Council role description [DOC 97.50KB]

May 2012
About the University
The University of Sussex was the first of the new wave of UK universities founded in
the 1960s, receiving its Royal Charter in August 1961. As we celebrate our 50th anniversary,
the University has become a leading teaching and research institution.
Innovative research and scholarship
Sussex is a leading research university, as reflected in the 2008 Research Assessment
Exercise. Over 90 per cent of Sussex research activity was rated as world leading,
internationally excellent or internationally recognised, confirming the University among the
leading 30 research universities in the UK, on a simple average across all scores. 18
subjects rank in the top 20 for research in the UK, across the arts, sciences and social
sciences, with American studies ranked number 1 in the UK, Politics number 2, and Art
history number 3.
The priorities set out by the research strategy are: to build strength in recognised centres of
research excellence; to demonstrate research of international standing in all subject areas;
to develop an infrastructure and culture that supports research quality; and to work to
exchange knowledge and ideas nationally and internationally. The most significant challenge
and goal of the research strategy will be to increase the research income base of the
University – looking to double our income by 2015.
A number of cross-disciplinary research themes has been developed. These themes build
on existing Sussex research strengths, encompassing a number of different disciplines, and
address important, real-world issues of international significance. The themes will help the
University focus future investment and development for research, as well as identifying some
of the areas of international research excellence. The research themes, which have been
identified in the strategic plan, are:
Citizenship and democratisation
Culture and heritage
Digital technologies
Global transformations
Mind and brain
Environment and health
More information about Sussex research1 is available on the University’s webpage.
Teaching and learning
The University of Sussex has over 12,000 students, of which over 3,000 are postgraduates.
Creative thinking, pedagogic diversity, intellectual challenge and interdisciplinarity have
always been fundamental to a Sussex education.
Our goal is to deliver teaching and learning programmes that are informed by current
research, are attractive to students from all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, and
which deliver skills for life.
We are currently expanding our degree programmes in popular areas such as biomedical
science, business and management, digital media, international security, modern languages,
and science and enterprise.
Recent National Student Survey results, while much improved, indicate that while our
teaching quality is highly regarded, activities around academic support, assessment and
personal development are not as highly rated as we would expect for an institution of
Sussex’s quality. As part of addressing this challenge, the Sussex Plus initiative2 has been
developed as a way to build students’ academic and extracurricular skills and experiences,
and to document these within one portfolio so that they can be communicated more easily to
potential employers.
For more information on the range of degree programmes see the undergraduate3 and
postgraduate4 prospectuses.
Our staff
Sussex has developed a reputation for innovation and inspiration, and attracts leading
thinkers and researchers. We have over 2,200 staff, including around 550 teaching and
research staff, and 280 research-only staff. We have counted three Nobel Prize winners, 13
Fellows of the Royal Society, six Fellows of the British Academy and a winner of the
prestigious Crafoord Prize on our faculty.
International Sussex
From its foundation, Sussex has had an international perspective to its academic activities
and its outlook. The University attracts staff and students to its campus from over 120
different countries across the world. Nearly a third of staff come from outside the UK.
Our research tackles major world issues, with leading areas of expertise such as climate
change and development studies. The University has extensive links with many institutions
worldwide, such as Peking University, National Taiwan University and the Harvard-Sussex
Campus life
Sussex has one of the most beautiful campus locations in Britain. Situated in rolling parkland
on the edge of Brighton, the campus combines award-winning architecture with green open
spaces. The campus is surrounded by the South Downs National Park, but just a few
minutes away from the lively city of Brighton and Hove.
Designed by Sir Basil Spence, the buildings that make up the heart of the campus were
given listed building status in 1993. Falmer House is one of only two educational buildings in
the UK to be Grade I listed in recognition of its exceptional interest.
Business and the community
Sussex has a long tradition of engaging with business and the community, which continues
today through activities such as the Sussex Innovation Centre, public lectures and service to
the community. Our goal is to help businesses and organisations in the region develop
higher staff skill levels through training, and to stimulate innovation through partnership with
other institutions outside Sussex to benefit the wider society.
The Sussex Innovation Centre provides support for the creation and growth of technologyand knowledge-based companies in Sussex. The Centre is now a thriving business
environment for nearly 80 high-growth companies. Since its creation over 160 companies
have been based at the Centre; their cumulative revenue is now over £250 million and the
companies currently employ many hundreds of people in the local area.
The University’s Corporate Governance
The Council is the governing body of the University, responsible for setting the
general strategic direction of the institution, for ensuring proper accountability, and for the
management of its finances, property and investments and the general business of the
University. The Council comprises independent, academic and student members appointed
under the Statutes of the University, the majority of whom are non-executive. The roles of
Chair and Vice-Chairs of Council are separated from the role of the University’s Chief
Executive, the Vice-Chancellor.
Both by its own decision and under the Financial Memorandum with the Higher
Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Council reserves to itself responsibility for
the ongoing strategic direction of the University and for approval of major developments, and
receives regular reports from the Executive Officers on the day-to-day operations of its
business and its subsidiary companies.
Involvement in University Affairs
It is expected that members of Council will play a significant role in the life of the University.
In particular, it is likely that the independent members of Council will be invited to serve on
committees of Council. Independent members therefore need to be able to devote a
reasonable amount of time to University business.
The committees of Council are:
 Audit Committee
 Finance and Investments Committee
 Nominations Committee
 Performance Committee
 Remuneration Committee
Independent members of Council may also be asked to be members of the Student
Disciplinary Appeals Board which may meet occasionally.
Information about the University
The University published its Strategic Plan Making the Future5 in March 2009 which
sets out the strategic direction of the University over the period 2009-2015.
The plan identifies eight goals:
Inspirational teaching and learning;
Innovative research and scholarship;
Enhancing the student experience;
Engaging with business and the community;
Developing excellence in our staff;
Working with the best;
Managing effectively;
Operating sustainably.
Through the goals and accompanying strategies, the Strategic Plan seeks to grow
the University activity by 20% by 2015. A set of targets was developed for each goal which
Council uses to measure the overall progress towards the achievement of the Plan; many of
these have already been met and we are entering an exciting period of developing a new
strategic plan.
The plan defines the mission of the University as follows:
“to deliver innovative and inspiring research, scholarship, teaching and learning that leads to
positive change in individuals, organisations and societies”
In pursing the mission, the University – staff and students- share the following values:
Excellence, through a commitment to delivering the highest standards of
research, scholarship, teaching and learning in order to provide a dynamic and
stimulating environment for students and staff and to maximise their social and
economic contribution to societies;
Interdisciplinarity, through tackling multidimensional problems, while maintaining
a strong, broadly based set of disciplines across the arts, social sciences and
Engagement, by actively seeking and considering an external perspective on all
our activities, including an international perspective;
Challenge, in which all members of the Sussex community are prepared
creatively to explore the status quo and alternatives, within the context of
excellence and professionalism, and seek to make positive change;
Partnership, by developing long-lasting relationships that bring together
complementary skills and resources to create mutual benefit and to deliver
impact that cannot be achieved by either partner alone;
Professionalism, by upholding freedom of academic enquiry, undertaking
activities in a responsible manner using robust, transparent processes and
maintaining professional ethical standards in the conduct of all academic and
support activities;
Equality and diversity, by developing entry routes to the University based on
educational merit and valuing the strength derived from contributions to our
mission by people from different backgrounds, traditions, cultures and
Service, in which members of the Sussex community seek to use their skills and
talents to contribute to local, national and international communities.
Role description of members of Council
Members of Council are expected to act in a corporate manner, rather than as a
representative of any constituency, or group. The following are the key attributes of a
member of Council:
to challenge constructively and to act as a critical friend for the University; to
exercise independent-mindedness;
to act as an ambassador and influencer for the University both within and outside
it and to help lever advantage for the University;
to have strategic ability and an ability to analyse complex data and information
and identify the major issues;
to apply knowledge and experience to the University’s advantage;
to be an effective contributor to discussions at Council.
Members of the Council who are staff or students of the University are required to
bring the same broad range of qualities as independent members. In addition, they bring
specific and general knowledge and understanding of the University's work and culture and
ensure links and communications channels throughout the University governance and
management structure including links with the Senate which is responsible for the academic
activities of the University and staff and student groups.
Role of the Vice-Chancellor in relation to the Council
The Vice-Chancellor is responsible for the executive management of the University
and its day-to-day direction.
The specific responsibilities of the Vice-Chancellor in relation to Council business
implementing the decisions of the Council or ensuring that they are implemented
through the relevant part of the Institution’s management structure;
initiating discussion and consultation including, where appropriate, consultation
with the staff and the Senate on proposals concerning the Institution’s future
development and ensuring that such proposals are presented to the Council;
fulfilling the duty, as the officer designated by the Council under the terms of the
Funding Council’s Financial Memorandum (‘the designated officer’), to alert the
Council if any actions or policy under consideration would be incompatible with
the terms of the Financial Memorandum. If the Council nevertheless decides to
proceed, then the Vice-Chancellor has a duty to inform either the Chief Executive
of the Funding Council or other appropriate officer.
Key responsibilities of Members of Council
The key responsibilities of members of Council are:
to attend meetings of Council;
to attend other formal and informal meetings in the University as invited;
to act as an ambassador for the University, promoting its activities and strategic
aims in the wider community;
to ensure that the responsibilities of Council are exercised in the best interests of
the University; for the proper stewardship of public and other funds and for
ensuring that these are applied towards the University’s primary charitable
purpose of teaching and research;
act in a corporate manner for decision making. Unless authorised by Council to
do so, members should not act individually or in informal groupings to take
decisions on Council business on an ad hoc basis outside the framework of the
meetings of Council and its Committees;
For independent members of Council, additionally:
to attend training and induction as required to carry out the role of Member of
to complete an annual declaration for the Register of Interests;
to serve as a member normally of at least one Council Committee or as a
representative of Council on at least one body (either internal or external to the
to also gain a good informal sense of the University, by taking advantage of
opportunities that will be routinely offered to engage with University staff and
students, via public and other events and activities.
Primary responsibilities of Council as set out in the Statutes
The following are extracts from the University’s statutory documents pertaining to the
powers and functions of Council:
Statute V - Powers of the Council
The Council shall be responsible for the revenue and property of the
University, its conduct and activities and shall exercise all the University's powers,
which shall include without limitation the powers and functions set out in the
The Council shall be entitled to delegate all or any of its functions, powers
and duties to any person or body, subject to Statute V.3.
The Council shall prescribe in Regulations the matters for which it shall not
delegate responsibility, including:
appointing the Vice-Chancellor;
the variation, amendment or revocation of the Charter or Statutes;
the approval of the University’s annual audited accounts;
appointing the Auditors of the University.
The Council may review, amend, refer back, control or disallow any act of
Senate required under the Statutes or the Regulations to be reported to Council, and to
give directions thereon to Senate; provided that any such act of Senate which is
amended by Council shall be referred again to Senate for consideration and report
before such act (so amended) is put into effect.
Regulation 5
To institute, after report from the Senate, Professorships, Readerships,
Lectureships and other academic offices and to appoint persons to fill the same.
To make provision for research within the University.
To establish, after report from Senate, such Schools of Study or units of
academic organisation as may be deemed necessary from time to time; to prescribe
their constitution and functions, and to modify, disestablish or revise the same.
to appoint a Librarian who shall be responsible to the Vice-Chancellor for the
administration of the Library.
To confer, after report from Senate, the title of Emeritus Professor or
Honorary Professor or any other Honorary Title.
To fix all University fees but in the case of academic fees charged to students
only after consultation with Senate.
In consultation with Senate, to institute, subject to any conditions made by
the Founders, Fellowships, Scholarships, Studentships, Exhibitions and Prizes.
To make provision for the welfare of the students.
To determine the complement of the Professional Services staff, to prescribe
their conditions of employment and to appoint persons to, and to remove persons from,
employment as members of the Professional Services staff.
To govern, manage and regulate the finances, accounts, investments,
property, business and all affairs whatsoever of the University.
To invest any moneys belonging to the University, including any unapplied
income, in such stock, funds, shares or securities as it shall from time to time think fit,
whether authorised by the general law for the investment of trust moneys or not, and
whether within or outside the United Kingdom, or in the purchase of freehold or
leasehold hereditaments in the United Kingdom, including rents, with the like power of
varying such investments from time to time.
To sell, buy, exchange, lease, and accept leases of real and personal
property on behalf of the University.
To provide the buildings, premises, furniture and apparatus, and other means
needed for carrying on the work of the University.
To borrow money from time to time on behalf of the University and for that or
any other purpose, if Council think fit, to mortgage or charge all or part of the property
of the University, whether real or personal, and to give such other security as Council
shall think fit.
To enter into, vary, carry out or cancel contracts on behalf of the University.
To make provision for schemes of superannuation, pensions or retirement
benefits for members of the staff of the University, or their dependants.
To recognise any association as representing the interests of former students
of the University and to withdraw or vary such recognition.
Person specification
Amongst the desirable attributes sought from members of Council are:
excellent interpersonal and communication skills, including the ability to
establish good working relationships, the ability to listen as well as express
personal views and to influence and interact with all members of Council
including independent members, students, and academic and professional
services staff;
diplomacy and sensitivity;
contextual awareness;
ability to demonstrate personal integrity, objectivity and to take a balanced and
open-minded approach to decision making;
the ability to absorb large quantities of complex information quickly;
collaborative skills and the ability to work as a member of a team;
an interest in the education and welfare of students and a desire to help them
to thrive and succeed;
acceptance of collective responsibility for Council decisions.
Additionally for independent members:
the ability to represent the University to a range of stakeholders including
ministers, civil servants, students, staff, the local community and potential
funders and donors;
able to commit sufficient time to attend meetings of Council, and its
committees, noting that meetings will not always take place during normal
office hours.
Knowledge and experience
awareness of the modern regulatory environment, so that legitimate scrutiny
and accountability are respected and effectively discharged;
understanding of the impact of government policy on Higher Education;
experience of senior management of a public or private sector body;
experience of working and communicating with a wide of range of people;
Additionally for independent members:
professional expertise and knowledge in matters relevant to the successful
operation of a large, diverse organisation, e.g. risk management, performance
General information
10.1 Term of Office: members are appointed for a period of up to three years commencing
on their appointments, and shall be eligible for re-appointment or re-election for a maximum
of two further terms of office each of up to three years up to a maximum period of nine years,
as set out in the Regulations.
10.2 Council normally meets four times a year, generally with a one day strategic meeting
in September, a business meeting in late November, a two day meeting (comprising a one
day strategic meeting and a one day business meeting) in late March/early April and a
business meeting in late June/early July.
Method of appointment
Under the provisions of the University Statutes and associated regulations, independent
members are appointed by Council on the recommendation of Nominations Committee
(which may involve an interview with senior officers and the Chair of Council). Other
members are elected in accordance with the regulations.
Deputy Academic Secretary
May 2012