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24 April 2003 Minutes

Board of Scrutiny

Minutes of the Meeting Held at Noon on

Thursday 24 April 2003 at Selwyn College

 

Present: Stephen Cowley, Christopher Forsyth, David Howarth, Robin Lachmann, Elisabeth Leedham-Green, Timothy Milner, Oliver Rackham, Jennifer Rigby (for the second half of the meeting), John Spencer, Helen Thompson.

 

Apologies: Susan Lintott, Jack MacDonald.

 

1)      Minutes of the meeting of 27 February 2003 and 13 March 2003. The notes were agreed, and minutes will be produced from them. The Chairman requested that notes/minutes be produced a little earlier.

 

2)      Governance. The Chairman reported that he had written to Anne Campbell MP and that she had replied saying that she would be happy to meet with members of the Board on 23 May 2003. It was agreed that the Chairman, the Secretary, Christopher Forsyth, Elisabeth Leedham-Green, Timothy Milner, Oliver Rackham and Helen Thompson would attend. The Chairman and Christopher Forsyth would draft a letter to her explaining the current governance structure with particular reference to any delays or inefficiencies caused by its democratic nature (since it would appear that that the information she has received up to now may have had one particular slant). The Secretary observed that in the “Joint Report of the Council and the General Board on arrangements for the regrading of certain offices and posts, and for the award of discretionary increments” of 26 March it was proposed that “the Council and the General Board be given authority to make such changes in the arrangements of the scheme as they consider necessary in the interest of its good management and efficient operation”. A view was expressed that having lost the ballot on executive powers for the VC, there was now seems apparently a move to government by statutory instrument or circular. Concern was again expressed about the attitude of senior members of the University to Statutes and Ordinances.

 

Action. The Chairman and Christopher Forsyth to write to Anne Campbell MP.

 

Action. The Chairman, the Secretary, Christopher Forsyth, Elisabeth Leedham-Green, Timothy Milner, Oliver Rackham and Helen Thompson to meet with Anne Campbell MP on 23 May.

 

It was reported that the Secretary had written on behalf of the Board to the Registrary concerning external members.

 

3)      Correspondence and possible meeting with the Registrary. The Chairman reported that the requested studies from the Financial Working Party Report had so far not arrived, nor had the Board’s request as to when the Council knew that the building of the Primate Centre might be controversial. The Chairman offered to follow up this matter with the Registrary. It was agreed that the Chairman would seek a meeting (likely attendees are the Chairman, the Secretary, David Howarth and Christopher Forsyth) with the Registrary in about 2-3 weeks time. The Chairman asked members of the Board to send him matters of concern.

 

Action. The Chairman to check with the Registrary on the status of existing requests.

Action. The Chairman to request a meeting with the Registrary in the next 2-3 weeks.

Action. The Chairman to review last year’s report from Masons.

Action. Members of the Board to suggest topics to be raised with the Registrary.

 

It was reported to the Board that a senior member of the University was concerned about the use of SRIF funds, and in particular whether they were being used for the main purpose intended.

 

4)      Possible meeting with the Director of the Research Services Division. There was a further discussion of the Research Services Division. Views of colleagues were reported. It was noted that a number of colleagues were willing to express views confidentially, but were not willing to be quoted. The securitisation rights of the University’s IPR was discussed. It was agreed that the Board would attempt to discover how far this issue had been explored prior to the publication of the IPR Report last year.

 

Action. David Howarth to contact a colleague over IPR securitisation rights.

Action. The Chairman to make further enquiries over IPR securitisation rights.

 

The Board needs to try and assess the efficiency and competence of the RSD, e.g. has the division been able to recruit qualified administrators given its recent rapid expansion. Is it achieving its service standard? Who set the service standards?

 

5)      Possible approach to the Vice-Chancellor elect. There was a discussion of whether a meeting with the Vice-Chancellor elect was desirable, and if so, when. It was agreed that the Chairman would write to her to ask if she would like to meet us at some point, e.g. possibly this term. One subject to be raised at such a meeting would be a possible Governance Syndicate.

 

Action. The Chairman to write to the Vice-Chancellor elect suggesting a meeting this term. The issue of a Governance Syndicate should be raised at such a meeting.

 

6)      Personnel matters. Jennifer Rigby reported on a conversation with the Director of Personnel. A report on the HERA pilot went to the Personnel Committee recently. The report highlighted a number of issues particularly relating to the bureaucracy of the scheme and proposed a number of ways to streamline it.  It recommended a change in the weighting of some factors (there is co-operation with a small group of other universities to tailor the scheme and make it more workable). Overall it concluded that the scheme was as good as any other currently available.

 

The next phase in HERA is benchmarking a large number of roles to establish commonality (this should reduce the number of roles which have to be individually assessed). The re-grading exercise currently taking place will be done under the HERA scheme and the existing scheme in parallel.

 

It was suggested that it would be unwise for the University not to introduce a scheme such as HERA given the penalties incurred by the NHS when taken to tribunal by the Unions in a series of test cases recently on the issue of pay equality.

 

The Secretary reported that he had attended an AUT meeting on HERA. The introduction seemed to involve vast amounts of time and effort (e.g. a trained assessor completed about 4 assessments a week). The AUT is against HERA (it recommends that members do not take part) and has its own scheme for academic and academic-related staff. The Secretary noted that in the unamended HERA scheme research only has 7% of the total marks.

 

It was noted that before an analytical job evaluation scheme like HERA is devised an organisation should identify its aims (e.g. research and teaching), and then ensure that the job evaluation scheme awards those fulfilling the aims with a high rating. The Board was of the view that the HERA scheme (including the parameters) should be transparent, as could be achieved by a full Report and a Grace.

 

It was observed that there are problems with staff management in the University, and that the Board should support efforts by personnel to correct such problems. The Board concurred. The Secretary observed that there was a need to increase the trust of academics in the central bodies, and that transparency and full disclosure might be a way forward. He noted that the Regent House had voted for senior lecturers not to have to sign a new contract, that Council had side-stepped that vote, but had subsequently made it possible for academic-related staff to receive the same pay increase by means of discretionary payments without the need to sign new contracts.

 

7)      Planning for the 8th Report. It was generally felt that we had got it right with the 7th Report, especially the section on money. It was agreed that a sub-committee of the Chairman, David Howarth, Susan Lintott and Jennifer Rigby would meet at 9.30 am on 9 May 2003 at Churchill to work on a first draft of the money section this year. The Secretary would give input as appropriate on the RAM, and he and Christopher Forsyth would work on the governance section (it was noted that the RAM had important consequences for governance). It was agreed that the Board still see a need for a Syndicate on governance. The Board felt that some comment should be made on the way that the governance reform was conducted, and to note that the Board had played a role in delaying the ballot. It was noted that the University still does not appear to have a clear strategy. There was a view that the last Report was too long! The Chairman offered to produce an outline of the Report for the next meeting on 8 May 2003.

 

Action. The Chairman to produce an outline of the Report for 8 May 2003.

Action. Financial sub-committee to meet at 9.30 am on 9 May 2003.

 

8)      Any other business.

 

a)      Elections to the Board. It was reported that the Registrary had been reminded to arrange elections for this term. The Board was concerned that there should be a full slate of candidates. It was reported that a Bursar had been approached. The Secretary agreed to approach two colleagues. The Chairman agreed to approach three colleagues. Timothy Milner agreed to approach a colleague. Other members of the Board were urged to approach anyone they thought might be appropriate, especially if under the age of 35.

 

Action. The Chairman, the Secretary and Timothy Milner to approach certain persons in order to suggest that they stand for the Board.

 

b)      BoGS. The Secretary reported that at his Department’s staff meeting, some dissatisfaction had been expressed about the current performance of BoGS. He asked if some follow up to the Board’s earlier meeting might be appropriate?

 

Action. Helen Thompson to check on the progress at BoGS.

 

c)      Visitor centre. It was reported that the Planning and Resources Committee had approved the visitor centre at a capital costs of £1.3m. The centre will occupy three business units on Kings Parade. The Colleges have apparently been approached for £5000 per annum each. It was not known how many Colleges had agreed to fund the centre at this level, whether there was a business plan, and if there was, whether the business plan assumed College support. The point was made that the visitor centre was unlikely to have much impact on the access of under represented students, other than rich overseas students.

 

Action. Jennifer Rigby to discover if there is a business plan.

 

d)      Principal Officers. It was reported that no developments had been announced.

 

e)      CUC Guide. The Secretary reported that there was a helpful guide explaining the governance structure at other UK universities, and the Board might like to note the evolution of the University’s governance structure to that of other Universities. The Committee of University Chairmen (http://www.shef.ac.uk/cuc/) published the guide. The second edition is online as html at http://www.shef.ac.uk/cuc/guide/01.html, while the third edition is available at http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/hefce/2001/01_20.htm.

 

f)        Administrative help. It was agreed that we would try and obtain short-term help.

 

Action: David Howarth to write a person specification and to forward it to the Chairman.

 

9)      Date of future meetings. The next meeting will be on 8 May 2003, and thence fortnightly for the rest of term.