Court Report June

Published: 6 July 2015

What happened at the meeting of the University Court last month?

University of Glasgow - Court meeting

24 June 2015

Dear Colleagues

Court recently had its June 2015 meeting, the final meeting of the 2014/15 session. The main points discussed were as follows, listed under the relevant headings on the agenda. The summary is not a formal record of the Court meeting; this will continue to be the minutes of the meeting.

Court observed a silence to remember David Anderson, General Council Assessor on Court, and Charles Kennedy, former Rector, who died in recent weeks.

Court Membership

Dr Donald Spaeth (Senate Assessor) and Breffni O’Connor (SRC President) were attending their final meeting. Court thanked them for their contributions to Court and wished them well in the future.

Principal’s Report to Court
Vice Principal portfolio
Vice Principal Professor Frank Coton’s title will change to Vice Principal Academic and Educational Innovation, with immediate effect. Professor Coton’s role will include greater involvement with the Information Strategy, including chairing the Information Policy and Strategy Committee.

Internationalisation Strategy
Court received details of the new Internationalisation Strategy, from Professor Jim Conroy, Vice Principal Internationalisation. The first Internationalisation Strategy was agreed by Senate and Court in 2009/10, with the aim of highlighting Glasgow’s international ambition, and providing a framework for the development of international activity. In the five years since that strategy was introduced, the University has made substantial progress across the full range of the University’s activities. The new strategy aims to build on the platform developed since 2009, by adopting a more targeted approach that makes the most of the international assets and capacity developed over the past five years, in order to enhance a number of priority areas, including increasing the number of international students as a percentage of overall student numbers, and further developing opportunities for study and placements abroad.

The debate on the UK’s Future within the European Union
The University will maintain a position that is politically neutral, in terms of not being seen as aligning itself with a particular political party. However, given the University sector’s very strong ties with the EU - including this University’s EU significant student body and EU staff members, and income from EU funders - groupings such as Universities UK, Universities Scotland and the Russell Group are likely to campaign strongly in favour of the UK staying within a reformed EU. Court has endorsed an approach whereby:

  • The University will encourage all of its staff and students to speak on all sides of the EU referendum debate.
  • The University will actively invite speakers on both sides of the debate to the University.
  • Because of the importance of maintaining EU research funding and the free mobility of researchers and students within the current EU/EEA area, the Principal and Senior Management will be able to speak openly on behalf of the University to defend its interests in research and teaching.
  • The Principal and academic senior managers will be able to speak in a personal capacity to issues concerning the referendum outwith the University’s special interests in research and teaching, when this aligns with their particular academic expertise, in line with our adherence to the principles of academic freedom.

Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)
There was a statutory consultation process with current and prospective USS members, which ran from 16 March to 22 May, relating to proposed changes to the scheme. The outcome of the consultation is awaited.

Widening Access Commission
In April, the Principal was appointed to the Commission on Widening Access, which will be chaired by Dame Ruth Silver. The Committee includes a cross-section of education, business and student representatives, and will develop plans to help more students from disadvantaged backgrounds in Scotland to enter and succeed in higher education. The Commission was announced by the First Minister in November as part of the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government, guaranteeing a move towards 20% of university entrants coming from the most disadvantaged 20% of society.

University Strategic Plan and Budget

Court received: an update on the current and new University Strategic Plans and Key Performance Indicators; and an overview of the budget, from Professor Neal Juster, Senior Vice-Principal. Court approved the Plan, the 2015/16 budget and 4-year financial forecasts, and the updated capital plan. Professor Juster and his team were thanked for their work in developing an excellent Strategic Plan 2015-2020, which has involved widespread consultation with the University community.

Secretary of Court’s Report to Court

Court Procedural Review Group (CPRG) - Centre for Open Studies
At its April meeting, Court agreed recommendations from the CPRG, aimed at moving the Centre for Open Studies to a break-even position, eliminating the current annual deficit of £500k. The agreement by Court included a reference to the Council of Senate being advised of Court's support for the changes proposed, and to the Council of Senate being offered the  opportunity to comment on them, and that if there were any serious concerns, then management should reflect on these, and provide its response to Court at its June meeting. The Council of Senate did express some concerns about the proposed restructure, in particularabout the proposed removal of the standalone Access Programme.

As a result of the concerns expressed, a revised proposal has been approved by Court, such that the Access Programme will be retained as a discrete aspect of the Centre’s provision, rather than replacing it with a ‘credit for entry’ scheme, and all three pathways will continue to be offered in their current form (Access to Arts and Social Sciences, Access to Law, Business and Accountancy, and Access to Science, Engineering and Nursing), with the distinct cohort identity of Access students being maintained within the Centre’s student body. This change to the original proposal will however mean that savings to address the deficit will not be as great as previously calculated.

The Council of Senate also expressed concern about the proposed removal of all courses in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) areas. While Court has agreed to the proposal that the Centre for Open Studies will no longer offer the current range of science programmes managed by individual subject specialists, it has agreed to a revised proposal that those courses which are in demand will still be offered in future where such courses are financially viable.

Although certain subject areas are being removed as discrete elements in the provision offered, the Centre remains keenly committed to community education and will continue to deliver a large, open access programme of accredited and unaccredited courses predominantly, but not exclusively, in the liberal arts. The Centre will be a key contributor to the Kelvin Hall development, along with the College of Arts and the Hunterian, which offers significant opportunities for the Centre to develop its programme in relation to collections-based learning across the disciplines and which will also enable the Centre to reach out to new audiences.

Socially Responsible Investment Policy – Fossil Fuels

At its meeting in October 2014, Court made a decision in principle to reduce its investment in the fossil fuel extraction industry, in a phased way over a period of 10 years. This was subject to an evaluation of the financial impact of disinvestment, on which Court received advice in April from its Investment Advisory Committee.

Having considered the financial advice received, Court has now decided to implement a first stage of disinvestment, which will involve a 25% reduction in fossil fuel holdings over the next 4 years. Court will receive a progress report on disinvestment after 2 years and, in 2019, will undertake a further financial evaluation of the impact of the disinvestment policy, before deciding on whether to proceed with a further stage of disinvestment. The impact of this first stage of disinvestment will mean that, by 2019, 6.4% of the University's endowment investments will be held in fossil fuel companies, as compared with the current figure of 8.5%.

Appointments of Heads of Research Institute and School

College of MVLS/College of Science & Engineering
Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology and School of Psychology
Professor Philippe Schyns has been re-appointed as Director of the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology for 5 years from 1 August 2015 and as Head of the School of Psychology for two years from 1 August 2015.

College of MVLS
Institute of Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Professor Dan Haydon has been re-appointed as Director of the Institute of Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine for 5 years from 1 August 2015.

College of Science & Engineering
School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Professor Martin Lee has been appointed as Head of the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences for four years from 1 August 2015, in succession to Professor Maggie Cusack.

Finance Committee
Budget 2015/16

As indicated above, the Budget 2015/16 and four year forecast and capital plan were approved by Court.

Capital Expenditure (CapEx) Applications
The Committee approved a number of CapEx applications (referred to below under Estates Committee).

Audit Committee

At its recent meeting the Audit Committee was updated on Court’s discussion of the Campus Estate Strategy, including the governance structure for the associated major capital projects. The Committee received reports on recent internal audits of Professorial Zoning; Governance over Subsidiaries; Health and Safety; International Activity (UESTC (China)); and Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC). Subject to minor final changes, the Committee has approved the 2015/16 Internal Audit Plan, which is driven by the University’s organisational objectives and priorities, and the risks that might prevent it from meeting those objectives. The Committee approved the External Auditors’ approach to preparing the financial statements for the year to 31 July 2015.

Estates Committee

Estate Strategy
Court noted progress made on the Estates Strategy.

Capital Plan
As referred to above, Court has approved the capital plan.

Capital Expenditure (CapEx) Applications
Court noted and endorsed Estates Committee’s approval of CapEx applications in respect of fees relating to the developments under the Campus Estate Strategy, relating to: the Research Hub; the Institute of Health and Wellbeing/College of Social Sciences; the College of Arts Hub; and Estate Strategy Masterplanning; and also noted and endorsed CapEx applications in respect of Bell Tower and Spire Repairs and Library Level 2 developments.

Human Resources Committee
At its recent meeting, the HR Committee received a report from the Director of HR, including an update on: National Pay negotiations; the USS consultation; this year’s Performance & Development Review process; the University seeking accreditation as a Living Wage employer and on a review of the infrastructure in place to support Athena Swan. The Committee received: a presentation on the work of the Researcher Development Framework and initial reflections and actions arising from the recent REF; and an update on strategic Equality and Diversity activities.

The Committee received an update on policy matters, including proposed changes to the Management of Organisational Change Policy, which it approved.

Health, Safety & Wellbeing Committee
At its recent meeting, the HS&W Committee received: reports on a Hazardous areas survey, and on the Organisational Level Stress risk assessment; the latest reports from Occupational  Health and the Safety & Environmental Protection Services; and an update on the uptake of the Employee Assistance Programme.

Communications from Council of Senate
At its meeting on 4 June, the Council of Senate considered a paper on proposed ways forward for the Centre for Open Studies and recorded some concerns (referred to above). The Council of Senate received: briefings on the draft new University Strategy, and on the University’s draft Budget for 2015/16 and four-year financial forecast; a report from the Education Policy and Strategy Committee; and communications from the meeting of Court held on 15 April 2015.

If you would like more information on Court and its meetings, there are further details on the University website:

Best wishes for the summer

David C H Ross, Convener of Court

First published: 6 July 2015

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