University Executive Board minutes - 25 August 2020



25 August 2020


Professor K Lamberts (KL) (in the Chair)

Professor J Derrick (JD), Professor S Fitzmaurice (SF), Ms H Fraser- Krauss(HFK), Ms J Jones (JJ), Professor W Morgan (WM), Professor C Newman (CN), Professor D Petley (DNP), Professor G Valentine (GV),  

In attendance:

Dr T Strike (TS); Mrs T Wray (TW), Dr R Rothman (RR) and James Merryclough (JM) (item 3) 


Professor S Hartley (SH), Professor M J Hounslow (MJH), Mr R Sykes (RS), Professor C Watkins (CW)  


Mr D Swinn (DTS)/Ms N Button (NB)

  1. Minutes of UEB held on 16 June

    • The Minutes were approved as an accurate record.
  2. Minutes of UEB held on 21 July

    • The Minutes were approved as an accurate record.
  3. Sustainability Strategy

    • (TW, RR and JM in attendance for this item)
    • UEB considered the draft Sustainability Strategy, which had been developed following extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholder groups, overseen by a dedicated Sustainability Steering Group (SSG) that reported to UEB. It was proposed that the Strategy would be launched during Climate Week, in October 2020. The Strategy was aligned with the new University Vision and, while the document itself was relatively detailed in order to capture the level and breadth of staff and student interests, it would be presented online in an interactive and accessible way. Implementation would be guided by an Action Plan, with support from the Strategic Change Office, and progress reported to UEB.
    • UEB welcomed the Strategy, noting that it strove to balance economic, environmental and social factors in ways that were consistent with institutional values and objectives and were realistically achievable. In noting that a Task and Finish Group would be established to consider the complex issue of carbon offsetting, UEB agreed that this work should reflect the positive impact of research activity to the benefit of society as a whole. It was clarified that the Strategy reflected both existing developments and initiatives as well as further changes. The relevant Professional Services were actively engaged in the process. Further clarification was provided that that the Strategy did not presently identify any specific investment requirements or additional resource needs but that, if these were proposed in future, approval would be sought through the applicable formal governance process.
    • UEB endorsed the Strategy and agreed to devolve responsibility for the specific actions in the Sustainability Action Plan to SSG, under the leadership of its UEB sponsors.
    • Action:
      • The Strategy would need to be proposed to Council, and further thought would be given as to the appropriate mechanism by which to do so in order to enable the formal launch in October.
  4. Proposed New Apprenticeship - Psychology

    • UEB reconsidered a proposed Level 7 apprenticeship, which had previously been approved in April 2020, noting that the University would now be the main provider rather than a sub-contractor. Although this change would incur a small amount of additional initial costs and responsibilities, the programme remained viable.

    • UEB approved the proposed apprenticeship, subject to the standard University course approval process and contract negotiations with the NHS Trust.

  5. Coronavirus Update

    • General Update
      • UEB noted that, as activities on campus began to increase, KL and GV would become more closely involved with the various management and oversight groups.
      • At national level, the Russell Group would be pressing the Government on the urgent need for official advice about the resumption of face to face teaching, following the recent publication of the independent SAGE report. The impact of increased home student numbers, as a result of changes to A level grades, on institutional research capacity should also be raised with Government. It was reported that UUK was drawing up proposals for further government support for the sector to accommodate additional home UG students. During discussion, Members noted the importance of ongoing work to consolidate and enhance the University’s competitive position.
      • UEB also noted an update on prospective international student recruitment and ongoing uncertainty around overseas students’ ability to travel and/or to obtain visas. The University remained in contact with a range of national and international authorities and continued to develop its offer for students unable to commence their studies in Sheffield at the beginning of the academic year; the decision to delay the start of the semester for PGT students was beneficial.
    • Update from the Major Incident Team
      • HFK reported that recent discussions were focused on managing a potential future outbreak, including options for offering testing, in conjunction with Sheffield Hallam and the NHS, and the use of timetabling information and system logs to contact potentially affected individuals. With respect to the latter, the importance of central timetabling was noted.
      • Action:
        • CN would provide contact details for members of staff in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health with relevant expertise, to support the existing expert members on the MIT.
    • Update from the Return to Campus Group
      • In addition to timetabling information, the Group was considering the movement of students across the wider campus, noting particular challenges around spaces that were managed at local level. Further work was taking place to limit the amount of communal space, e.g. departmental receptions, that would be accessible as means of ensuring effective social distancing, and to procure clear face masks to aid students with communication difficulties and support language teaching.
      • UEB noted the importance of providing clear and timely information about which areas of the campus would be open but that this could not be provided until all the requirements for providing sufficient safe teaching capacity had been met. The Group continued to plan on the basis that the number of people present on campus should be minimised as far as possible and the implications of this would be discussed with relevant departments and services, e.g. ACS.
      • Action:
        • Weekly UEB-HoDs briefings would be arranged to ensure that HoDs had all the information they needed to manage the return to campus effectively,
    • FVPs update
      • Members discussed the importance of communicating clearly the University’s expectations around on campus activity and continued remote working, including a view of how this may evolve over the course of the year. The current steer remained that the majority of activity should continue to be conducted from home, with the exception of agreed priority research and, in due course, face to face teaching activities and related student support activities.
      • It was reported that there had been different interpretations of the announcement about the cancelling of the s.188 consultation with respect to promotions. Clarification was provided that, subject to the financial implications of the University’s actual student recruitment position the academic promotions and professional services regrading processes would recommence in early 2021 with a plan to return to the normal cycle in 2021-22.
      • Actions:
        • Staff communications would reflect the points raised in 5.4.1 and 5.4.2, above.
  6. Report of the Strategic Advisory Group: Student Numbers & Fees

    • UEB approved the report, including:
      • The extension of home scholarship schemes as set out in Section 3.1 of the related paper.
      • The programme-level fees as set out in Section 3.2 of the related paper.
      • The English Language Teaching Centre fees as set out in Section 3.3 of the related paper.
      • The recruitment and admissions approach as set out in Section 3.4 of the related paper.
    • It was also reported that GV would be chairing SAGSNF on an interim basis when WM stood down as VP for Education.
  7. Report of the UEB Information Management & Security Group

    • UEB approved the report, including the proposed approach for the management of University email retention and disposal in order to mitigate a number of risks and operational difficulties the present system posed. Having recognised the organisational challenges in implementing this policy, UEB agreed that the policy and associated communications should be piloted in an academic department before being rolled out across the University.
  8. Report of the UEB Estates and Capital Sub-Group

    • UEB approved the report, noting in particular that ECSG had approved continuing with an ERDF application and the progression of the project to RIBA design stage 3 and approval in principle for the relocation of SEAS to Jessop West, subject to a number of conditions. Clarification was provided that the approval of property disposals was subject to the same financial thresholds as capital expenditure.
  9. Round Table

    • Farewell:
      • KL noted that this would be WM’s final UEB meeting before stepping down as VP for Education on 31 August. UEB offered thanks and good wishes for the future.
    • SLP Governance:
      • It was reported that MJH would become Chair of the SLP Sponsoring Group, with GV remaining a member of the Council Oversight Group. Management and leadership of the project would remain the responsibility of RS.
    • Social Sciences Hub:
      • HFK provided an update on discussions with the main contractor and communications with local residents, noting recent media coverage.

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