Staff news

Court meeting: 9 October 2023

The University’s governing body, the University Court, met on 9 October 2023.

Summary of the key topics discussed  


Update from the Principal

Peter Mathieson, Principal & Vice-Chancellor, reported on:

  • The UK government’s announcement that the University of Edinburgh has been selected to host the Exascale next generation national compute system, the major part of a £900m investment in UK supercomputing facilities;   
  • The publication of a joint statement from Universities UK and the University & College Union on the Universities Superannuation Scheme. The proposals in the statement include a return to pre-April 2022 member benefit levels and a reduction in contribution rates for both members and employers, subject to completion of consultation processes within both organisations; 
  • The successful implementation of two major change projects for the start of the new academic year: the new student support model and the upgrade of the Learn Virtual Learning Environment to Learn Ultra;
  • Work completed by independent consultancy London Economics to assess the economic impact of the University, summarised in a 2-minute video published on the University website; and,
  • Strong performance in philanthropic fundraising for the benefit of the University community. The Insights Programme, which connects Widening Participation students with alumni to help build knowledge of different career options was highlighted as one example of an initiative enabled by philanthropic activity.


Main Agenda Items


Student Experience Update: Student Surveys 2023 Results and Actions

Findings from the National Student Survey, Postgraduate Taught and Research Experience Surveys 2023 and actions to improve student experience and meet strategic ambitions were presented. It was noted that the student survey results are disappointing and improving student experience of assessment and feedback is a priority for all Colleges, with University-wide work in this area underway. The Heads of College commented on work within the respective Colleges, including improving the consistency of student experience of assessment and feedback within the appropriate frameworks for different academic disciplines.


Undergraduate and Postgraduate Student Recruitment 2023-24 Entry

An overview of the likely outturn of the 2023-24 entry undergraduate and postgraduate student recruitment cycle was considered. It was noted that overall entrant numbers are likely to be broadly as planned for, although figures will remain provisional until the 31 October census date. 


New Darwin Estates Project

A project update on the New Darwin estates project, to create a new hub for the School of Biological Sciences at the south-east corner of the King’s Buildings Campus, was presented. Court approved funding to develop the design further in support of preparation of a Full Business Case and approved an update to the Capital Plan to reflect the anticipated project budget.


Staff Engagement Survey

Key themes from the University-level results from the 2023 Staff Engagement Survey and plans for future surveys were reviewed. It was noted that the overall response rate was low, raising validity issues with conclusions that might be drawn and that the low response rate might be considered as feedback itself. The Staff Experience Committee will consider the findings and separate work underway or soon to begin was noted, including the Grade Scale Review and a review of hybrid working and family-friendly policies and contribution awards. 


Rectorial Election Regulations 2024

Regulations for the next Rectorial election were approved. The election date was agreed as Tuesday 27 February to Friday 1 March 2024, with the call for nominations to open on Tuesday 5 December. Further information, including a dedicated webpage, will be published when the call for nominations opens.


Other items


The University’s Outcome Agreement 2023-24 and Self-evaluation Report 2022-23 were approved for submission to the Scottish Funding Council, along with the Annual Report to the Scottish Funding Council on Institution-led Review and Enhancement Activity 2022-23. An annual internal effectiveness review for the Court was reviewed and approved, as was an amendment to the governance arrangements for the University’s Development Trust to appoint an independent trustee to the Trust’s Board. Regular reports from the Students’ Association, the Sports Union, the Director of Finance, the Development and Alumni Office, and from Court’s committees were also considered.

More detailed information on the University Court, including the membership, agenda, open papers and approved minutes can be found on the University Court webpages.


Related links

University Court