Servicing an Academic Governance Committee

What is a committee and who are the key people who make up a committee?

A committee is a body to which a particular task is assigned as specified in its terms of reference.

The key people are:

  • Chairperson
  • Minute taker / Secretary / Officer
  • Committee members
  • Work Groups and/or Task and Finish Groups

Examples of university level committees include: UAEC (University Academic Enhancement Committee) and PCSC (Partnerships and Collaborative Sub Committee).

The University academic governance structure shows the relationship between how faculty level meetings link with University level meetings; and is available in the Committee Handbook.

Six steps for effective committee management (for committee Secretary / Officer)

Step 1: Actions prior to commencing the Academic Year cycle of meeting

  • Make sure there are terms of reference (ToR), which ensure clarity for the meeting. Committee ToR's are available in the Committee Handbook. It is seen as good practise to produce a schedule of work for your committee which will help you track which items will be coming to each meeting throughout the year. Here is an example of a schedule of work (To be arranged).
  • Familiarise yourself with the remit, subject and powers of the committee (i.e. where does the committee report to and receive reports from)
  • Confirm membership with the Chair (also keep a circulation list / email group for papers and reminders).  Membership should be reviewed and confirmed annually.
  • Set a schedule of meetings for the year and ensure all members have these dates for the meetings
  • Book rooming and any refreshments that may be required for each meeting. The Chair will be able to advise on whether any refreshments are required during the meeting. Organise for each meeting room to be set up boardroom style. The Chair will be able to advise on whether any refreshments are required during the meeting, usually when there is an external member in attendance.
  • Agree agenda setting meetings between the Chair and Secretary /Officer. Where possible schedule these meetings for the whole academic year. Ideally agenda setting meetings should be held at least three weeks prior to the meeting
  • Inform committee members papers will be circulated via email or distributed via a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), and that paper copies will only be distributed to members who specifically request these; this is in line with the University's 'go green' strategy and the move to paperless meetings.  Paper copies will only be distributed to members who specifically requests these.
  • Ensure an archiving system is in place to archive committee papers
  • As University and faculty level meetings are moving to 'paperless' meetings where possible, ensure a repository (i.e. WOLF, public folders) is set up for committee agenda and papers, as well as for managing any other business 

Step 2: Agenda Setting

  • ‌Draft an agenda for discussion with the Chair at the agenda setting meeting. This will be based on the schedule of work and any items that have been brought to your attention (i.e. from committee members via email). The previous agenda could be used as a starting point for drafting the agenda. For University or faculty level meetings, use the standard agenda available in the University's Committee Handbook. The agenda is divided into the following sections:

                                                 Standing items (to include minutes, actions, matters arising)

                                                 Items for discussions

                                                 Items for approval

                                                 Items for information

                                                 Any other business

        A sample agenda is available here; Sample Agenda for Committee (Word doc 75k).

        Please note that course committee meetings have a separate agenda format (available here).

  • Keep a file of items / papers that are possible items for discussion at the agenda setting meeting
  • Confirm the agenda and ordering of items with the Chair
  • Number your agenda items using the University standard (committee name / academic year / item number). UAEC/17/12, for example, means that the minutes are in relation to UAEC for the 2017-18 academic year, and the agenda item is number 12. Remember to number your papers so that they correspond to the agenda items:

         For instance, if the agenda contains the following item;

         17/21 - Minutes of previous meeting

         Then on the minutes, place the paper number, date of the meeting and name of the committee inside a text box at the top of the document. If you are unsure how to do this please refer to this Committee paper numbering example (Word doc 37k)                          

  • Confirm deadlines for papers and send reminders to authors of papers. Papers are usually made available 5 working days prior to the meeting so consider setting a deadline for authors to submit papers to you for 8 working days before the meeting. This will provide you with sufficient time to read papers and upload into a VLE / circulate where necessary
  • All papers presented to the committee (for discussion, approval or information) should have a coversheet and this is now mandatory. For reference, please see this Cover Sheet Template (PDF 364K, Downloads file) 
  • Follow up actions and close out before the agenda setting meeting where possible      

Step 3: Before the meeting

  • Try and be familiar with the subjects that will be under discussion. Read the papers!
  • Maintain a list of apologies from those who are unable to attend
  • Advise item presenters who are not committee members of the approximate time that their item will run, inform of the meeting location and invite them accordingly
  • Distribute papers, electronically, preferably 5 working days before the meeting
  • Arrive to the meeting in sufficient time to check room layout, ensure equipment is working and that any refreshments that have been ordered have arrived
  • Notify members that any items of any other business should normally be sent to the Chair and Officer at least 48 hours prior to the meeting

Step 4: During the meeting

  • Take sufficient stationary and a laptop if needed
  • Make new members feel welcome
  • It is helpful to sit next to the Chair in order to support the Chair during the meeting
  • Circulate an attendance sign-in sheet and note when members leave early and arrive late
  • Ensure you are clear on key points and actions (don't be afraid to ask for clarification during the meeting!)
  • Take notes / minutes
  • If there is something you don't understand, circle it and follow-up afterwards

Step 5: After the meeting (writing the minutes)

Your minutes are a formal record of the meeting. You should be aware, therefore, of the following:

  • State the committee names, date, time and venue
  • Include details of attendees. Refer to individuals using their job titles, rather than by name, as an individual may leave but the role normally continues. The attendee list, however, should contain names and roles so that it is clear exactly who was in the role at that point if this information is required
  • Be conscious of naming staff and/or students, as minutes are owned by the University and act as a permanent record of the meeting, which may be made publically available for audit purposes
  • Ensure that the items recorded correlate to the agenda item
  • Record items as noted, approved, received or action
  • Ensure there is a clear record of what has been agreed. It it not always necessary to capture the discussions leading to what has been agreed
  • Check any points that you are unclear about
  • Clearly indiciate items that are actions and record this on the action checklist. Actions should indicate: the action, responsibility, what needs to be done, deadline and the status of the action (ongoing, completed etc.). For an example please see this Action checklist (Word doc 60k)
  • Minutes are confirmed at the subsequent committee meeting. Remember to record the status of your minutes within the document (i.e. draft, draft - approved by Chair, approved)       

An example of typing up minutes using the University standard is available here -  

Write your minutes as soon as possible (within 5 working days of meeting) and forward onto the Chair.


Step 6: After the meeting

  • Send the first draft of the minutes following any internal checks to the Chair for approval
  • Once minutes have been approved by the Chair, send out actions, archive papers and publish confirmed minutes from the previous meeting

The minutes will be approved at the subsequent meeting. After this return to Step 2 to get ready for your next agenda setting meeting.

If you have any further queries on committee management, please refer to the Committee Handbook