Statutory Bodies and Committees

Writing minutes

  1. Minutes need to be written in such a way that someone who was not present at the meeting can follow the decisions that were made. Minutes are read by a variety of people external to the Board/Committee; they are not just for colleagues who were there. Minutes can be used in external audits and legal proceedings.
  2. Minutes should give an accurate, impartial and balanced record of the meeting. They should be clear and concise. Use short sentences.
  3. The University can be asked by anyone to release any information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FoIA). Be aware of this when you write the minutes. Separate the minutes into sections headed ‘Open’, ‘FoIA Restricted’ or ‘Reserved area business’; ‘FoIA Restricted’ means the discussions may be exempt from disclosure to the public under one of the limited number of formal exemptions in the Act. Consult the Head of Secretariat or Freedom of Information Officer if you have any queries.  Also see: confidentiality and reserved business
  4. Use the minutes template; see http://www.bath.ac.uk/statutory-bodies-committees/bodies-and-committees-senate/Senate/index.html
  5. Use a standard format and number all paragraphs. Minute numbering should ideally run on consecutively from one year to another, so each number is unique, or if the numbers start again each year, the meetings must have a unique number or date reference.
  6. Write minutes in the order of the agenda, even if the actual discussion happened out of order.
  7. The minutes should be laid out clearly so actions stand out to readers.
  8. Use reported speech when writing minutes and always use the past tense. Use the conditional tense, ie ‘would’ instead of ‘will’ and ‘should’ rather than ‘shall’ to denote future action. Eg do not say ‘The Chair thinks the policy needs changing’ but ‘The Chair thought the policy needed changing’.
  9. Use the active voice, eg ‘The Committee agreed the minutes’ rather than the passive ‘The minutes were agreed by the Committee’.
  10. Use ‘the previous day’ or ‘the following day’ rather than ‘yesterday’ or ‘tomorrow’.
  11. When referring to University Officers in minutes, use their role, eg ‘the Dean’ rather than their name, except in the attendance and apologies sections.
  12. ‘The Committee’ is singular (as a collective) and not plural (ie use ‘it’ not ‘they’).
  13. Always double-check facts, figures, dates, names etc, to avoid errors being identified at the next meeting.
  14. Number the pages (it is useful to use the format ‘1 of 4’ etc).
  15. Include all decisions or recommendations, NOT all the discussion. Only give names of individuals where necessary, eg where an action is needed, or a special contribution is made or to record any particularly strong or dissenting views. Use the phrase “after discussion, it was RESOLVED that…” if many points were made which do not require minuting.
  16. Common phrases to use in minutes: Committees RECEIVE and CONSIDER papers and reports, which they may formally NOTE, APPROVE or RECOMMEND action on to a superior Committee. They may formally RESOLVE that something be ACCEPTED or ADOPTED, may REPORT the decisions made to another body and, less frequently, REFER BACK a paper should they not agree with what was PROPOSED.
  17. If the committee papers have been clearly written, a "recommendation" paragraph can easily be used to become a "resolved" paragraph.
  18. Make it clear that the Committee has agreed the minutes of the previous meeting; or, if amendments were agreed, specify these in the minutes eg:
    ‘The minutes of the previous meeting on 1 January 2014 were agreed, subject to the following minor amendment:
    Minute 205: addition of Professor J Bloggs in the list of those present.’
  19. Make it clear when the Committee has made a decision and when it will take effect, eg:
    ‘RESOLVED that the updated Criminal Convictions Policy be approved, with effect from September 2014.’
  20. Make it clear when the Committee is recommending an action to its higher Committee (where it does not have the power to make the decision itself), eg:
    ‘AGREED to recommend amendments to the Terms of Reference for the new Assessments sub-committee, as outlined in document S13/14-11, to Council for approval.’
  21. Refer to the relevant paper number when minuting an item, and make it clear that it has noted any papers for information, eg:
    ‘RECEIVED AND NOTED paper S13/14-11’ or
    ‘RECEIVED AND NOTED the minutes of the Academic Programmes Committee on 9 March 2014, paper S13/14-12’.
  22. Make it clear when the Committee has simply noted some information, eg:
    ‘NOTED: that the University’s recruitment figures were healthy and that the University would meet its target numbers.’
  23. If you need to minute a negative statement, ensure that it is clear wherever possible how the issue is being addressed.
    Eg, an example of poor practice:
    ‘Professor Bloggs and Dr Difficult said that they had never agreed with the recent changes to the assessment rules and that the University was going to pot.’
     This could be better phrased: 
    ‘The Committee noted that there had been some isolated issues with the implementation of the new assessment rules in one department, and a working group had been set up to analyse the issues and report back to the next meeting with recommendations for any proposed actions.’
  24. Remember that you are creating the permanent formal record, or the ‘memory’ of the university.