University Executive Board minutes - 22 September 2020



22 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), Dr T Strike (TS), Mr R Sykes (RS), Professor G Valentine (GV), Professor M Vincent (MV), Professor C Watkins (CW)

In attendance:

Mr I Wright (IW), Mrs V E Jackson (VEJ) (item 4), Mr R Gower (RG) (item 5), Mrs S Grocutt (SG) (item 8)


Professor D Petley (DNP)


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

  1. Minutes of UEB held on 22 June

    • The Minutes were approved as an accurate record.

  1. Minutes of UEB held on 30 June

    • The Minutes were approved as an accurate record.

  2. Minutes of UEB held on 14 July

    • The Minutes were approved as an accurate record.

  3. Minutes of UEB held on 14 July

    • The Minutes were approved as an accurate record.

  4. Closed Minute and Paper

  5. Improving Academic Leadership

    • UEB considered and approved proposals for a range of activities to enhance academic leadership, noting that a newly formed Strategic Oversight Group would oversee this work and make recommendations to UEB in due course. The proposals built on previous UEB discussions and reflected feedback from HoDs as well as the Workload Allocation Task and Finish Group, Chaired by CW. Proposals sought to create a more holistic approach to leadership, thereby supporting the resolution of more systemic issues, and would encompass issues such as reward and recognition, consistency of expectations and standards, and workload. The work was structured around three key themes: the academic leadership model, including the role of HoDs; the nature of departmental executive teams, which was especially relevant with the introduction of the academic planning framework; and professorial leadership.

    • Clarification was provided about the timescales for action. While certain activities could be undertaken relatively quickly with, recommendations made to UEB shortly, others were more complex with longer lead times and therefore a staged approach to the actions proposed is required. It was noted that current and former HoDs would be consulted about the role of executive teams and a wider engagement piece relating to the professoriate would be aligned with the launch of the new University Vision.

    • Additional points noted in discussion included the following:

      • It may be useful to bring together particular groups of staff for focused, collective discussions, e.g. ECRs, research leaders and departmental executive teams.

      • The Academic Career Pathway and Department Planning Framework provided the means by which to clarify expectations of leadership across different activities and to balance leadership roles with wider academic achievement, e.g. research outputs and teaching innovations. Disciplinary differences should also be taken in account.

      • The Workload Allocation Task and Finish Group had agreed a principle that there should be greater transparency about academics’ respective workloads.

      • Less formal leadership and other responsibilities needed to considered when assessing overall workload.

    • Action:

      • Members were invited to send to GV suggestions for members for the Strategic Oversight Group.

  6. Revised Value for Money Strategy

    • UEB considered a proposed update to Audit Committee on a revised institutional approach and strategy to ensuring value for money, together with new reporting arrangements and exceptional arrangements for 2020 due to the impact of Covid-19. The related paper also proposed amendments to Audit Committee’s terms of reference to reflect both OfS’ requirements and expectations as well as wider issues of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. It was noted that OfS did not require providers to have a VfM strategy in place but that there was merit in doing so to inform activities, in particular engagement with the Students’ Union on delivering value for students. A new, more streamlined reporting process was also proposed, which would use existing quantitative data with additional narrative where needed. It was noted that measures for VfM could change in future to align with institutional KPIs and care would be needed to ensure that any VfM reporting did not create an alternative or parallel report on overall institutional performance.

    • UEB endorsed the revised institutional Value for Money Strategy and accompanying paper to Audit Committee, which would be presented on 5 October, subject including additional points raised.

  7. Fair Employer Charter

    • UEB considered a proposal that the University sign-up to a revised Fair Employer Charter for Sheffield, having signed up to the earlier version when it was launched in 2016. It was noted that University academics had been instrumental in developing the Charter, in partnership with a number of other organisations businesses in the city. Members also noted that the Charter was aspirational in nature and did not represent an award or kite mark. The Charter was framed to demonstrate individual employers’ commitment to achieving fairness in the workplace in ways that were appropriate to individual circumstances.

    • UEB agreed to commit to the University signing up to the revised Charter.

  8. Closed Minute and Paper

  9. Coronavirus Update

    • General Update

      • UEB noted that the Prime Minister was due to make a statement later in the day in relation to increasing national infection rates, which was likely to include further information or guidance about working from home. Members also noted recent media coverage of rising infection rates in other institutions and the measures being taken across the sector.

    • Update from the Major Incident Team

      • UEB received and noted the update, which included the latest developments around the potential provision of testing facilities and processes for managing and monitoring staff and student cases. With respect to the former the University was working with local authorities, including the Director of Public Health, on an integrated approach. It was reported that recent discussions had considered how to address issues of testing capacity, in line with the national programme, and possible approaches to expanding the use of laboratories already involved in the process.

      • During discussion it was noted that the proposed change to the reporting process was more precautionary than the national guidance. This would ensure that the close contacts of symptomatic individuals, or of those had tested positive, could be identified. UEB also noted the importance of ensuring that the impact of decisions on underrepresented groups were considered, and that activity in a number of areas was being reviewed, with respect to the use of Equality Impact Assessments; UEB would receive updates in due course as required.

      • UEB approved holding further discussions with the local authority about the city’s and University’s approach to testing. UEB also approved a change to the protocol for reporting and subsequent action, which would be implemented when an individual showed symptoms.

      • Action:

        • Guidance relating to self-isolation and testing on the University website would be reviewed to ensure that it was up to date and consistent.

    • Update from the Return to Campus Group

      • UEB received and noted the update, which included a number of policy questions. Clarification was provided that the University’s principles for blended learning and the accompanying framework, had been communicated widely but the pace of change and volume of information represented a challenge to colleagues. It was recognised that this was an evolving situation and the University would need to continue to respond appropriately to Government statements and national guidance.

      • UEB approved a principles framework document for the use of office space, which had been written to recognise the breadth or roles and activities, and was intended to be implemented locally. The importance of HoDs and FVP ownership of these processes was recognised. It was clarified that the framework should be used to inform the approach to PGR students but that small meetings should not yet be arranged in person.

      • UEB agreed that the current Return to Campus Group should cease to meet from the end of September, to be replaced by a new On Campus Activity Group, and approved the proposed terms of reference and membership of that new group.

      • UEB agreed that further thought would be given to the potential use of ‘Covid Secure’ signage in University buildings and the Students’ Union. This would include consideration of areas that related to the wider student experience, for example Library provision, the Students’ Union building and catering outlets.

      • Actions:

        • The framework and policies for blended learning would be reviewed to ensure that they were consistent.

        • The weekly UEB-HoDs briefing would include an update and clarification about the approach to blended learning, which would also be included in the weekly staff newsletter.

        • The principles framework for the use of office space may need to be reviewed in light of the latest Government announcements about working from home.

        • Senate would receive a report from the Chair of Senate Learning and Teaching Committee about actions taken, to provide the necessary assurances.

        • FVPS would review current levels of research activity on campus to ensure that this remained appropriate and consistent with agreed priorities.

        • With respect to professional services staff returning to work on campus, those in student-facing roles should be prioritised.

      • FVPs Update

        • A welcome event, and the opening of a combined reception facility for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities were reported to have been positively received. It was also noted that colleagues were engaging well over the need for risk assessments and EIAs.

        • It was reported that the University had submitted thirty volunteers in response to a Government request for qualified individuals to support increases in testing capacity. A further request had been received.

  10. Round table

    • Non-Recurrent QR from the National Productivity Investment Fund

      • This item was deferred.

    • Anchor Institutions

      • UEB discussed and approved a further version of the proposal, subject to further minor amendments on certain details, which reflected previous feedback from Members. Members recognised the importance of the submission as an indicator of the University’s commitment to collaboration as regional anchor institution. The proposal also included important information about other related initiatives

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