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University Council

University council minutes 28 November 2023

Last updated: 27 March 2024

Minutes of the meeting held on 28 November 2023 at 9.15 am via Microsoft Teams

Paige Archer
Ingrid Barker A
Paul Crichard
Nicola de Iongh (Chair)
Chris Fung
Steve Gardiner A
Dr Louise Livesey
Clare Marchant
Dr Adeela Shafi (until C.23.156)
Pamela Sissons
Elonka Soros
David Soutter
The Rt Revd Robert Springett
Joe Sucksmith (until C.23.171)
Julie Walkling (from C.23.144)
Dr Peter Warry
Ibby Williams

In attendance:
Prof Sarah Jones (until C.23.171.2), Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Enhancement and Research)
Prof Jackie Labbe (until C.23.171.2), Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost
Jess Lawson (for C.23.153 and 154), Director (Planning)
Camille Stallard (until C.23.171.2), Chief Financial Officer
Nigel Wichall (for C.23.154 and 155), Director (Estates)
Dr Matthew Andrews (Officer) (until C.23.171.2), Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Governance and Student Affairs)
Penny Gravestock (Minutes), Assistant Secretary to Council

C.23.137        Prayer

                     The Rt Revd Robert Springett opened the meeting with a prayer.

C.23.138        CONFIDENTIAL: Council Membership (C/71/23)

                     This item was discussed under Confidential Business.

C.23.139        Welcome and Apologies

                     Received: apologies for absence from Ingrid Barker and Steve Gardiner, for late arrival from Julie Walkling, and for early departure from Dr Adeela Shafi.

C.23.140        Business of the Agenda

                     Noted: that paper C/97/23 had been unstarred and would be discussed. It was noted that there had been no requests to unstar any further items on the agenda and it was therefore assumed that papers C/86/23 to C/96/23 had been approved or noted as stated. It was also noted that there would be one item to be raised under Any Other Business for which members of the Executive (with the exception of the Vice-Chancellor) would be asked to leave.

C.23.141        Declarations of Interest

                     Noted: that Dr Adeela Shafi would leave the meeting for item C.23.157 due to her membership of Academic Board (although it was noted that she had already given apologies for early departure).

C.23.142        Minutes of the meeting held on 3 October 2023

                     Resolved: it was agreed that the minutes were an accurate record of the meeting held on 3 October 2023.

C.23.143        Matters Arising (C/72/23)

                     Received: details of the matters arising as outlined in the paper.

C.23.144        Chair’s Business

C.23.144.1     Noted: the success of the recent Graduation Ceremonies, particularly noting the role the Chancellor took. The Chair thanked all those involved in organising the events.

C.23.144.2     Received: updates from each of the Committee Chairs on key discussions held at the following meetings:

  1. Finance and General Purposes Committee, 7 November 2023;
  2. Council Chairs’ Group, 8 November 2023;
  3. Audit and Risk Committee, 10 November 2023;
  4. Council, Foundation, and Chaplaincy Committee, 15 November 2023;
  5. UoGPSL Board, 17 November 2023.

C.23.144.3     Noted: that since the last meeting, there had been no exercise of delegation, no decisions made via circulation, nor any use of the Company Seal.

C.23.145        SU Update Report to Council (C/73/23)

C.23.145.1     Received: the Students’ Union (SU) update, noting in particular:

  1. involvement in discussions with the All Party Parliamentary Group on students and work;
  2. the success of the recent Graduation Ceremonies;
  3. that Feedback Fortnight had ended the previous week, with the focus on students’ financial concerns;
  4. the priority campaigns for each of the Full Time Officers.

C.23.145.2     Considered:

  1. opportunities to share the details of the Community Cupboard to encourage donations;
  2. a request that the University discussed options for hubs and different ways of working with the SU;
  3. the importance of the work being undertaken by the SU to bring home and international students together and how that had improved engagement. The need to ensure that the international student voice was heard was emphasised.

C.23.145.3     Noted: the recent activities within the Students’ Union.

C.23.146        CONFIDENTIAL: Vice-Chancellor’s Report (C/74/23)

C.23.146.1     Received: a paper updating Council on major developments affecting the University since the previous meeting, including:

  1. the non-pay review, noting that a second phase would commence early in 2024 and would link to the professional services redesign;
  2. that the consultation for phase 1 of the professional service review had finished;
  3. an update on student recruitment;
  4. the continued work on the University’s identity, noting the high level of engagement by staff;
  5. work underway to develop an estates configuration plan, noting the opportunity to consider ways of working for staff and staff hub models;
  6. approval by the Office for Students to repurpose the capital funding for the development of the Digital Hub, noting the need to undertake a ‘lessons learned’ exercise once the professional services review had been completed;
  7. the next round of the National Student Survey to start in February 2024;
  8. recent discussions at Academic Board;
  9. the reopening of the Sports Arena and pitches to students and the community;
  10. the need to undertake more pulse surveys on a regular basis to get a better sense of staff views and morale.

C.23.146.2     Considered:

  1. the need to develop a clear statement about what the University was for and why it was different from others;
  2. that staff understood the scale of the challenges being faced by the University.

C.23.146.3     Noted: the developments set out in the paper.

C.23.147        CONFIDENTIAL: Annual Financial Statements for y/e 21 July 2023 (C/75/23)

                     This item was considered under Confidential Business.

C.23.148        External Audit Findings Report (C/76/23)

C.23.148.1     Received: the External Auditors Findings report, produced to highlight key issues affecting the results of the University and the preparation of the Financial Statements for the year ended 31 July 2023. It was noted that an addendum had been circulated via email on 24 November 2023 from a review by Grant Thornton following the resignation of the audit partner. A query was raised in the review whether the University should adopt International Financial Reporting Standards when presenting a pension surplus. It was reported that the University had provided a response, which had been accepted by the reviewing partner, and therefore there were no changes to the financial statements nor the audit opinion.

C.23.148.2     Resolved: Council received and noted the report and recommended its submission to the Office for Students.

C.23.149        Internal Audit Report for 2022/23 (C/77/23)

C.23.149.1     Received: the report setting out the opinion of Internal Audit on the ‘adequacy and effectiveness of the University’s framework of risk management, control, and governance, and value for money’. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Governance and Student Affairs) highlighted the number of reviews undertaken during the year and noted that reasonable progress had been made against the actions identified. The Chair of Audit and Risk Committee commended the manner in which both Internal and External Auditors had worked with the University over the year.

C.23.149.2     Received: the Internal Audit Report for 2022/23.

C.23.150        Audit and Risk Committee Annual Report (C/78/23)

C.23.150.1     Received: the report from the Audit and Risk Committee to provide assurance on the adequacy and effectiveness of institutional arrangements for: risk management, control, and governance; and economy, efficiency, and effectiveness. The Chair of Audit and Risk Committee noted that the opinion in the report was informed by the receipt and consideration of reports from Internal and External Audit, the management letter, and the Executive.

C.23.150.2     Resolved: Council received and approved the Annual Report and agreed that it should be forwarded to the Office for Students.

C.23.151        CONFIDENTIAL: October YTD Results (C/79/23)

                     This item was considered under Confidential Business.

C.23.152        CONFIDENTIAL: OfS Financial Forecast (C/80/23)

                     This item was considered under Confidential Business.

C.23.153        CONFIDENTIAL: Strategy Delivery Plan – 22/23 End of Year (C/81/23)

                     This item was considered under Confidential Business.

C.23.154        CONFIDENTIAL: Hardwick Disposal Business Case (C/82/23)

                     This item was considered under Confidential Business.

C.23.155        CONFIDENTIAL: City Campus Property Progress Report (C/83/23)

                     This item was considered under Confidential Business.

C.23.156        Annual Assurance Statement (C/84/23)

C.23.156.1     Received: a report to provide Council with assurance that the University was managing the quality and standards of its awards and the student experience. This included assurance of the University’s approach to continuous improvement of the student academic experience and outcomes, summaries of evidence from periodic reviews and student feedback, and measures in place to maintain the standards of awards for which the University was responsible. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Enhancement and Research) highlighted the University’s achievement of Silver in the 2023 Teaching Excellence Framework exercise.

C.23.156.2     Considered:

  1. issues relating to the identified attainment gaps, noting ongoing activity within the Schools and work to look at inclusive curriculum and assessment, policies on lecture capture, and overall support for students in their learning;
  2. the evidence showing the extent of the differences seen in students’ experiences of teaching across the University;
  3. the development of a policy on Artificial Intelligence, noting the involvement of staff from across the University interested in developing guidelines for innovative use as well as concerns regarding academic integrity.

C.23.156.3     Resolved: Council approved the Annual Assurance Statement.

C.23.157        Revised Terms of Reference and Membership of Academic Board (C/85/23)

C.23.157.1     Received: a proposal for changes to the remit and membership of Academic Board, reviewed following the redesign of Academic Schools and the University’s need to streamline all operations and activities, including ensuring efficient governance. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Governance and Student Affairs) noted the initial consultation with members of the Board, followed by a wider online consultation for all staff, to which 40 responses had been received. It was reported that a number of changes had been made to the proposal during the consultation, and that a large number of negative responses had been received, particularly around the proposed move from elected members to those appointed through a process of application and selection.

C.23.157.2     Considered:

  1. the important role of Academic Board to oversee the academic side of the University and for Council to have confidence in the Board for academic provision, quality, and graduate outcomes. Because of this, it was important that its membership comprised those with the necessary expertise. It was queried whether Council itself should be considering more academic-based subject matters;
  2. examples of the changes made during the consultation, including the inclusion of the need for a clear role descriptor, and continuation of the terms of office of those previously elected to the Board where it fitted in the new membership;
  3. a strong concern raised about the removal of elected roles on Academic Board and whether a similar approach would be introduced for Council. It was felt that removing democratically-elected members was a controversial decision;
  4. the process for election to Academic Board as outlined in the Articles of Association. It was noted that the Articles referred to both selection or election processes as approved by Council.  It was proposed that no changes to clarify the Articles should be made until one round of the new process for appointment had been undertaken and reviewed;
  5. the need to ensure that appointment to Academic Board was fair and transparent;
  6. a concern that a selection process with a small group of people led by management would not be as transparent and democratic as an election;
  7. the need to ensure that Academic Board was populated with staff with the appropriate experience;
  8. the mixed views about the proposals when discussed by Academic Board;
  9. the desire to improve membership diversity through the new process, particularly for under-represented groups. In response to a query about the evidence base for the new process aiding diversity, it was reported that there had been some support at Academic Board for the new process to encourage staff from minority groups who may be put off by an election. The General Staff Member of Council reported on consultation with a significant equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) accreditation body in the sector, noting that they were not aware of any evidence base that showed staff from under-represented groups were more likely to apply for appointment than election by peers, that they would be concerned about any attempt to replace internal elections with application processes without reviewed evidence to support this on EDI grounds, and that the focus should be on encouraging and supporting staff to stand for election;
  10. a concern regarding the limited number of academic delivery staff in the proposed new membership, as the Board needed to get a sense of what was happening in face-to-face teaching with students;
  11. the approach used at other institutions in the sector, noting that there were examples where appointment processes had been introduced to Boards, Senates, and governing bodies and that they reported positively about the engagement of staff in governance;
  12. a concern that a democratic process was being removed without proper consideration;
  13. the wider issue that the University’s staff base was not very diverse which affected the profile of committee membership;
  14. a concern that the current model was not delivering the strategic outcomes needed, and that the University needed to address its skills representation on Academic Board to achieve them.

C.23.157.3     Resolved: Council considered changes to the membership of Academic Board, including a reduced membership, making appointments through application and selection, and a reduction from six to five meetings per year. A vote was held and the result was:

For10 votes
Against2 votes
Abstentions2 votes

The recommended changes were therefore agreed.

C.23.158        Reappointment of External Auditors* (C/86/23)

                     Resolved: Council approved the reappointment of Grant Thornton UK LLP as the Company’s external auditors for 2023/24 and for remuneration to be agreed by the Audit and Risk Committee.

C.23.159        Modern Slavery Act 2015 – Annual Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement* (C/87/23)

                     Resolved: Council considered and approved the statement for publication, noting that it would be signed by the Chair.

C.23.160        Register of People with Significant Control* (C/88/23)

                     Resolved: Council confirmed that its Register of People with Significant Control as maintained with Companies House would remain the same.

C.23.161        Research Integrity – Code of Practice* (C/89/23)

                     Resolved: Council approved the Research Integrity Code of Practice previously discussed and approved by Research Ethics Committee, Research Committee, and Academic Board.

C.23.162        CONFIDENTIAL: Folley Sale Update* (C/90/23)

                     This item was considered under Confidential Business.

C.23.163        CONFIDENTIAL: Annual Report of Academic Appeals, Student Complaints, Fitness to Practise, and Assessment Offences 2022/23* (C/91/23)

                     This item was considered under Confidential Business.

C.23.164        Annual Report: Harassment and Sexual Misconduct* (C/92/23)

                     Noted: the annual report regarding Harassment and Sexual Misconduct.

C.23.165        Prevent Strategy/Duty: Annual Report 2022/23* (C/93/23)

                     Noted: the annual report which offered assurance regarding the Prevent Duty-related activity that had taken place through 2022/23. It was also noted that the University had to submit an ‘accountability & data return’ to the Office for Students which would be signed off by the Vice-Chancellor.

C.23.166        CONFIDENTIAL: Annual Insurance Report – 2022/23* (C/94/23)

                     This item was considered under Confidential Business.

C.23.167        CONFIDENTIAL: Procurement Annual Report – 2022/23* (C/95/23)

                     This item was considered under Confidential Business.

C.23.168        Health and Safety Annual Report 2022 – 2023* (C/96/23)

                     Received and noted: the annual Health and Safety report for 2022/23.

C.23.169        Council Schedule of Business (C/97/23)

                     Resolved: Council:

  1. noted the Schedule of Business;
  2. agreed to move the annual away day from June to October, starting in 2024.

C.23.170        Minutes from Council Committees*

                     Noted: that the minutes from the following meetings would be available from

  1. Finance and General Purposes Committee, 7 November 2023;
  2. Audit and Risk Committee, 10 November 2023;
  3. Council, Foundation, and Chaplaincy Committee, 15 November 2023.

C.23.171        Any Other Business

C.23.171.1     Received: a concern regarding the size of the documentation pack for the meeting, noting that most of the papers were longer than the guideline of four pages plus a cover sheet. The Executive team and other authors were encouraged to make papers clearer and more succinct.

Members of the Executive team (with the exception of the Vice-Chancellor) left the meeting.

The remainder of the item was discussed under Confidential Business

C.23.173        Date of Next Meeting

                     Tuesday, 6 February 2024 at 9.15 am (in BG224, Business School, Oxstalls Campus, Gloucester). This will include the joint meeting with Academic Board.

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