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Scheme of Delegated Approvals

View the Tables of Specific Delegations (York staff only - please login.) These detailed tables set out key decisions and the final approving body.

For queries relating to the Scheme, please contact governance@york.ac.uk.

1. The purpose of the Scheme of Delegated Approvals (SoDA)

1.1

This version of the Scheme of Delegated Approvals (SoDA) is a re-launched and significantly revised and restructured version of the 2017 Scheme of Delegation & Decision-Making. Such a Scheme is a key pillar of a governance framework, and is intended to map, in headline form, the key approving body, group or individual(s) for a range of key University decisions. The decisions covered in the SoDA are:

  • formal committee-based approvals. from Council as the governing body and trustee Board downwards
  • other decisions made/recommended by senior bodies, groups and individuals, which fall into the realm of formal transactions which need effective decision-making and recording processes around them.

1.2

Responsibility for custody of the SoDA has moved from the Finance Directorate to the Governance and Assurance Office, under the University Secretary in the Vice-Chancellor and President’s Department. The document will then be subject to periodic review, eg annually, as a mechanism to ensure governance, policy, management and organisational changes are reflected within the document.

1.3

General and specific advice on interpretation of the SoDA should be directed to governance@york.ac.uk.

2. The status of the SoDA (what it is and isn’t at this stage in its re-launch)

2.1

The SoDA has been comprehensively revised as part of the internal workstream for the 2021 Council-Governance Effectiveness Review. The document has been:

  • updated to reflect significant changes and gaps in decision-making, including changes in structures, formal bodies and role-holders since publication of the 2017 version
  • fully restructured to move away from an index of approvals listed underneath key bodies and role-holders, to instead structure decisions for thematic activities of activity. The core document is structured around a set of thematic tables with columns for the ‘approving body/role-holder’ and ‘recommending body/holder’
  • the tables embed links signposting to other documents, including the detailed online information on financial authorisations and procedures in the Financial Regulations as owned by the Finance Directorate. The Financial Regulations are also currently undergoing review by colleagues in the Finance Department.
  • this material will be presented in online format for ease of navigation as well as a PDF for formal reporting purposes.

2.2.1

The SoDA applies to the University and its subsidiaries but not to joint ventures, spin-outs, associated companies. See Appendix 2 of the Financial Regulations.

2.2.2

Hull York Medical School (HYMS) also has its own separate Scheme of Delegation.

Limitations of the SoDA

2.3

The SoDA is intended to be a headline document, and as a scheme it sets out key decisions and delegations at a high/formal level. It is not intended to give readers of it the regulatory, policy context or procedural or systems route map to achieve the approvals. The Governance and Assurance team can provide some advice here, but we may need to refer you to other colleagues including relevant committee chairs and secretaries and other supporting officers who oversee the specific area.

2.4

A document of this type is neither ever fully up-to-date or comprehensive. Were it to be so, it would be encyclopaedic and exhaustive. On this basis, the SoDA does not present an inventory of all University regulation, policy and procedures and approval routes for these. This would make the SoDA unwieldy. We encourage colleagues to refer to the Draft Policy Taxonomy and headline routes for approval by University bodies, which provides definitions for key document types from the University Strategy all the way through to Procedures and Guidance, and provides a steer on headline approvals. Where minor changes are made to regulations, policy or procedures (eg updated nomenclature and web references, clarifications, changes to formatting), these can be authorised by the document owner (ie the relevant senior professional support service colleague from the area in question). An audit trail should be maintained so that the formal approving body can be notified of these minor changes at the point at which more substantive changes to the document are proposed.

 

2.4.1

The SoDA is not the authoritative or single reference point for all detailed financial regulations, authorities and procedures. Please refer to the relevant section of the Financial Regulations. The Financial Regulations are also currently undergoing review by colleagues in the Finance Department.

2.5

Also, at the point of reviewing the SoDA (March - July 2021), major areas of development were under way in  terms of University governance, strategy and change work and new or successor supporting frameworks and structures, including for faculties and professional services. These changes are not prematurely anticipated or plotted in this version of the SoDA. This document will be amended in light of these changes, and the new University Strategy 2030.

2.6

We recognise a range of gaps still exist in this version of the SoDA, including the approving points and recommendation routes for key decisions which perhaps have not needed to be taken before, or are judged not to be made in the most effective place or way. Such decision pathways still need to be untangled, rewired or even identified in the first place. We are keen to hear other ideas about what colleagues they would like to see in the SoDA while avoiding it becoming too voluminous.

3. Key Decision-making bodies of the University

3.1

The University’s primary formal decision-making bodies are Council, Senate and UEB. Council is the governing body and trustee board of the University which has ultimate accountability in legal and regulatory terms and under the University’s own ‘domestic legislation’ of its Charter and Statutes for the University, as set out in its statement of responsibilities. Senate is the primary academic governance body, and the University Executive Board is the corporate executive board responsible for management of the University. You will see reference to these three bodies in an approving and recommending capacity, and that of their sub-committees/groups throughout the document.  A headline diagram showing the relationship to these bodies and also the role of our Court is available on the governance webpages.[1]

4. Principles of Decision-Making at the University of York underpinned by the Strategy 2030

4.1

A University whose principal purpose is for the Public Good as set out in the University Strategy 2030, should ensure decisions are taken which are:

Graphic: title

Accountable: decisions are evidence-based, transparent, represent an effective and efficient use of time and resources (value for money), are auditable and traceable, and able to be monitored and reviewed.

Responsible: decisions are guided by the ‘moral compass’ of the University Strategy, and made with integrity, in good faith, factoring in ethical considerations and in the best interests of the University as a whole.

Deliverable: decisions are proportionate to the matter addressed, have clear ownership and implementation routes and can be translated into action which is within scope and budget.

‘Accountable’ Decision-Making

Accountable should sit at the right level of authority, avoiding default escalation to the most senior bodies and individuals.

However, the most significant decisions being made in the University, whether as set out for legal compliance, regulatory purpose or significance of impact, should be taken by the senior committees/bodies and individuals of the University. In doing so, colleagues:

  • take a collective accountability for these decisions in the best interests of the University
  • seek assurance from individuals or groups responsible for originating or enacting/implementing those decisions to provide evidence-based, professionally-informed steers on which option(s) for decision is/are recommended
  • provide clear and timely feedback to those recommending a decision on the outcome.

Individuals and groups below those accountable for taking decisions are responsible for implementing such decisions and providing assurance that the decision is being implemented and having the desired objectives.

Decisions made and taken (and action needed to deliver them) should be proportionate, and reflect the nature and degree of human, financial, reputational and wider risks and sensitivities associated with them.

Decisions are seldom irrevocable and it is expected that adjustments to decisions will need to be made on occasions, for matters within and outside the University’s control.

Decision-making should be delayered and streamlined where possible, while noting:

  • the importance of independent assurance on, and accountability for, the most significant decisions
  • the need to avoid self-review or self-approval of decisions which have wider implications, where referral for approval to another individual or group who is not conflicted or complicit in the basis for the decision is required.

Transparency of decision-making to relevant stakeholders is key where this is possible, but at the appropriate time to avoid prejudicing the decision or those involved in/impacted by it.

Clear audit trails are maintained, in keeping with the nature and significance of the decision, to record how a decision originated and was agreed upon, implemented and monitored. This may be a formal minute of a resolution for a significant decision, supported by a formal business item, through to an email record of a conversation or exchange to agree it for a more minor decision.

‘Responsible’ Decision-Making

All decisions taken should be made with integrity, honesty and in the best interests of the University as a charity and educational establishment

Colleagues at all levels of the University should be trusted and empowered to make informed judgments on decisions within their domains of experience, where there is not a requirement or need to escalate. (see Accountability)

Colleagues should use their discretion to escalate a matter for decision once a risk/impact has been assessed, if significant material issues have been identified.

A ‘no surprises’ culture should exist at all levels of the organisation in terms of decisions or any implications arising from them, so those accountable are informed and in a position to act where required.

(Delegation of) Decision-making should always comply with internal and external regulatory requirements.

Deliverable

The individual or groups responsible for originating the basis for a decision should be responsible for its delivery, to its agreed scope.

Senior bodies, groups and individuals will champion and sponsor decisions, but would not normally give specific direction on the detailed framework and steps to deliver a decision to those to whom delivery is delegated.

Clear steps, timescales, risk and milestones are set out and cascaded by those responsible for delivery to the appropriate groups, to ensure a decision can be delivered, monitored, reviewed.

Approved by Council 28 July 2021

Updates to management detail approved by the University Secretary by delegated authority from Council: October 2021, December 2021


[1] Colleagues may also wish to refer to pages 40 - 50 of the latest set of annual accounts for a summary of the University’s key corporate governance bodies committees and Senate: Annual Report and Financial Statements 2020 (PDF , 7,720kb)