Officers: Jill Grinstead
University Secretary and Clerk to the Council
In attendance: Chris Kemp
Executive Dean, Faculty of Enterprise and Innovation
Pro Vice Chancellor, Academic Services, Planning & Enhancement
Pro Vice Chancellor, Research, Enterprise and Operations
Executive Dean, Faculty of Creativity and Culture
Executive Dean, Faculty of Society and Health
Director of Business Transformation Services
Apologies: Peter Moss Apologies continued Mike Street
Executive Dean, Faculty of Creativity and Culture
The Acting Chairman welcomed new Council members Kathy Grimshaw and Antony Bellekom to their first Missenden meeting, Yasmin Omar – observing her first Missenden meeting, and John Cooper, Steve Dewhurst and Mal Edgson who would be contributing to the presentations. He outlined the programme for the afternoon and advised members that representatives from the HP / Cisco partnership had been invited to make a presentation for the last agenda item. 453 Declaration of potential conflicts of interest
No conflicts of interest were declared or identified.
Comparisons with peer group universities (Presentation)
The Vice Chancellor advised Council that, following the presentation of data a panel of senior colleagues would be happy to answer any questions and receive comments and suggestions. She explained the importance of the comparator set data in identifying areas of focus for the institution and developing Key Performance Indicators, reminding members that KPIs are regularly considered by the Resources Committee then reported and discussed further, if necessary, at Council meetings. The issues discussed would link in to the measuring performance and setting targets group discussions which would follow the items on UK universities league tables and performance indicators related to the student experience. Outcomes would also be fed into University 2010 projects, the student experience being the most important one currently being pursued. The Director of Business Transformation Services delivered the presentation which provided data for three consecutive years (from 2004/05 to 2006/07) on the student experience, teaching and learning, finance, estates and infrastructure, human resources development and market share. He highlighted Buckinghamshire New University’s position, particularly where the results had changed over the period or if they were either at the higher or lower end of the scale, and any specific factors which would have influenced the results. It was noted that the University’s position in some of the charts might be interpreted as encouraging or disappointing depending on judgements on priorities. Council discussed a number of issues arising from the data including:
The use of the particular comparator set (new universities with similar missions and financial stability having been identified rather than competitors)
Reasons for the University’s own position and those of other institutions in some of the charts (eg student / staff ratio and academic employee costs)
potential benefits envisaged in some areas post campus consolidation
the inclusion of subsidiary companies in support staff data but these having limited effect on the overall result
the identification of target indicators where the University would wish to change its position.
The different methodologies employed in the compilation of peer group comparisons (from HESA data) and league tables (where data is weighted or can be manipulated) were noted and the Vice Chancellor suggested moving to the next agenda item which would help to build up an overall profile of the University.
UK Universities League Tables (Doc No C/08/21)
Council had received excerpts from the Guardian University Guide, the Good University Guide and the HEFCE report Counting what is measured or measuring what counts 2008. The Vice Chancellor referenced Buckinghamshire New University’s relatively pleasing position in the Good University Guide, its lower position in the Guardian Guide and the key messages from the HEFCE report and case studies which she believed provided a helpful context to the tables and a number of useful prompts. The slides identified key messages from the HEFCE report, together with the impact and compilation of League tables. Members noted the methodologies used in the assessment and compilation of the tables and the differences between the two in comparative percentage scores; also that the HEFCE report appeared to question the usefulness of league tables. Specific results in respect of some individual scores were discussed and a number of areas were noted such as research assessment where the University, with its current mission and funding, would have limited scope to improve its position. It was suggested that although the tables could be regarded as of limited importance the University’s position in relation to other similar institutions was of interest and they did raise issues which might usefully be factored into the evaluation of its performance.
Performance Indicators related to the student experience (Presentation)
The General Manager of the Students’ Union thanked Council for the opportunity to share with it the Union’s discussion document which he hoped would stimulate thinking and provide a new perspective for the University. He explained that the new approach being developed was intended to map students’ “journey” at Bucks, accurately, in their own words, prior to arrival through to graduation and beyond in three main elements: academic life, social life and personal security. He further expanded on the constituent aspects of these elements and the importance of the results contributing to institutional decision making processes. The General Manager was thanked for his presentation and the Students’ Union complimented on the development of a project which appeared very likely to obtain a realistic picture of student views and enable both the Union and the University to focus appropriate action and resources on improving the student experience. The importance of students’ emotional attachment to the institution and establishing real substance beyond brand image to improve the student experience were recognised.
Secretary’s note: The points made by the discussion groups (including KPI commentaries for Resources Committee and Council) will be fed into the developing strategy for measuring performance and setting targets. A précis of the group points for SMT consideration is attached to these minutes. 457 The HP Cisco Partnership – Main Proposals (and Financial Context) Student residences at Compair
Before considering the proposals in respect of the HP Cisco Partnership Council was advised that these should be considered in the context of the University’s wider financial position, particularly in view of a change to the previously agreed funding of the student residences which had been communicated to the University the previous week. The Director of Finance made a presentation (copy attached to these minutes) and reported that the Bank of Scotland had indicated that the current instability of financial markets and consequent uncertainty about achieving syndication had resulted in it only being able to underwrite the new build element of the student residences rather than incorporating the Brook Street accommodation into the project as originally intended. This being the case and in view of the importance of the new accommodation and urgency in having it available by September 2009 the University was recommending that the new build should be progressed as previously proposed but that it should retain the Brook Street
residences and investigate outsourcing its operation if no syndication was forthcoming. It was forecast that adoption of this course of action would result in a financial reduction of £8.2 million in “up front” cash and £2 million on completion of the build (£10.2 million in total), though financial advantages would accrue to the retention of the Brook Street premise. The Director of Finance’s presentation included a breakdown of the full financial impact of the proposed arrangement on the budget for phase one building project costs, financing, resources for investment, necessary investments, the HP / Cisco investment proposal, potential investments and summary forecasts from 2007 through to 2013 and sensitivities. It was AGREED that: 1.
financial close for the Chiltern Student Residences (CSV) vehicle should be concluded as soon as practicable, taking account of the Bank of Scotland’s revised position on underwriting;
campus development investments identified as necessary to protect the University’s position should be pursued, subject to the finalisation of appropriate 2008-09 budgets;
potential campus-related investments (on which no decisions had yet been made) should be deferred until the cash resources become clearly available and further discussion had been held by Council; SMT was invited to develop a paper on phase 2/phase 3 building and development scenarios and associated costs for discussion alongside the forward financial forecasts on 7 July;
prioritisation of investments should reflect strategic value to the University.
It was also noted that points 2, 3 and 4 above would be reviewed by full Council as part of its consideration and approval of the 2008-2012 financial forecasts at its meeting on 7 July.
Strategic partnership with HP/Cisco (Reserved Business)
At this point representatives from Hewlett Packard and Cisco were welcomed to the meeting and introduced themselves before giving a detailed presentation on the background, scope and unique nature of the proposals. A fuller minute of this item is recorded separately as an item of reserved business. Following the departure of the HP / Cisco representatives Council AGREED that a joint meeting of the Campus Development Committee and Resources Committee should be held to: 1.
finalise the financial and legal details for financial close of the CSV vehicle under CDC delegated authority given in November 2007, but reconfirmed in the light of the new financial position;
consider the draft financial forecasts in the light of the Resources Committee’s discussion in May and the Bank of Scotland’s decision to underwrite only the new element of the student residences development and recommend them to Council on 7 July;
consider the HP/Cisco proposals for recommendation to Council on 7 July, with further information on the less favoured Options (3 and 4), assurances on minimising the risks of the project overrunning its budget, and contractual safeguards on delivery. At the same time, the meeting would be asked to reconfirm approval of the University’s strategic partnership with HP/Cisco.
Action: Director of Finance / University Secretary / CDC and Resources Committee
Date of next meeting
The next meeting of Council is scheduled to take place at 3.30pm on Monday 7 July 2008 in the Board Room, High Wycombe.
Note: Copies of presentations and action points from group notes are attached to these minutes.
The meeting started at 2. 05 pm and finished at 6.50pm SIGNED:
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