University Executive Board minutes - 26 January 2021



26 January 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 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 D Barcroft (DB), Dr M Butler (MB), Mrs L Carlile (LC) (item 1)




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

  1. Closed Minute and Paper

  2. Update on the Brexit Response

    • UEB received and noted an update from the Brexit Co-ordination Group following the UK and EU having agreed a Trade and Cooperation Agreement on 24 December 2020. Members noted a summary of the implications of the new Agreement for the University and areas of risk and opportunity. Particular attention was drawn to the following:
      • Research: Horizon Europe: The UK’s continued participation in some EU research programmes as an associate member, notably Horizon, was positive and offered opportunities that the University would need to proactively seek to exploit. However, it was noted that there was uncertainty about the wider impact of this participation on the UK science budget.
      • Erasmus: The UK would no longer participate in the programme and the Government had announced an alternative national “Turing” scheme for outbound UK students. Global Engagement was developing proposals for how the University approached student mobility in the future. It was noted that this should reflect on supporting the achievement of learning outcomes and competitive advantage.
      • Mutual Recognition of professional qualifications: The EU-UK agreement did not include provisions for mutual recognition, which would require each UK professional body to secure agreement with its counterpart in individual EU member states. Further analysis was underway to ensure that information for students and applicants about specific courses remained accurate and up to date. UEB noted an additional potential risk for UK degree programmes that were not fully aligned with the Bologna Process.
      • Data protection: Although the EU GDPR was enshrined in UK law through the Data Protection Act, the EU-UK agreement did not include an adequacy decision. Although it was expected that this would be achieved in due course, it posed risks to any activities involving UK-EU data transfers, notably collaborative research. The USO and Research Services were undertaking further work to assess the scale of the risks and mitigating actions.
    • Actions:
      • An updated version of the paper would be presented to Council at its 8 February meeting.
      • Preparations would be made to ensure that the University could respond to funding calls under Horizon.
      • UEB would receive a proposals on supporting student mobility in due course.
      • Clarification would be provided about any impact of the lack of mutual recognition provisions on degree programmes.
  3. Governance controls in place associated with the Covid-19

    • UEB considered a draft paper for Council, which had been prepared at the request of the senior lay officers. The paper provided an update for Council on how the University had been and was maintaining good governance and effective assurance in decision making during the pandemic, including through Council, Senate and UEB and their respective committees and sub-groups. UEB confirmed the contents and proposed next steps but agreed to add further points to reflect ongoing monitoring and risk mitigation in respect of the University’s financial position and related OfS reporting requirements.
    • Action:
      • The amended paper would be presented to Council on 8 February.
  4. Term Time Only Teaching

    • UEB considered and approved a series of principles for engaging members of staff on term-time only contracts, supported by the development of a template About the Job that clearly set out expectations for such role and a review to establish the correct contractual position of all staff employed on a term-time only contract. During discussion, UEB welcomed the new principles and related actions as a means to ensure the appropriate, consistent and equitable use of term-time only contracts across the University
  5. Coronavirus Update

    • General Update
      • It was noted that staff had welcomed the steer to encourage flexible working and workload prioritisation, and the clarity of related messaging. UEB recognised the value of providing staff and students with as much certainty as possible about the remainder of the academic year, and beyond, subject to the ongoing and changing impact of the pandemic and related restrictions and guidance.
      • It was reported that planned communications to international students would confirm that there was no currently no expectation for them to travel to Sheffield for the time being, pending the outcome of the Government review on 22 February. Messages would include further details on a number of a specific issues; UEB endorsed this approach, noting that the University had received positive feedback from India’s Consul-General about its approach to date.
    • Update from the Major Incident Group
      • UEB received and noted the update. In particular Members noted the approach to implementing the HE Mass Testing Best Practice Toolkit, where it was practical and appropriate to do so; the provision of student study space; and analysis of the numbers of students currently in Sheffield.
        • Action:
          • Clarification was sought about whether Testing Centre staff were regarded as one of the priority groups for vaccinations.
    • FVP Update
      • UEB discussed updates from the Faculties with respect to workload prioritisation in response to the President & Vice-Chancellor’s recent message to staff. It was also reported that a formal staff consultation would be launched today regarding changes resulting from the launch of the new AMRC Strategy.
  6. Round Table

    • Castings Technology International Limited: KL reported that the sale of the company had now completed and received positive media coverage. This was an excellent outcome for all parties.
    • Government Policy Announcements: UEB noted a number of recent policy announcements relevant to HE, summaries and analysis of which had been included in the Reading Room. Further consideration would be given to a number of issues of relevance to the University. TS would coordinate more detailed analysis to inform those discussions.
    • Department Visits: KL reported on recent discussions with academic departments.
    • Staff Survey: IW reported on results of the latest staff survey and the actions, including communications, planned by way of follow up. It was also noted that the new staff wellbeing pages had been visited by around 1700 individual users since being launched via staff update.
    • Recruitment Advisory Panel: UEB discussed proposed changes to the RAP process in order to reduce the administrative burden and in the context of recently agreed strategic investment cases. Following discussion, it was agreed that further details of the proposed changes would be circulated to Members by email, including clarification on key points.

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