The Halpin Report on governance at the University of Bath recommended that:
A review of Court should be undertaken by Council but with Court representation, to seek ways and means of modernising engagement. The aim of the Review should be to create a deeper, broader and more inclusive stakeholder engagement strategy, while preserving and enhancing the ability of stakeholders, including the public, to provide challenge and speak truth to power (PR13).
Accordingly, at its meeting on 21 February 2019, Council agreed to create a Stakeholder Engagement Working Group (SEWG) (minute 6999), to which it appointed three Council members at its meeting on 16 May 2019 (minute 7025). Three members of Court, who were not also members of Council, were subsequently elected to the group by Court.
SEWG has met once, on 15 August 2019, at which it discussed draft terms of reference and ways of working.
Terms of reference
- To identify those stakeholders with which Council should be engaging in order to fulfil its roles and functions, and to consider how best that engagement should be achieved.
- In light of (1), to consider how Court operates within or contributes to that engagement process, and whether its current make-up and procedures would then be appropriate.
- To make recommendations to Council for appropriate actions.
Notes to accompany the terms of reference
Meaning of 'engagement'
It is important to understand what is encompassed by the term 'engagement' in these terms of reference. Firstly, it relates to Council’s engagement with stakeholders in its capacity as Council, as distinct from the multiple and varied interactions that the University as a whole has with all of its stakeholders. Secondly, engagement is a two way process involving both the giving and receiving of information. Thus, the nature of Council’s engagement with its key stakeholders must ensure that the stakeholders in question are (a) able to provide Council with the information it needs to assist the University’s management to formulate policy and to hold the Executive to account; and (b) given the opportunity to hear Council’s views on relevant issues.
Role of Council
Council is the ultimate governing body of the University. Its precise role is set out in the University’s Statutes but, in summary, it assists the University Executive in formulating strategy and key policies; approves the strategy and policies proposed by the Executive; and holds Management to account. It does not get involved in the actual running of the University, nor would it normally be involved in purely academic matters which are the responsibility of Senate. Council can only act as a collective body and individual Council members have no authority to act on behalf of the University (unless specifically delegated to do so).
Its membership consists of a majority of independent (“lay”) members together with students, academic and professional services staff and the Vice-Chancellor. However, regardless of background, all members of Council have the same legal responsibility to act and make decisions in the best interests of the University as a whole, as opposed to representing the interests of any particular group of stakeholders.
Halpin Recommendation PR13
This Group was formed by Council to address principal recommendation 13 in the Halpin Partnership’s report, entitled A Review of the Effectiveness of Council at the University of Bath. This reads as follows:
A review of Court should be undertaken by Council but with Court representation, to seek ways and means of modernising engagement. The aim of the Review should be to create a deeper, broader and more inclusive stakeholder engagement strategy, while preserving and enhancing the ability of stakeholders, including the public, to provide challenge and speak truth to power.
It was necessary to implement the majority of the other recommendations in the Halpin Review before this recommendation could be properly addressed. The substantial progress that has been made in implementing the Halpin Review recommendations can be seen on the University’s website.