The University of Southampton
UEB Blog

UEB Blog 20.01.20

Author: Shaun Williams, Executive Director of Engagement and Advancement

A very full meeting today with some big strategic issues under discussion, so a meaty blog this week.

A number of issues were discussed under the Vice-Chancellor’s Business section at the start of this week’s meeting:

  • There was an update on a hoax email that had been sent to all students on Sunday, pretending to be from the former Vice-Chancellor. Although clearly a spoof, swift communication was issued to reassure students that it was indeed a hoax. The University is taking this incident very seriously and an urgent investigation by iSolutions and the legal team was immediately launched.
  • There was a general discussion on last week’s annual Council Awayday. There were three main elements: a reflection by the Vice-Chancellor after his first three months at Southampton and a discussion on how our University strategy might need to be adjusted ahead; a wide-ranging presentation on our future estates plans and the choices and priorities we will need to make, along with a careful balance between refurbishing existing buildings and embarking on completely new builds; and a discussion of the most appropriate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure the University’s performance ahead.

Council members expressed their strong backing for a proposed re-articulation of the University strategy framed around our dual excellence in education and research, with performance underpinned by new KPIs. A wide-ranging consultation involving staff, students, alumni and key stakeholders will start this week and continue over the coming months, leading to a fresh articulation of our strategy in the summer. Full information will be provided later today.

Council also strongly supported plans for the next phase of investment in our physical campus infrastructure. It was agreed that in this next phase we should prioritise projects that deliver a Top 10 student experience, prioritise projects that add innovation and distinction, and prioritise projects that enable campus development.

Work on developing business cases for three projects will now accelerate this year:

  1. Significantly improving the sports facilities available on Highfield campus to Top 10 standards, the first step in creating a new heart of the campus;
  2. Developing the North-East Quadrant of the Highfield campus to provide innovative interdisciplinary teaching space for Medical and Health Sciences education, improved teaching and staff premises for Maths, and more digitally-enabled teaching provision; and
  3. Redeveloping the Faraday Tower site.

Meanwhile, the development of a long-term estates masterplan for Highfield and our other campuses is also underway, with a particular focus on how we embed sustainability and net-zero carbon targets in our planning, alongside an innovative new sustainable Transport Policy for the University. Further consultation on our estates plans with our staff, student, and city communities will take place over the coming months.

  • Next, UEB fully supported a proposal to set up a new taskforce to examine the administrative processes at the University, with a view to reducing unnecessary excess without undermining good communications or effective and accountable management. This is clearly an issue which many colleagues feel strongly about, and one where myth and fact can often be intertwined.
    The Taskforce will be chaired by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities with a membership drawn from across the University. Its first task will be to call for evidence from the University community as to their experience of the different administrative processes used in the day-to-day running of the University. It will also seek to understand more fully the complexity of our processes and the relative impact of information systems and administrative processes on what some feel is, at times, an excess of bureaucracy, and to benchmark our processes against other universities to determine the good practice processes that we might follow. Further details will be provided over the coming weeks.
  • Finally, the Executive Director of Student Experience provided a verbal update on current applications and offers made at UG and PGT level.

On the rest of the agenda today:

  • A number of Health and Safety reports were discussed, including proposed changes to the University’s Health,Safetyand Risk Committee structure; a revised Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Policy; a report summarising minor changes to a number of policies as part of their biennial reviews; an audit report on statutory inspection for a range of equipment such as exhaust ventilation, lifting equipment and pressure systems, which had highlighted some inconsistencies across the University; the monthly Health and Safety incident report; and a report from the Genetic Modification and Biological Safety Committee (GMBC).
  • There was initial discussion of the second report of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) Joint Expert Panel (JEP). UEB saw merit in the broad details and, as outlined, the report will now undergo a more formal consultation through Universities UK (UUK) over the next two months.
  • Finally, UEB approved the Annual Research Integrity Statement, which will now be discussed at Senate and Council before publication on the University’s Research Integrity webpage.
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