Minutes of the Fifty-ninth Meeting of the General Assembly held on 29 September 1999.
Present: Professor D J Wallace (Chair): 51 members of the General Assembly signed the roll. Three apologies for absence were received.
The agreement of Privy Council that part-time staff on appropriate grades should be members of General Assembly was noted.
The Minutes of the Fifty-eighth (Ordinary) meeting of General Assembly held on 24 February 1999 were confirmed and signed by the Chair.
The Vice Chancellor welcomed Mr John Town, the new Registrar, to the meeting and to the University.
The Vice Chancellor noted that the introduction of requirements to wear ID cards had been delayed in the light of the current AUT action over pay; implementation was intended when the current national dispute ended.
There were no further Matters Arising.
The Vice-Chancellor gave a report on current matters. He noted the recent Sunday Times article (19/9/99), which shortlisted Loughborough University for university of the year. The article included the statement 'Loughborough is one of the 1960s generation of universities, which has expanded from traditional areas of technical and engineering strength to become a fully-rounded institution with an unparalleled sporting record'.
The Vice Chancellor went on to highlight some of the University’s achievements over the past year or so. Indicators for teaching and learning, covering for example External Subject Review, UCAS applications, sponsorship of programmes etc were extremely strong. Progress in research was exemplified by the record level of new Grants and Contracts, up 21% on the previous year, by our second largest TCS (Teaching Company Scheme) portfolio in England, and by support of more than £200,000 from the Gatsby Foundation for Innovation Fellowships. The Ford College development was a great credit to the Business School, and underlined the unique strength of our collaboration with business. He was also pleased to report wider developments spanning selection as a National Network Centre for the UK Sports Institute, and the exciting programme for the University Gallery, one of the many benefits flowing from the merger with LCAD. The wide-ranging changes following the Support Services Review were already producing internal benefits and external interest, and the Alumni and Development offices were making excellent progress with more than 28,000 former students on the data-base, and more than £100,000 pledged in a recent telephone fund-raising campaign.
The Vice Chancellor then went on to focus on the Strategic Plan, the reasoning behind it, and its development and content. He emphasised that the plan was not about controlling the future, but about establishing an overall direction for the university by matching internal capabilities with the challenges and opportunities of the external environment. His appraisal by the late Chair of Council, Dr Stewart Miller had identified promotion and achievement of wide identification with the Strategic Plan as a top priority. An article about the Plan would appear in the next news@lboro, and copies would be available in Departments and Sections, as well as on our intranet. He hoped that all staff would engage with it and the consequent Operational Plans, as goals in the Plan had implications for every individual.
Finally, the Vice Chancellor paid tribute to Dr Steward Miller, late Chair of Council, as a personal friend, a very well respected colleague, and an exceptional Chair of Council. Loughborough University owes a very great debt to him. The Vice-Chancellor hoped that as many as possible would be able to attend the Thanksgiving Service in Derby Cathedral on 28th October.
The meeting considered a paper presented by Michael Pearson, Bursar and Acting Registrar, on the appointment of Pro-Vice-Chancellors, Deans and Associate Deans.
A member present asked for reassurance that if more Pro-Vice-Chancellors are appointed, members of Departments will still be able to contribute to the development of the University through membership of committees, or via committee members.
The Vice Chancellor answered that there are no plans for appointing any further Pro-Vice-Chancellors at present, and when appointments are made, they will not replace efficient committees. However, it is hoped that Pro-Vice-Chancellors will make committees more effective and better driven, particularly in areas where external developments occur rapidly. The Bursar added that there was no reason why committees couldn’t call any member of the Executive to participate in a specific discussion or decision.
A member asked if there are no plans for appointing further Pro-Vice-Chancellors at present, why the matter is being raised.
The Vice Chancellor replied that the proposal is looking to regularise the present situation where there is a clear need for the existing third Pro-Vice-Chancellor. It aims to release the University from outdated and inflexible restrictions currently placed on it, so that it can best respond to the unknown challenges that it will face in the future.
A member asked how the University will deal with the post of Pro-Vice-Chancellor for External Relations, which has existed for the past ten years, exceeding the proposed three year appointment, plus three year renewal period.
The Vice Chancellor replied that Council, the Governing Body of the University, would have the power to extend the appointment of Pro-Vice-Chancellors if it was appropriate.
A member asked whether it was felt appropriate to look at the way the University is separated into Faculties rather than Schools, as this is also outside its original Charter.
The Vice Chancellor answered, saying that many things in the Charter do not follow current practice, and there is a need to look at it more widely. This will be part of the governance issue, that the new Registrar will address when he is in post. The issue of appointing more Pro-Vice-Chancellors has operational urgency, which requires action more quickly.
A member asked whether Faculty members would still be involved in the appointment of Deans, as well as Council.
The Vice Chancellor confirmed that they would.
A member asked what ‘Specialist Areas’ are likely to arise, and whether appointments will be made on a fixed-term contract basis.
The Bursar replied that contracts are likely to be fixed term, though not necessarily for a three year period. An example of a Specialist Area might be Marketing, where the title ‘Pro-Vice-Chancellor’ helps to smooth the path of the post-holder in some situations, particularly overseas.
A member asked whether any thought had been given to streamlining titles of the University Executive, particularly as students did not always understand them.
The Vice Chancellor agreed that titles were not easy to understand and streamlining had been thought about, but at present, without a better alternative, the University would continue to follow the UK pattern.
A member raised the issue of academic titles and wondered if any thought had been given about re-naming these posts.
The Vice Chancellor agreed that this is a big issue which merits wider discussion, and that he is happy to hold a debate at the appropriate time. Developments following the Bett Report might suggest some changes.
A member pointed out that there is currently national debate on this issue, and that the majority of universities using the title ‘Deputy Vice Chancellor’ are new universities.
The Vice Chancellor acknowledged this, but felt that Loughborough University should have enough confidence not to be concerned by it.
A member asked whether the proposed changes had any financial implications.
The Vice Chancellor replied that there are no immediate financial implications, because there are no plans to increase the existing number of Pro-Vice-Chancellors.
A member asked what transitional arrangements would be put in place to move from current practice to the new system.
The Vice Chancellor replied that as posts fall vacant, committees would be established to make appointments under the new rules.
A member asked whether people with a special interest would be excluded from votes on decisions. Another member pointed out that, for example, Deans are ex-officio on Council and therefore are not able to vote.
The Vice-Chancellor agreed to take these points to Council for their consideration.
He asked whether, with the reassurances given, General Assembly was broadly content with the proposals. This was accepted without dissent.
A paper was presented by Shelagh Wheelans, Manager of the Academic Registry, for the revision of the timetable for election to Senate, in the light of the disappointing number of nominations and appointment to positions in the previous session. Members’ suggestions to improve the situation included the following:
It was agreed to take these points on board for consideration, and members of the meeting were thanked for their co-operation. Suggested amendments to the procedure which require a change in Ordinance will be brought to the November Senate meeting.
A member asked when the new financial system would be going on-line.
The Vice Chancellor replied that the two supplying companies had let the University down by failing to deliver to date, and that legal discussions are now being held. It is hoped to get the system up and running as soon as possible, but in any case the University has a fallback position with the current system, which has passed our checks on Y2K compliance.
There was no other business.
The Vice Chancellor closed the meeting by thanking all those present for attending.
15 March 2000
Author - W J Clarke
Date - 4 October 1999
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