University Executive Board minutes - 6 October 2020



6 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), 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), Dr M Butler (MB) (Item 3)




Mr M Borland (MB)/Dr E Smith (ES)

  1. Minutes of UEB Held on 25 August

    • The minutes were approved as an accurate record.
  2. Minutes of UEB Held on 1 September

    • The minutes were approved as an accurate record.

  3. Closed Minute and Paper

  4. OfS Interim Financial Data Collection for the Financial Year Ending 31 July 2020

    • UEB noted that work on the Interim Financial Data Collection was ongoing, and would be presented to UEB at its next meeting in advance of onward reporting to Finance Committee and Council. Clarification was provided that the Accountable Officer rather than governing body needed to approve the institutional submission, which was due by 30 October 2020.

  5. Closed Minute and Paper

  6. One University - A Vision for Our Future 2020-2025

    • UEB received an update on the implementation plans for the One University Vision and Strategy. Key details included the fact that (i.) the Vision would be launched online to all staff and students in the week commencing Monday 2 November 2020, subject to Council approval, and (ii.) the constituent parts of the Vision, such as the Vision PDF document and Pillar Stories, had been designed to complement each other.

    • UEB noted that the context in which the Vision would be published was complex, but agreed that the University needed to demonstrate that it was considering its future strategic direction. It was recognised that the tone would need to be managed to balance recognition of the immediate challenges facing the University with a positive statement about its longer-term ambitions.

    • UEB endorsed the Vision, which would proceed to Council for approval at its meeting on 19 October 2020.

  7. Voluntary Severance Scheme (VSS) Summary

    • UEB received and noted the outcomes of the VSS Scheme that took place earlier in 2020. The report included a breakdown of the roles and the demographic details of those members of staff that had left the University as a result of the Scheme.
    • During discussion, UEB noted that it would need to continue to monitor the longer term impact of the staff departures. The Recruitment Advisory Panel would have a role in deciding on any strategic reinvestment cases.
  8. Report of UEB Risk Review Group

    • (Meeting held on 23 September)
    • UEB received the report. Attention was drawn to the following:
      • RRG had recommended six changes to the Corporate Risks, the likelihood and impact ratings of which would be assessed at the Group’s next meeting before being proposed to UEB and Council in due course.
      • During 2020/21, plans would be developed to implement a new process for determining the Corporate Risks from 2021/22 that would be better integrated with the Planning Round and Departmental Planning Framework and aim to encourage departments and schools to embed active risk awareness and management in their activities.
    • During discussion, it was clarified that, although overseas PGT student recruitment and health and safety were not individual Corporate Risks in their own right, both were incorporated under the relevant principal Corporate Risks.
    • UEB approved the report and:
      • RRG’s proposed Terms of Reference and Membership;
      • The proposed 2020/21 Corporate Risks, subject to further discussion of the items noted in 8.4(a), below; and
      • Noted the latest versions of the Office for Students Conditions Compliance Register and the University’s Risk Management Policy.
    • Action:
      • To raise with RRG members whether overseas PGT student recruitment and health and safety should be escalated as principal Corporate Risks.
  9. Report of UEB Estates and Capital Sub-Group

    • (Meeting held on 24 September)

    • UEB received and approved the report. Attention was drawn to ECSG’s endorsement of the proposal that the University’s current Estates Strategy, due to expire in January 2021, should be superseded by an interim document covering a maximum of two years rather than a new Strategy, in recognition of the current uncertainties associated with COVID-19. It was highlighted that the longer-term Estates Strategy, once developed, would be expected to reflect on ‘the Estate of the Future’, and offer opportunities for enhanced integration with both the University’s Sustainability Strategy and broader capital considerations concerning both estates and IT infrastructure.
    • UEB approved a number of proposals set out in the related paper and accompanying business cases, subject to Finance Committee and/or Council approval where relevant in accordance with the Scheme of Delegation.
  10. Coronavirus Update

    • General Update

      • UEB received and noted the update. KL had updated the Universities Minister on the local situation at the University, including the support in place for selfisolating students and local COVID-19 testing capacity in Sheffield. Across the Russell Group and sector as a whole, institutions continued to respond to local challenges.

    • Update from the Major Incident Team

      • UEB received and noted the update, which reported on current COVID-19 case rates in Sheffield and within the University; local testing developments; and Public Health England’s (PHE’s) new toolkit for universities, which Health & Safety had confirmed was in alignment with the University’s approach.

      • UEB discussed the institutional approach to learning and teaching, noting the Department for Education (DfE) teaching tiers, which other institutions were adopting as a framework for their local approach. The University was currently at DfE teaching tier 1, and consideration was given to the practical implications of moving to tier 2 in response to the increased in local cases, the number of students self-isolating, and the potential impact of more stringent local measures being implemented within the Sheffield City Region (SCR) in due course.

      • During discussion, UEB raised the following points:

        • Under the DfE guidance, teaching tier 2 was likely to entail an increased level of online teaching overall, subject to specific disciplinary pedagogical considerations.

        • Although there was no evidence that face-to-face teaching was driving the infection rate, the University could consider further risk reduction measures in teaching spaces in response to the local situation, including increased social distancing in classrooms. Due to the work that would be needed to reconfigure the room layouts, adopting this measure could necessitate moving all teaching online for a temporary period.

        • With regard to contact tracing, it was probable that increasing social distancing in teaching spaces would reduce the volume of students being required to self-isolate, which was the most significant barrier to attendance at teaching sessions on campus.

        • Given the number of students self-isolating and the expected arrival of PGT students on campus from 26 October 2020, there were important pedagogical and student support-related reasons in support of a temporary pause in face-to-face teaching. Such a pause would also enable further preparations for a transition to delivering learning and teaching at DfE teaching tier 2.

        • Clinical teaching would continue to be delivered on a face-to-face basis at tier 2 and should continue without any temporary suspension.

        • Communications to staff and students should (i.) acknowledge the local context informing any move to teaching tier 2 and (ii.) include the practical and pedagogical rationale for temporarily suspending face-toface teaching, while continuing to acknowledge the high value students placed on face-to face delivery. It would be particularly important to communicate a clear position to PGT and PGR students, particularly overseas students, before they began to travel to start or resume their studies.

        • Further work would be needed to agree local definitions for each of the University’s teaching tiers, informed by the DfE guidance. This would include both research and learning and teaching activities.

        • The guidance for overseas students continued to be that, if required, they could study online in their home countries until the start of Semester 2, when they would be expected to be in the UK to attend sessions on campus.

      • UEB agreed:

        • That face-to-face teaching would be temporarily suspended from Friday 9 October to Sunday 18 October (with the exception of clinical teaching), resuming on Monday 19 October.

        • That the period of temporary suspension would be used to put in place further risk reduction measures in teaching spaces, including increased social distancing of 2m, such that when face-to-face teaching resumed the University would be operating at DfE teaching tier 2 and in line with associated DfE guidance.

        • That communications would be prepared for staff and students on the decisions noted in 10.2.4(a) and (b), above.

      • Actions:

        • To work with Corporate Communications to deliver the relevant communications.

        • To confirm with the Public Health Team at Sheffield City Council that social distancing of 2m in teaching spaces would mean students not being identified as close contacts of those who tested positive.

      • Update from the Return to Campus Group

        • UEB received and noted the report.

  11. Round table

    • Director of Health and Safety:

      • HFK reported that interviews for the position had taken place and an appointment was expected to be made in due course.

    • Value for Money:

      • RS updated UEB on feedback from Audit Committee relating to the Value for Money Strategy.

    • Return to Campus:

      • JJ reported that the audit had been paused, with a revised date to be arranged.


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