Court meeting: 2 December 2019
The University Court held its most recent meeting on 2 December.
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.
The Court is the University’s governing body. With a focus on strategic direction, it takes the final decisions on issues of fundamental concern to the wellbeing of the University.
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Summary of Court meeting: 2 December 2019
The following reports are summaries of a selection of items discussed and agreed at the meeting on 2 December.
Student Experience Update
An update on the work of the University Executive Standing Committee on Student Experience was reviewed. The following points were raised in discussion:
- Improving communication of the student experience action plan in its totality, both proactively and on the University website for those searching for more information;
- Adding greater contextual information on planned individual project expenditure to future reports;
- Learning from other universities, including international best practice examples, on student-led communication; and,
- Progress with the over 70 different stands of work initially identified in April 2019 with some being taken forward presently, others scheduled for 2020 and the remainder awaiting detailed proposals for review by the Committee
EUSA President's Report
The Students’ Association President reported on recent developments. This included a Register to Vote campaign that saw 4,000 students applying for voter registration in Edinburgh, the Mental Health and Wellbeing Week (11-15 November), input into discussions on the University’s future size and shape covering implications for the city and affordable student housing and agreement in principle by the Students’ Association Board of Trustees to an accelerated framework for payment of the Real Living Wage. Taking a holistic view of the Festivals and other external events with commercial trading impacts was discussed, with Corporate Services Group and the Students’ Association jointly working on a three year plan and ten year vision, to be submitted to Court when complete.
Student Residential Accommodation Strategy Annual Update
Court approved the annual update to the Student Residential Accommodation Strategy 2018-2028 and noted the forecast additional 1,700 additional bed requirement by 2026/27 given anticipated stock movement and projected demand.
Strategic Plan 2016 Performance Measurement Framework Annual Report
The third and final annual report for the Strategic Plan 2016 Performance Measurement Framework was reviewed. The inclusion of a wider overview of achievements during the Strategic Plan 2016 period was welcomed including the City Region Deal and improvements in widening access and sustainability. It was noted that while the figures for the third student satisfaction measure (Postgraduate Research Experience Survey results) had reduced over the period this was in line with Russell Group peer institutions.
Annual Report and Accounts 2018/19
Following scrutiny by the Audit & Risk Committee and the Policy & Resources Committee, the draft Annual Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 July 2019 were presented for approval. Members discussed communication of the financial results, including the joint text agreed by UK university financial directors to explain the significant non-cash pension movements that have led to the total comprehensive expenditure outcome for the year, mirroring other universities in proportion to their size within the Universities Superannuation Scheme. It was recognised that the underlying operational performance had been positive in 2018/19 with the operating surplus important for reinvestment in core University activities. All staff involved in contributing to the document were thanked and the Annual Report and Accounts 2018/19 approved.
Social Enterprise and Social Investment Strategy
Building on previous agreement for the principle of engaging in social investments and approval for an initial tranche of investments, a draft social enterprise and social investment strategy was reviewed. Establishing a portfolio to achieve a balance between financial and social returns was discussed. Support for including investments in student social enterprises was expressed, with the intention to attract matched funding for some investments in this area by summer 2020. The strategy was approved, with an action plan to deliver the strategy to be prepared during 2020.
Positive investment and social finance
Senior Lay Member: Recruitment and Election
Proposed arrangements for the recruitment and election process for the new position of Senior Lay Member were considered.
- Agreed to authorise Nominations Committee as the committee with delegated responsibilities for the Senior Lay Member appointment process, with flexibility for the Nominations Committee to sub-delegate to a smaller Selection Committee to shortlist and interview candidates;
- Agreed the recruitment and election timetable set out in the paper;
- Noted the intended use of a recruitment consultancy to assist in attracting applicants;
- Agreed to the use of the Electoral Reform Services external voting platform;
- Noted the draft Information Pack and criteria for assessing applicants;
- Agreed to set the remuneration level at an honorarium of £15,000 per annum if requested by the postholder, in line with the Scottish Government rate for chairs of public boards; and,
- Approved the draft election and appointment regulations subject to minor amendment relating to categories excluded from applying.
Court Staff Member Election Regulations
Regulations governing the conduct of elections for the Court positions of Professional Services Staff Member and Academic Staff Member scheduled for 24-26 March 2020 were approved.
Professional Services Staff Member
Senate Election Regulations
Regulations governing the conduct of elections to the Senatus Academicus (‘Senate’) scheduled for 24-26 March 2020 were approved.
Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Act 2016
A regular update from the Director of Finance and reports from Court’s committees on activities being undertaken in support of Court were reviewed. Court also approved an updated version of the Receipt and Provision of Gifts, Hospitality and Other Benefits Policy, the Modern Slavery Statement 2018/19 and the Collections Management Policy 2020-2030.
Further information on the remit and work of Court and its Committees can be found online.