. It was noted that some students were contacting their Department directly about returning to campus.
      • As work on the return to campus continued, it was noted that KL and GV would host regular meetings with the HoDs to maintain a level of support and visibility to these colleagues. It was highlighted that some staff due to be on study leave in Semester 1 had expressed desire to conduct research from their offices on campus. UEB agreed that such requests should be supported, in principle, subject to their alignment with broader return to campus plans.
  5. Round table

    • Lunch Meetings:

      • UEB discussed changing the time of lunch meetings to the morning while it continued to meet in a virtual format.

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