University Executive Board minutes -13 April 2021



13 April 2021


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

In attendance:

Mrs T Wray (TW)


Professor S Fitzmaurice (SF), Professor C Newman (CN), Dr T Strike (TS), Mr I Wright (IW)


Dr E Smith (ES)/Ms K Sullivan (KS)

  1. Minutes of UEB Held on 19 May 2020

    • The Minutes were approved as an accurate record.
  2. Minutes of UEB Held on 9 June 2020

    • The Minutes were approved as an accurate record.
  3. Minutes of UEB Held on 23 February 2020

    • The Minutes were approved as an accurate record.
  4. Closed Minute and Paper

  5. Student Discipline – Approach to Non-Adherence to COVID-19 Restrictions

    • UEB considered an update on the University’s approach to preventing and responding to student non-adherence to COVID-19 restrictions, which Council had raised as a potential concern in light of a small number of serious incidents at the student residences that had involved local police action and attracted adverse media coverage. The related paper detailed the University’s three-stage process for addressing non-compliance with requirements and its outcomes to date, noting the general alignment with the practice of peer institutions in the sector in this regard. Members also noted that the approach strove to balance the need to take proportionate action over student breaches of the guidance with an appreciation that the preponderance of students were complying with the restrictions and accordingly that an approach deemed overly-punitive could have an adverse impact on students’ experience.
    • During discussion, UEB noted that it was important for communications, including those to Council, to accentuate the seriousness with which the University was taking student adherence to COVID-19 restrictions, that the incidents had involved a minority of students, and that a significant number of students had proactively supported the Sheffield City Region (SCR) throughout the pandemic by volunteering and engaging in other community-focused initiatives.
    • UEB:
      • Noted the three stage approach, the volume of incidents, and the application of the approach.
      • Noted the position across the sector regarding responses, risks, and potential reputational impact from either under- or over-response.
      • Agreed that the current approach was sufficient.
      • Agreed that students in receipt of a fixed penalty notice from South Yorkshire Police (SYP) should automatically be referred to a Disciplinary hearing (without requiring prior investigation).
  6. Closed Minute and Paper

  7. Coronavirus Update

    • General Update
      • The UK Government’s decision on when students who had not already returned to university campuses could do so would be announced as part of Step 3 of the Roadmap out of Lockdown on 17 May 2021, meaning this was the earliest date at which the return of students could occur. Guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) on this milestone was expected in due course.
      • UEB noted that the University, like other organisations in the broader community, was now permitted to arrange relevant activities provided that these remained in line with the UK Government guidelines informing the progressive easing of restrictions.
      • It was recognised that communications to UK- and overseas-based students about the return to campus would be important, and plans to develop these were in train. An email from KL to University staff and students had been disseminated, and would form the basis of further communications.
      • UEB endorsed the continuation of the policy of not charging rent to students with rental contracts in University accommodation up until the Government Step 3 announcement to be delivered on 17 May. The matter would be revisited once students were permitted to return to campus to resume inperson teaching. Clarification was provided that students pursuing a rent strike would be subject to the University’s standard debt recovery processes.
    • Update from the Major Incident Group
      • UEB received and noted the update. It was pleasing that current student and staff cases remained low, and that the University’s Contact Tracing Service was working well, with a high overall success rate. UEB recognised the current lack of clarity over the testing site’s continued use in light of the Government’s announcement that home testing would be available to all UK adults. It was expected that the site would remain in operation until the end of June 2021 in line with the contract in place.
      • UEB discussed the current documentation regarding the return of officebased staff for campus and the communications approach that would be taken to manage this undertaking. It was noted that the process was expected to be gradual, with reduced capacity in office spaces to maintain social distancing requirements and mitigate the risk of transmission. Clear guidelines, including a checklist, could be used to remind staff of these requirements. Members recognised that there were diverse staff views on returning to offices and the preferred balance of home- and office-based work facilitated by a hybrid working model.
      • Clarification was provided that PGR students were included within the guidance to staff. It would be important to inform Departments/Schools when this student group could return to the campus. To aid communications to PGR students, Research Services was reviewing the guidance it had issued to date, in liaison with MV, and making any required updates. In respect of Education, Members noted that field and site trips may be permitted from 17 May at the earliest.
  8. Round Table

    • UKRI: SH updated UEB on the latest actions regarding UKRI’s recently announced cuts to the ODA grant. UKRI had indicated that future funding could be available. It was noted that the proposed cuts had not attracted universal approval from MPs. At the internal level, the University had confirmed its list of GDRF and Newton Fund grants that would be affected by in-year cuts to their funding. The template was being finalised for submission to UKRI, and would be considered by UEB in due course.
    • Horizon 2020: SH updated UEB on the Government’s ongoing process to approve funding for the UK’s participation in Horizon 2020.

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