Governance and management of academic departments

Introduction

The following guidance has been compiled to clarify and extend previous Planning Committee-approved guidance and necessitated by the need to a) reflect subsequent changes in operational structure of the University and b) to ensure appropriate and effective departmental management in the light of wider pressures affecting the University and the whole HE sector.

Governance and Management of Academic Departments

  1. All departments must have a Departmental Management Team (DMT):

  • Various committees of the department should develop appropriate action plans to support the department plans and be responsible to the DMT for monitoring and reporting on delivery

  1. As required by Statute all departments involved in teaching must have a Board of Studies. The purpose of the Board of Studies is ‘to control the teaching, the curricula and the examination of subjects or groups of subjects’

  2. All departments should have a Research Committee. The Research Committee’s terms of reference should be modelled on those recommended by Research Committee

  3. Departments should hold at least one departmental meeting of all staff each year

  4. All departments must have effective arrangements for covering the role of the Head of Department in his/her absence

  5. All departments must have a Departmental Advisory Board (DAB)

 

Department Management Teams

Primary responsibilities

The primary responsibilities of a Departmental Management Team (DMT) are:

  • To support the Head of Department (HoD) in the development and implementation of the overall strategic, academic and financial plans of the department

  • To support and provide advice and guidance to the HoD on other matters of strategic importance or matters that have an impact across different areas of departmental activity

  • To maintain an overview of the department’s key areas of activity and make decisions to ensure that the department operates effectively and succeeds in its strategic goals

  • To maintain an overview of the key income generating and expenditure incurring activities and make strategic decisions to secure the on-going financial sustainability of the department

 

Membership

(NB: This relates to Departmental Management Teams - it may be appropriate for research centres and other units to have different arrangements.)

The DMT is expected to include the following four roles (where they exist within a department):

  • Head of Department

  • Chair of Board of Studies

  • Chair of Research Committee / Director of Research

  • Departmental Manager / Administrator

Other departmental role holders who might also be DMT members or be invited for specific items of business:

  • Deputy HoD(s) (if appropriate)

  • Admissions tutor

  • Director of Teaching (if a separate role to Chair of BoS)

  • Technical Manager 

  • Other as required...

The Dean of the Faculty should be in attendance at least once a term.  Key support personnel, such as the Department’s Planning Officer, Faculty Finance Manager, Faculty HR Partner and Faculty Operations Manager will usually only attend meetings where relevant items are being discussed.

 

Regularity of Meetings

It is expected that the DMT will meet at least twice termly and at least once in the summer vacation. Nevertheless, given the strategic/oversight remit of the group, it is unlikely that it should meet very frequently (e.g. weekly or bi-weekly). Other, more ‘operational’, groups or sub-groups may of course be required to effect the smooth running of the department in this way in a department.   

 

Agendas and Minutes

It is expected that each DMT meeting will have a clear agenda and - reflecting the primary responsibilities of the DMT listed above - that this will enable the DMT to gain an up-to-date overview of the key areas of departmental activity and the main items of income and expenditure. As a minimum therefore, the agenda should include items on:

  • Student recruitment (although obviously not for research-only departments / centres)

  • Research (including research grants and income etc.)

  • Staffing (i.e. numbers, profile, new posts etc in relation to MTP plans rather than any sensitive HR matters)

  • Overall departmental finances

  • Risk monitoring and reporting

  • Other items relevant to the strategic management of the department at particular points in the year, (e.g. in the Autumn Term: league table outcomes, NSS/DLHE results, Quarter 1 finances; in the Spring Term medium-term planning outcomes)

It is also expected that minutes, including clear action points, will be circulated to DMT members and key support personnel (as above) including members of the Dean’s Support Group and any others agreed by the DMT if required and appropriate soon after the meeting.  The relevant Dean should also receive a copy of the minutes and be invited to attend at least once a term. 

NB: A departmental Internal Audit report from 2014, having found that not all DMT meetings were minuted, recommended that ‘...a proportionate approach to minuting or note taking be implemented at the Department to ensure accountability and key decisions/judgments are appropriately documented.’