Court Digest

Meeting at the Institute of Medical Sciences

The Court held its recent March meeting at the Institute of Medical Sciences during which it welcomed Foresterhill based academic colleagues to learn more about their teaching and research. Court members later received a tour of the new Science Teaching Hub before hosting a joint seminar with the governors of the Robert Gordon University and North-East Scotland College to hear from external speakers on the future of skills and education provision in a global, national and regional context.

The papers from the Court’s formal meeting on 22 March 2022 and the approved minutes of the Court’s previous meeting are available here:
Court | StaffNet | The University of Aberdeen (abdn.ac.uk) 

The main items discussed by the Court were:

New Rector

The Court welcomed the new Rector, Martina Chukwuma-Ezike, to her first meeting of the Court. It also welcomed Professor Amy Bryzgel, School of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture, to her first meeting as a Senate Assessor member of Court.

The Rector opened the meeting and provided a report outlining the key priorities from her manifesto in supporting and representing the student community and, as a proud member of the Aberdeen family of graduates, her commitment to championing the Aberdeen 2040 Strategy and to promoting the reputation of the University.

Tribute to Professor Sir Duncan Rice, former Principal and Vice-Chancellor

The Court marked with sadness the recent passing of the University’s former Principal, Professor Sir Duncan Rice. The Pro-Chancellor, Professor Iain Torrance, provided a tribute highlighting key points in Sir Duncan’s life and career, as an Aberdonian, an Aberdeen graduate, his academic career in the United States and his many achievements as Principal in leading the University for 14 years.

Report from the Senior Governor

Julie Ashworth provided Court members with a report on the activities she had undertaken in the role of Senior Governor since the previous meeting.

Report from the Principal and Financial Updates

In addition to sharing with Court a report on recent developments within the University and in the wider higher education sector, the Principal provided updates on the ongoing national industrial dispute on pay and pensions and the forthcoming national level pay negotiations for 2022/23. The Principal also highlighted the progress of the University’s five Interdisciplinary Challenges noting in particular that Court was meeting close to where much of the Health, Nutrition and Wellbeing challenge work was taking place and to the new Bio-Hub building which would foster new industry and spin-out opportunities on campus.

The Court welcomed the continued positive financial growth that had been achieved and was forecast to continue in the forthcoming academic year with a surplus position predicted for the fourth year in a row. The Principal highlighted that the level of growth achieved was at a level consistent with that of its peers in the sector and noted how important a platform this was for enabling investment in new staff and facilities which were key to further growth and success. The Court also received an update on the progress of USS pensions discussions at a national level, summarising a number of recent developments and consultations with employers.

Anti-Racism Strategy

The Court received the University’s proposed Anti-Racism Strategy which had been developed following extensive consultation across the University community. The Court approved and welcomed the Strategy as a critical element of the University’s programme of work on race equality and providing a robust framework for taking forward initiatives to tackle racism in the University. It was noted that the development of an implementation time-line and promotion of the Strategy would be key next steps towards delivering its objectives.

Governance Reports

The Court received a suite of reports related to governance including: the next steps in implementation of the governance reviews of both the Court and the Senate; revisions to the cycle of Court, Senate and Court committee meetings; the cycle and responsibilities for the performance review of the Principal, Secretary & Chief Operating Officer, Senior Governor and of members of Court; and a paper on proposed changes to communications with Court members.

Policy on Research Funding from Tobacco Companies

The Court considered proposals for a draft institutional policy prohibiting the acceptance by the University of research funding or other contributions in kind from tobacco companies.  This was intended to formalise a position that the University had held for some time and clarify it to external stakeholders.  The Court welcomed the proposals in principle and it was agreed that before formally approving the document, some further work would be undertaken on the scope of the policy with regard to e-cigarettes and this would be reported back to Court.

Actions in Relation to Ukraine

The Court received a paper which reported on the actions the University had taken in response to the ourtbreak of the conflict in Ukraine. The Court welcomed the steps that had been taken, in particular, the University’s willingness to accommodate Ukrainian academics rendered refugees by the conflict and, more broadly the commitment it had shown to supporting academic refugees of all conflicts as a signatory to the Council for At-Risk Academics Refugees and through its application to be an accredited University of Sanctuary. The Court noted the importance of taking a consistent approach to support for the victims of all conflicts.

Further Business

The Court also considered the following further items of business:

  • Reports from sub-committees: Audit and Risk Committee, Governance and Nominations Committee, Policy and Resources Committee; Research Policy Committee, and University Education Committee.
  • Approval of External Audit and Advisory Contracts
  • Briefing on Plans for the Publication of REF 2021 Results

Any questions regarding the Court digest should be sent to Mr Bruce Purdon, Clerk to the Court b.purdon@abdn.ac.uk

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