University Executive Board minutes - 15 December 2020



15 December 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), Mr A Hogben (AH) (Item 5)




Mr N Button (NB)/Dr E Smith (ES)

  1. Minutes of UEB held on 6 October 2020

    • The minutes were approved as an accurate record.
  2. Minutes of UEB held on 13 October 2020

    •  The minutes were approved as an accurate record, subject to an amendment to Item 4.
  3. Minutes of UEB held on 14 October 2020

    • The minutes were approved as an accurate record.
  4. Minutes of UEB held on 27 October 2020

    • The minutes were approved as an accurate record.
  5. Closed Minute and Paper

  6. Closed Minute and Paper

  7. Proposal for Distribution of Non-Recurrent QR from the National Productivity Investment Fund

    • UEB considered a proposal relating to the allocation of non-recurrent Quality Related (QR) 2020/21 funding from the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF), having held an initial discussion on the matter at its meeting on 25 September 2020. The paper set out the division in how the QR funding was distributed, and recommended that, of the portion not related to the QR business element, half be allocated to departments/schools according to the usual QR algorithm, and half be reserved to support existing and new activities. Proposals for the reserved funds would be assessed on their ability to achieve significant growth in partnerships and/or revenue from research activity. Attention was drawn to the context informing the proposal, including the limited Knowledge Exchange (KE) funding budget for 2020/21 and the pipeline of projects seeking support from the budget.
    • Following discussion, UEB approved the proposal set out in the paper. 
  8. Flagship Institutes Update

    • UEB considered the performance of the University’s four Flagship Institutes (FIs) since their establishment in 2018, the next steps in their development, and the timeline for the launch of a second round of FIs. The paper outlined the progress and achievements of the current FIs both against the criteria against which they were established and their added value for cross-faculty research, noting that substantial benefits and outputs had been realised despite the deleterious impact of COVID-19. Attention was also drawn to common governance challenges that the Flagship Directors had encountered and the mitigating actions being considered.
    • Following discussion, UEB:
      • Considered the performance of the current FIs against the criteria against which they were established and their added value for cross-faculty interdisciplinary research.
      • Agreed the next steps in the development of the current FIs, as set out in the paper.
      • Agreed to defer the launch of a second round of FIs and discuss possible criteria for their establishment prior to this future launch. 
  9. Business Continuity Steering Group Update

    • UEB received and noted an update from the Business Continuity Steering Group, at which the University’s response to COVID-19 and potential cyber attacks had been reviewed and the ongoing work to embed Business Continuity Management (BCM) in faculties and professional services departments had been considered. UEB was also invited to decide whether (i.) some UEB members and (ii.) other categories of senior staff should attend Incident Manager training.
    • During discussion, UEB raised the following points:
      • The current situation provided a stimulus to review the existing management control process.
      • To aid resilience, it was desirable for Incident Management Teams to have a broad institutional overview and established links throughout professional services and the faculties.
      • Training more UEB members as Incident Managers would also support institutional resilience and efforts to embed BCM as business as usual. In this regard, the FDOs had an important local role.
    • UEB:
      • Noted the update from the Group.
      • Agreed that some UEB members should attend Incident Manager training.
      • Agreed that FDOs would be instructed to attend the training. 
  10. Outbound Student Mobility Funding for 2021/22 Academic Year

    • UEB considered a proposal relating to outbound student mobility funding for 2021/22. The context informing the proposal was highlighted, including the uncertainties surrounding (i.) the UK’s participation in the new seven-year Erasmus+ programme that would begin in 2021 following the UK’s exit from the EU after the transition period, and (ii.) the details of the alternative national mobility funding scheme that the Department for Education (DfE) was preparing as an alternative to Erasmus+ in the event that the UK Government chose not to participate in the programme from 2021. The paper considered a range of internal options for underwriting Erasmus+ grant funding for different student groups in 2021/22, their resource implications, and their respective strengths and weaknesses. Offering financial incentives to support inbound students in 2021/22 was not recommended in the current circumstances. 
    • Clarification was provided that, in the period since the paper was developed, the UK’s Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review had made clear that the DfE would receive the required funds to devise a national mobility scheme. This meant that the proposals in the paper would now serve as a backstop to the national scheme as opposed to a complementary initiative.
    • During discussion, UEB raised the following points:
      • The DfE mobility scheme would be global in scope, which was consistent with the ‘Global Britain’ idea that the UK Government was promoting following Brexit.  
      • The University would need to review its programme portfolio to understand the current provision of study years abroad and future strategic alignment with mobility in a post-Brexit environment. A paper on these matters relating to Study Abroad would be considered at UEB in due course.
    • UEB agreed to underwrite Erasmus+ grant funding for 2021/22 for (i.) students on degrees with a mandatory period abroad to Europe, and (ii.) students with Widening Participation characteristics participating in either mandatory or optional periods abroad to Europe, on the proviso that the underwritten funding would be a backstop to the DfE national mobility scheme.
  11. Closed Minute and Paper

  12. Insurance Claim to Replace Lesker Deposition System

    • UEB considered and approved a decision taken by the Estates & Capital Sub-Group regarding the insurance claim to replace the Lesker Deposition System, which had been damaged by fire. The majority of the cost would be funded from the insurance, with the Faculty providing the rest.
  13. Report of UEB Information Management & Security Group

    • UEB considered the report of the UEB Information Management & Security Group meeting of 25 November 2020. Attention was drawn to the commencement of the Email Retention policy pilot, the socialising of cybersecurity risks across the University, the updating of the Data Protection training, GDPR compliance, and the regulatory requirements involved in cybersecurity and data protection work.
    • During discussion, UEB noted the following:
      • This was an area of increasing risk for the University and a compliance culture had to be led by UEB.
      • There was a need for clear actions for Faculties and Departments, and greater clarity on which training resources were relevant for different types of staff. This was being taken forward by the Head of Data Protection & Legal Services.
    • UEB approved the report and the Data Protection Work Plan, recognising that it had resource implications.
  14. Report of UEB Health and Safety Committee

    • UEB considered and approved the report of the Health and Safety Committee on 21 October 2020. Attention was drawn to the focus on the Covid response, the reduction in staff-reported sickness, and the report that had recently gone to Council. There was a discussion regarding the reasons for the drop in sickness reporting and the membership of the Health & Safety Committee.
    • UEB noted its thanks to Tom Fleming for his outstanding contribution to the University as Director of Health & Safety, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, and wished him well for his retirement.
  15. Coronavirus Update

    • General Update

      • KL updated UEB on the situation regarding local lockdowns under the Tier system, noting that the number of cases within the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals area was stable. It was possible that further restrictions could affect the planned return to campus in January.
    • Update from the Major Incident Group

      • UEB were updated with the latest discussions from the Major Incident Group. The number of staff and student cases remained low and the testing centre’s opening had been extended to 18 December. There were ongoing discussions on developing further positive messages encouraging student compliance with social distancing requirements.

      • UEB discussed the possibility of offering testing to staff who may wish further reassurance. Although there were capacity constraints to be considered and managed, it was agreed that staff should have the opportunity to access tests from the New Year.
    • FVP Update

      • The FVPs reported that few issues had arisen in recent days and that staff were looking forward to the Christmas break.
  16. Festival of the Mind, Off the Shelf, and Public Engagement Update

    • The paper was included for information and UEB noted the update.
  17. Round Table

    • Director of Human Resources: KL informed UEB that IW had been appointed as the permanent Director of HR.
    • Rent rebate campaign: KL updated UEB on discussions around rent policy that were occurring among the student population that the University would continue to monitor.
    • Research Matters: SH updated UEB on sector issues relating to the National Security and Investments Bill, the funding settlement for UKRI, and the lack of take-up for the Government’s research support package.
    • OfS consultations: TS noted that five new consultations had been launched by the Office for Students and the University would respond in due course.
    • IHRA: GV updated UEB following a discussion at University Council about the adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism. Council had agreed to adopt the definition while putting in place the additional actions identified in the paper.

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