Minutes of the Fifty-eighth Meeting of the General Assembly held on 24 February 1999.
Present: Professor D J Wallace (Chair) :32 members of the General Assembly signed the roll.
The Minutes of the Fifty-seventh (Ordinary) meeting of General Assembly held on 27 May 1998 were confirmed and signed by the Chair.
The Vice-Chancellor presented his Annual Report. The full text is available at:
The Vice-Chancellor thanked AVS and the Communications and Publicity Office for their help in the preparation of the Annual Report. He expressed his disappointment that not all pool rooms were linked to the web, and indicated that he would press for this to be rectified.
The report was a historical account of the year ended 31 July 1998. The Vice-Chancellor concentrated in his presentation on developments since that time.
The number of home student applications to Loughborough had increased in all Faculties, by an average of 10%. This followed an increase of nearly 7% in the previous year, and compared with a national decline of some 2%. Overseas applications were down by 25 - 30% in line with the national trend. This had a direct adverse effect on the University's income, and strenuous efforts were needed in overseas recruitment. The activities of LUSAD in East Africa were an example of innovative good practice.
Research income in the previous year had increased from £16m to £17.5m, and in the first six months of the current year new grants and contracts had already reached £11.5m. It was important to realise that every additional £4m research income brought with it an average £1m in overheads.
In reply to a question the Vice-Chancellor indicated that better quality space would be available to support research activities once the new Engineering Building had been completed.
Four Teams - Student Recruitment and Admissions, Planning Development and Quality, Research, Planning and Resources - were currently being put in place. Service Improvement Groups were on target to produce a budget for Support Services based on University objectives.
The Vice Chancellor summarised some of the major projects in which the University was currently involved. The construction of the new Engineering Building would present opportunities for the redevelopment of part of the Central Site and for the conversion of the Library to a Learning Resources Centre. A programme of refurbishment of Halls of Residence, including wiring halls for telephones and data, was well under way. Other possible exciting developments included the UK Sports Institute and the Gallery of the Future.
Recently published tables in the press reflected the University's excellent performance in External Subject Review (Teaching Quality Assessment). The University was ranked 15th in the Daly Telegraph and 20th in the Sunday Times, and in both cases the ranking was depressed because of historical data. The University also did well in Technology Transfer activities such as the Teaching Company Scheme.
The University's performance in research was not yet as impressive as in teaching; improving research ratings was a key aspect of the University's Strategic Plan, to be discussed later in the meeting
The Vice-Chancellor reported that the University was currently in discussion with the local AUT with a view to reducing the number of fixed-term contracts, with the risk to the University being managed by mechanisms for compulsory redundancy if necessary.
The Senior-Pro-Vice-Chancellor reported that the Strategic Planning Process was scheduled for completion by Council in July 1999. A Council Conference in October 1998 had identified a number of issues:-
Development of the portfolio of research and teaching, proposing realistic levels of ambition:
Improvement of the physical environment and support of research and teaching
Support of the University's human resources - students and staff;
Interaction with the wider community and development of the cultural environment;
Image and promotion
The overall intention was to develop the University as a research-led community.
Some members of General Assembly drew attention to what they saw as the inefficiency of using fixed-term contracts, suggesting that Research Groups in particular were forced to devote time to seeking future contracts in order to secure their existence instead of writing up and publishing their results, which would raise the University's research profile. It was suggested that the University's funding was more secure than that of many companies in the private sector, and that the replacement of fixed-term with open-ended contracts would not in fact be a great risk. In response it was pointed out that the University did not invoke redundancy as readily as the private sector.
The Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor pointed out that Research Groups were now able to discuss their financial arrangements and to access development funds at Faculty level, and emphasised that the University kept the overall position under review through its Academic and Commercial Enterprises Monitoring Sub-Committee. The Resources Allocation System was being adjusted to support research more positively, and another recent development had been the introduction of a Fast Track Targeted Research Initiative.
A member of General Assembly, speaking on behalf of Loughborough AUT, suggested that the AUT's views on identification cards had been misrepresented in a recent Senate paper. The Association position was in fact that it supported the proposal that members of the University should carry an identification card, but did not support the proposition that such cards should be worn, on grounds both of practicality and personal conscience. There were occasions on which members might have a legitimate reason for not wishing their identity to be immediately apparent to another person. On the other hand there would be no objection to any reasonable request to produce evidence of identification.
The Vice-Chancellor responded that the proposals had been brought forward in good faith to improve security. He clearly understood the AUT's viewpoint, but emphasised that the proposal had been voted on and agreed by Senate, and that the Security Manager had been asked to initiate further discussions on implementation.
One member asked if there was any evidence that the requirement to wear a card would in fact improve security. Others suggested that Senate's resolution to make failure to wear the card a disciplinary issue could create unnecessary aggravation if, for example, lecturers felt they should refuse to teach students not wearing the card, or if the University took action against a member of staff for non-compliance.
In response to a question about the status of visitors, the Senior-Pro-Vice-Chancellor stated that all visitors would be asked to report to a Departmental Reception Area or to an individual host, who would be responsible for issuing a temporary identification card.
The Vice-Chancellor expressed the hope that common sense would prevail so that all members of the University could benefit from the increased security which he felt would be brought about by this development.
To be determined