Minutes of the Sixtieth Meeting of the General Assembly held on Wednesday 15 March 2000.
Present: Professor D J Wallace (Chair): 34 members of the General Assembly signed on the roll.
Three apologies for absence were received.
The Minutes of the Fifty-ninth meeting of General Assembly held on 29 September 1999 were confirmed and signed by the Chair.
The Vice-Chancellor reported that the proposal regarding the appointment of Pro-Vice-Chancellors, Deans and Associate Deans had been approved by Council and had now been passed to Privy Council for formal approval. He noted that ex-officio Pro-Vice-Chancellors would be limited to Teaching and Research.
The Vice-Chancellor noted that the revised timetable for election to Senate was now operating very effectively.
There were no further Matters Arising.
The Vice-Chancellor gave a report on current matters. Firstly he looked at the excellent External Subject Review scores the University has obtained, and congratulated the relevant departments. The University’s excellent teaching quality and the Student Experience it offers across departments, the Students Union and Athletic Union, had led to a rise in the number of applications from home students to undergraduate programmes again across the University this year. Members present were encouraged to support students at sporting events where possible (fixture dates on website: http://www-lsu.lboro.ac.uk/resources/athletic.htm )
With respect to Research, the Vice Chancellor reported that the University is already achieving its target of being in the top 20 as far as ESPRC and industrial collaboration are concerned. Income from research grants and contracts was again rising in 1999/2000, and the University came equal fourth in the UK in the LINK scheme. This year the University has increased its number of sponsored Chairs, and has introduced the Gatsby Innovation Fellowships. Improving links with industry had led to an expansion in sandwich placements, excellent graduate employment rates and a consistent place in the top ten of the Teaching Company Scheme. The University has seen a continuing expansion of sponsored programmes across all faculties, and has seen £10M investment capital from Ford for their Retail College.
The Vice-Chancellor moved on to report that the Alumni Association has recently raised over £100,000 through a telephone campaign organised by External Relations, with student volunteers. He noted that building development on the campus over the last few years has included the new sports hall, the Business and Economics building, the Tennis Centre, LSU extension, Art Gallery, Engineering building, hall refurbishment and the Ford College.
The Vice-Chancellor noted that future issues for the University to face included investing time and resources into ensuring a successful outcome of the RAE; working on the University’s Learning and Teaching Development initiatives; increasing the number of programmes offering sandwich placements, and increasing the number of applications from international students. He reported that the Service Improvement Groups are continuing to develop, and discussions were continuing on the financial system project. Successful development activity has included £18M external funding for future developments, and £14M external funding towards the current £40M programme.
The Vice-Chancellor wound up his report by looking at human resource issues facing the University, including the issues raised by the recent Bett Report, and the need to reduce the number of fixed term contracts. He hoped that members of the General Assembly will play their part in ensuring representative ethnic and gender balance on major committees, including University Council. He concluded by noting that the University’s budget for next year will continue to be difficult.
One member asked that the remit of the Service Improvement Groups (SIGs) be clarified. The Vice-Chancellor replied that the SIGs emerged from the Support Services Review to ensure a culture of continuous improvement within the Support Services, and to to input requirements of academic departments. He commented that the SIGs are still evolving.
A member expressed some dissatisfaction with the current facilities in lecture theatres and asked if it was true that there was a zero improvement budget. The Vice-Chancellor replied that the University is awaiting the outcome of a £100,000 bid to the Funding Council to upgrade lecture theatre facilities. Dr Ann Mumford added that the SIG has approved a budget for minor refurbishment, and is currently considering a budget request for a significant upgrade of facilities.
Professor John Dawkins reported on the status of Research within the University. Over the past two years the level of new grants and contracts has risen by £4M. The University has plans to increase the number of postgraduate studentships, particularly those from overseas. Research Council funding has stayed fairly static, and the University's success rate with EPSRC is in fact below the national average. The University should look to improve in a number of areas, including PhD completion rates, ESPRC Council applications, Research Council funding and its international standing.
Professor Dawkins reported that an RAE 2001 team has been established by the Research Office. A dummy run has been completed, to be evaluated in April/May 2000. A revised dummy run is planned for the Autumn. It is hoped that in the 2001 RAE Loughborough will have one fifth of staff in the 5* category.
A member asked whether the recruitment of researchers through the Fastrack initiative has been successful. Professor Dawkins responded that at present it is too early to give a definitive answer. The Vice-Chancellor added that for the 1996 RAE, the more funding departments received, the more their grades were increased. He added that in many units of assessment postgraduate research student numbers have an important weight in the RAE rating.
A member asked whether the Faculty of Science had a similar initiative to that of the Faculty of Engineering. The Vice-Chancellor replied that all faculties had received similar funding through the Development Plan, and it was up to them what extra initiatives they put into place.
A member asked whether appointments made through the Fastrack system will be fully-operational members of departments, or just research Professors. The Vice-Chancellor replied that the University has not formally appointed them as Research Professors, but that it would be unrealistic and counter-productive to expect them to take on too many administration and teaching responsibilities.
A member asked whether individual members of staff have been assessed as to their grade. The Vice-Chancellor replied that this is an issue for individual departments; the University has only made a target projection overall.
The Bursar, Mr Michael Pearson, gave a report on the University’s financial situation. The anticipated income for the 1999/2000 session is £99,507M with an anticipated spend of £98,767M, meaning that the University is 2% short of its desired surplus. For the 2000/2001 session the University’s anticipated income is £103.565M with a possible forecast expenditure of £104.754M. The Bursar commented that with Council looking to obtain a £2M surplus from University income, there is therefore pressure on the University to adhere to its financial policy. He commented further that a decline in postgraduate research students and research associates as well as the number of international students recruited had reduced the amount of money coming into the University.
A member asked whether the Bursar had any advice where a relatively small department should spend money on. The Bursar replied that the priority was to recruit more international students, by attracting them to the department in the first place and then converting enquiries and applications into firm students. Departments should perhaps consider introducing new programmes and/or scholarships to attract international students.
The Vice Chancellor finally commented that Loughborough University is not alone in facing financial restrictions for the forthcoming year – up to one third of Higher Education Institutions are likely to report a financial deficit this year.
The Registrar, Mr John Town, presented the University’s plans to introduce ‘The Loughborough University Medal’, to be awarded in exceptional circumstances to particularly deserving members of the University(paper to Senate tabled).
A member asked what the difference would be between the University Medal and an honorary degree. The Registrar replied that there are many staff to whom the award of an honorary degree would be inappropriate and too limiting.
Another member asked whether the University should introduce a Doctor of the University. The Registrar replied that this kind of honour would not be relevant to a non-academic members of staff, for whom a medal is more appropriate and relevant.
The General Assembly broadly supported the introduction of The Loughborough University Medal, and the Registrar agreed to take the proposal forward.
There was no other business.
The Vice Chancellor closed the meeting by thanking all those present for attending.
To be confirmed
Author - Wendy Clarke
Date - 27 March 2000
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