Court Minutes 30 November 2022
Confirmed minutes of the meeting of the University Court held at 2.00pm on 30 November 2022 in the Boardroom, Queen Margaret University.
|Court Members||Court Members|
|Pamela Woodburn (Chair)||Melanie Moreland|
|Professor Richard Butt||Robert Pattullo|
|Karen Cullen||Elizabeth Porter (via Teams)|
|Louise Ford||Dr Andrew Scott|
|Professor John Harper||Garvin Sealy|
|Steven Hendry||Carol Sinclair|
|Dr Arturo Langa||Guy Smith|
|Staff members in attendance||Role|
|Professor Fiona Coutts||Dean, Health Sciences|
|Malcolm Cutt||Director of Finance and Corporate Strategic Development|
University Secretary (Secretary)
Assistant Secretary, Governance and Quality Enhancement (Minute Secretary)
Director of Campus Development and Operations
Professor David Stevenson
Dean, Arts, Social Sciences and Management
CAM-SCI (Minute 7 only)
1. Welcome and Memebership
The Chair welcomed members to the meeting of the University Court. Apologies for absence were noted for Jenny Ansett, Janet Archer, Julie Churchill, Sir Paul Grice, Aasiyah Patankar and Sarah Phillips. The Deputy Principal would deputise for the Principal and Vice-Chancellor on this occasion.
The Chair advised that Julie Churchill had been re-elected to the Senate for a second consecutive three-year tenure and would continue to serve on the Court as Senate appointee. Dr Eurig Scandrett would complete his second consecutive three-year tenure as elected academic staff member on 30 November 2022. On behalf of the Court, the Chair expressed members’ appreciation of Dr Scandrett’s valuable contribution to the work of the Court during his tenure.
Secretary’s note: Dr Kavi Jagadamma was elected to the vacancy for an elected academic staff member, and will serve on the Court from 1 December 2022 to 30 November 2025.
2. Conflicts of Interest
There were no conflicts of interest declared.
3. Determination of other Competent Business
There was no other Competent Business identified.
4. Minutes of the Previous Meeting
4.1 Minutes of the previous meeting
The unconfirmed minutes of the Court meeting held on 5 October 2022 (COURT (22) MINS 04) were APPROVED as an accurate record, subject to the addition of Carol Sinclair to the list of members identified as being present.
4.2 Matters arising
There were no matters arising from the minutes.
5. Chair's Report
The Chair reported on her internal engagement with members of the University community, advising that she continued to meet regularly with the Principal and with the University Secretary, the purpose of those meetings being to plan Court related business, and to discuss matters relating to the wider work of the University and the higher education sector. In parallel, she continued to engage in regular communication with the Conveners of the standing committees of the Court. In this context, she extended her thanks to Professor John Harper, Vice-Chair, for having recently assumed the Convenership of the Senior Management Remuneration Committee (SMRC) in his capacity as Vice-Chair of the Court.
The Chair identified as a particular highlight the opportunity to participate in the recent celebratory event at the Infirmary Baths Building in Edinburgh, during which she met with students and other stakeholders. She encouraged Court members to take up such opportunities in future, noting that she had especially enjoyed hearing from students about their very positive experiences of the University.
6. Principal's Report
The Principal had provided a detailed written report on recent developments (COURT (22) 37). In the Principal’s absence, the Deputy Principal spoke to the paper, highlighting to members the matters set out below.
6.1 Scottish budget
The Emergency Scottish Budget, published on 2 November 2022, signalled a reallocation of certain funds, but the 2022-23 allocations to universities remained unchanged. There was no in-year reduction in funding, but the projections for 2023-24 and beyond remained challenging however. Further analysis of the future financial environment was considered elsewhere on the Court agenda (Minute 9 refers). The Scottish Government budget for 2023-24 would be presented to the Scottish Parliament on 15 December 2022, and the implications of that budget would be discussed at forthcoming meetings of the Court.
6.2 Student numbers
Student intake numbers for academic session 2022-23 remained on course to meet overall planned targets. The number of Scottish domiciled entrants (undergraduate and postgraduate) was likely to be slightly down against target, perhaps reflecting the current economic environment. Applications to Nursing were down across the sector, and efforts were focused within the university to address this in the current application cycle. With the exception of Nursing, undergraduate student numbers were on track to meet the University’s SFC funded allocation of places. Postgraduate numbers appeared promising and would be finalised following the January student intake. Further update would be provided to the Court at its February 2023 meeting.
In response to a specific question on international student visas, the University Secretary confirmed that the University had a sufficient allocation of Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS), having just received its requested allocation. Members noted that, in planning student numbers, the SLT was considering carefully the availability of student accommodation on campus, and within the private accommodation build sector.
6.3 Online Programme Development (OPD)
As advised to members previously, the University launched its Online Programme Development (OPD) project in May 2022, working in partnership with Higher Ed Partners (HEP). The project involved the development of a suite of seven fully online and asynchronous programmes as part of the University’s strategy to provide distinctive, accessible, and high-quality education, and to grow its student population. The programmes would start in March 2023, having been validated successfully in October 2022. It was encouraging to note that there had been a good level of interest following the recent marketing launch. The Deputy Principal extended his thanks to academic and professional services colleagues for their exceptional work on the project, and on the development of a suite of high quality programmes that reflected the values and ethos of the University.
6.4 Future Spaces
Members had been advised previously of work being progressed under the ‘Future Spaces’ project, which focused on the campus as an enabler of future growth, protecting the university’s position at the forefront of modern learning and teaching, and supporting the continued delivery of an excellent student experience. The plans embraced digitisation and, in planning for that, the first of two workshops facilitated by Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) had taken place to stimulate conversation and thinking, particularly around the relationship between digital and physical spaces and the experiences of staff and students. As part of the first phase of the work, a new voice system would be installed to replace the existing telephone system.
6.5 Innovation Steering Group
Updates on the Land Development project were provided separately on the agenda (minutes 7 and 12 refer). In parallel to the development of the Innovation Hub, internal innovation activity continued to progress, with successful delivery of such activity being a key component of the University’s strategy, irrespective of the Innovation Hub and Park. There were particular synergies with the land development project however. At the initial meeting of the Innovation Steering Group, convened by the Principal, external invitees with specific expertise had confirmed the uniqueness of the University’s value proposition in this area, as well as the importance of establishing a ten-year timescale for a return on higher return areas, such as major-research grants and the maturing of new businesses. Identified areas of initial focus included internal/external stakeholder engagement, the development of innovation champions, the honing of service provision skills, and the development of a marketing plan.
6.6 Strategic and Operational Planning
Work continued on the enhancement of the current arrangements for strategic and operational planning. The Senior Leadership Team (SLT) had revisited current student number growth and wider development plans at its Away Day on 17 November 2022. Informed by those discussions, and by contributions made at the Leaders’ Forum held on 8 November 2022, the Principal had established a Vision Development Group to update the University Strategy, and to develop a Vision and Guiding Principles. The recent Digital Vision Development Workshop (minute 6.4 refers) provided further useful context. The Vision Development Programme would conclude in summer 2023, having been subject to full consultation and discussion by the University Court, and would provide a basis for a three year strategic delivery cycle. Concurrently, some changes would be introduced to the operational planning process for 2022-23 to promote greater alignment, tracking and collaboration on delivery of strategic objectives.
6.7 Pay award
As reported previously, each of the recognised Trade Unions had rejected the final UCEA pay award offer, this being to increase all pay points by 3 percent, with higher uplifts for those below spinal point 20 of up to 9 percent. Following a recent ballot, UCU members at QMU were engaging in three days of strike action, on 24, 25 and 30 November 2022, in addition to continuous action short of a strike. In considering pay issues, the Principal emphasised in his report that the SLT sought to achieve a balance between being fair to colleagues in terms of pay and benefits, and protecting the long-term financial sustainability of the University.
6.8 Cost of living
Work to address the impact of the severe cost of living challenges on students continued. The working group, co-convened by the University Secretary and the President, Academic Life, continued to promote the wide range of support available through social media messaging and through the dedicated webpage. The Thank Goodness It’s Thursday (TGIT) events had been particularly well received by students, with feedback suggesting that, in addition to the tangible benefit of a free hot meal, the social aspects of the evenings contributed to an important sense of community. Thanks were extended to all colleagues engaged in this endeavour, including staff of the University’s catering partner Baxter Storey, for their significant contribution.
6.9 Quality Enhancement and Standards Review (QESR)
The virtual QESR review visit (phase one) took place on 24 November 2022, during which reviewers appointed by the Quality Assurance Agency met with staff and students to discuss the University’s arrangements for managing academic standards and the quality of the student learning experience. The review report, which would be available to the University on 15 December 2022, would set out an overarching judgement, as well as recommendations and instances of good practice. The next stage would be the preparation and implementation of an action plan in response to the findings. Thanks were extended to staff and students for their participation in the visit and their wider engagement with the quality processes that had been subject to the review.
6.10 Race Equality Steering Group
As advised to members previously, a Race Equality Steering Group had been established to explore how best to foster an anti-racism culture of understanding on campus and across the wider QMU community. As Convener of the Steering Group, the Principal was supported by the University Secretary, the Head of HR, and by Professor Paul Miller, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and Anti-Racism Adviser. Professor Miller had recently delivered a lecture on campus to mark Black History Month, the recording of which was available to Court members. A further important development was the recent launch of Race Equality e-learning modules, completion of which would be mandatory for all staff. The e-modules would also be offered to Court members, details of which would follow separately.
6.11 CoP 27 – Environmental sustainability and Net Carbon Zero
At the most recent joint meeting of the Finance and Estates and Audit and Risk Committees, members had considered key elements of a proposed QMU strategy for achieving a net zero carbon operation by 2044. Whilst ambitious, such strategy would align with the ambitions stated by the University at the time of its relocation to East Lothian in 2007. Members would be invited to discuss this further at a later point in the agenda (Minute 14 refers).
6.12 Times Higher Awards
The University had been shortlisted for a Times Higher Award in the ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Community’ category, in recognition of its collaboration with East Lothian Council, Midlothian Council, the STV Children's Appeal and a local family charity to deliver the ‘Enhanced Learning Tutoring Initiative’. Whilst the project did not win the award, being shortlisted was a significant achievement.
6.13 Overseas graduations
The first in-country graduations since before the pandemic had taken place at the University’s partner institutions in India, Singapore and Greece. Senior QMU staff had attended the graduations and very much enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate student success through their participation in the ceremonies.
7. Edinburgh Innovation Hub
Court RECEIVED a detailed presentation from David Lupson of CAM-SCI on projected demand for the Edinburgh Innovation Hub, and on actions being taken to secure occupancy projections set out in the Business Case.
By way of background, members noted that CAM-SCI was a specialist consultancy, advising on Innovation and Science parks, and had been involved with the University and with the vision for the Edinburgh Innovation Park since 2015. The company had been appointed by the Joint Venture (JV) to support the Hub development, including the preparation of the Operational Business Plan and the Marketing Strategy.
Introducing the presentation, the Director of Campus Development and Operations reiterated to members that the Joint Venture operating company would be liable for any financial losses arising from any under occupancy of the Innovation Hub, or other failures associated with the commercial case. The University had a 50% share in the Joint Venture, and the University Risk Register recognised clearly the commercial risk attached to the Hub development, and had in place a series of mitigating actions. Whilst speculative and representing a ‘new business’ venture rather than a ‘new building’, the commercial success of the Hub development was not reliant on the activities of the University, but rather, on the undoubted strength of the Edinburgh market.
Members were provided with images and floor layouts of the Hub exterior and interior design, and asked to note in particular the extent to which the design brief accommodated the capacity for flexibility and for growth in available space. The iterative design was comprised of elements of office and laboratory space, and was flexible enough to allow both elements to be repurposed in light of market/occupier needs.
The following aspects were also emphasised:
- The City Deal provided the scope to develop the Hub as a non-standard property solution to specialist markets. The Hub was not an ‘end’ in itself, but the first part of an enabling infrastructure.
- Innovation, and Science and Technology Parks should not be confused with Business Parks – there was no equivalent ‘landlord/tenant’ relationship. Rather, proactive management and tenant support were key components of the success of Innovation Hubs, in terms of creating the optimal environment to retain and stimulate growth.
- The restricted entry requirements represented by the Hub ‘Gateway Policy’ would be key to delivery of the vision and success of the facility, and needed to strike the correct balance between openness and restriction, in order neither to dilute the differentiation represented by the facility, or to cut of demand.
- The level of unknowns in terms of demand at this stage of the project had been experienced in other such developments, including the Liverpool Science Park Innovation Centre, provided as a comparative case study.
- The bespoke nature of the Hub offering, in particular the value proposition, was not available elsewhere in Edinburgh. While the Edinburgh market was stronger than most across the UK, developments of the type represented by the Hub, required public funding, such as that provided by the City Deal, to address the commercial market failure to provide facilities for the early innovation sector.
- In terms of the Commercial Sector, once in operation, the Hub would provide evidence of a new innovation led market, as a proof of concept, and a mitigation for the perceived risk from the further development of the Park.
- The early stage marketing strategy for the Hub had been launched in August 2022, with further development taking place in early 2023 of the prospectus and website. The approach to this was proactive, gradual and aligned with the operational launch date for the Hub.
In discussion, members were interested to understand how the Gateway Policy would be controlled and monitored. The Director of Campus Development and Operations advised that the Policy was referenced within the JV agreement, and detailed within the Operational Business Plan (OBP). As such, it would be subject to annual review and update.
Further information was sought on the role of the Hub as a ‘pump primer’ for the wider Edinburgh Innovation Park. Members were advised that, in an area of speculative activity, such Hubs had proved essential elsewhere in terms of bolstering market confidence to progress wider park developments.
Thanking both speakers, the Chair suggested that the Court consider at a future meeting the implications for the University of the wider Park development. The Director of Campus Development and Operations advised that it had been planned that the Court would receive a presentation on proposals for the Commercial Zone in the first quarter of 2023. It was now proposed that a small advisory group would conduct a review of all matters relating to the land development beyond the EIP Hub (ie the wider EIP, the University Commercial Zone and the overarching Local Development Plan). The group would include selected Court members, and would meet in advance of discussion by the full Court.
8. Strategic Report and Financial Statements
The Director of Finance and Corporate Strategic Development introduced the Strategic Report and Financial Statements for the year ended 31 July 2022. Members noted that the audit of the year-end accounts was complete, subject to receipt of the management representations letter and review of any events taking place between the meeting of the Court on 30 November 2022 and the date of signing the audit report, likely to be in early December 2022.
A number of supporting papers had been provided to inform the discussion:
- Letter of Representations to Ernst and Young (COURT (22) 39)
- External audit report from Ernst and Young (COURT (22) 40)
- Annual internal audit report from Azets (COURT (22) 41)
- Annual Report of the Finance and Estates Committee (COURT (22) 42)
- Annual Report of the Audit and Risk Committee (COURT (22) 43)
The accounts showed an underlying surplus of £3.3 million, this being in line with the forecast in October, but a significant improvement from the budget and quarter three forecast. An explanation of the in-year movements was provided in Annex A of paper COURT (22) 38, and had been considered previously at the October meeting of the Court. Annex B of the same paper included an analysis of movements from the previous year. A number of audit adjustments were identified in the Ernst and Young report (COURT (22) 40), the net impact of these being an improvement of c. £70k in outturn from the draft figures presented in October 2022. Ernst and Young would shortly be issuing an unqualified (clean) audit report.
As set out in Annex C to paper COURT (22) 38, the University had complied with all bank covenants, and would have complied with the original covenants prior to the relaxation granted by Barclays. Members’ attention was drawn to ‘below the line’ movements on pension provisions, and to the £14.5m revaluation gain on buildings, neither of which represented a cash movement. After these adjustments, the ‘bottom line’ showed a surplus of £38.2 million (compared to a surplus the previous year of £10.7 million). Unrestricted cash balances had fallen by £100k, but after making an additional loan repayment of £5m. QMU Enterprises Ltd Board had met on 9 November 2022 and approved the accounts for that company.
As in previous years, Court was required to form an opinion on whether the University should prepare its accounts on a going concern basis. Members were reminded of the definition and the assumptions underlying the current forecast, which had been approved by Court in June 2022, and were set out in Annex B of paper COURT (22) 38.
Five further scenarios had been considered, in which adverse sensitivities were applied to the base forecast, and possible mitigating actions then modelled for each scenario. Detailed spreadsheet calculations had been provided to the FEC and ARC and were available to other Court members by request. All scenarios, after taking reasonable mitigating actions, indicated that the University could continue in operation for the period through to 31 July 2024 whilst maintaining a minimum £5m cash balance and meeting the other Barclays bank covenants.
In addition to the consideration of scenarios, the rolling five-year review of KPIs indicated that EBITDA and the cash indicators showed a position above the long-term average target. Based on this analysis, ARC and FEC had reviewed the Management Assessment of Going Concern, as set out in Appendix A and agreed to recommend to Court that accounts continue to be prepared on a going concern basis.
Court reviewed a number of papers to inform decisions linked to its responsibility for the review of the University’s internal controls. The annual internal audit report from Azets (COURT (22) 41) included opinion that the University’s framework of governance, risk management and controls ‘provides reasonable assurance regarding the effective and efficient achievement of objectives’, this being the highest level of assurance possible.
The external audit annual report (COURT (22) 40) also included an assessment of the control environment, with just two low rated observations around fixed assets. The annual report from ARC (COURT (22) 43) set out the Committee’s opinion that ‘the University’s systems provide a reasonable basis for maintaining control and for ensuring the achievement of economy, efficiency and effectiveness, subject to the satisfactory implementation of the recommendations of the internal auditors within a reasonable timescale’. As a standard part of their audit procedures, Ernst and Young was seeking management representations from the Court (COURT (22) 39). A back-to-back letter from the Principal and Director of Finance and Corporate Strategic Development had been provided to the Chair and Secretary on 30 November 2022.
The Court NOTED that the University wholly owned subsidiary company, QMU Enterprises Ltd, handled the commercial activities of the University in order to protect the University’s charitable status and to ensure that these activities are conducted in a tax efficient manner. The Director of Finance and Corporate Strategic Development explained that the Court was represented on the Board of Directors of QMU Enterprises Ltd, and that the Board had a majority of non-executive directors. QMU Enterprises Ltd had no assets and did not employ any staff, but accessed University staff and facilities in return for a management charge, which was applied on an annual basis, calculated by reference to the income from the activities processed through QMU Enterprises Ltd.
Members noted that some of the activities of the Scottish Centre for Food and Drink Innovation (SCFDI) were routed through QMU Enterprises Ltd. Members requested that a copy of the QMU Enterprises Ltd annual accounts be made available to all Court members in future years. Noting also that separate management accounts reports were not produced for QMU Enterprises Ltd during the year, as these would not provide any meaningful information, members requested that such reports should be produced in future and shared with the Finance and Estates Committee.
Having considered the evidence provided, Court APPROVED the Strategic Report and Financial Statements for the year ended 31 July 2022. Members endorsed the accounting policies used in preparing the financial statements, noting that the same policies were in place as in previous years with the following exceptions: classification of fixed assets as tangible and intangible; and disclosure of deferred capital grants. Members concluded also that the University’s systems provide a reasonable basis for maintaining control and that the financial statements should continue to be prepared on a going concern basis.
9. Financial and KPI Update
9.1 Quarter one financial position and update on 2022-23 financial position
Court RECEIVED an update on the financial position for the three months to 31 October 2022, and on the updated forecast outturn for the financial year 2022-23 (Court (22) 44).
Following the first quarter review, there had been an adverse movement in the forecast outturn for the year, from a budgeted surplus of £200k to a breakeven forecast. The reasons for the movement were as follows: additional income reflecting higher than budgeted commercial letting income; an increase in the forecast for interest receivable, reflecting recent increases in interest rates; and an increase in forecast staff costs, reflecting increased use of agency staff, along with an additional one-off cost of living payment to staff. Other elements of income and expenditure were forecast to remain in line with budget. A fuller report would be available at quarter two, once the ‘census’ date for recruitment had passed.
Court welcomed the forecast for 2022-23, noting that this was considerably more positive than might have been expected, given the current financial pressures and possible future funding cuts. Whilst the sector as whole was experiencing challenges to varying degrees, there were some mitigating factors, including buoyant international student numbers and associated occupancy of residences. HEIs, including QMU, were also proactive in their efforts to identify additional income streams, for example through TNE. Responding to a question around the continued expenditure on agency staff, the Director of Finance and Corporate Strategic Development explained that vacancy savings would reduce the impact for the remainder of the year.
9.2 Financial outlook 2023-24
Court RECEIVED a briefing on the financial outlook for 2023-24 and beyond (Court (22) 45).
The paper set out, in broad terms, the scale of the financial challenges that the University might need to face. As advised previously to the Court, the Scottish Government Spending Review in May 2022 set out indicative resource allocations showing a flat cash settlement throughout the period to 2026-27. Subsequent emergency budget reviews had exacerbated the position, and were likely to result in lower level SFC funding for 2023-24 than had initially been indicated. On a sector level, Universities Scotland continued to make representations to the Scottish Government to explain the risks of further reducing the level of funding for universities.
In considering future financial forecasts from 2023-24 onwards, the University proposed to model cash terms funding reductions of 5% and 10%. The modelling exercise would take into consideration the wider cost pressures, including those associated with inflation, staff costs and utilities. The University would seek to address the anticipated reductions in public funding, at least in part, by growing income from non-public sources, in accordance with the financial plan for 2027 agreed by Court in March 2022.
A more developed analysis would come to the meetings of the Court and the FEC in February 2023. This would take account of any updated intelligence on public funding, pay settlements, inflation, and other matters, ahead of formally presenting the budget to the June Court meeting for approval.
9.3 Key Performance Indicators 2021-22
Court RECEIVED a report on the out-turn Key Performance Indicators for 2021-22 (COURT (22) 46).
The report provided an update on the position reported in October 2022, at which point some final financial information had been unavailable. As set out in the minutes of the joint ARC/FEC meeting held on 18 November 2022 (minute 17 refers), the suite of KPIs reported to the Court was under review to ensure that these remained useful and meaningful. As part of this review, the SLT was considering adopting Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to measure the most important metrics, but with additional subsidiary measures. This had been discussed at the recent SLT Away Day, and an update would come to the February Court meeting.
9.4 Key Performance Indicators
Court RECEIVED the quarter one report on Key Performance Indicators for the three months to 31 October 2022 (COURT (22) 47).
The key indicator available for quarter one that would have the most significant impact on the University’s financial position was that relating to student numbers. As covered previously in the Principal’s report (minute 6.2 refers), numbers were settling down, but broadly there had been a decrease in home student numbers, and an increase in international student numbers. The tuition fee budget was expected to be met, although this was dependent on the semester two intake in January 2023. The position would be clearer in the quarter two KPI report.
10. Risk Management
Court RECEIVED an update to the Corporate Risk register (COURT (22) 48).
The key points to note following the most recent SLT and ARC reviews of the Risk Register were as follows:
- Cyber security would be listed as a separate risk, noting that a separate more detailed cyber risk register was in place, and that this was being developed further to meet the requirements of the Scottish Cyber Resilience Framework. The University was engaging with the sector shared services body, HEFESTIS, to assist in the review of the University’s Information Security Strategy and to ensure that the recommendations from the recent internal audit report on information security were being implemented in full.
- The risks posed by the proposal to implement a new or upgraded financial system over the next 18 months, noting that external support would be required for this project.
- The risks caused by difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff, resulting in an increasing need to call on agency staff.
- The risk of deeper cuts in future public funding than had been anticipated, as covered earlier in the agenda (minute 9.2 refers).
11. Stakeholder Engagement
Court CONSIDERED proposals for a Stakeholder Engagement event scheduled for 22 February 2023, this also being the date of the next Court meeting (COURT (22) 49).
Introducing the paper, the University Secretary advised that it had been a number of years since the University had last held an event of this nature, the Covid pandemic having impacted significantly on opportunities for in-person engagement. The event would complement and extend the range of existing stakeholder activities. Importantly, it would present an additional more visible response to the expectation within the Scottish Higher Education Code of Good Governance that, in addition to normal meetings of the governing body, the Institution holds:
‘an annual stakeholder meeting in public, at which representatives of the governing body, including the Principal, are expected to give an account of the Institution’s performance and should be available to answer questions’ (Paragraph 43 refers).
This expectation had been addressed most recently through the Annual General Meeting of the Court and through the Community Forum. The planned stakeholder event would enhance the current arrangements, presenting an opportunity for additional focussed messaging. Preliminary discussions with the Director of Marketing and Communications around the focus and format of the event had informed the suggested approach. It was planned that the event would comprise a combination of formal and informal networking activities, with stalls and other opportunities for staff and students to showcase various initiatives. The timing of the event, from 4.30 - 7.00pm, would allow guests to view the outdoor environment, and hear more about associated outdoor learning and other opportunities.
Having reviewed the proposal, Court members offered feedback on the suggested approach. Members agreed that it would be important to be clear about the purpose of the event, noting that it would be advisable to prioritise a few key messages, and in so doing, avoid the risks associated with an overly ambitious communications strategy for the event. There was broad support for an initial presentation element to show case key areas of the work of the University aligned with the purpose of the event.
The paper identified potential stakeholders, including members of the local community, Scottish Funding Council and Scottish Government contacts, East Lothian Council representatives and Chamber of Commerce members. Event communications to stakeholders would be via social media, direct invitation and local advertising. The University would also issue a press release. Members made some additional suggestions aligned with the proposed stakeholder list, including the addition of health and social care employers (including from the voluntary and tertiary sectors), media representatives, and stakeholders linked to the Hub and Innovation Park. In relation to the land development project, members acknowledged that the stakeholder event would sit alongside and complement existing communication channels. The President–Student Activities advised that the Students’ Union was pleased to contribute to the event, which would provide an opportunity to showcase various aspects of the work undertaken in partnership between the University and the Union to facilitate a high quality student experience.
12. Land Development
Court RECEIVED a report on progress with the Land Development and the Edinburgh Innovation Hub (paper COURT (22) 50).
Introducing the paper, the Director of Campus Development and Operations noted that core elements of the paper had been covered earlier in the meeting (Minutes 6.5 and 7 above refer). The following additional items were brought to members’ attention:
- A1 Junction: East Lothian Council had reported the junction upgrade as being subject to further delays to completion. This was disappointing and potentially disruptive to University activity, but not critical to the EIP Hub Development. The University Estates team continued to engage with the Council in regards to minimising disruption.
- Hub design: Following the previous Court meeting, the brief and budget for the Hub had been brought back in to balance. The FEC had endorsed the stage 2 design and cost report, prior to its approval by the Joint Venture (JV). The design was now progressing through stage 3 spatial design, the outcomes from which would be reported in due course.
13. Court Effectiveness Review
Court RECEIVED an update on the Action Plan to address recommendations arising from the Court Effectiveness Review (COURT (22) 51). Actions were in progress or planned, as set out in the paper. This would be a Standing Item on the Court agenda. Whilst some of the timescales may be subject to adjustment, all actions would be complete by July 2023.
14. Net Zero Targets
Court CONSIDERED proposed Net Zero targets, and the adoption of a target date and interim targets (COURT (22) 52).
The paper provided background information to the proposed adoption of 2044 as the University’s Net Zero target date, with associated interim targets. In parallel with responding to the immediate reporting requirements, the University was developing a Net Zero Strategy to embrace a holistic University wide approach beyond simple carbon reduction.
Court APPROVED the adoption of the 2044 Net Zero target date, noting that this was in advance of the government deadline. Members also NOTED the development of the Net Zero Strategy, which would be presented to the Court early in 2023.The Strategy was being developed in partnership with the University’s Sustainability Committee. Representatives from that Committee had delivered a presentation at the most recent Court Strategy Day, the slides from which would be re-issued for the benefit of members joining the Court in the interim. Members’ attention was brought to the SFC’s Framework on Net Zero released on 23 November 2022, commentary on which would also be captured in the Outcome Agreement.
15. Compliance Report 2021-22
Court NOTED a report on the following areas of compliance activity from 1 July to 30 September 2022 (quarter three) (COURT (22) 53):
- Requests made under the Data Protection Act 2018.
- Requests made under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.
- Requests made under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002; and
- Activity related to the Counter-Terrorism & Security Act 2015
Thanks were extended to the Policy Adviser (Governance and Compliance) for his work on the paper.
16. Finance and Estates Committee
Court RECEIVED the unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of the Finance and Estates Committee held on 26 October 2022 (FEC (22) MINS 05). Matters for members’ attention had been covered elsewhere on the agenda.
15. Finance and Estates / Audit And Risk Committee
Court RECEIVED the minutes of the joint meeting of the Finance and Estates Committee and the Audit and Risk Committee held on 18 November 2022 (AUDIT (22) MINS 04). Matters for members’ attention had been covered elsewhere on the agenda.
COURT RECEIVED the unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of the Senate held on 19 October 2022 (SEN (22) MINS 04). Matters for members’ attention had been covered elsewhere on the agenda.
19. Health and Safety Committee
COURT RECEIVED the unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of the Health and Safety Committee held on 4 October 2022 (H&S (22) MINS 03). There were no particular matters brought to members’ attention.
20. Equality And Diversity Committee
Court RECEIVED the unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of the Equality and Diversity Committee held on 13 October 2022 (EDC (22) MINS 03). Matters for members’ attention had been covered elsewhere on the agenda.
21. Nominations Committee
Court APPROVED a recommendation from the Nominations Committee for appointment to the University Court, arising from a meeting of the Committee held on 21 October 2022 (COURT (22) 52).
The following new lay members would take up membership on 1 December 2022, having presented for interview by the Committee on Friday, 21 October 2022.
In this recruitment round, there had been six applications for lay membership, of which four were from male candidates and two were from female candidates. Two male candidates and one female candidate had been shortlisted. One male candidate and one female candidate had been recommended for appointment as set out above.
The Chair looked forward to welcoming the new members, noting that their areas of expertise would complement the existing skills mix on the Court.
22. Senior Management Remuneration Committee
Court RECEIVED an oral report from the Vice-Chair on arrangements for the operation of the Senior Management Remuneration Review process 2022.
The Vice-Chair advised that he expected the Review to conclude in the week commencing 12 December 2022. Consultation with staff, student and Trade Union representatives would inform the recommendations, prior to the meeting of the Senior Management Remuneration Committee. A formal report would come to the February meeting of the Court, prior to which approval would be sought from members by correspondence.
23. Appraisal of the Chair
Court RECEIVED an oral report from the Vice-Chair on the appraisal of the Chair of Court. The Chair withdrew from the meeting for this item to allow members to speak freely and in confidence, as provided for under the Court agreed policy.
The Vice-Chair had conducted the appraisal under the process established by the University Court in compliance with the Scottish Code of Good Higher Education. That process offered all governing body members the opportunity to provide relevant feedback, individually and in confidence.
Feedback had been entirely positive, with members commending in particular the Chair’s inclusive approach, her commitment to the University, her engagement with University staff and students, and facilitation of a culture within which there was an appropriate level of constructive challenge.
One member had made a suggestion about the wider management of the Court. This related to the length of meetings, the suggestion being that papers did not necessarily require an introduction, or could benefit from a shorter introduction from the paper author. This would be considered further as part of the Court Effectiveness Action Plan, but it was noted that meetings were managed within the three-hour time slot allocated, and this had not emerged as an issue through the Court Effectiveness Review.
The Vice-Chair invited feedback on the appraisal process, and it was suggested that an opportunity for members to meet as a group with the Vice-Chair could be useful. Further consideration would be given to this in advance of the next scheduled appraisal.
On her return to the meeting, the Vice-Chair provided brief feedback that that the appraisal had been very positive. On behalf of the Court, he thanked the Chair for her leadership and positive influence on the effectiveness of the Court.
24. Dates of Future Meetings
The University Court would meet on the following dates in Academic Session 2022-23:
Wednesday, 22 February 2023 at 2.00 pm in the Boardroom (Note: reverted to 3.00 pm)
Wednesday, 26 April 2023: Strategy Day, details to be confirmed.
Wednesday, 21 June 2023 at 3.00 pm in the Boardroom
As this was Professor Fiona Coutts’ final meeting before retiring, the Chair thanked Fiona for her outstanding commitment and contribution to the University and the Court, and for the particular support that she had offered to the Chair during the Chair’s period of tenure.