Board of Governors' Blog January 2020

This blog is an informal report to the community of the College to highlight the key items discussed at the Board – formal Board minutes are posted on the Governance Page of this site.

Author: Monisha Shah, Chair of the Board of Governors 

Chair’s Blog-January 2020

It was very good to be back at College after the Christmas break.

As is custom, Dr Walker presented a programme of Governor development opportunities for this academic year.  This included a range of different activities – from attending performances to observing Academic Board meetings, validations and open days. Most Governors will attend at least 2 or 3 such events a year, time permitting, because it adds great depth to our understanding of the College operations, and because it is always a pleasure to see student practice and performance.

I was delighted to report to the Board that, after interviews, the Governor panel had offered Clare Guindi the position of Student Governor. Matt Condon, President of the SU, already serves on the Board and does a brilliant job in ensuring that the student perspective is reflected in our discussions and decisions.

Although our formal structure allows for up to 2 students on the Board, we were convinced of Michael Oyar’s interest in the governance of Rose Bruford College. Therefore, we decided to offer Michael a place on the Board as a student observer. This is not a formal role, but it will enable Michael to participate, and it is great for us to be able to have more than 2 students to work with on the Board.

As always, the Board tracks student recruitment as a key performance indicator for the College, as a majority of our income is dependent on tuition fees. The Principal reported that there was positive interest in our courses this year. We have received 2700 applications which was more than last year at this stage. The Board had a good discussion on recruitment and interest in existing and new courses with the Senior Management Team. We look forward to more updates as the applications progress through the admissions process.

Other matters that the Board discussed were progress on the Catalyst project and interruptions to the building work due to water-logging of the site; applications made to Trusts and Foundations by Cause 4 on behalf of the College, and plans for fund-raising events later in the year; key stages in the implementation of the new Finance and HR IT systems.

Ensuring that Bruford’s degrees are of value to its students and to the industry is an important consideration for the Board. Accordingly, in the Academic update, the Board was briefed on the work of the Examination Boards in 2018-19. It was interesting to note that the proportion of good degrees awarded in the last academic year was 77.5%, with 30.8% of these being first-class and 46.7% being upper-second; this places Bruford fifth in a table of nine comparator institutions that we use as one benchmark. This, along with other indicators like the External Examiner Reports, helps the Board to be assured that the standards of the College are in line with the sector in terms of degree outcomes.

The Board welcomed the report that that the membership of the Research Committee had been enhanced with the appointment of the new Professor of Theatre and Performance and the newly appointed Research Administrator as its Secretary. Both new post holders who commenced working at the College at the start of January 2020 brought considerable experience of research activity.  We also noted that the Research Degree Partnership agreement with the University of East London was due to have a periodic review in March 2020.

Turning to Student experience, the President of the Students’ Union advised in his report to the Board that the main issue under consideration was student engagement. The first meeting of an Engagement Review Panel was due to be convened and he felt confident that the membership would be able to garner a wide range of views.  It was good to note that Black History Month had been well received and attended despite minimal advertising and that there was follow-up activity planned for February 2020. 

The Board welcomed the interim Director of Finance and Operations, Dr Sally East, to the meeting. Dr East gave the Board an update on Finance and Operations included a report on the TRAC return for submission to the OfS, which after discussion, was approved by the Board. The Board discussed with Dr East the Management Accounts prepared by her predecessor and agreed some changes to the information that it would like to see in the Management Accounts going forward, including expenditure broken down to department level, and costs of fee-based contracts.

In formal business, we approved the Annual Report from the Remuneration Committee for publication, which is now available on the College’s website. We t noted the communication from the Office for Students accepting our Access and Participation Plan, which outlines not just our ambition but also our operational plan in more granular detail.

As part of this discussion, the Board concluded that it should constitute an Access and Participation Committee of the Board. This will be a new Board sub-committee and underlines our commitment to these values, and the objectives that derive from them. We discussed the terms of reference for the Committee and its membership; we agreed that it’s key role would be to advise on high level issues relating to access, participation and progression, that its membership should include external independent members as well as Governors and students, and that it should be established by October 2020.