2. General Issues
2.1 Committee Structure and Nomenclature
- The current Committee Structure is shown on the committee structure page. As noted in the Introduction, Council is the senior governing body with ultimate responsibility for the strategy of the University, use of its funds etc. Its composition includes staff, students and a majority of external (lay) members. Senate is the highest academic body and includes academic staff and student members. The majority of other formal University committees have been established by Senate and/or Council to deal with specific business on their behalf or are sub-committees of these committees. Council, Senate and General Assembly are established in the University Statutes (see paragraph 3.2).
- Nomenclature for bodies other than those established by Statute should generally be as follows:
- Committees – these are the more senior bodies established by Senate or Council or Joint Committees of Senate and Council
- Sub-Committees – bodies established on a long term basis by a higher committee to deal in more detail with an area of the committee’s business.
- Working Groups/Action Groups – these terms should normally be reserved for short term bodies established to deal with specific tasks.
It is important for members of both parent committees and their sub-committees to be clear about the scope of the sub-committee’s operation (this should be covered by the terms of reference but may need interpretation for specific items of business) and how the sub-committee will report to the parent committee. In particular, clarity is required over the type of decisions which are delegated to the sub-committee and which areas of business will be discussed at the sub-committee but for which formal decisions require approval by the parent committee. All parent committees are ultimately responsible for decisions taken by the sub-committees so should ensure on a regular basis that they the sub-committee is operating effectively.
2.2 Responsibility for Committee Servicing and Committee Information
The Academic Registry has operational responsibility for committee arrangements, e.g. the schedule of meetings, reporting to the Chief Operating Officer who carries ultimate responsibility. The Registry or Planning Team provide committee secretaries for many formal committees although a number are serviced by staff from sections relevant to the business of the committee (e.g. Research Committee is serviced by a member of staff from the Research Office). A Committees Website is co-ordinated by the Registry and includes a range of general committee information and the basic details about each committee. Committee secretaries are responsible for ensuring that the section for their Committee is up to date.
Note that this site is accessible to all staff, students and members of the public on and off campus. Information such as the Terms of Reference and Composition should always be made publically available and where matters are not sensitive or relate to individuals, agendas, papers and minutes should also be made available in the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act. However, it is recognised that much business is sensitive and the website is constructed to allow material to be made accessible internally only or only those concerned with the business of the specific Committee itself.
2.3 Schedule of Meetings
- The Schedule of Meetings includes information on the date, start time and venue for each meeting of the main University committees.
- The Schedule of Meetings for the next Academic Year is constructed each year in the Spring by the Executive Officer and PA to the Academic Registrar. A draft version is issued to all Committee Secretaries and to Senior Staff as part of this process to ensure that the Schedule as proposed is feasible in terms of key members’ diary commitments and room bookings.
- The draft Schedule of Meetings is derived from the previous year’s Schedule, taking account of changes in the start and end dates of terms and semesters and the date of Easter.
- The Schedule is designed so that the sequence and timing of committees allows for their reporting on to other bodies as appropriate. The timing should allow for the minutes of a meeting to be written and approved by the Chair so that a report of that meeting can be included in the agenda for the parent committee.
- The Committee Secretary is responsible for ensuring that the published web version of the Schedule of Meetings is revised to include any changes to the date, start time or venue of meetings.
2.4 Role of Committee Secretary (also known as Committee Servicing)
At its most fundamental, the role of the Secretary is to ensure the effective operation of the Committee within its defined terms of reference. Whilst the degree of direct involvement of the Secretary in the business of the committee will vary, all will normally have the following responsibilities:
- Maintenance of membership and circulation lists and a full set of agenda papers and minutes for previous meetings.
- Maintenance of up to date terms of reference (subject to approval by any parent committee).
- Ensuring the relevant website section is up to date.
- Maintenance of a briefing document for new members of the committee and provision of training/guidance for new members.
- Making arrangements for meetings, including timing, venue and hospitality (where not already set through the Schedule of Meetings).
- Broad knowledge of the working of the committee including relevant statutes, ordinances, regulations, codes of practice and procedures including acting as a source of advice on such issues.
- Promotion of the business of the committee, including facilitating and co-ordinating procedures which are the responsibility of the committee.
- Seeking items from committee members, drafting of the agenda, and possibly some papers, in consultation with the Chair.
- Circulation of papers for meetings.
- Attendance at meetings and producing minutes and reports of meetings to other committees or individuals.
- Ensuring that decisions and actions are followed up in a timely way.
The sections of this handbook provide more detailed guidance on committee conventions and procedures at Loughborough together with general advice on good practice.
2.5 Role of Committee Chair
The Chair is very important to the effectiveness of the Committee. He/she:
- Promotes and supports the committee's aims and objectives (does not pursue own agenda).
- Plans committee meetings and agenda in collaboration with committee secretary and where appropriate key stakeholders such as the Head of a relevant Professional Service.
- Attends all meetings and keeps an ongoing awareness of committee work and related matters between meetings.
- Chairs the meeting fairly and impartially, introduces agenda items but does not dominate discussion nor allow individual members to dominate. Where appropriate, introduces speakers and invites relevant members to comment on agenda items, whilst ensuring that debate is not unnecessarily long. Draws discussions to a clear and timely conclusion on each item.
- Reports to committee members on developments and decisions that affect the work of the committee.
- Facilitates members' active participation and effective decision-making.
- Approves minutes and reports of committee meetings before their distribution.
- Approves urgent and non-controversial matters on the committee’s behalf between meetings
- May be involved in the selection and appointment of new members, and assists with their induction.
2.6 Characteristics of a Good Chair
- Good listening and communication skills, including a willingness to listen to ways in which meetings can be improved
- Impartiality together with a firm but flexible and facilitating focus upon achieving the aims of the meeting
- Ability to summarise discussion fairly and succinctly to ensure that all present accept and are clear about what has been decided
- Ability to gain consensus and avoid unproductive dispute
- Willingness to exert authority when necessary but in an appropriate manner
- Tenacity in ensuring follow-through