University Executive Board minutes - 27 October 2020



27 October 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), 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); Professor L Maltby (LM) (item 2); Mrs T Wray (TW) (items 4 and 5)




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

  1. Minutes of UEB held on 22 September

    • The Minutes were approved as an accurate record.

  2. Closed Minute and Paper

  3. Closed Minute and Paper

  4. Coronavirus Update

    • General Update

      • KL reported that the Director of Public Health had responded positively and supportively to correspondence outlining the University’s approach to face to face teaching, but encouraged ongoing careful consideration of risk. UEB noted the response of other institutions in regions subject to national tier 3 restrictions and discussed the University’s approach.
      • UEB agreed that the current approach to face to face teaching, the rationale for this and accompanying guidance for staff and students remained appropriate in the circumstances. It was also noted that students continued to respond positively to face to face provision and to encourage increased opportunities for face to face learning and other on campus activities. Departments and Faculties would be encouraged to consider face to face opportunities for programmes where this had not yet been provided. It was noted that there may be pressure on clinical placements for students on some medical courses if hospital admissions continued to rise.
      • Action:
        • Further communications would be provided to HoDs and other senior leaders, students and staff in general.
    • Update from the Major Incident Team
      • It was reported that student cases continued to decline and were approaching a similar proportion to the local population. In order to ensure students conducted themselves appropriately in residences and the community, further communications had been sent on 23 October to remind students of the relevant local guidance and restrictions, and the consequences of breaching them. It was noted that despite PGT students beginning to travel to Sheffield, this group of students represented the lowest proportion of positive Covid test results.
    • Update from the On Campus Activity Group
      • It was reported that the Group was focusing on key operational activities and challenges. In particular, EFM were considering how to maximise study spaces, including the possibility of extending the Library’s current opening hours.
    • FVPs Update
      • UEB received and noted updates from each Faculty. In particular, HoDs were reporting that information, guidance and underpinning principles for delivering blended learning and teaching had been greatly beneficial. However, significant pressures remained to respond to immediate short-term priorities and deal with specific departmental issues in addition to wider workload and strategically important activities such as REF preparations, which raised concerns about capacity and wellbeing. In addition, early registrations data for PGT students was positive, but that this may create additional workload in ensuring the effective delivery of PGT programmes.
      • It was reported that SF had agreed to Chair a small working group to consider institutional policy on conduct and behaviour on social media, building on work undertaken by the Faculty of Arts & Humanities.
      • Having recognised the need for continued and ongoing support for HoDs and in response to feedback from HoDs themselves, UEB discussed those activities and related processes which could be reviewed and refined to minimise the impact on workloads of HoDs and other senior leaders in the Faculties. Clarification was provided about plans to streamline the Annual Reflection process to reduce the burden on staff through greater alignment with the planning round, and expectations for planning round meetings. With respect to the latter, the focus of initial meetings was to benchmark departments against the new department planning framework and understanding departments’ priorities. Faculties’ and departments were not expected to produce five year plans this year but should provide sufficient information to facilitate a collective understanding of the overall institutional position by the end of 2020-21, in order to inform subsequent long-term planning.

A global reputation

Sheffield is a research university with a global reputation for excellence. We're a member of the Russell Group: one of the 24 leading UK universities for research and teaching.