University Research Committee (URC) is a senior University committee which considers a substantial amount of business. To enable it to function efficiently and effectively, please read and observe all of the guidance below.
For further information, contact Zoe Clarke, URC Secretary: email@example.com, ext 4308.
When planning an item of business for URC, you should have a clear understanding of why it needs to go to the Committee, bearing in mind URC’s remit as set out in its Proposed URC Terms of Reference 2023 (PDF , 256kb).
New policies and initiatives, strategic approaches and any other business with significant implications for the research community must be formally approved by URC. An agenda item is therefore likely to be asking the Committee to do one or more of the following:
Formally approve a policy/procedure
Approve some recommendations for action - with an implementation schedule where relevant
Make a decision in relation to a number of options
Express a view in relation to a particular issue/ proposed policy or recommendations, in order to inform a decision to be made by third party
Endorse a strategic need for further work to be carried out in a particular area, prior to bringing forward more detailed proposals.
Alternatively, you may just be reporting information for the Committee to note as part of its knowledge base – but you need to be clear why it needs to be brought to the Committee’s attention.
1. URC is not an appropriate forum for broad academic consultation: its role is to consider finalised proposals once such processes have taken place. See the ‘Advance preparation’ tab for further information.
2. URC does not have any direct budgetary control. However, you may wish in some cases to ask URC to endorse a proposed plan of action in order to strengthen the case for budgetary approval elsewhere. Information relating to these factors will still have a bearing on the decisions URC makes in terms of feasibility, and should be included at an appropriate level of detail.
1. It is strongly recommended that colleagues developing business other than routine reports for consideration by URC should invite engagement from/ consult with the wider academic community as part of the development process, prior to submission to URC. The same applies to initiatives which have implications for other colleagues from the professional support community. Further guidance on routes for consultation and how to use them effectively can be found on the University’s web pages setting out its research governance structures and how to navigate them.
You will need to plan your piece of work to build in sufficient time to consult with your chosen groups (bearing in mind their own deadlines for formal agenda papers) and respond to their input, prior to preparing your paper in time for the URC deadlines (see ‘URC deadlines’ tab). The research governance webpages (see link above) include an annual calendar of meetings for key groups.
2. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research as Chair of URC should also be apprised at an early stage of any pieces of work which are under way, and should have sight of a final draft of the relevant papers before they are submitted to URC. Regarding the latter, you should be aware that the PVCR’s diary is very busy: you should
(a) allow at least a week for comments on a paper (more if major revisions might be required), and
(b) check in advance with the PVCR’s PA that the PVCR will be around at this time.
1. Be clear what you are asking the Committee to do with your paper (see the ‘Why URC’ tab). General, unfocused discussion is not an efficient or productive use of Committee time! The convention is to highlight your instruction to the Committee as a freestanding sentence or paragraph in bold, eg URC is asked to approve this proposal. The instruction(s) should also be pulled out in the cover sheet to the paper (see ‘Formatting requirements’ tab), so that members can see at a glance what they are being asked to do. This is particularly important if there are a number of instructions to the Committee distributed through the main paper.
2. URC looks to you to have a thorough grasp of the subject of your paper. Your role is like that of a civil servant: you should be providing advice and guidance on the issues at stake, not vice versa. If you wish for action to be taken or decisions to be made, lay out specific options. If you are looking for a steer on a certain issue, make the parameters for discussion relatively narrow, and explicit. Remember that discussion time for your paper will be limited: the average slot for an item is around 10 minutes.
3. You should briefly set out the background/context to your proposals. If the development of your item of business has involved consultation with the wider academic and/or professional support community, a summary of the process should be included in your paper so that the Committee can be confident that input has been sought at an appropriate level from representatives of the staff which the initiative is going to affect.
4. While it is important to include sufficient detail to inform meaningful discussion, papers should be as succinct as possible, focusing on the key information and summarising where appropriate. In particular:
(a) The Committee’s focus is on strategic decision-making and points of principle. Operational detail is the responsibility of the University’s professional support services, and should be kept to a minimum for URC’s purposes.
(b) You should not ask Committee members to process unmediated data for themselves: they rely on you to produce summaries and pull out key points.
(c) Where detailed information is needed for context, this can be provided in the form of an appendix to the main paper, or via a link to further information online. Bulky appendices should be avoided.
5. Find further University guidance on writing committee papers. Examples of well-constructed papers are also available from the URC Secretary on request.
1. With the exception of subcommittee minutes, all papers must be accompanied by a one side coversheet, setting out:
(a) A brief indication of the paper’s contents and its provenance
(b) What the Committee is being asked to do with the paper
(c) Where the paper contains information that is confidential, commercially sensitive, or might otherwise attract exemption under Freedom of Information legislation, the relevant FOI exemption and/or any security classifications must be noted.
2. In line with University branding and accessibility guidelines, URC papers should be presented in Calibri font, point 12 minimum. This includes the font on diagrams and/or tables.
3. To aid URC’s discussions, please ensure that pages are numbered and that bullet points can be individually referenced ie (a), (b), (c) or (i), (ii), (iii), etc. For lengthy discursive papers, it is also helpful to number paragraphs.
4. In order to keep printing costs to a minimum, contributors are asked to present papers in black and white unless colour is absolutely necessary (eg for the presentation of line graphs or complex data where grayscale variants are not appropriate).
5. Please submit your paper in an editable format, eg Word/Excel as opposed to PDF, so that the relevant agenda and enclosure numbers can be added for the Committee's reference.
Please incorporate a document header (it maybe left blank) as part of your paper so that the original pagination remains intact once the above information has been inserted. (The same principle applies to inserting page numbers, above.)
A table of deadlines for the current academic year is provided on the Research Committee page, under 'Meetings'.
Please contact the Secretary at any point up to the deadline in question to propose items for a particular URC meeting. You will need to:
(a) specify the title of your paper(s), and
(b) indicate what the Committee will be asked to do with the information, ie consider, note for information, endorse, formally approve, etc.
(c) specify whether your paper is FOI Exempt and/or confidential.
Following the deadline, the Secretary compiles a list of the agenda items proposed, for approval by the Chair. Unless you hear otherwise, you should assume that your item has been accepted.
Further items are only accepted after the deadline by agreement with the Chair. In line with University practice, the Committee does not accept tabled papers, except in exceptional circumstances by prior agreement with the Chair.
Papers should be sent complete and ready for circulation to the Committee Secretary via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 12 noon on the day specified. See further information regarding what is required on the ‘Writing papers’ and ‘Formatting requirements’ tabs.
The stated deadlines allow the Policy, Integrity and Performance Team time to perform a basic check on the papers, then mark up, collate and print them prior to circulation a week in advance of the meeting. It is important that the papers go out promptly in order to allow members sufficient reading time.
Only in exceptional circumstances will it be possible to send out papers which have already been accepted on to the agenda in a second, later circulation. This exception may be made for short critically important papers and must be agreed with the Secretary in advance of the official deadline for papers. URC has explicitly requested that second circulations should be as brief as possible since members are not always able to engage with substantial amounts of information at short notice.
Missed deadlines, incorrectly formatted papers and/or incomplete submissions (including those requiring further adjustments or authorisations) cause significant disruption to the Committee’s ability to function effectively. Your co-operation in submitting papers on time and ready for circulation is appreciated.
It is likely that you will be asked to attend Research Committee at an appropriate point in the meeting to speak to your agenda item. The Secretary will be in touch with details and to arrange a time. Please be prepared to present your paper formally as well as answering questions in the course of discussion. You are not expected to talk through the detail of the paper: assume that the members have read the paper in advance of the meeting. However, it is useful to focus the discussion by briefly pulling out key points and reiterating what the Committee is being asked to do. The average slot for an item is around 10 minutes.
Further action, including any wider communication of the outcome which might be required, and/or implementation of what the Committee has agreed, is your responsibility as project lead. For information on appropriate routes for dissemination or implementation, see the guidance on navigating the University's research governance structures.