Minutes of the meeting of General Assembly held on 10 March 2010
Present: 26 members signed the attendance list.
The Minutes of General Assembly held on 11 March 2009 were accepted as a true record.
2. Matters Arising
There were no matters arising.
3. Vice-Chancellor’s Report
The Vice-Chancellor began her report by noting that Senate and Council had reviewed the University Strategy in the light of the significant shift in economic climate within which the University has operated since 2006. It was reported that the vision ‘towards 2016’ had not changed and that the University was on track to deliver on its aims and objectives.
Significant progress has been made and she illustrated some recent achievements. Through working together as part of the Midlands Energy Consortium, strong relationships have been developed with both the Universities of Nottingham and Birmingham. The University will also play a key role in the establishment of the Manufacturing Technology Centre as well as, in partnership with Caterpillar, the development of a Research and Innovation Centre, here on campus.
It was also reported that the University had signed an agreement with the Japanese Olympic Committee in the lead up to the 2012 London Olympics, and this was welcomed as an exciting development.
The University continues to implement changes to the way that it works, with a particular focus on the notion of team working. The Sports Strategy Group was an example of this and demonstrated a more coordinated approach to sports across all parts of the University.
In terms of the future, the University needs to continue to make an impact both locally and internationally. It should strive to develop a reputation as one of the top sporting institutions in the world, rather than just the best in the UK.
In terms of Advancement, it was reported that the University is on track to raise enough money to access the matched fund held by the government. Regarding the Student Experience, it was noted that other universities have noted Loughborough’s continued success, and in some cases are looking to replicate what we are doing.
With regards to its current financial position, it was important that the University continued to develop other income streams to reduce dependence on the Funding Council (which currently accounts for 30% of the University’s income). The ‘New Industry, New Jobs’ initiative was a good example of an opportunity that the University was well placed to take advantage of.
The Vice-Chancellor then looked at the issue of decreasing costs, and noted that difficult, but necessary, steps needed to be taken to reduce costs. The ‘It’s Better Off’ campaign was an excellent example of this. Continuing to reduce costs would leave the University better placed to deal with any large scale cuts that might come in the future.
The Vice-Chancellor concluded her presentation by highlighting that the University continues to move forward in terms of both reputation and influence.
4. University Financial Position
The Director of Finance reported on the University’s current financial position.
It was noted that whilst the University was currently in a healthy financial position, it was important to recognise that the outlook represented a challenge.
It was forecast that in 2009/10 the University would generate a surplus of £9.5million. Increased research income of £6million had also been generated as a result of the RAE 2008. It was planned that £32million of capital would be spent within the current financial year. In terms of HEFCE cuts, the University’s share was £570,000 of the £180million national cut.
It was noted that the University would be affected by the larger scale Public Sector cuts and that these were expected to take place over several years. Whereas in the past the University has been able to address HE cuts with an increase in student numbers, this was not going to be possible on this occasion.
There were a number of other external factors which were also likely to have an impact, and these included the upcoming General Election, as well as the review of Student Finance.
As a result of the financial uncertainty, it had been necessary to look again at the Silver Scenario, and this had been re-presented to Council in November 2009. Whilst it was important to recognise that Loughborough was in a better position than many other institutions, it would still be necessary to make savings of 2-3% per year for a minimum of 3 years, and that this was in line with projected savings of £14million leading into 2012-13. However, it was noted that HEFCE cuts for 2010-11 would probably be less than assumed due to HEFCE use of non recurrent savings like capital slippage. The grant letter confirming this was due on 18th March.
The Director of Finance then looked at the importance of Value for Money (VFM), and how this would enable the University to deliver on its savings targets through making the best use of its available resources. Delivering VFM could be achieved without impacting on overall quality. Namely, this would involve services working more efficiently together, whilst at the same time recognising the need for greater simplicity and reducing the levels of administrative workload identified in the 2008 Staff Survey.
It was noted that there are a number of options for reducing expenditure. These include ‘salami slicing’ savings across all support services and departments, reducing or delaying the capital programme as well as addressing Human Resource issues. In terms of increasing the University’s income, increasing international student recruitment was an option, as was increasing the University’s non-public sector income.
There are also a number of uncertainties that remained which could impact on the University’s future financial position. These include pensions (increased contributions), a possible increase in tuition fees as well as possible increased bursary costs.
Clearly, the HE sector is reshaping and reforming and this would require the University to look again at its projections for the next three years, and the Finance Director emphasised the need to rise to the financial challenges that were ahead.
The Vice-Chancellor then invited questions addressed to both herself and other members of the Executive Management Team.
In response to one question the Chief Operating Officer reported on the decision to buy the Quality Hotel. It was emphasised that this was a commercial business decision and that it would contribute to the income of the University in the long term.
In a response to another question, an update was given on the Hazelrigg refurbishment. It was noted that this project was the starting point of the wider plans for Central Park. The first move-in was scheduled for November 2010 and it was anticipated that planned refurbishment of the Rutland Building would start in January/February of 2011.
5. Any Other Business
There were no other items of business.
6. Date of Next Meeting
To be confirmed.
Author: Mark Lister
Date: 24th March 2010
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