University Executive Board minutes - 14 October 2020



14 October 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:

Dr T Strike (TS); Mr I Wright (IW); Mrs T Wray (TW); Ms L Wilson (LW)




Mr David T Swinn (DTS)/Mr Nick Button (NB)

  1. Coronavirus Update

  • General Update

    • UEB returned to consider the University’s approach to Department for Education teaching tiers, building on previous discussion and comments at the 13 October meeting. UEB noted the preparatory work on campus, the preparatory work of colleagues to offer blended learning, data on Covid cases in Sheffield, parts of South Yorkshire and other regions in the national level 2, and also noted the approaches to teaching tiers adopted across the Russell Group.

    • During discussion, the following points were noted:

      • The Director of Public Health had confirmed his view that the University’s approach to resuming face to face teaching at a level commensurate with DfE teaching tier 2 was appropriate, recognising the low risk of in-class transmission, pedagogical requirements, additional risk mitigation and the positive impact on wider student wellbeing.

      • KL had held further discussions with the Russell Group. It was confirmed that SAGE would not be revisiting its 21 September guidance. It was important to recognise that that guidance had not stipulated that no face to face teaching should be undertaken, but that online provision could be considered.

      • Sheffield City Council explicitly stated in its online guidance that students must not return home at present.

      • UEB Members had a duty to act in the best interests of the University, its staff and students.

      • Facilitating an appropriate level of departmental and faculty discretion in making decisions about the proportions of in person teaching on individual programmes could have significant benefits.

      • All staff involved in making decisions about, and delivering, teaching in person should be mindful of the University’s legal and regulatory obligations to ensure students received clear and timely information about what to expect from their course and of any changes. At present, students were entitled to expect a blended teaching experience over the course of the academic year as part of the student contract, which met their learning objectives. It was essential that departments continued to recognise the regulatory, legal, financial and reputational risks of not offering a blended experience.

      • It was important to recognise that an excellent online educational experience could be delivered and that there was not a binary distinction between online, on-campus and in person teaching and learning.

      • Student feedback on their experiences of face to face teaching was very positive, including to overall wellbeing.

      • The ability of students to access study spaces and other on campus facilities safely should also be considered.

      • It was vital that there was an appropriate degree of consistency in approaches across comparable disciplines.

      • Colleagues should be mindful of the need to plan teaching provision for the medium to long term, not only the immediate response to shortterm challenges.

      • Additional assurances should be provided about the measures that had and were being taken to mitigate risks in all teaching spaces.

      • There remained significant uncertainty and risk around PGT student recruitment and registrations, particularly for overseas students.

      • Communications to staff should make clear what they were expected to, including the rationale and evidence for the University’s approach, with reference to relevant DfE Public Health advice and guidance, as well as changes at national and local level.

      • Communications should include clear narrative about the nature of the DfE tiers, the level of institutional discretion, and the variation in approaches adopted in other institutions.

    • UEB agreed:

      • That face to face teaching should resume from 19 October, as originally envisaged, and at a level appropriate to teaching tier 2.

      • Departments, with support and oversight from Faculties, would be asked to consider what learning provision would be in place from Monday 19 October for individual courses, taking into account:

        • The safety of staff and students;

        • The wellbeing of students;

        • Pedagogical benefits and the student experience;

        • Learning outcomes.

      • Actions:

        • HoDs and senior Faculty staff would receive further information on 14 October, with follow-up communications to all staff and students on 15 October.

        • Senate would be updated as part of the planned agenda item about the return to campus, on 14 October.

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