Staff news

Court meeting: 1 October 2018

The University Court held its most recent meeting on 1 October.

We publish regular updates on matters discussed at all Court meetings, during which members consider matters of strategic importance to the University.

Meetings of the Court are held five times a year.

Governing body

The Court is the University’s governing body and its legal persona.

With a focus on strategic direction, it takes the final decisions on issues of fundamental concern to the wellbeing of the University.

Detailed information on the membership and activities of the University Court, including meeting agendas, papers and minutes, is available online.

Detailed information on University Court

Summary of Court meeting: 1 October 2018

The following is a summary of a selection of items considered on 1 October.

Student Experience Update

The Senior Vice-Principal presented a proposed change of approach to tackle deep-seated cultural challenges impacting on student experience and an accompanying outline draft Action Plan. The Principal commented on the importance of a strong University-wide approach on this issue. The following points were raised in discussion:

  • Support for the focus on deep-seated cultural change and for innovative approaches to achieve this;  
  • Students’ Association views, including improving transport and accommodation and better linking of student academic societies with the academic disciplines in Schools;
  • The respective roles of Court, Senate and the senior management team. Senate will consider the paper at its next meeting and the University Executive and the Principal’s Direct Reports Group have shaped the outline Action Plan and will oversee its final development and subsequent delivery;
  • National and international comparisons, with research intensive universities typically performing less well in student satisfaction surveys but successful examples exist and can be learned from;
  • The action plan will be developed further, with milestones and target completion dates set;
  • Teaching-related components are now required to feature in academic staff recruitment interviews and annual reviews;
  • Merits of adopting and resourcing a change management programme approach; 
  • Interest in curriculum reform, acknowledging that this would be a long-term project and a significant commitment; and,  
  • The results of the first University all-staff survey and associated recommendations will be presented to Court. 

Review of Undergraduate Scholarships and Bursaries

Findings from an evaluation of the University of Edinburgh Scholarship and the Scotland Scholarship schemes and supporting recommendations were reviewed. The following points were raised in discussion:

  • Evidence from a sector-wide evaluation of bursaries in England;
  • The high value placed on the awards by Edinburgh recipients;
  • Support for improving information on the awards to prospective applicants and to new students eligible to receive the award, noting that this is expected to lead to an increase in expenditure given the uncapped number of awards;
  • Increasing philanthropic giving for scholarships;
  • Levels of support for those in the mid-range of the eligible household income level; and,
  • A further widely scoped review of future scholarships will be undertaken, to encompass non-cash support and to take account of any changes resulting from the current review of student support in England.

The continuation of the undergraduate widening participation scholarship programmes and the recommendations were approved.

Student funding

City Region Deal Update

Highlights from the current status of Data-Driven Innovation programme activities within the City Region Deal were reviewed. Progress since the formal signing on 7 August and strong interest from potential industry partners was welcomed. Developing linked widening participation activities was discussed, with a data education pilot project in secondary schools underway. Policy & Resources Committee will be kept informed of capital drawdown arrangements.  

Annual Court Effectiveness Review

The internal review of Court’s effectiveness for 2017/18 was presented. It was noted that the externally facilitated effectiveness review approved at the June 2018 meeting will begin shortly with the Convener of Audit & Risk Committee acting as the lead Court member and Nominations Committee acting as the working group with oversight of the review. Court’s strategic role, links between Court and Senate and the respective Court and Senate externally facilitated effectiveness reviews were discussed, with the two external facilitators to meet. The volume and presentation of Court papers was discussed, with improvements noted and further progress desired. The annual effectiveness review was approved. 

Draft Ordinance: Composition of Court

A draft Ordinance to effect changes to the composition of Court as agreed at the September 2017 meeting was noted and its transmission for statutory consultation approved.

Draft Ordinances

Other items

Updates from EUSA and reports from Court’s committees on activities being undertaken in support of Court were received. Court approved the underwriting of capital expenditure towards the purchase of robotics equipment for living laboratories in the Bayes Centre to be part-funded by the City Region Deal. An extension of the DiRAC High Performance Computer system was approved, conditional on a grant award from the Science & Technology Facilities Council. The reorganisation of certain endowment funds which have been held in excess of 25 years within the College of Science & Engineering was approved. The formal recognition of the University of Edinburgh Alumni Association of Hong Kong was approved. The Annual Scottish Funding Council Quality Assurance Report was approved.

Further information on the remit and work of Court and its Committees can be found online.

Courts and Committees