University Executive Board minutes - 16 March 2021



16 March 2021


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), Mrs T Wray (TW), Mr I Wright (IW), Dr Malcolm Butler (MB) (items 1 and 2), Mr Rob Gower (RG) (item 3)




Mr D Swinn (DS)

  1. The Turing Scheme

    • (MB in attendance for this item)
    • UEB discussed a report setting out the opportunities provided by the Turing Scheme for 2021-22 as part of the transition from Erasmus+. Although the final guidance was not yet published, the Universities Minister had written to institutions confirming that the scheme was open for applications. This letter also clarified the global nature of the scheme, the available funding and competitive nature of the applications process and the relatively short applications deadline of 9 April. UEB considered the areas of focus for the first application, in particular the proposed mobility types and level of ambition, and the prioritisation of funding in the event of any shortfall. It was also noted that the government had emphasised the importance of individual UK universities and overseas institutions establishing bilateral arrangements, which could also support the collaborative relationships that may be adversely affected by cuts to the GCRF (See also minute 8(b), below).
    • During discussion, clarification was provided about the Turing Scheme’s prioritisation of access and participation, and the University’s approach to ensuring that it met the criteria in the time available before the deadline. UEB recognised the importance of ensuring that degrees with an inherent component of student mobility were delivered so that students had the opportunity to achieve the requisite learning outcomes. In 2021-22 the University would also retain access to some residual Erasmus+ funding to cover European mobility.
    • Actions:
      • UEB endorsed the proposals and prioritisations set out in the related paper, subject to amendment to prioritise the achievement of learning outcomes on applicable programmes.
      • The final application would be informed by further engagement with academic colleagues to address questions in the submission form about programme learning outcomes.
      • The University would continue to seek to seek to develop arrangements with individual overseas institutions (see also Minute 2, below).
      • UEB would receive a separate proposal regarding Study Abroad in due course.
  2. Defining International Priorities to deliver the University’s Vision 2020- 2025

    • (MB in attendance for this item)
    • UEB considered a proposed range of activity, to be led or supported by Global Engagement, to deliver international elements of the four pillars of the University Vision. UEB also discussed the recommended prioritisation and specific actions set out in the related paper that had been deliberated by the International Steering Group. Attention was drawn to the prioritisation of activities, including a consideration of current business as usual that should either continue or could be stopped or reduced to facilitate the effective deployment of resources, and areas of high and lower priority.
    • During discussion, clarification was provided over the extent to which innovation was prioritised. This was felt to be appropriate in view of an initial focus at regional and national level and recognising that the majority of international opportunities would arise through research. With respect to partnerships, particularly in the context of research excellence, it was further clarified that local level activities, e.g. led through faculties, research groups or flagship URIs, was intended to occur alongside ongoing efforts to foster institutional, strategic level partnerships.
    • With respect to Education, UEB noted the rationale for the current approach. UEB also discussed opportunities arising from expected Government policy and possible additional funding opportunities.
    • UEB welcomed the proposals, endorsed the overall direction of travel and ambition set out in the related paper and approved the prioritisation of activities.
  3. SRDS Review Update

    • (RG in attendance for this item)
    • UEB discussed an update on the SRDS, following recommendations agreed by UEB in November 2019, the implementation of which had been interrupted by the impact of Covid-19 on HR resource and staff in general. UEB noted a summary of the original recommendations, which included both general recommendations and specific recommendations related to different groups of staff, an update on progress and plans for full implementation in response to feedback from HoDs. It was noted that new SRDS training and ACP objectives would be made available for the 2021 SRDS round, with the full changes to be piloted in a small number of departments with a view to being rolled out across the University from 2022.
    • UEB welcomed the update and related proposals and next steps.
    • Actions:
      • Members were invited to submit additional comments on the academic reviewer role description and HoDs guidance.
      • Additional pilot departments would be confirmed in discussions with FVPs following the 16 March update to UEB-HoDS.
  4. Graduation Proposal

    • UEB discussed a proposed approach to graduation ceremonies and considered options for when physical ceremonies might resume, noting the practical interdependencies and timing issues. UEB also discussed a series of principles that would inform related decision making, which had been agreed following consultation with the Students’ Union. It was noted that no physical ceremonies had been possible since January 2020 and the University had held online celebrations as an interim measure in the intervening period, with the commitment that all graduates would have the opportunity to attend a physical event when circumstances permitted. Members noted the number of students who would be eligible to attend a physical ceremony and the expected number of graduates in the summer 2021, and the approaches to date across the Russell Group.
    • During discussion, UEB affirmed the institutional commitment to providing all graduates with an opportunity to attend a physical ceremony in due course. UEB discussed the benefits and risks associated with the alternative options, which included both internal factors such as staff and estates capacity and external issues in relation to ongoing uncertainty about the continued impact of the pandemic at national and international level. Clarification was provided that a lead time of several months was necessary to enable the effective planning and delivery of physical degree congregations. UEB also discussed the possibility of using venues or locations that could accommodate significantly higher numbers of attendees, including overseas, and other opportunities to maximise efficiency whilst ensuring that individual students’ achievements were recognised appropriately.
    • In view of ongoing uncertainty, UEB agreed to return to consider the matter further and reach a decision following the next Government review of national restrictions on 12 April and in light of further work, as noted in paragraph
    • Actions:
      • Timely communications would be provided to students, as well as staff, to explain the University’s planned approach and rationale, including the options considered, in liaison with the Student’s Union.
      • Further consideration would be given to the possible use of large venues across the city.
      • UEB would receive a further update and proposals during April.
      • Council would need to approve any approach that deviated from the current provisions in the University’s Regulations
  5. Closed Minute and Paper

  6. Application of the 2019/2020 Safety Net Benchmarks

    • UEB received and noted an update on the application of the 2019-20 Safety Net benchmarks in 2020-21, following comments from a member of academic staff and subsequent constructive discussions locally. The matter was also raised at a recent JUCC meeting. It was noted that the Safety Net Policy and its application were academic matters and not within the remit of JUCC, whose discussions had focused on issues of staff and student welfare and equity. The Students’ Union was aware of the matter and was content with the University’s agreed approach.
    • UEB received an overview of the approach to applying the policy in 2020-21 and the extensive analysis and evaluation that had been undertaken to inform that decision. It was reported that the only change was to one of the worked examples provided to colleagues, but that agreed procedures had not been changed, including in relation to previous student communications and expectations, and the operation of exam boards. The calculation in question was provided for in the University’s General Regulations and could not be changed or varied in year; it was clarified that the approach to applying the Safety Net Policy complied with the existing provisions and that the calculation would only be needed in a small number of cases.
    • During discussion, clarification was provided about the OfS’ approach to regulating academic quality and monitoring the proportions of students achieving ‘good’ degree outcomes at individual institutions. UEB recognised that a number of factors affected student’s performance and attainment during the pandemic beyond the Safety Net Policy itself, including changes in assessment methods. It was important to distinguish the principle of no detriment from changes resulting from the wider increase in online delivery. UEB endorsed the approach take to date, noting that this represented the most appropriate, equitable and pragmatic in the circumstances.
    • Actions:
      • FDLTs from affected faculties would receive an update on 18 March.
      • Further information and assurances would be provided to staff and students to explain that the only change from 2019-20 was to one method calculation that applied in a very limited and particular set of circumstances.
      • Further thought would be given to amending the General Regulations with respect to Calculation 2 and to the level of discretion afforded to exam boards, in due course
  7. Coronavirus Update

    • General Update

      • It was noted that the UK continued to experience significant success and progress with respect to rolling out the vaccination programme, with the current national target being for all adults to have received a first dose by the end of July

    • Updates from Major Incident Team

      • UEB received and noted the update, during which attention was drawn to the volume of bookable study spaces being reserved but not subsequently used, with issues concentrated in a small number of department. This was creating significant additional pressure on capacity and would be discussed with faculties and affected departments, supported by further student communications. The limits of the current booking system were noted, together with plans to enhance the use of technology and provide greater functionality to manage the booking of both study spaces and the Covid tests. It was reported that demand for study space was expected to increase significantly as the assessment period approached and the necessary contingencies were under active consideration.
      • UEB agreed to use flat floor space and lecture theatres in the Arts Tower and the Hicks building as study space with immediate effect, noting that EFM were undertaking a review into study space options for the short to medium term.
      • Actions:
        • Departments would be encouraged to remind students to only book study space if it is needed, and to cancel if they could not attend.
    • FVP update
      • There were no specific matters raised in relation to the pandemic.
  8. Round Table

    • Heads of Department appointments: It was reported that Professor Martin Mayfield had been appointed as Head of Civil and Structural Engineering and that Professor Rachael Finn had been appointed as Dean of the Management School. UEB offered its congratulations and thanked the outgoing Head of Civil and Structural Engineering, Professor Joby Boxall for his efforts.
    • Steinway & Sons: Following the University’s achievement of All-Steinway School accreditation, SF reported that the new pianos would be delivered during the week of 22 March, with related opportunities for promotional activity.
    • Management School: CW reported that the EQUIS accreditation visit had commenced on 16 March.
    • Deputy Vice-Presidents for Education: MV reported that the adverts for two positions would be published shortly, with one role focused on student support and related matters and the other on learning and teaching infrastructure. UEB was pleased to note that both of the current interim post-holders had agreed to continue to provide support, albeit in a reduced capacity, and expressed its gratitude.

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