The University of Southampton
UEB Blog

UEB Blog 14.05.24

Author: Shaun Williams, Executive Director Engagement and Advancement

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  • UEB noted confirmation from the Office for Students (OfS) of the additional 350 Government-funded places for undergraduate medical courses approved for the academic year 2025-26, and how additional places will be allocated across all eligible medical schools. For Southampton, an additional 17 places have been allocated.
  • UEB noted a letter to Vice-Chancellors from Arif Ahmed, Director for Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom at the Office for Students, in the context of the protests that are currently taking place at some universities relating to events in the Middle East. The OfS recognises that universities and colleges must ensure the physical safety of all their students and staff, and also recognises that they may face difficult decisions – often taken swiftly and under immense media and public scrutiny – when balancing the right to freedom of speech within the law against the need to protect students from unlawful harassment and intimidation. Later this month the OfS expects to publish its plans for future regulation of harassment in universities and colleges. In parallel, the OfS is currently consulting on several matters relating to free speech and academic freedom, in advance of strengthened legal requirements taking effect from 1 August 2024. The OfS says it wants to avoid imposing obligations on institutions to prevent harassment that conflict with their new free speech duties.
  • UEB endorsed a draft University response to the above-mentioned OfS Consultation on proposed regulatory advice and other matters relating to freedom of speech. The OfS consultation sets out proposed guidance on the duties related to freedom of speech and academic freedom; amendments to the regulatory framework to reflect the OfS’s new general duties and general functions; the recovery of OfS costs in connection with the new free speech complaints scheme and the imposition of monetary penalties on students’ unions. 
  • UEB noted the news that morning that Southampton has been placed 20th in the Complete University Guide 2025, maintaining our inclusion in the Top 20, but a drop of three places on the 2024 rankings. We have a League Tables and Rankings group which has been addressing the individual elements and factors which make up each of the major league tables, and work is already underway aimed at improving our position.
  • UEB noted that on Thursday this week we will be hosting a first anniversary event marking the signing last year of the Civic University Agreement between the University and Southampton and Winchester City Councils, Eastleigh and Test Valley Borough Councils, and Hampshire County Council. The Vice-Chancellor thanked those involved in preparing for the event, and said he was looking forward to engaging with our various civic partners.
  • The Vice-Chancellor provided an update on a recent Universities UK (UUK) meeting covering a number of sector issues, including sector pay negotiations and student recruitment. As UEB was taking place, the report on the Graduate Route for international students by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), commissioned by the Home Secretary, was published, and recommended that the Graduate Route should remain in place in its current form, and found no evidence of widespread abuse. The report was considered positive for the sector, with the Graduate Route playing a crucial role in ensuring the UK is an attractive destination for global talent. The Government’s response is now awaited.
  • UEB reviewed the Annual Health and Safety Report 2023, whose purpose is to inform our University Council of the University’s health and safety performance during the year, and provide assurance that the arrangements for the management of health and safety are satisfactory. The conclusion of the report is that the performance indicators demonstrate a satisfactory health and safety performance, and a strong and well-established health and safety culture, while presenting opportunities for improvement and refinement of the systems and processes, particularly in the clarity of mandatory training requirements and in auditing. This is an issue that UEB takes very seriously: the direction of travel is encouraging, but it is a trajectory that must continue.
  • UEB discussed the draft of a new Inclusion and Respectful Behaviour Policy, intended to replace the University’s four policies relating to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI): the Equality and Diversity Policy; Dignity at Work and Study Policy; Gender Dysphoria Policy; and Religion and Belief Policy. As with the policies it replaces, this single policy would apply to students, staff, individuals working for or with the University, and members of the public when they visit or engage with the University. It reflects changes to legislation, working practices within the University, best practices from industry and the sector, and the University’s Strategic Plan: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. The policy has been shaped through extensive consultation with a wide number of internal stakeholders. This will now be taken forward for further discussions including with our campus trades unions.
  • Finally, there was a discussion about new templates for use for formal University meetings, to ensure more focused papers, details of which will be communicated by the Governance team in due course; and there was the regular review of the University Risk Register. 
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