University Executive Board minutes - 3 May 2022

On

Date:

3 May 2022

Present:

Professor K Lamberts (KL) (in the Chair), Professor J Derrick (JD), Professor S Fitzmaurice (SF), J Jones (JJ) (items 1-4; and 6-7), Professor S Hartley (SH), Professor J Litster (JL), Professor C Newman (CN), Professor D Petley (DNP), R Sykes (RS), Professor G Valentine (GV), Professor C Watkins (CW),

In attendance:

Dr T Strike (TS), T Wray (TW), I Wright (IW); D Lodge (DL) and N Harris (NH) (item 1); L Reynolds (LR) (items 1 and 2); L Carlile (LC) and L McCarthy (LM) (item 5)

Apologies:

Professor M Vincent (MV)

Secretary:

D T Swinn (DS)


  1. Research Flagship Plans

    • (DL, NH and LR in attendance for this item)
    • UEB considered a report highlighting the achievements of the four flagship University Research Institutes (URIs) since December 2019 and set out proposed next steps for the future development of the four URIs. The report also presented the findings from a recent evaluation report and described the URIs’ draft five year plans in line with the annual planning round, including emerging agendas around research culture and leadership.
    • Attention was drawn to the clear evidence that the URIs were adding value to large scale collaborations and grant capture activities, with further indications that they were making a positive contribution to brand and reputation aligned with the four Pillars of the University Vision. However, the URIs were also facing challenges in relation to institutional structures and governance, which merited further thought that took into account the different pace and scale at which the four URIs had developed.
    • It was noted that the more detailed evaluative work that was would inform further consideration of how to enhance performance of the existing URIs and a potential second round of applications for flagship status. That evaluation would reflect on the initial criteria used to establish the URIs, consider where flagships status had helped to deliver value beyond that which would otherwise have been achieved, and how to address any areas of weaknesses. UEB also noted the importance of URI leadership succession planning and staff retention, and the need to further develop the mechanisms by which URIs and faculties interacted.

  2. AMG Plan

    • (LR in attendance for this item)

    • UEB discussed the AMG’s five year plan and received a related presentation during which attention was drawn to the AMG’s key challenges and opportunities, as well as the specific considerations for each of the AMRC, NAMRC and AMRC-TC.

    • UEB noted the following:

      • There had been increasing levels of positive interaction between AMG colleagues and those in the Faculties of Engineering and Science. Further collaborative opportunities were noted in Digitalisation and AI.

      • The University’s internal structure processes needed to support the realisation of grant income opportunities; consideration of the relevant governance processes had commenced.

  3. Closed Minute and Paper

  4. USS Statement of Investment Principles Consultation

    • It was reported that the latest consultation was due to close on 3 May but there was an expectation in the sector that the deadline for responses would be extended. It was noted that USS was seeking to reduce the volatility in future scheme valuation, particularly in relation to inflation and interest rate risks, using a liability-driven approach to investment. Such an approach had also been implemented in 2021 by the local pension scheme, USPS. UEB noted that internal analysis supported the views of USS specialist advisers, whereby there was broad agreement to the new approach subject to questions around monitoring, performance management and ESG issues.

  5. Student Recruitment Update

    • (LC and LM in attendance for this item)

    • UEB received and noted an update and accompanying commentary on the latest applications figures for 2022 entry for all student categories, as at 15 April 2022, and an overview of related recruitment and marketing activities. Particular attention was drawn to the increase in the numbers of applicants accepting conditional offers and UEB commended colleagues across the University for their approach. The current indications were that the University would be well placed to take the necessary strategic decisions around overall student recruitment in 2022 whilst upholding the desired levels of applicant attainment.

    • During discussion, in which UEB noted that the overseas recruitment position was very positive, Members noted that there remained particular challenges in the recruitment of and delivery to Chinese students due to difficulties in obtaining IELTS, visas and travelling to the UK. While departments sought certainty about the University’s approach to start dates this was in tension with market demands for maximum flexibility and required further thought and planning.

  6. Innovation Career Pathway

    • ​​​​​​​UEB discussed a final draft ICP and considered an accompanying proposed implementation timetable and practical arrangements. Members also noted an update on the outcomes of a staff consultation over the proposed ICP, which had informed the final proposals.

    • While welcoming the proposals, UEB noted that care would be required in developing and applying benchmarks; Faculty-specific examples may be helpful. With respect to the proposed introduction of the new pathway for the 2022 SRDS and promotions round, clarification was provided that colleagues could only be placed on the ICP with the agreement of HoDs and the Faculty. The ICP had been developed in response to particular challenges for staff in the AMG, and a small number of others, for whom the other ACP routes were inapplicable. Further clarification was provided that staff who were added to the ICP would still be engaged on an existing academic contract, most likely on a research-only contract, to remain aligned with external statutory requirements.

    • UEB approved the new ICP and agreed that it would be introduced from 2022, subject to additional related actions in certain areas.

  7. Report of the IT Sub-Group

    • ​​​​​​​UEB received and approved the report, including:

      • Approval of ITSG’s updated terms of reference following the Council Estates Governance Review.

      • Noting a progress report on TESF Phase 3 and the value delivered to date, which would be reported to Council in July.

      • Noting ITSG’s provisional approval of the items or products to be delivered in the TESF Phase 4 budget envelope, which would be subject to formal recommendations to UEB, Council Finance Committee, and Council by the end of 2022/23.

      • Noting ITSG’s initial consideration of the 2022/23 budget for Phase 1 of the Student Roadmap, pending receipt of the full business case at the next ITSG meeting, which would be subject to formal recommendations to UEB, Council Finance Committee, and Council by the end of 2022/23.

  8. Industrial Action: Report from Incident Management Team

    • ​​​​​​​It was reported that the outcomes of the recent special UCU sector conferences was awaited, although local UCU branches had been advised by national representatives that they could proceed with the expanded ASOS under the new mandate. Members also noted the relevant timescales within which further action might commence and the ongoing institutional preparations for any further period of action, as well as the continued importance of engaging with all University staff about the disputes themselves and the extent to which the University was seeking to engage positively with a range of stakeholders to resolve these issues.

    • In particular, UEB discussed the University’s options for deducting pay for partial contractual performance and the risks and benefits of each, and the areas where further advice for HoDs may be necessary to ensure that the impact of ASOS, especially any marking and assessment boycott, was minimised to avoid or mitigate any disruption to students. Clarification was provided that exam scripts and other assessment material remained the property of the University at all times.

    • Following discussion, UEB agreed that colleagues who participated in any marking and assessment boycott should be subject to a 100% deduction from pay in view of the potentially significant impact on students and the need for the University to take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure that disruption to students was avoided or minimised.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​