University Executive Board minutes - 21 September 2021



21 September 2021


Professor G Valentine (GV)(in the Chair), Professor J Derrick (JD), Professor S Fitzmaurice (SF), Professor S Hartley (SH), Ms J Jones (JJ), Professor J Litster (JL), Professor C Newman (CN) (items 2-7) , Mr R Sykes (RS), Professor C Watkins (CW)

In attendance:

T Wray (TW), D Barcroft (DB) (item 1), L Carlile (LC) (item 1), L McCarthy (LM) (item 1), H Barlow (HB) (item 2)Dr T Strike (TS), Mrs T Wray (TW), Mr I Wright (IW); Mrs V E Jackson (VEJ) (item 1); Ms S Duke (item 2); Ms D Lodge (DL) (item 3); Ms M Nolan (MN) (items 4 & 5); Ms A Bath (item 5)


Professor K Lamberts (KL), Professor D N Petley (DNP), Professor M Vincent (MV)


Mr D T Swinn (DTS)/Mr M Borland (MB)

  1. Closed Minute and Paper

  2. Closed Minute and Paper

  3. Research Security

    • (DL in attendance for this item)

    • UEB considered an update on current and imminent guidance around international research collaboration and discussed the University’s approach to voluntary notifications under the National Security and Investment Act, staff awareness raising, and a draft institutional policy on Security related issues in international research collaboration. It was noted that this area continued to develop rapidly, with increasing media and government interest. In addition, the University wished to ensure that its policies, processes and systems provided an effective framework within which to advance the academic endeavour and drive research excellence, whilst mitigating institutional risk and safeguarding individual academic colleagues. 

    • UEB was pleased to note an assessment of the current institutional position against external guidance, which had not identified any areas of concern. Nevertheless, broader staff awareness raising, including in the context of the Code of Ethics, would be beneficial. It was noted that the external guidance around research collaborations was general in nature and not directed towards a particular country or group; this neutrality would need to be reflected in subsequent staff engagements, e.g. via the UEB-HoDs and departmental directors of research network. UEB recognised that further sector level guidance was expected but agreed that the University should continue to take positive action now, in order to ensure that it was well-placed to respond to any new guidance and other related developments in future.

  4. Annual Report on Value for Money

    • (MN in attendance for this item)

    • UEB discussed the draft annual report, which covered the first year of operation of a revised Value for Money Strategy that was approved by UEB, Audit Committee and Council in 2020/21. The report was aligned with OfS guidance and the University Vision, including strengthening the focus on the experience and perceptions of students, and wider stakeholders, while taking a broader view of VfM from the perspective of financial efficiency.

    • Following discussion, UEB approved the report subject to a small number of amendments and related follow-up actions, and welcomed the new report structure, its alignment with the revised VfM strategy and the evidence provided. It was reported that an internal audit was underway relating to VfM and that this would inform some adjustments to quantitative indicators, in liaison with theme leads. Further internal audit work may include a deep dive into a particular area, which could consider areas in which VfM was more difficult to quantify, e.g. Innovation and Partnerships.

    • Actions:

      • The report would be reviewed to ensure that the student-focused elements were sufficiently strong and clear, including emphasising the University’s view that it had been able to deliver on its educational commitments during 2020-21.
      • The final report would be presented to Audit Committee on 4 October.
  5. Response to the OfS Consultation on Quality and Standards Conditions

    • (MN and AB in attendance for this item)
    • UEB approved the draft institutional response to the latest OfS consultation, which followed an earlier phase one consultation in 2020 and preceded further consultation expected in the Autumn relating to the future of TEF and regarding the future approach to regulating student outcomes (Condition B3) and the setting of numerical baselines. In particular, UEB noted the proposed extension of OfS’ powers and potential risks to institutional autonomy, notably with respect to areas of academic judgement, and the increasing distance between the regulatory regime and sector Quality Code. UEB also noted that the developing regulatory position should be viewed in the context of wider changes resulting from Government’s decisions about the implementation of recommendations from the Augar Review.
  6. Coronavirus Update

    • UEB noted the update from the Major Incident Team, in particular the University’s ongoing efforts to establish a pop-up vaccination centre on campus and the related challenges, including NHS staff capacity. The University was also considering options for the longer-term, in liaison with the NHS and other local partners. Further consideration would be given to student and staff communications when a solution had been found. More generally, the University had received positive media coverage as one of only a small number of higher quality providers offering a full face to face teaching experience from the start of term. 
  7. Round Table

    • Emergency Leave Policy: IW reported on the launch of the new policy to cover staff with caring responsibilities.
    • Digital Humanities MA: SF reported successful recruitment to the PGT new programme, with 50 students attending a recent induction meeting, half of whom were already in Sheffield. Recruitment for a new lecturer had attracted a strong, international field.
    • Industrial Relations: IW provided an overview of the current position following UCU’s decision to call a disaggregated ballot during October and ongoing engagement with the local branch. It was also reported that the University would be meeting with Unite to discuss the current campaign for cleaning staff to be paid £10/hour, above the National Living Wage. Colleagues from Health & Safety continued to engage positively with trade union representatives about the University’s on campus risk-mitigations.
    • Project Sunrise: UEB congratulated the student team from the Faculty of Engineering, which had won first prize in this national rocket building competition.

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.