University Executive Board minutes - 14 September 2021



14 September 2021


Professor K Lamberts (KL) (in the Chair), Professor J Derrick (JD), Professor S Fitzmaurice (SF), Professor S Hartley (SH), Ms J Jones (JJ), Professor J Litster (JL), Mr R Sykes (RS), Professor G Valentine (GV), Professor M Vincent (MV), Professor C Watkins (CW)

In attendance:

Ms T Wray (TW), Mr I Wright (IW), Ms D Lodge (DL) (Item 1), Mr A Carlile (AC), Mr Luke Reynolds (LR) (Items 2 and 3)


Professor C Newman (CN), Professor D Petley (DNP)


Dr E Smith (ES)

  1. PGR Update

    • (Deborah Lodge in attendance for this item)

    • UEB received and noted an update on work to increase the proportion of PGR students submitting their research theses in the fee-paying period, which would in turn contribute to the enhancement of these students’ experience and support the experience-related aspect of the Research Strategic Pillar. Attention was drawn to UKRI’s requirement for students to submit within their fee-paying period, which had informed the formalisation of a related University Key Performance Indicator (KPI). To date, the rationale for this KPI had struggled to reach the relevant staff and students, and an internal review had brought into relief the large amount of active research being carried out in students’ ‘continuation periods’ and the associated costs. The paper therefore presented proposals and planned next steps, drawing on the practice of sector peers, to encourage both Departments/Schools for theses to be submitted within the fee-paying period or, if an additional year were required, to utilise it for thesis preparation purposes rather than additional research.

    • During discussion, UEB raised and/or noted the following:

      • Given the significant cultural shift required, the benefits for students of submitting with the fee-paying period, including supervisors’ and students management of their projects and students’ mental health and wellbeing, would require careful communication.
      • The proposal to hold a ‘submission review’ six months prior to a student’s passage into the ‘continuation’ period was positive and accorded with similar mechanisms at other institutions. There would also be value in stressing the importance of managing the project at students’ ‘confirmation reviews’ and other formal milestones at the start of their research studies.
      • Further thought would be required to manage the processes proposed for PGR students with differential (three- or four-year) funded periods as well as for self-funded students.
      • Having an open and transparent definition of the ‘continuation period’ and its function would support the University’s compliance with external expectations but would demand initial liaison with External Examiners, funding bodies, and overseas sponsors to ensure it was understood.
      • The renewed emphasis on the ‘publication format thesis’ option, with particular regard to STEM students, was positive.
    • UEB endorsed the proposals made in the related paper to achieve a greater proportion of PGRs submitting within their fee-paying period, noting that these plans would be refined further at University Postgraduate Research Committee prior to their initial launch in 2022/23.
  2. Strategic Framework Update

    • (Al Carlile and Luke Reynolds in attendance for this item)
    • UEB considered proposed changes to the Strategic Planning Framework Descriptors and Metric Targets, which were based on feedback gathered following the inaugural deployment of the Framework in the 2020/21 Planning Cycle. The related paper itemised the changes, noted ongoing work to provide Framework exemplars for Departments/Schools that would model Core and Enhanced performance, and set out next steps in support of the ongoing roll-out of the Framework.
    • During discussion, UEB recognised the need to continue to emphasise a One University approach in areas such as procurement and resource allocation alongside the work to implement the Strategic Planning Framework. Communications to this end could be disseminated via the UEB-HoDs meetings and in guidance informing the Departmental Planning Framework.
    • UEB approved the proposed changes to the Strategic Planning Framework Descriptors Metric Targets set out in the related paper.
  3. Closed Minute and Paper

  4. Hybrid Working

    • UEB considered a proposal to extend the institutional hybrid working pilot to the end of 2021/22, recognising that it had not been possible to test the model or principles over the Summer due to the postponement in the UK Government’s relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions and staff annual leave. The related paper recommended that 2021/22 be regarded as a ‘transition period’ to a more stable and embedded hybrid working model over the longer term. An extended pilot would also enable the University to consider how it would support the equipment needs of staff working in accordance with the University’s hybrid working principles.
    • During discussion, UEB raised and/or noted the following points:
      • It would be important to stress the University’s long-term commitment to hybrid working to build staff confidence in the pilot and the institutional direction of travel thereafter.
      • To aid managers, the discretion during the period of pilot would need to switch from permitting staff to work on campus to permitting staff to work from home, recognising that some learning about hybrid working would also come from local level.
      • Different local practices of hybrid working were acceptable provided that all variations were consistent with the institutional principles on which the pilot was being conducted.
      • Further guidance for academic staff would be necessary to clarify expectations around in-person teaching and define what was otherwise in or out of scope with regard to hybrid working.
      • Institutional and local business needs should continue to drive decisions about the allocation of staff on campus and at home.
      • The pilot would need to be agile enough to absorb future COVID-19-related disruptions, including the reinstatement of guidance for staff to work from home.
    • UEB:
      • Agreed to confirm a long-term commitment to the introduction of hybrid working at the University.
      • Approved the extension of the hybrid working pilot to the end of the 2021/22 academic year, reframing it as a transition period to a more stable and embedded hybrid working environment and noting that (i.) a review of progress would be undertaken at the end of Semester 1, and (ii.) the remainder of the period before the start of Semester 1 would used to increase messaging about returning to campus as part of BAU.
      • Agreed to the development of an approach for supporting the equipment needs of staff working in a hybrid fashion as part of the long-term commitment to hybrid working.
      • Agreed to the commencement of joint work between Human Resources, Health and Safety, and IT Services to create detailed and costed proposals for supporting the equipment needs of staff to be considered by UEB by the end of December 2021.
  5. Innovation and KE Update: Creation of VP Innovation Strategy Group

    • UEB received and noted the proposed creation of Vice-President for Innovation Strategy Group that would advise UEB on the delivery of the Innovation Strategic Delivery Plan and thereby hold an equivalent position to those in place for the Education and Research Strategic Pillars.
    • Members endorsed the remit of the Group and noted that its Terms of Reference would be agreed in due course.
  6. Closed Minute and Paper

  7. Coronavirus Update

    • Update from the Major Incident Team
      • UEB received and noted the report. Staff and student infection rates continued to be low, and the Contact Tracing Service was enjoying a high success rate for notifying close contacts of staff and students who had tested positive.
      • Members discussed a range of proposals related to the ongoing management of the pandemic and approved the following:
        • The appointment of a Team to run dual testing (LFD and PCR) for assurance purposes in Semester 1 to support the UK Government in assessing the effectiveness of LFD tests, noting that (i.) those taking an LFD test would be asked to volunteer to also have a PCR test and would not be required to do so, and (ii.) the proposal was subject to the Testing Centre Manager confirming that there was sufficient logistical support in place.
        • The position that UK business travel was now allowed.
        • The proposed approach for reporting on the OfS tool, noting that some data would not be provided either because it was not available or would be too burdensome to collate.
  8. Round Table

    • Staff Working Overseas: IW updated UEB on measures taken to encourage staff working overseas to return to the UK.

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.