Minutes of the Fifty-sixth (Ordinary) Meeting of the General Assembly held on Wednesday 30 April 1997.
The Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor was in the Chair and 108 members signed the attendance roll. Three apologies for absence were received.
- The Minutes of the Fifty-fourth (Ordinary) meeting of General Assembly held on 16 May 1996 were confirmed and signed by the Chair as a correct record of the proceedings
- The Minutes of the fifty-fifth (Extraordinary) meeting of General Assembly held on 20 November 1996 were confirmed and signed by the Chair as a correct record of the proceedings.
There were no matters arising from the Minutes of the fifty-fourth and fifty-fifth meetings.
- The General Assembly received a report from the Bursar on the University's financial position for the academic year 1997/1998. Funding Council teaching funds had decreased by 1.1% in real terms and now incorporated the equipment grant. After a successful RAE outcome the QR funding received had been disappointing and reflected a change in emphasis by the HEFCE, resulting in a decrease of 6.2% in cash terms on last year. Generic research funding had decreased by 18%.
- Overall, an adjustment for the changes in the pension funds and with inflation at approximately 3%, the budget had decreased by 2.7% in real terms on last year.
- The PVC(T) presented the interim report of the Semesterisation Review Group. The Group noted that the principles of modularity, credit accumulation and semesterisation were not under question and identified three main issues:
- The structure of modules
- The Group identified strong support for increasing flexibility by permitting the introduction of year-long modules. It was suggested that in any session a maximum of 50% in module credits could be provided in the form of year long modules and that a minimum of 40 credits should be taught and assessed in the first semester.
- Modular assessment
- The Group intends to recommend that Module Boards be abolished and that representations in regard to impaired performance be considered by Programme Boards.
- The Special Assessment Period (SAP) allows a small but significant number of students without sufficient credits at first attempt to progress under reassessment procedures. Its removal would place a barrier of financial hardship on credit accumulation and student progression, forcing students to take a year out and resit modules whenever they are next examined. Accordingly the Group proposed that the SAP be retained and that Programme Boards be allowed some flexibility to determine the form of assessment used.
- The Group considered that the present structure of the academic year would be improved by its proposals to abolish module boards and the scope for the introduction of year-long modules. It suggested 10 weeks of teaching before Christmas with a three week assessment period at the end of semester 1.
- The PVC(T) emphasised that the Semesterisation Review Group welcomed comments on its interim report and that this was the purpose of its presentation to General Assembly.
- The Chair informed General Assembly that two amendments to the SRG paper had been proposed. These were presented by Russ Bowman and seconded by Paul Murgatroyd. The two amendments read as follows:
- Years C and D Module arrangements
- General Assembly recommends to Senate that departments shall be able to determine the number of year long and combined modules in years C and D of undergraduate degrees. The decision by departments would depend on the academic appropriateness for their undergraduate programmes and require the approval of their faculties."
- September Resit Examinations
- General Assembly recommends to Senate that departments shall determine whether September Resit Examinations are held for their undergraduate programmes. The decision by departments would depend on the academic appropriateness for their undergraduate programmes and required approval of their faculties."
- The following comments were offered in support of the above amendments:-
- The argument for the introduction of year-long modules to parts A and B could be extended to years C and D to allow continuity in final year projects, without the distraction of January exams.
- The SAP carries a large workload at a time when academic staff could usefully attend conferences or further their research.
- The SAP imposes hardship on those students from a poorer background who will have to seek employment in the summer vacation, thus allowing them less time to study for resits.
- The Chair invited comments on the structure of the academic year and the two amendments to the SRG report. The following points were raised by members:-
- The summer vacation should be preserved as a period for research by extending the teaching period before Christmas to 11 weeks and shortening the Christmas vacation. The Chair informed General Assembly that in 1998, the A level results would be released one week later.
- Several members spoke in support of the amendment to include year-long modules in year C and D. The increased flexibility was particularly welcomed by those departments with a large practical element to their Programmes.
- Concern at restricting year-long module credits to 50% was expressed, as it was felt that this would restrict the choice available to first year Social Scientists.
- If year-long modules were introduced, it should be recognised that students may face examination on a whole year's work after only 1 week of revision at the end of Semester 2.
- In a subsequent show of hands General Assembly voted by a large majority in favour of both amendments.
- The Registrar reported that this project remained at the feasibility study stage and was awaiting the outcome of a decision by HEFCE on funded numbers for Peterborough and rested on the ability of the Peterborough community to raise most of the start up funds required. A response on a bid for funded numbers was expected by December 1997 and a Committee Chaired by the PVC(T) had begun to develop a modest teaching programme which could commence in October 1998.
- The Registrar emphasised that teaching would be delivered by distance learning, in which the University had already invested and would not involve Loughborough Staff commuting on a regular basis to Peterborough.
- In response to a query about the use of distance learning the Chair informed members that there were only two programmes proposed to start in October 1998: a business studies undergraduate programme and an engineering undergraduate course similar to the Engineering Science and Technology course currently offered at Loughborough. The Registrar informed members that Varity Perkins had offered their premises for the delivery of this engineering programme. The Chair added that similar offers for space and resources had been received from other Peterborough companies.
- A member enquired about the links between the University and companies offering space and resources. General Assembly was reassured by the information that these companies were interested in investing in training for their staff on site and that many owned empty buildings suitable for conversion.
- In response to an enquiry about the financial cost to the University of this project, the Chair informed members that set up costs would be met by the Peterborough community, and not from Loughborough University's central resources.
- The Chair reported that a memorandum of understanding would be submitted to Council and the LCAD governors in order for a merger on 1 August 1998 to be formally announced this summer. LCAD would become Loughborough School of Art and Design within the SSH Faculty. There would be no enforced redundancies and it was confirmed that good progress was being made in the merger discussions.
- The SPVC reported that the University had received advice on Corporate Governance. It was suggested that the co-opted membership of Council should be reviewed and broadened. Professor Margaret Evans had been elected as the staff member of the nominating Committee responsible for these appointments.
- The Registrar presented a report on the proposed changes to Council Membership and highlighted the aim of achieving a broad balance of gender as well as local and national members. It was suggested that former members of the University were not wholly independent and as such it was proposed that their numbers be limited to two in the category elected from Court to Council.
- The Registrar also informed members that the Secretary of State for Education did not intend to exercise the right to nominate a member of Council. It was proposed that in order to maintain the proportion of lay members, the number of co-opted members be increased by one to a total of eleven.
- The Chair invited comments from members on the proposed changes to Council membership:
- In a response to a request for clarification, the Registrar informed members that the nominating committee was responsible for the appointment of co-opted members to Council. Nominations were invited and publicised as widely as possible and elected members of Council, Deans and the Equal Opportunities Committee were consulted. It was agreed that more women should be nominated to reflect the broader population, but that few such nominations came forward.
To be arranged.
Author - Mr N A McHard
Date - 7 May 1997
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