University Executive Board minutes - 3 November 2020

On

Date:

3 November 2020

Present:

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), Ms T Wray (TW), Mr I Wright (IW), Ms D McClean (DM) and Mr D Jones (DJ) (Item 2), Professor J Haycock (JH) (Item 3), Mr A Carlile (AC) (Item 4), Ms S Bridgeford (SB) (Item 5)

Apologies:

-

Secretary:

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


1. Coronavirus Update

  • General Update
    • UEB considered the UK Government’s guidance to universities in advance of the second national lockdown that would come into force on 5 November 2020, as set out in a letter from the Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan MP. It also discussed the draft communications that would be disseminated to staff and students on the University’s approach to learning and teaching during the lockdown. UEB welcomed the Government’s resolution that a transition to full online learning was undesirable, which accorded with the University’s own commitment to maintaining a blended approach that retained a level of face-to-face teaching where it was possible and appropriate to do so, informed by the relevant advice from Public Health England and the Sheffield City Council Public Health Team. In this regard, it was confirmed that the Director of Public Health supported the University’s approach.
    • During its discussion of the draft communications, UEB raised the following points:
      • The communications should acknowledge the changed context posed by the lockdown but make clear that, after taking the appropriate advice, the University was not considering a change in its model for delivering learning and teaching. The University Minister’s letter could be referenced in support of this position.
      • The communications should restate the principles underpinning the University’s approach to learning and teaching and research, and emphasise that the measures in place were commensurate with the COVID-19 risks.
    • UEB agreed to prioritise the circulation of communications on the University’s approach to learning and teaching during the second national lockdown.
    • UEB noted that the University would provide as much as was safely possible to give students a broad student experience.
  • Action:
    • To work with Corporate Communications to finalise communications to HoDs and other senior leaders, students, and staff.
    • Update from the Major Incident Group
      • UEB received and noted the update, which covered staff and student cases and the University’s new reporting and contact tracing process, which began operations on 24 October. It was pleasing to note that, across all measures, the number of positive COVID-19 cases and self-isolating students/staff members was falling.
      • It was highlighted that the Department for Education’s (DfE’s) guidance on students travelling home over the Christmas and New Year period was expected in due course.
  • Update from the On-Campus Activity Group
    • UEB received and noted the update, which covered study spaces; timetabling non-teaching booking requests; Christmas planning; and a proposed pilot to enable a return to campus for a limited number of APSE/Research Services/Partnerships and Regional Engagement staff. This followed the Activity Group’s approval of a pilot of one floor in Edgar Allen House for DLL staff for one month, with appropriate monitoring on take up, secure desk usage and wellbeing improvements.
    • During discussion, UEB supported the proposed pilot subject to it being in line with Government guidance at the point of roll out. It was recognised that there were specific activities due to commence in Semester 2 that would normally be delivered on campus. There would be value in completing a risk assessment to provide teams of Professional Services staff with the opportunity to hold planning meetings on campus, if it looked likely that these events could be held in person. Clarification was provided that bookable spaces on campus previously available to staff were no longer available. The availability of attendance data for in-person teaching sessions was also discussed.
  • FVP Update
    • UEB received and noted the updates from each of the FVPs on local developments in their Faculties. Attention was drawn to an SU Instagram Survey that revealed a mixed position on students’ attitudes towards in-person teaching, but the low response rate precluded the outcome from being definitive. A common position among students was the desire for more academic support, e.g. in a peer-to-peer capacity that could best be facilitated in person.
    • UEB agreed that, subject to Government restrictions, the position of continuing to deliver face-to-face teaching with the appropriate risk mitigations in place be maintained. Each of the Faculties should plan to increase its volume of in-person teaching in Semester 2.

2. Closed Minute and Paper

3. Closed Minute and Paper

4. Closed Minute and Paper

5. Prevent Monitoring for the 2019/20 Academic Year

  • (Susan Bridgeford in attendance for this item)
  • UEB received an update on the University’s fulfilment of its Prevent Duty obligations during 2019/20 and considered the proposed annual accountability and data return (ADR), which would be presented to the Chair of Council for approval and signature in advance of its submission to the Office for Students (OfS). In recognition of the impact of COVID-19, it was clarified that the OfS had adapted its requirements for this return to alleviate the administrative demand on HEIs. The University had been able to take forward its full suite of Prevent-related activities in line with its Action Plan, albeit on a reduced scale. Major University work undertaken in 2019/20 included a comprehensive review of the Safeguarding Policy, in order to bring safeguarding and Prevent requirements into greater alignment, and the ongoing development and enhancement of governance mechanisms, including the Risk Assessment Panel.
  • UEB noted the update and approved the ADR, which would proceed for approval and signature by the Chair of Council prior to submission to the OfS by 1 December 2020.

6. Closed Minute and Paper

7. Report of UEB Risk Review Group

  • (Meeting held on 22 October)
  • UEB received the report and approved the proposed 2020/21 Corporate Risk Register, noting that it would proceed to Council for approval at its meeting on 23 November 2020.

8. Report of UEB Estates and Capital Sub-Group

  • (Meeting held on 20 October)
  • UEB received and approved the report; this included 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. 
  • Attention was also drawn to the following:
    • Closure of Buildings: ECSG had considered a briefing on the potential to close buildings not being used for research and teaching, and decided to pause the work and keep the buildings operational to enable re-occupation should Faculties and Departments/Schools have the need to do so.
    • Social Sciences Building: Although demolition work was running to programme, local residents had moved to formal communication with the University due to the disruption that the work was perceived to be causing.

9. Closed Minute and Paper

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