Organisational Development

Professional development

Unlock your full potential with our catalogue of professional development e-learning.

The University uses e-Learning platform, LearnUpon, to deliver training to staff. In addition to the mandatory training for staff, there are a number of other professional development courses in the LearnUpon catalogue that staff can self-enrol on. You should be able to login to LearnUpon using your Sussex username (eg. ab123@sussex) and password. 

On this page, you can find online learning and resources related to:

Taking Charge of your Career 

This course is designed for anyone who wants to take charge and plan the next move, whether it's choosing a career, negotiating a promotion, or changing fields. Learn to leverage your unique skills and passions to create a flexible career path that stays true to your values and allows you to adapt as needed. Complete the Taking Charge of Your Career training on LearnUpon.

Achievement and Development Reviews Overview

This course is relevant for all reviewers and reviewees. It aims to help you understand the ADR process, prepare for an ADR conversation and know where to find additional support, information and resources. Watch the Achievement and Development Overview on LearnUpon.

Productivity and time management

Courses to support you to manage your time and workload effectively.

Efficient Time Management

The most efficient people use technology and established systems of organization to manage their tasks and maximize their time. This course shows how to put these time management techniques to work for you. Complete the Efficient Time Management training on LearnUpon.

How to Be More Productive

This course sets out tools and strategies for managing our workload better, reducing the impact of internal and external distractions, communicating and delegating effectively, and prioritising tasks using the urgent/important matrix. Complete the How to Be More Productive training on LearnUpon.

Effective Online Meetings

This 10-minute film looks at the benefits and drawbacks of video meetings and explains what we can do to ensure that our online meetings are as productive as possible. Complete the Effective Online Meetings training on LearnUpon.

Communication and relationships

Courses to support you to communicate effectively in all situations.

Communication Foundations

Through the use of vignettes and applied tools, the course shows how to build this core competency and communicate in a way that effectively and professionally conveys your message. Complete the Communication Foundations training on LearnUpon.

Developing Emotional Intelligence

This course will look at the 5 pillars of emotional intelligence and shows how improving our emotional intelligence can help us increase our resilience, build and maintain constructive relationships and deal with difficult situations and people. Complete the Developing Emotional Intelligence training on LearnUpon.

How to Challenge

This course looks at how to challenge effectively and explores strategies and techniques to give us the confidence to express our opinions in a way that is both professional and constructive. Complete the How to Challenge training on LearnUpon.

Influencing People

This course looks at why we might need to influence others in the workplace, sets out a range of different influencing behaviours and strategies and shows how we can improve our own ability to influence those around us. Complete the Influencing People training on LearnUpon.

Information Management

Courses to support you to manage information correctly and securely.

Freedom of Information

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the University has an obligation to be transparent and to share information, both proactively and in responding to individual requests for information. Complete the Freedom of Information training on LearnUpon.

Information Security Awareness

Throughout this course we will look in more detail at the shape these threats take, why your institution may be susceptible and explain how you can take measures to keep your information safe. Complete the Information Security Awareness training on LearnUpon.

Sustainability at work

This course aims to help you understand the University's Sustainability Strategy, why sustainability is important to us, and how you can contribute to sustainability in your workplace and through your work. Complete the Sustainability training on LearnUpon.

An Introduction to Digital Accessibility webinar

Watch the recording of An Introduction to Digital Accessibility, which covers a broad range of subject areas including; assistive technologies, accessible web pages, paye layout, using hyperlinks, colour contrast, video, images, procurement, and working with agencies.

Video transcript

Ben Proctor-Rogers: 

OK, cool. So I'm going to give a brief introduction to digital accessibility today. I'm going to kind of try and cover quite a broad spectrum of things.

So I usually focus on web, but I'm aware that not everybody is a web editor, so I'm going to make it a bit more broad today.

It's quite well timed to have a digital accessibility talk today. It is Global Accessibility Awareness Day tomorrow, so it's very well timed.

The talk is mostly going to be me talking. There will be a few slides where I might ask people to put ideas or things that you might think already about digital accessibility in the chat. Kaye here is going to be monitoring the chat and let me know anything that's put there. Feel free to ask me to slow down as well at any point. I'm aware that I can start talking quite quickly when I get into a subject, so yeah, feel free to ask me to slow down if I'm going too quick.

There will be the possibility for questions as well. I'd ask if you could keep them to the end. Normally I would say interrupt me, but I think because there's quite a lot of people on the call today, if you've got some detailed questions, then try and keep them towards the end.

I will make the slides available and send them out to everybody at the end because there's a lot of useful links and you might find they're good to revisit. And also, it's worth mentioning that the presentation today is going to be recorded.

OK. I am going to start with one of those questions actually, and see if anybody knows already what they think, if they have any ideas what digital accessibility will be.

You don't have to put anything in the chat as an answer, but I want you to just kind of have a think for 30 seconds or so.

If you've come across this before as a concept, any idea of what digital accessibility might mean to you. And yeah, if you want to put anything in the chat, then feel free, but no pressure to.

OK. Cool. I'll continue. Just wanted you to have a few moments to think about it for yourselves.

If you were to Google digital or web accessibility, the definition that you find online is this.

It's the inclusive practice of ensuring there are no barriers that prevent interaction with or access to websites or digital media. And what this means to us is that we need to show empathy and understanding of all needs in the design of our digital content. This is absolutely all of our digital content. What this means, again, is that we need to think about it in the design process, and a lot of people think that maybe designing accessible content means that you have to sacrifice the aesthetics or the messaging in the content, and you don't have to. Inclusive design is always good design. If it's designed to work for everybody, then it will be well-designed. And the same with content. If the content is inclusive, then it's good, the content is well-designed. So these two don't need to be mutually exclusive.

OK. So we've got another one for you to have a little think on before I carry on. How might users be impaired by the design of a website with digital content? Have a little think about how somebody visiting our website or accessing some digital content that you may have on your pages - how might they be impacted by the design of the website or digital content? Again. Feel free to put something in the chat if you want. If not, then don't worry.

OK. We've got some answers in the chat.


Yeah. So we've got sight, colours, etc. If they have dyslexia, they might struggle to read some colours. Videos without subs could be problematic. If they're not accessible by screen reader. Non-accessible documents. Too much text. Language barriers. Using pictures more than pure text.


Excellent. Really, really good. Good answers. Some really good ones. Some things we're going to cover in a bit more detail in a bit. Brilliant. Really good. OK.

So looking at it more broadly, the ways that people might be impacted in their access to digital media. Digital content is visual. so people may not be able to see the screen. Hearing. Somebody might not be able to hear the video content that you've got, or a podcast or something. Speech. With this one, people may not be comfortable talking during a video call. People might not be comfortable talking during an audio call. So sometimes it's good to offer the option of maybe a chat in a meeting as well, so people can engage with the meeting and with digital content that way. Motor. So people may have difficulty navigating around the screen, using a mouse, using a trackpad. Something like that might be difficult for them. And then cognitive. People may have difficulty processing complex subject-specific language, specifically for the University, but even in any sort of area online. In trying to think of your audience, try and make the language appropriate for the audience.

[Powerpoint slide: Cartoon depiction of a deaf person, someone with an ear infection and a bartender]

Impairments aren't always fixed, so we might have people who have an impairment in one situation that isn't in another. So I'm looking back to thinking about hearing. A lot of people would think of a hearing impairment as somebody who is permanently deaf. However, there are also other situations where considerations we make for a permanently deaf person would benefit other people. So here we've got somebody who has an ear infection. They may have temporarily lost their hearing due to having an ear infection or something like that, so they can't hear very well due to something that is affecting them for a temporary period of time. Also situational. So the example here is a bartender in a very loud environment. We have students who take part time jobs, go to work in pubs and things, and they might want to sit down on their lunch break and access the lectures or access digital content from the University online. The same sort of accessible things that we put in place for a deaf person is something that would benefit that student in the noisy environments when they're accessing their lectures and things.

[Powerpoint slide: Image of a cycle showing how content needs to be perceivable, understandable, operable, and robust]

So what needs to happen?

So this is kind of what we're trying to do as a whole, what we're trying to do in the Digital Development and the Digital Content teams. What we're trying to make everybody realise and understand and build into their processes is that the content online needs to be perceivable. People need to be able to see the screen, read it, hear it, access it in some way. They then need to be able to understand the information that they see on the screen. It's great having all the information there,
but if it's displayed in such a way that makes it really difficult to understand, then it's still not going to be that great. It needs to be operable. So if you have a form, if you have a video, the controls for playing that video, the controls for filling out and submitting that form all need to be operable by every user. We need to make sure that everybody can operate our websites, can operate the digital content that we have. And then it needs to be robust. We need to make sure that it doesn't break easily. We need to make sure that it works now and that it's going to work in five years time. So we need to be working to set standards that are future-proofed. So some things that we ask people to do may seem a bit finicky at times. And sort of, why you ask asking for it to be done specifically in this way? And it's because we know that this is the way that web technology and digital technology is being developed. So we need to make sure that we're developing along those paths as well.

So I do have to put in the legal bit here. So access to information and communication technologies is a basic human right. It's covered in the United Nations and it's also now covered under UK law. So making sure that our content and our websites and everything digital that we have is accessible is something that we should be doing anyway. It's just something that we should be doing because it's the right thing to do. We need to make sure that everybody can access this information. However, since 2018 it has become a legal requirement as well. So there are a set of guidelines called the WCAG 2.1 guidelines. I've linked to those at the end of the presentation, so when those get shared round, you'll be able to have the links to those. And we have to meet them. Failing to meet them means that we're in breach of the Equality Act of 2010 and the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995.
The actual law that covers it is this wonderfully-titled Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No.2) Accessibility Regulations 2018. So that's the actual law and we do have to meet it.

So at the moment or you know,in general, does anybody on the call use any assistive technology to browse the Internet? I'm not going to ask anybody to put this in the chat. I just want you to have a little think for yourselves for a minute. If there's anything that you do use that might be might be assistive technology without you really considering it.

OK. Cool. Next question. Does anybody wear glasses or contact lenses when looking at a screen?

[Powerpoint slide: Image of a Border Collie dog wearing glasses]

So if you do, you are wearing or you are using assistive technology at that time to help you read the screen, as the puppy here is very kindly demonstrating. You definitely need to make sure that you're looking after your eyes when using a screen. So in using assistive technology at that point, glasses obviously aren't the only assistive technology that you might be using.

There is a huge amount of technology that people use to access the Internet and any digital content out there. These include and are not limited to - so this is just a selection of the list - but screen readers, Braille keyboards, which are great little strips on the side of your computer that you just put your finger on and it reads the screen as Braille across the strip. So using your browser to zoom in to the web page. Head pointers to show where you're kind of looking on the screen.
Similarly, eye motion trackers to kind of follow your eye movement around the screen to access content. There are things called single switch entry devices, where one button and combinations pressed on that one button allow you to access different parts of the Internet and to access different parts of the website. Mouthsticks, again, where you can kind of point at bits of the screen and tied to those, sip and puff switches. Oversized trackball mice. Adaptive keyboards. Voice recognition software as well. And then also hearing aids and headphones are also used by people to access digital content.

We focus mainly, somebody mentioned it earlier on, on screen readers and the reason for this is screen readers are ones that we can test easily in-house. We don't have access to all of the other technologies. We have access to some obviously, but screen readers are the main ones that use all of the embedded web technology and digital technology to read digital content, and the technology that works for screen readers works for all of the others. So if a screen reader can read the screen and access the content and work with everything that operates, everything on the screen, then it should work for all of the others. So the Braille keyboard will read the screen in the same way as a screen reader. To clarify in case anybody is unsure, a screen reader is something that will go through the website or the web page and it will read out the content on the screen. So at the moment, if I was reading through this PowerPoint, it would read out heading assistive technology. Then it would read list, however many items there are, item one screen readers, item two Braille keyboard. It will just read sequentially through the content on the screen. And like I said, if it works for that, then it should work for everything else. We in the Digital Development team and the Digital Content team are quite well-versed now in using screen readers to read digital content so we can check things pretty quickly as well.

So what do you think, before we move on to kind of specifics, the biggest challenge towards creating 100% accessible content is?

So again, you can write it in the chat if you want, but don't worry too much if you just want to have a short think about what you think might be the biggest challenge towards getting all of our content on the entire University website - or any institution - what the biggest challenge towards making all of the content accessible would be.

I see some suggestions coming up in the chat. Is that right?


Yeah. So we've got: updating old content, awareness, changing habits, volume of content, a number of editors, and the time involved.


Very good. Those are all really, really good suggestions, though I think one of them is kind of pretty close, which is sort of the biggest challenge that I've seen. Not to single out Sussex. I'm in quite a lot of online accessibility discussion groups and generally across the board, the biggest challenge that people seem to face is changing workplace culture. So people are very enthusiastic about it, but it can sometimes be forgotten during key development phases of project planning, brief writing, commissioning of work. It can drop off, not intentionally, but it can be left out and that can become a problem. So it's changing that culture around including it and considering it early on in the process of creating digital content, creating websites, creating video, anything like that. So considering it early on, as it's something that is more difficult to fix retrospectively. A really good example of this is PDFs. So it's much harder to go back and turn a non accessible PDF into an accessible PDF, rather than starting out with an accessible template at the beginning. So you start out with the template, build it in through the process of making the PDF, and you end up with a wonderful accessible PDF at the end. If you were to create the PDF and then try to remediate that, which is the process of changing it into an accessible PDF afterwards, that takes a lot more time and resource to go backwards, as it were.

So I'll come back to those in a little bit, but I'm gonna go on to the web pages and I'm not going to spend too long on this. As I said before, I'm aware that not everybody is a Web editor, so I just want to kind of go through this briefly and then I'll say how it applies to two different things as well, as these concepts and these ideas do apply to any digital content. So it's not just web pages.

So in brief, we need to make sure that the content is readable. You need to avoid large chunks of text, avoid using very, very specific language unless you're describing it. If you're giving definitions of very specific terms, that's great. It's good to define them, maybe in sort of a separate section with definitions or something like that. Being aware of who the audience is. So a lot of the time, students are our audience, a lot of the time. So it can be difficult to balance academic language between the language that a prospective student might understand. It's finding that appropriate balance. That's the readability of content. Also across structure of content, using things like appropriate heading levels. We can come back to that shortly. Your link text. When you have a hyperlink, the website is just built up with hyperlinks. That's how it's all held together.
We need to make sure that the link text is descriptive. A page layout must follow a logical order.
Colour contrast. We have a set value of colour contrast. The colour contrast is the difference between - so the background here is this cobalt blue and the foreground, the text is white. So we need to make sure that there's an appropriate colour contrast and at the end, in the links I'll share some tools that will enable you to find out the colour contrast of colours on your web page or in your PDF or your PowerPoints. But if you're making, so you can make sure that you're meeting that particular kind of standard. Images, briefly, must have context and they need to be relevant. I've got a few slides on those in a minute and videos. Again, the key take home message is they must have captions and a transcript of the audio description. So I'll kind of go through what that means in a bit more detail shortly.

So for the Web pages, we've got a lot of it covered for you. We have something called the Components Library. And if you're a Web editor and you're using the WCM, hopefully you know where these are. If not, the link is at the end. These components have all been designed to be accessible. They should meet all of those, all of the standards of WCAG and pass, providing the content that's put in is readable. The images that are put in must have alt-text, for example. It's a finite list. Access to these is through the WCM. We have some pre-defined templates where you can access them really quickly and it just puts them into the page for you. We're updating this list at the moment. We're going to be coming up with some more components. They are limited at the moment, but we need to make sure that everything meets the standards. So we need to make sure that they definitely are right before we put them out for everybody to use. Yes, that's kind of all I'll say on that subject. I'll come back to the things related to that at the end.

So I mentioned page layout earlier on. You need to make sure that your page follows a logical reading order. And that the headings are headings. They're not just a text that is styled to look like headings. So both in Word and PowerPoint, and on the internet if you're writing code for your web page, there is a way to style things as headings. So just taking your heading on your Word document and bolding it and underlining it does not necessarily make it a heading for a screen reader. You'll have separate ability to style sheets to turn things into headings if you're unsure of this. Again, we've got guidance on the Brand part of the website, which is linked to at the end. So for any of these things that I mentioned, there is guidance and instructions at the end if you follow the links.
So following on then from that. You need to make sure that you have headings that are actually headings. Your text is a paragraph and marked up. So similarly to I mentioned before, images have to have things like alt-text, so I'll come to that in a second, particularly for web. Using accordions.
So in this context, it's one that happens quite a lot, is using them just for small sections of non-essential text. If something's essential, don't hide it in accordion. So I just put that one in as that's one that comes up quite a lot, people hiding quite essential text inside an accordion. Then somebody looking at the page might miss it. It's also worth mentioning as well that getting this page, layout and structure is good for a search engine optimisation, commonly referred to as SEO. So this is how Google makes a map of your website. And if you want your website or your page to perform well in Google Search, you need to make sure that you have these hierarchies laid out properly for the Web. It's how Google builds a map of the websites. Also, how a screen reader builds a map of the website as well. So if it's set up properly, a screen reader will be able to read it correctly and navigate it properly. Google will as well. So this is, you know, two bonuses. We want screen reader users to be able to navigate our page well. We also want Google to be able to read it well as well, so it can rank it appropriately when people search.

OK. So readability I mentioned earlier on. Avoid ambiguous language, avoid technical language, unless you've explained it clearly. And again, for Web editors, we have an in-built readability checker in the WCM. So at the bottom of the screen, it's nicely colour-coded and gives you a score. You want a high score that'll turn the box green and it'll let you know kind of the level that you've written your text. You don't want it to be too difficult to read. And again, breaking down your text into smaller paragraphs, so you don't have really, really big chunks of text on the screen.

Link text I mentioned earlier on. This is for links anywhere that they appear. So if you've got links in an email, you've got links on a website, links on a PDF, links to PowerPoint, wherever they are. You want to have descriptive link text to let the user know where the link will take them and what to expect. Do not use the link URL if possible because this doesn't describe to the user where they're going. And also don't use things like click here, here and this. The reason for this is, if a screen reader user is navigating the page, or somebody using any other assistive technologythere is a method of navigating just by links on the page. So if somebody is looking for a link on the page, it will just read out that link text. So if you imagine you're going down a page and somebody has just used click here, click here repeatedly throughout, all that screen reader user will hear when they're navigating the page is just click here, click here and click here. It won't let them know the destination of the link so they won't know any context of where that link is going to take them. You want to put as much information and it is absolutely fine to hyperlink a whole sentence. I know some people are a bit unsure about this. A whole sentence is fine. I wouldn't hyperlink a paragraph or more than a sentence, but if it takes the sentence to let somebody know where they're going, then yeah, please, please do.

So colour contrast is our next thing. So this is a great one and luckily I think a lot of people are kind of on this these days, just because poor colour contrast just really stands out as not very good on the Web these days, but it doesn't just apply to the Web. It'll apply to your Word documents or PDFs, your PowerPoints, whatever you're using. So all the text elements must have a colour contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 with the background.

[Powerpoint slide: White background. Box with yellow text saying poor colour contrast and a black background box with white text saying good colour contrast]

And I've got some examples over here. So this yellow text on the white background is really poor colour contrast. You wouldn't ever use this. It's a really extreme example, I know, but I just wanted to highlight how it makes it a lot more difficult to read. A good colour contrast is where you can very, very clearly read the text and as I said, there will be some tools in the links at the end that will allow you to compare the two.

Similarly, if you have text on an image, the same rules apply. So if you've got an image and you've got some text over it, you need a coloured background for the text, or for it to be in negative space. And I've got some examples of that coming up. I'm aware that I'm going quite fast. Hope I'm not talking too fast for anyone.

OK. So when it comes to images, the thing that I will ask is that you ensure that the image is relevant, ensure that the image is good quality and is high resolution. So you need to check how it looks on both mobile and on large screen. Also, the flipside of that is, you also need to try and make sure that the image is not, the image file size is not too large. If you have really, really large, high resolution, high file size images on your page, then it's going to cause the page to take a very long time to load, which may not seem like too big a problem, but if you've got limited Internet, if you're using a limited bandwidth Internet connection, you might not be able to load the whole image. It might use a lot of your data to load the image and may load very, very slowly. So we need to make sure that it's good quality, that it looks good on a big screen and also on mobile.
We also need to try and make sure that it isn't super, super enormous, super high resolution images, as they will cause the screens to load, the page to load very, very slowly. If this was a Word file or PDF or PowerPoint, then that's not so much of a consideration. You can use really nice high resolution images for those.

So all images must have alt-text. So alt-text is a descriptive text that's read out by a screen reader for visually impaired users. It is used to describe what's in the background or what the context is of the image. If the image is non-essential and it was just kind of there as a decorative image, you can leave the alt-text blank, that's fine. And it will just be ignored by a screen reader. You don't need to put anything there then, but if it is referred to in the text or something like that, then you will need a descriptive alt-text to say what the image is. Similarly, if you've created an infographic. So these can be fairly tricky for alt-text and descriptions. You need to ensure that either the details and all the information covered in the infographic are also somewhere on the page. Then you can use the alt-text to say something like infographic showing and then whatever it is and say 'all information covered in the infographic is available in the text on the page', so that anybody who is using a screen reader to access that will know that it's somewhere on the page. If it isn't, then we ideally would like that to happen. A solution that we do have at the moment is to create an accordion, which kind of works a little bit like a video transcript, and has a dropdown and a description of all the information that's in the graphic. It's not the best route to go for, but if you absolutely do need to have an infographic and the information isn't on the rest of the page, then that is a solution that we can work with. If anybody has one of these and would like some help working with that, then they can let us know DCM. We're happy to help out with that. OK.

So I mentioned that they need to meet contrast standards already. I've got some examples of this on the next slide. So here's the examples. And these are screenshots from a tool that I've linked to at the end of this PowerPoint, where you can write some text over an image. So you can upload an image to this website. You can write some text over it and it'll tell you whether it passes or not.

[Powerpoint slide: Three images of flowers with text written over them. The first has text over the flower and reads this fails. The second image has text in clear blue space and says this passes. The final image has text with a black background over the flower and says this passes]

So in this first example, I've written the text over the top of the image, and this doesn't give you sufficient colour contrast. So you can't have just text over a background image here. And the first image fails. So the two solutions to this are, one, to put the text in what's called negative space. So if you look at the bottom left image, I've put the text up in the top right corner of the image, but there's a dark blue background and white text on top of it. This will pass the colour contrast standards, so the colour contrast checker will allow this. This is fine. It's very easy to read. The other possibility that we can have is to put a coloured background behind the text over the image. So we see this quite a lot, particularly with subtitles and captions. So put a black background box behind the text and this then makes the image text accessible. Also, if you're doing a Web image, you need to then write this in the alt-text, so these would have the alt-text of this fails, this passes, this passes.

So video. I'm only going to go into this a little bit because there's some really, really good guidance on our video accessibility page. And I put the link to contact our Video Manager there as well, because any video that's being commissioned for the website, you really need to run it by him first because he's really, really well-versed in the accessibility requirements for video and will really help you make sure that you're producing the best quality video. So videos must have captions and they also must have a transcript. And the reason for this is, captions aren't read out by a screen reader. So you could have captions, which are accessible for people who can't hear, which is great, but the transcript is required for somebody using a screen reader. This also needs to include things like audio descriptions. So what these are is any unsaid text or descriptions of items like graphs and tables that the presenter would refer to. So if I'd had at any point during this presentation a graph and I referred to it saying, if you can see from column two for whatever reason, the transcript would then need to have a description of that graph so that anybody reading the transcript would know what the speaker was referring to. So I think an example from this presentation, if you think back to the slide where I was asking about does anybody use any sort of accessibility, aids, anything like that, and I had the picture of the dog with the glasses. I would include the dog with the glasses in the audio description in the transcript, because I referred to it, and say that it's a picture of a dog with glasses. So you would include that. However, if you think about the slide where I was talking about the legal bit, and there was a keyboard with a gavel resting next to it, you wouldn't include that in the audio description because I didn't refer to it at the time, so it's not required to be in the audio description. So you need to make sure that anything that is referred to by the speaker or any key information or any text that wouldn't be read out by a screen reader, you need to then make sure that that is going into the audio descriptions. I also would add things like links as well so that they're easy to access. So at the moment, I would put the link to the video accessibility page or contact our video team, the email address for our video manager. I would add both of those into the transcript and into the audio descriptions. There's some really good guidance with an example video for you to look at on the video accessibility page.

[Powerpoint slide links: for video guidance and email to contact the video manager]

OK. So audio, exactly like a video, has to have transcripts as well. So if you're creating podcasts and you want to upload them onto the website, you need to have a transcript for these. And they follow exactly the same guidance as video transcripts. So in-house, we don't recommend specifically a service, but there are a lot of people online offering services to transcribe podcasts and videos for you. Some people do it by uploading the audio in this case into something like Vimeo or YouTube, and then that will auto generate a rough transcript for you. It may not be completely correct, but you can then download this and edit it to to make it correct. And that's a quick and cheap way if you want to do it in-house. But if you've got a very long, several hour long podcast and it's going to take a while for someone to do and you have budget, it might be worth looking into using a third party service for doing that.

OK. So files. Everything that I've mentioned, as I've been saying as I've been going through, applies to all files posted on our website. Absolutely anything from PDF to Word to PowerPoint to Excel. They all need to have the same things. Logical reading order. Making sure that you can read the information or text on images or figures, things like that. Everything that I've covered so far. Colour contrast. It all applies to PDFs, word, PowerPoint and Excel. For Word and PowerPoint, we have templates on the brand part of the website.

So this PowerPoint I'm presenting from was made using the University PowerPoint template that has been set up. There's a whole load of template slides on there that have all been set up to meet accessibility standards. So if you're using that PowerPoint template, you should be fine. There should be no problems. All of the colours in it meet colour contrast. The only thing you need to do is add alt-text to your images that you add in.

So similarly, we have a template Word file as well, which you can download and it has a style sheet set up for you to use, to just put in things like, mark things up, headings, paragraphs and things like that as you go through. So it's really, really quick and easy to use and there's some guidance on there.

Also, Microsoft recently released some videos on how to do this. However, I think ours is a pretty good because if you Google how to make an accessible Word form, the Sussex web pages come up as a number one Google hit. So a lot of people seem to think our guidance is pretty good. OK. So yeah, the links at the end as well.

So when creating a file for publication online, this is kind of before you create the file, we're asking people now at the moment to kind of think about whether the file would work better as a web page first. So web pages are much easier to make accessible. If your file is a Word file with maybe some terms and conditions or just some general information on it, it might be easier for everyone involved to just make an extra web page and put all of that information on there. If you think about how most people access files, they look on mobile anyway. Things like PDFs, when they open, they open in the browser. So they're going to be read using that same browser technology.And it's easier, the sort of screen reader technology, any of the accessibility aids will find it easier to read that from a web page than from a PDF opened in the browser. So if possible, make it as a web page rather than a file. If it does have to be a file, then that's fine. Just make sure that you're sticking to the kind of guidelines that we've set out on our brand pages.

OK. So procurement. This is one that kind of needs to be raised generally more University-wide at the moment, as I think a lot of people are unaware that if you're procuring something third party, any digital content, software, anything like that, that will be accessed online by students or staff, they also fall under this remit. So you need to make sure that absolutely everything that is linked to our site in any way - it might be on a micro site, something like that - it's still linked to Sussex University, so it still comes under the same kind of guidelines that we need to meet. So when you're procuring something along those lines, any form of digital asset, you need to let the provider know in advance that compliance with these WCAG guidelines standards is a legal requirement for UK universities. If you're unsure of what to say or if you want to include us, it's usually best to include us if you can in the procurement process, then please feel free to email us. I put our email address at the end of this presentation, so it's If possible, ask for a test sample, example, something like that. So somewhere where this software, app, web microsite or something, has been used previously by another university, by a company, so that we can have a look at it and we can test it there first to make sure that it does meet the standards. So any non-compliant services that we have must legally be listed in our accessibility statement. So this is kind of a key focus of ours at the moment.

We've been audited twice in the last year, once by the government, by the Cabinet Office. And then we also had a private company audit our website for accessibility as well. And both times not a huge amount was flagged, which is great, shows that we are doing the right thing. Some third party providers were flagged during both of those audits. We're currently working with a couple of departments to help them navigate conversations with the suppliers of those digital services. So if you are procuring something and you're unsure whether it's going to meet the standards that we need to meet, please email us to get in touch.

If you work in a department where you have a web service or something, or digital content, whatever, and you're not sure whether it does meet these accessibility standards, please get in touch with us. Happy to receive emails at any time about it so we can check because we do legally have to list anything that doesn't meet the standards in our accessibility statement and give a kind of timeline for when they'll be fixed, when they will meet these standards. So yeah, it's great for us to know so we can update that so we don't have any surprises in any future audits.

Similarly, working with agencies. So this is a fairly similar set of guidelines. Make sure that you include digital accessibility in the brief from the offset. If you are asking an agency to make a PDF for you, a report of some kind, or if you're commissioning video of any kind, podcasts, anything like that, even just images or photography, could you ask them whether they can meet the standards outlined in the WCAG standards first? And if they say no, then maybe have a discussion with them about how they could. Have a discussion with us about how we can assist them in doing this. Again, it is worthwhile to let them know that it's a legal requirement for UK universities now. And yeah, if you're unsure what to say, if you're writing the brief, do contact us and we will help out.

So I'm quite close to the end of what I have to say.

So contact, there's two teams. The Digital Content team and Digital Development team are both happy to help with any accessibility questions. As I mentioned already, we prefer to be contacted before rather than after a project and there's our email address. If you email that, the email will get a response pretty quickly. We check that sort of twice a day. So pretty, pretty quick to kind of go through it. And then also I know this has been a very generalised session. I want to say that we are willing to offer specific training sessions for teams and departments. If your team, your department, want some sort of training in something like creating accessible PDFs, creating accessible Word documents, even some WCM training specifically in accessibility, then we're happy to do that. We thought it was too broad a topic to try and cover in one training session today, but to offer it out to other teams and departments to say that we can come in, maybe book a computer room somewhere on campus and do a small training session tailored specifically to what people might need. So again, if you feel that's something that you might need or someone in your team might be interested in, then contact us at our email address.

And finally, we've got those links, however you will notice that some of them are not, I have not followed my own guidance, quite smart here, so some of the link text is good and lets you know where you're going. Some of them, WCAG 2.1, sorry, is not great so I apologise, but when I circulate this around at the end, you'll have access to these links.
So it's got the brand home page stuff, guides to the websites, some how-to guide starts for you. Find out how to make accessible PDFs, accessible word forms, things like that. Accessibility statement, which is where you find out what we have made accessible, what we haven't, and what we're working on.
There's that text-over-image checker, which allows you to check images. There's a Webaim contrast checker which will check on a contrast for you. The Microsoft how-to videos, which are fairly recent from them, and then also the government pages on web accessibility as well.

The Role of a Committee Secretary webinar

An introduction to governance at Sussex and the Governance Team. The webinar covers; working with Chairs, agendas, working with paper authors, minute-taking, managing committee information, and using Sussex Direct as a Committee Secretary. 

Video transcript

[TITLE CARD 'The Role of a Committee Secretary']

James Bluring:

So hopefully you've seen the objectives for today's session in the brief when you signed up, but just to recap quickly, what I'd like to do is just spend an initial bit of time looking at how governance works in general at Sussex, because obviously the role of the committee secretary is built upon how governance works across the University, and then just touch on some of the support available to you as a committee secretary too.

We're then going to look at some of the specifics of being a committee secretary and then we'll move on to look at how agendas work, how you work with a chair, and how you can integrate that with governance across the University. We'll then have a break, and then we'll move on to looking at minutes. I could probably spend an entirely separate session about minutes in themselves. So it's going to be just touching on some of the best practice elements of minutes rather than in too much detail. But it would be interesting to have your feedback afterwards if you'd like to follow up on minutes specifically. And then finally, I'm going to have quite a brief session on how to manage committee information on Sussex Direct, which if you don't know what that is, I'll come on to explain it. So that's how it's going to look in terms of timings today. I'll make sure that we do get a ten-minute break because there's going to be quite a lot of information in there. And I'll also try and make sure that we've got time for a bit of Q&A at the end as well.

Also, you've probably picked up from the overview that this is going to be very broad. It's intended for both people that want a refresh and they're quite familiar with being a committee secretary. But it's also intended for people that are perhaps entirely new to being a committee secretary. And by the nature of having to be so broad, inevitably you might have other questions. You can either ask those today or just follow up with me on email as well. And also the other thing I wanted to be clear at the outset is I'll be going through some perhaps best practice and some suggestions about how you do things. You might do things differently. And for the majority of cases, that's probably absolutely fine. These are recommendations for how you might want to do things rather than the only way that you can do things as a committee secretary.

Are there any questions at the outset or before we move on to the first section? Everyone happy? Hopefully. Great. I haven't got the chat open. Can I find it, where's the chat? Let me just make sure I've got the chat open so I'm not missing anything. Okay. Nothing in the chat. Yeah, fine. All right. Well, in that case, let's move on to talk about governance at Sussex. So in talking about what governance is at Sussex, I thought we'd just start off with trying to pin down a bit more about what is governance when we talk about it quite a lot in this session. So there's a few different definitions that you could use, and I've just picked a couple here. This one from the University of York talks about governance in quite a formal setting. So it talks about how universities are organised, how they're managed, and who's accountable within the University for overseeing how it's working in general.

This one from Shattock is, again, quite formal. It talks about University governance being about how it's constituted and how its process is governed, how it works on a day to day and then a longer-term version. So both of those are quite sort of formal, structural. The one that I quite like and I wanted to touch on here, because it will come back to some of the elements of it a bit later, is this one from Edwards, and this tries to talk about governance, not only in terms of what they're doing, but the way that they're managing themselves. So what Edwards is kind of suggesting in this is that it's not only about organisation, structures, management, constitution, but it's also about how we give people a voice within the University as well, how stakeholders both in and outside the University can contribute to the University's governance. And that's something that I just wanted to perhaps suggest we keep in mind as we go through the rest of the presentation today.

So if you talk about governance, then the next question I guess is, what's good governance? And this is where a committee secretary plays a really important role. So good governance is obviously dependent on who's asking in a way.But these are sort of perhaps four key features that we would expect from governance being done well in an institution. So the first one is saying that, well, governance is making sure that we're doing the right thing in the right way at the right time for the right reasons.So a committee secretary is really instrumental in that.

A committee secretary is one of the key people that can understand when we need to take a decision to a committee and thinking ahead about what's coming down the road that the committee needs to be aware of. Culture and structure, we'll come on to a bit more about some of this. But this is essentially saying that it's about operating ethically and sustainably alongside not just being legally compliant but doing it in a way that's ethical. The committee secretary working with the chair is going to be instrumental in this because it's the chair primarily that sets the culture for a committee. And we'll come on to a bit more about that in a moment.

Accessibility. We mentioned this already in terms of importance about how we're engaging stakeholders in decision-making across the University. And when we come along a bit later to talk about your roles and making sure that we're being transparent in how committees are run, their papers, making sure staff across the institution have access to that information when it's appropriate. That all comes back to the accessibility principle. And then finally, good governance should be focused and it should be enabling. So it shouldn't just be a bureaucratic process that we undertake just to feed a machine. I know it can probably feel like that a lot of the time but in the end, good governance is about making sure that we're doing it purposefully and not just for the sake of it.

So a bit about the governance team. If you've already come across us, we're a small team that's based in governance - General Counsel, Governance and Compliance, and we are based in Sussex House and we do a number of different things. Part of that is making sure that the committee system is running effectively and efficiently, and we also provide direct support to Council, which is our governing body here at the University. And, some of it's other committees as well, like SPRC, Audit and Risk as well as UEG as well. I'm secretary to the University Executive Group and also support the University Leadership Team.

So we don't directly support all committees across the University, but what we are is a central point of contact for you, particularly as committee secretaries, but also for people like our independent governors who sit on Council. And we are an interface between the University and them as well. And I just wanted to make it clear that we are here to help and please do come to us with any questions that you might have. I can guarantee you that they're probably not silly questions. And if you're wondering it, probably some someone else is wondering it too. So please do get in touch with us at any time. You don't have to be working to a Council or Senate level committee. You can be involved in any group or committee across the University, and we'd be really pleased to help.

So I'm just looking very quickly at the foundations of Sussex Governance. You've probably aware that Sussex has been in existence since the early sixties and received its Royal Charter in 1961. We amended that in 2012. Some elements of our governance have to be amended via the Privy Council, which requires us to seek approval externally for that. Everything else we can manage ourselves. And I'll come on to the distinction between those in a second. We are here for a charitable purpose.We're an exempt charity, which means that although we have charitable status, we are overseen by the Office for Students who are our regulator, and in delivering on our charitable objectives.

Our charter. It's a very short document, and this is one of the things that the Privy Council oversees. So if we want to change anything about our charter and statutes, we have to approach the Privy Council. And the charter effectively sets out some high-level powers of the University, and it also sets out the fact that we need to have in existence a Council, a Senate, which is our governing academic body, and also a Students Union. And then we also below our charter have something called our statutes, and the statutes provide a bit more detail on the specific powers, and the membership of our Council, membership and powers of our Senate, and also what our regulations should cover; for example, particularly in terms of employment matters to do with our staff. And then finally, below statutes are our regulations. And these can kind of be thought of as our general rule book for how we run the University. And they, broadly speaking, translate the statutes into an operational set of rules and a sort of set of guidance about how the University should be structured and run. So you've got charters and statutes at the top, regulations below. We can change our regulations, although there's a very specific process to doing that. Charter and statutes, we have to approach Privy Council to do.

Sorry Carly, I missed your question about contacting the team. I will follow up after this training with a copy of the slides and resources and also some information about how you can contact the governance team. Okay. So let's move on. Public interest governance principles.

So I'm not going to spend very long on these, but I just wanted you all to be aware of the fact that as a higher education provider registered with the Office for Students who are our regulator, we need to ensure at all times that we are abiding by the public interest principles. And you can see, I won't run through all of them individually, but hopefully from glancing at those, you can get a sort of flavour of the way that we should be operating. So we are held to account for delivering on these principles by the Office for Students, and it's Council's responsibility to make sure that we are complying with them at all times. In terms of being committee secretary, I think the important thing is to just be aware that these exist and make sure that you are perhaps bearing them in mind when you're working with chairs on agendas and you're looking through papers and business for a committee as well.

So the other thing that I just wanted to flag because it's relevant to your roles is something called the Committee of University Chairs Code of Governance. So this is a voluntary code that the University chooses to sign up to and having said that, I think most, if not all universities choose to sign up to the code. You either sign up to it or you kind of explain why you're exempting yourself from certain elements of it. But we do sign up to it, and we sign up to all six elements that embody these values, which I'll just go through briefly now. The first one is accountability. So this is making sure that Council ensures that the University is collectively responsible for the University's activities, and Council members are acting as a body as a whole in terms of their accountability for the institution. Sustainability. So this is making sure the Council, for example, is working with the executive in setting our mission, strategic direction and overall aims at the University. Reputation. So Council also is responsible for safeguarding our reputation and making sure that we can act with autonomy as a University as well. Finding that increasingly difficult in the current context, but that is still the responsibility of Council.

Also, we are committed to operating in line with principles of equality, inclusion and diversity. So, for example, making sure that we are promoting a positive culture at the University and that we're supporting ethical behaviour at all levels. We need to make sure that we're operating effectively. So making sure governance is robust, that it's agile and that it's not overly bureaucratic. And then finally, engagement. So making sure that we're engaging globally, nationally, locally with all the various stakeholders in running the University. So again, there's nothing specific as committee secretaries for you to do with these. It's just about generally being aware of these principles. And we'll come back to some of these a bit further on in today's session. So I won't run through all of these, but I just wanted to make you aware that these resources exist. They're on our government's website, and I'll be sending you some resource links after this session so that you can find these. Any questions about them, please always just get in touch. Okay. So let's move on to the role of the committee secretary.

So I'm going to do another poll. And if everyone wants to go back to that address that I sent before, just listed at the top there. One question that I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts about is how many committees and groups do you think exist at the University of Sussex as of today?

So I'll just give you a couple of moments. It's very interesting, lots of similar numbers. Monday's session had a much wider range of numbers than this so maybe you've all got the inside scoop on the number of committees here. Okay. We got our first hundred. One person put too many on Monday. I don't blame them. Great. Okay. Well, that's really interesting. Very interesting. Different answers to the session that I ran on Monday, possibly because we've got a professional services heavy audience today. Thank you for those. I'm going to move on now. Well. I don't have a drum roll sound, I'm afraid, but I will give you the answer.

So the strict answer at the moment is 137, and that includes all committees, all groups that are currently listed on Sussex Direct, which we'll come on to look at a bit later on. However, there are definitely groups, hopefully not committees, that are not listed on Sussex Direct and that the Central Governance Team aren't necessarily aware of. And that may be for very good reasons. There may be task and finish group, so they could be groups set up for very specific local reasons. However, if any of those need to interface with our more senior committees and if we want to make sure that we're being joined up and operating in a connected way across the institution, unless the central governance team has some sense of those, we can't help or support you as committee secretaries in running them, particularly when you want to move business onto to a higher level up the hierarchy.

So I don't really want to increase that 137 number particularly, and we'll be doing some work on rationalising that. But this is, I guess, an excuse for a plea to just say, please let us know and please make sure you're using Sussex Direct if you are setting up a committee and we can help with that.

Okay. So this isn't all 137 committees, but it's a good swathe of them. And what this is here for is to give you an indication of how some of our higher-level committees of Council and Senate fit together. So I won't talk through this in detail. What I wanted to just show you is kind of how it all fits together at the top level. So we've got at the very top of the slides, you've got Council there who are our senior governing body and then effectively and in line with our charter and statutes, what Council does is it delegates its powers down through a committee structure which is here. So it dedicates it's powers to have academic oversight to Senate. And then below Senate, you'll see that there are a number of subcommittees to Senate, some of which you may well be committee secretaries for. And then there's even another layer down there. So University Education Committee then subdivides into various other areas too.

On the left-hand side, you can see subcommittees of Council, so Audit and Risk, Capital Programs, Chairs Committee. I won't go into explain what those are, but what you do have through our resources section and on our website is an explanation of what all of those committees do and their terms of reference if you ever want to look them up. And then on the right-hand side are committees and groups that fall under the purview of the Vice Chancellor. So the obvious one there is University executive group or UEG, which is effectively an advisory group to the Vice Chancellor in making decisions. We also have ELG, Executive Liaison Group, which is our interface, one of our interfaces with the Students Union and Capital Projects Executive Board as well. So that's just a quick overview of some of our main committees but there are many, many more, and I'm sure you're involved in many of those. So obviously, as committee secretaries, one of your key roles will be working with your committee chair. And I just wanted to touch on how that works and what the role of the chair should be. So a chair really should be there to be able to transmit and embed within a committee the values of the University. So integrity, kindness, etc., and making sure that those are embedded in a way that means that the committee runs well.

I'm sure many of you have experienced that conflict can arise as part of a committee, hopefully not physical conflict, because something's really gone wrong then, but there's likely to be a range of views and difference of opinion, and that's okay because what a chair should be able to do is allow a committee to disagree in the right way because in the end, if we don't have good discussion and scrutiny, then effectively we're not really upholding our fundamental governance values.

So we're at risk of having a sort of passive governance if we're not having committee members scrutinise and challenge what comes there. However a chair's role is to make sure that challenge is appropriate and expressed in the right way and that the committee is able to come to a decision nonetheless at the end of it. And a chair, if they're doing it correctly, will be able to do that by drawing on the different expertise and areas of strength across the different members of the committee. And your role as committee secretary is really supporting a chair in doing that. So understanding perhaps where members' particular strengths lie.

And one of the questions, really good questions, I got on Monday's session was, well that's fine, but what happens if - I was talking in particular about the fact that as a committee we're talking about collective decision making, so you may have disagreement at a meeting, but in the end, if a decision is made, that whole committee and all its members are responsible for that decision.

So I got a really good question Monday, which is, "well, what happens when a member wants to make a point of minuting a specific fact that they disagreed and there's sort of two points to that if you've ever experienced it. One, I think that's probably a signal that the chair isn't quite there yet in terms of getting the culture of the committee quite right. So collective decision making should be something that the chair promotes and ensures everyone understands. And then secondly, there's an issue there to do with how we would minute something and identify individuals, which I'll come onto separately a bit later on.

So in terms of working with chairs, hopefully you're all pretty familiar with some of this, but I'm just going to recap quickly. It sounds obvious, but the more that you can work in advance and plan in advance with the chair, the better. So one thing that you could and I would really recommend is thinking just before the beginning of an academic year, can you sit down with your chair and think about a work plan for the coming year? So there's likely to be with most committees in most groups, a sort of standard cycle in the year where you know that certain things are going to have to come to certain meetings. And it's really helpful if you map that out so that you can talk through that with your chair. You can agree some deadlines to set for paper authors so that you can, you could even give them those deadlines at the beginning of the year.

This isn't to say that you can't then adapt the agendas and that you can't adapt to new business as it comes up. But what it does do is it gives you a structure to hang everything around. And I would also highly recommend you take that workplan to the first meeting of each academic cycle so that your members are also aware of what's going to be coming up for the rest of the year. So also think about timings. Working with a chair, you as a committee secretary may be a gatekeeper and a collector of all sorts of requests for things to go to a committee, but your role will be a really important one in thinking about, well, can we actually get through all of that business in the time that's available for a meeting? Do we need to have a separate meeting? Is there a big item of business that we need to have an additional meeting to cover? Those are all the sorts of questions that you should be working with your chairs on doing.

So terms of reference and the composition, I really, really encourage you to look at them and understand what your terms of reference are for your committee or your group. If you don't have any terms of reference for your committee or group, I would recommend getting some drawn up as quickly as possible, and we can help you in the Governance team in doing that as well. It's really helpful for the committee secretaries to have a good understanding of both the terms of reference, which is effectively what the committee is there to do and how, and the composition. The composition is basically what sets out who can be a member of that committee. Because sometimes questions come up in a meeting about, is this something for us? Is it something for another committee? What's happening with a member that's about to come to the end of their term of office? It's your role to be able to help the chair in thinking through solutions to those.

What we hold centrally is something called the organisation of the University and that sets out all of the terms of reference for all of the committees that we know about, and anyone can access those. Most importantly of all, if you don't take anything else away from this section on chairs, my takeaway point is to just please try and build a positive working relationship with your chair. Get to know them, get to know how they like to work. How much time in advance do you need to be working with them to think through an agenda? Hopefully, you're all already very well embedded with your chairs, but sometimes chairs change or committee secretaries change. I would suggest just thinking about how you can build that working relationship with them, and then with any luck, the rest will flow from there.

So I'm going to move on to talk a bit more about agendas now. I'm going to talk about the type of business at meetings, and then I'm going to talk about how agendas can categorise that business. You're probably familiar with how to draw up an agenda, and agendas might look slightly different depending on what committee you're doing. And we'll come on to look in just a second at examples of agendas so that we can flesh this out a bit more. So generally speaking, you'll probably find that in terms of the items of business at committee or a group will generally fall into these three areas.

The first one is business, which is for compliance. So this is about the tick box element of making sure that we are complying with requirements, our external requirements primarily, as a University and making sure that any returns that we're doing are fit for purpose and cover all of those areas of compliance that we need to do. So this is kind of fairly bread and butter, fairly straightforward. You usually shouldn't need a huge amount of time spent on it but it is very important to do. Very important that a committee scrutinises it. So examples that I've given of these are things like when we may need to make returns to the Office for Students, our Regulator, Health and Safety Reports or perhaps funding returns. So the second area is strategy and risk. So these are items of business that are looking at how we deliver the University strategy. They can be for decision or they could just be for noting. But they're broadly there to make sure that we are able to get on day to day with running the University alongside its overall strategic framework. And they could take a variety of different forms, some of them a bit more high-level than others.

So reports on how the student experience is running, how the NSA's satisfaction survey outcomes are, what our employment strategies are, our people strategies are, or anything to do with how we're developing our estate. And then the final area is anything related to governance. So this is kind of the more functional side of running committees and governance, like elections. Reports from committees below your one or anything that we need to do in terms of changing our University regulations, so effectively our rule book as a University.

So then how this looks on an agenda, well this isn't a requirement for agendas, but I'm going to show you in a moment an example of what this looks like. Generally, when structuring an agenda, you might want to think about it in terms of these three broad areas. Usually with an agenda, we'll start off with a procedural items area. So this will cover things that you would expect on pretty much every agenda. So it would be things like apologies from people that are absent, and matters arising which come from the minutes and also any chairs items. So items that the committee chair wants to bring up that aren't covered elsewhere on the agenda. So that's the procedural section. Then there's usually a decision or discussion section. So these are items which normally require committee members to make a decision, or they might just need to discuss something before coming to a conclusion. So these, so any papers associated with these types of business should normally have a recommendation with them which asks members to either approve something or consider something. I'll come on to what those mean in a second.

Then you have items which are for information or for noting. So these are effectively just making committee members aware of its contents. Usually and hopefully, you shouldn't need to discuss them. But if you do, it's primarily just to get some clarification about the contents of them. And these papers usually come with a recommendation to note. So yes, as I've said already, what I recommend is this is quite a useful structure for shaping and structuring your agenda. Even if you don't put these as headers on your agenda, it's a useful way to think about it when you're just looking at the sequencing of items and perhaps grouping of them.

So I mentioned there about approve - consider - note, and these are some descriptors which explain a bit more about what they mean as a recommendation. So every paper that comes to every committee should have a really clear recommendation, and you can do that by using the cover sheet template, which I'll include in the resources after this. At the end of that cover sheet, you're asked to put a recommendation, and that's where you, I say you, that's where the paper author needs to think very carefully about what they're asking committee to do.

As a committee secretary, one of the most useful things you can do is review papers and think about the recommendation. Is it really the right recommendation for what the committee's being asked to do? So if a committee is being asked to make a decision, then they should be being asked to approve something, generally speaking. And one of the key things to bear in mind with that is, what you should be pushing paper authors to do is where particularly they are coming with a whole set of different options or scenarios, you should be expecting a paper author to come with a recommendation to follow one of those specific options based on their own professional expertise. Because what that does is it really helps committee members work with something rather than be confronted with a list of options and be asked to pick one. What we need is for paper authors to come forward with their own professional recommendation. A consider recommendation is generally where you're asking a committee to think over an issue. It might feed into a wider piece of work. You don't need a decision, but you might be, this might be a shaping stage for a piece of work where you need to consult on something that might be quite complex or might need to draw on different opinions.

The final one is to note, and like I said before, that's really for something, that's for information, and it shouldn't be anything that requires action as well. So making it very clear what they are being asked to understand, and that should normally not really require much discussion either. So I just mentioned about one of the responsibilities of working with paper authors. Now I know that this can be quite a tricky thing to do because you're effectively a middle person between paper authors and a committee and a chair. And that can be quite a tricky position to be in a lot of the time. However, just as it is with working with chairs, relationships are really key. So you will probably get to know that you've got a handful of really key contributors to committees. They might be committee members themselves or they might be people that aren't on the committee, but they write a lot of papers for it. If you get to know them, you'll probably get to notice how much, how they like to work, how much notice they need before a paper is due, whether you can check, you know, at what point you can check in with them ahead of a meeting to make sure and offer advice about just quality checking that things like the cover sheet is completed properly.

So it sounds obvious, but like I said before about working in advance, give clear deadlines in advance, and if you can set a workplan up for the entire year, even better, because then you can provide those deadlines to paper authors well in advance. What I would recommend, if it's not already something that you do, is please avoid using the deadline for papers to be published as the deadline for paper authors, because you will need time to process papers to make sure that they're accurate, to make sure that it's presented in the way it needs to be. I said about before about paper deadlines for the rest of the year. Please make sure that we have a cover sheet template for all papers that come along as well. And I can show you what that looks like a bit later. One thing that tends to happen with cover sheets is that you find that understandably, paper authors go back to a previous paper and then they just adapt it for whatever is needed now and send it to you. That's fine in most cases, but what that risks is that you end up with legacy versions of the cover sheet, and that means it doesn't include all of the fields that we require on there. So just be aware that when you're receiving something, just make sure it's using the latest cover sheet template.

So Matt's just asking what the paper deadline is for a committee, is it a week before the committee meets? Yeah. Thanks, Matt.

As a general rule, yes. We normally work to publishing papers a week ahead of the actual meeting of the committee. Obviously, if you can publish it even further in advance, fantastic. If you can't publish it a week before the committee meets, then I would recommend acknowledging that with members and explaining when you expect to publish them so that you can manage expectations. There are some specific rules around this, particularly for Senate, but for most of you, you probably don't have any specific reference to this in your terms of reference. So I would work with a week. Yeah. And so papers themselves should be 2 to 3 pages, ideally. Some of them just won't be. Some of them just can't be. But as a general rule, most papers can actually be consolidated down to 2 to 3 pages for the front section.

And then it's fine to have appendices with those as well. But the thing to bear in mind with appendices is that they should only really be there to support the understanding of the front section of the paper. So if a committee member comes to a paper and they have to refer to an appendix to be able to make a decision or be able to meaningfully feedback on something, then that means that information shouldn't be in an appendix, it should be in the front portion of a paper. As committee secretaries, this is something that I would suggest you just be aware of. And as you build up relationships with paper authors and your chair, I would perhaps just spot issues like this. And perhaps as part of your regular check in with chairs ahead of a meeting, you might want to flag issues like this. And then finally recommendations. I think I've already said this, recommendations should be clear. There should be one recommendation to approve. It shouldn't be a list of options where members are asked to pick and choose between them.

So we've got a couple of minutes before we go for a quick break. And I just wanted to have a look at some example agendas and papers. So if you bear with me just a second. Right. So hopefully I should be screen sharing that. So this is an example amended UEG agenda, which I'm just trying to zoom in for. There we go. I wanted to show you this because this follows quite what I think is quite a useful template for agendas. Now your agendas might not look like this. And like I said before, that's fine. They don't all have to look like this. But if you want to think about how to structure an agenda, this is quite a useful template to use. So you've got, like we said before, we talked about procedural items, those are here at the top and they cover the usual things that you would expect. UEG calls its 'matters arising' an action tracker, but you might just have matters arising there. And I'll show you a bit later an example of an action tracker as well, if you want one. And so then like I said before, the first thing to do, the first substantive set of items should be any items which are there for approval or sometimes consideration. Excuse me. So in this example, what we've got is the first item is, is something to agree. It's a draft agreement with the University. And the other thing to notice in here is that I've put in that someone who isn't a committee member is due to come and attend the committee for this.

So you might also have this where you have guests come in for specific items. That's absolutely fine. It's probably a very good idea to do that because it really helps bring something to life for committee members. But the thing to do is to just be very clear at the outset that that's happening, and it's also helpful to think about that in terms of timing too. So then here you've got some proposals that would come in relation to staff and students and you can see that this is an example where you've perhaps got a broad headline and then you've got two papers which relate to that on different elements. And you can see here where we've identified that there are different papers. We've got something else here which is for approval and we've got someone else attending too, and then we've got another item here as well.

So on this agenda, what UEG does is identify who's leading, who's speaking on each particular item, and that's done using initials. That may not be necessary for your committee. And that's absolutely fine. But it's one thing that you can consider to make it really clear. On the right-hand side over here, you'll see that there are times as well. So, again, this isn't essential and this might be something that you want to put on what's called an annotated agenda for your chair. And I'll show you an example of that in a second. Then this section we've talked before, information assurance. This is where we've got items which shouldn't need to be discussed. And you can see here that there's an explicit recognition of that as well. So what this is saying is that any of these items that have a star next to them, the expectation is that they don't need a discussion, but if you do want to discuss them, members are expected to flag it with the chair in advance. In reality, it doesn't quite work as neatly as that, but what it does do is it gives everyone an indication where we need to be spending the majority of our time in this section. And then finally you've got some, in this example, you've got some standing items, which are the things that would be considered at every meeting. So this is just a useful way of thinking about how to structure agenda items into those three broad categories. And you're very welcome to adapt this if that's something that you would find useful.

I'm going to show you now a slightly different example, and that's a Senate agenda. The Senate, for various reasons, works in a slightly different way. But what you'll see here is that you've still got the same broad categories. You've got procedural matters at the top. You've got matters for decision and discussion here. And then a bit further down. You've got things to note. So although it looks a bit different, it's effectively working in the same way. The other thing to notice that's different about this is that you've not only got the item name, but you've got a specific direction to the committee members about what they're supposed to be doing with that item. And that's quite helpful in some cases because you're being really explicit about what you're supposed to do. You've also got a reference to the specific paper over here, and that's the reference that should be the same as the one on Sussex Direct. So just a slightly different way of doing things that I just wanted to make you aware of. A third example very quickly is kind of at the opposite end of the spectrum, but perfectly fine for what it is, what it's doing. So this is a very simple agenda. And I just wanted to show you this because you don't have to have agendas that look overly complicated or very complex. If you've got a straightforward group of people with a straightforward set of business, then this is absolutely fine for an agenda. You don't need to make overly complicated. And then finally, before we go, before I show you some papers, this is what I mean when I talk about an annotated agenda. So an annotated agenda is really useful for chairs because it basically gives them a bit of a set of crib notes to run the meeting from. And an annotated agenda is something that a committee secretary should draw up for the chair. It's perhaps not necessary for every meeting, but where you've got a complex agenda, where you've got some complex papers, this is really helpful to do.

So in this example, what you've got are apologies listed for the chair, and then a bit further down you've got this example of noting some various things that happened as a result of the minutes. So this just gives a bit of background about some matters arising from the minutes of the chair. You'll see over here that you've got some specific times given and you've also got the specific pages that things relate to. So it makes it really easy for the chair to just focus on managing the meeting itself rather than thinking about what we're supposed to be doing with each item. So again, this is not compulsory, but I really, really recommend thinking about how you might draw up an annotated agenda with your chair. So I'm not going to spend a huge amount of time, because we're running short on time, on papers themselves. But what I'm going to do is, I'm going to make sure that in the resources section after this meeting, you've got some examples of papers in terms of what a decision paper looks like, what an assurance paper looks like, what a progress update looks like. So that if you want to have a point of reference for good practice, you'll have those to look at. The only thing that I will show you from there, though, is matters arising. So this is an example of a Senate action tracker effectively, which is also called matters arising. And you can use this template if you want for your meetings too. So very simply, what it does is it just records the date that an action was recorded.

You might have a meeting reference, but you don't have to and you might have a specific reference to the minutes. But again, you don't have to do that. You've got the action described here, in as much detail as you need to just be able to remember what exactly everyone's supposed to be doing. You've got it allocated to someone here and then you've got any notes here. So for example, you might come back to it in a few months’ time and decide that it's still underway. And you might want to put that note in there. And then over here, you just have confirmation that the action is still open. If an action has been completed in between a meeting, then you would know that by working with the chair and working with paper authors in between meetings. And that would mean that you can close something off. So in this example, what's happened is that this particular report has been finalised, and we know that's happened. And what you've done working with the chair is you've closed this action off.

So this is reporting back to Senate that that action is closed. And then for the following meeting, this would just disappear from the matters arising completely. So I'll put this in the resources section and please feel free to use it if that's something that you'd find useful in tracking things. So I'll include these slides in the resources afterwards. And these are basically just recapping on some of the things I've already mentioned about work that happens in between meetings. And also just recapping some points here about practical things to do with what happens if you're running a meeting remotely. Also, like I mentioned before about terms of reference and bringing them back to the first meeting of the year. And just generally in terms of making sure that you're gathering apologies, etc. There is something, you see that bullet point on voting there, I suggest that if you have any particular asks about voting, or that you think it might come up as an issue for your particular committee, get in touch with me and I can help you with that. The short version of this is avoid voting wherever possible because it shouldn't be necessary to vote in a committee. But if you absolutely have to, and there are certain scenarios where that might be appropriate, then feel free to get in touch with me and I can help you, guide you through that process.

So we've had that ten-minute break and we're going to talk about some minutes. And what I'm just going to do is make sure that I've got the chat showing again so that I can see if you've got any questions. Okay. So what are the minutes? They are effectively an official record of the University's business. So they're a really important record and they need to be as short as possible and they need to be to the point of what's happened in the meeting. And they're really there to record a flavour of the discussion and any decisions made by the committee. So that means that they're not intended to be some kind of parliamentary Hansard record of everything that was said in a committee, because generally speaking, that's really not necessary, and it's particularly not necessary for most University committees. We'll come back to what recording a flavour of the discussion actually means because obviously it's open to interpretation and anything that's open to interpretation kind of puts pressure on you as committee secretaries to do that interpretation. So we'll come back to that in a moment.

One thing that I would emphasise though, about when you're trying to pull the minutes together, you want to be aware that whilst you want to give some context and you want to give some flavour of the discussion that was had a committee, what you need to be mindful of though is, in making those decisions, not to give any undue weight to any particular points when it's really not necessary to do so. For example, if a committee member starts going off perhaps on what's effectively a bit of a tangent in that they want to query the definition of a particular term or a definition of something that's in the papers, and if that's resolved at the meeting itself, that's probably an example that isn't worth recording in the minutes because it's kind of something that's gone off at a tangent. I'm happy to talk about that in more detail in a moment, but I just wanted to give you a sense of what it means by flavour of the discussion versus everything that was said at a meeting.

And one of the other things that it's useful to do is to make sure that the headings in minutes, so how you're structuring the minutes, ties entirely to how things are structured in the agenda because in weeks, months, years to come, some poor person needs to come back to these minutes and try to find a specific part of it. And if they can't navigate it compared to what it says on the agenda, then they're going to have a really difficult time doing that. So very simple solution to that is making sure that you're structuring your minutes with exactly the same title as something has on the agenda. There's also, as with an agenda, a useful standard format for minutes.

Now this is a recommendation.You don't have to use the exact same format for every single committee or group. However, there are certain elements which are useful to have in there. And those elements are things like setting out the paper or the paper number that the committee received. So it's really clear if there is a paper, there might not be, which paper it refers to. Then providing a short bit of contextual information to just be able to guide the reader as to why this item was being considered by the committee. Because you need to always think in terms of if I was someone that had no experience in this committee and I picked these minutes up, would I have a fighting chance of understanding what was going on here?

Then you need to record some of the key points of the discussion.There may have been no discussion at all if something was very straightforward, if something was, for example, to note. But usually there's a bit of discussion, and that comes back to what I was saying before. It's about, as you gain experience, you'll have a better understanding of what are the key points of the discussion and the most relevant ones to record, rather than feeling under pressure to record absolutely every point that everyone made.

And that is a difficult skill that like a lot of things with the committee secretary, it's more of an art than a science. And it is something that over time you'll probably get a bit more confident about. But as with all of this, if you're ever a bit of a loss for or a bit stuck with something, please get in touch with us, and we can always help in the governance team.

And then finally you want to come to the conclusion or the decision was on that item. So it may have been a decision item and they may have had to approve something, in which case you want to record that that was approved at that meeting. They might decide not to approve it, in which case you need to record that as well and any subsequent action that was taken as a result of that.So they might have requested, for example, to see the paper in an updated format at the next meeting, and that would be an action that you record using, for example, the action tracker I showed you earlier.

So I thought it would be useful to bring that to life a little bit more. What I'm just going to do before I get blinded, I'm just going to, if you could just give me one second, I just need to pull a blind over. Sorry about that. Okay. So this is a formula, for want of a better word, that I use, that I find quite helpful when I'm thinking through minutes and I thought I'd share with you because you can use it if you like to think about how you might structure your own minutes. So when you have an item for business, what I like to think about for the first part of a minute is, like I said before, thinking about what was the context, why were they considering this?

[Clears throat] Excuse me. So you might want to start that with members considered a paper setting out and then what it was. And I'll show you in a second a full example of what that means. You might then want to move on to start thinking about some of the key points that surfaced from particularly that paper. So it would say, one way to do that is you could say it was noted that.

And then particularly if you have someone speaking to a paper, you would probably capture there some of the key things that they wanted the members to be aware of as part of that paper. Then you'd move on to that thing that I was talking about before about capturing the flavour of a discussion. So one way to start that is to say in discussion, the following points were amongst those made. So you're not saying that these were the most important points necessarily. You're just saying that these are the ones that you're observing for the minutes. You might then want to capture a bit of some of the significant acknowledgements that were made by the committee members. So there might be some complications to do with it.

Or there might be some extra contextual information that surfaced as part of the meeting that wasn't obvious at the beginning. And in that case, you could say it was acknowledged that, and then you would give that additional bit of information. And then what you would do, you would come through to the conclusion. So what happened as a result of this? Well, in this case, members approved. And then you would want to refer to the specific recommendation that's put on the front of the committee paper.

So what does that look like kind of in reality? Well, I've chosen to focus on the very important topic here, which is the University supply of delicious cakes on campus. If you're involved in a committee, by the way, that's talking about delicious cakes on campus, I'd like to know about that because that's one that I'd want to be involved in. But what I've done here is I've fleshed out what that might look like in terms of a full minute. So you can see there that the first sentence is just outlining exactly what was coming to the committee.

It's very brief. It just says that this paper was outlining future delivery models for cake supply on campus. And then you've got something there, which was the yellow bit, is perhaps what the paper was drawing attention to or perhaps what the paper presenter wanted to bring to the attention of the committee. It then moves on to say, well, when the committee members started discussing this, they noted these things. And there you've got an indication of the sorts of things that might come up as part of that discussion.

So then the red bit, this is an example of where perhaps these weren't necessarily obvious from the outset in the paper, but they were things that were raised as part of the committee's consideration. So in this case, it was about some of the risks or costs associated with changing that supply. And then finally you've got a record of the actual decision. So in this case, it's approving the approach to reviewing the University's cake making services. So it's a tongue in cheek example, but hopefully you can get a sense of how that formula translates into something that's real life. And it's fairly succinct as well. So there could be quite a lot of discussion as part of that but you'd want to think about really condensing it down as much as possible. So let's have a quick look at some examples of minutes just to see what this looks like in real life. So I'm just going to switch over to share my screen.

So the first example we're going to look at is how minutes are recorded for UEG, and I've got an example of that to show you which I shall put on here. So this is a dummy example of UEG minutes. So hopefully some of this will probably be fairly straightforward and obvious but just to recap, you've got a confirmation of who attended that meeting. By the way, the thing that I would recommend doing for both agendas and minutes is to record, on all copies of it, who exactly is on the membership. So in this case, you've got a list of all of the members and that list is done by their role, not their name. Because if someone leaves, the next person in that role will join the committee.

So this is a composition, not actually a list of members. So that means that when someone's looking at this, they can tell who was there in terms of the actual people rather than roles. And then who sent apologies, so who wasn't there? It records who noted the meeting. And in this case, it also records any guests that came along to the meeting. And it gives you an indication of what item they're there for. You don't have to do that but it comes back to the transparency principle that we were talking about earlier.

So as with the agenda, this particular example is done in a tabular form, and if you were looking for a template to use and you hadn't really got any minutes to work from as an example, I think this would be quite a good starting point if you wanted to adapt this. So as you can probably see, it's fairly straightforward. It records what the item was, and if you remember this should record exactly what was listed on the agenda. It records who led the discussion. In this case, it's initials but you could type the full name. This is where you have the minutes itself. So this is effectively a summary of what the committee discussed using the formula that I mentioned before, and this is the one that I was showing you just a second ago.

So this was a decision item. And then over on this right-hand side, what this particular template does is it separates the outcome into a separate field. So this is also part of the minute, but what it does is it just separates it for easy reference later on what the outcome of a decision was. And you can see here how that divvies up. It's not necessary to structure these with decision headings with information, for information etc., with procedural. But it is right to do it in the order that they were listed on the agenda.

So that's an example, as well so that you can adapt that for using if that's something that you think is going to be useful. And then the second example I wanted to show you was a set of Senate minutes, which are done in a different way and are a more formal approach to minutes. So I just wanted to give you this as an example of how they're done for a more senior committee. And as before, in there and you've got them separated into their general groups of the composition.

You've got apologies down here. You've then got the minutes reviewed from the last meeting and you've got any matters arising. And those matters arising were driven by that template I showed you earlier where it tracks all of those actions. And what's happened here is that someone's recorded the discussion or the updates as part of that action tracker.

Now, the main thing that I wanted to show you is the fact that you'll notice this is structured or presented slightly differently from the UEG example I showed you just now. Obviously, it's not in the tabular form, it's structured by effectively paragraph, but it still follows the broad overall approach of having a minute and then having a decision further down. But what I wanted to show is the way that that particular minute is broken down.

So let me get to a later example, which is a bit easier. This shows the agenda heading, which in this case is an update on the education and students portfolio. Then this section, this is called received. And what this does is it explains what papers were received as part of this section of the agenda. So in this case, there were five separate papers. And what this does is it just simply lists what the papers are. Then, bit further on, what happens is that the minutes are recorded of the discussion. So this is, again, a flavour of the discussion that surfaced from those papers, and you'll see that these aren't separated out into the individual items or papers themselves. It's treated as a broad discussion around all five papers, and that's particularly helpful where you've got papers that interrelate with each other, where the discussion might naturally weave in and out of different elements of it, and where they're all generally under the same broad theme.

In this case, it's education and students. So you've got a record of the discussion there. Quite a few minutes there because there were a few papers involved. And then what you've got next is a resolved section. So this is where you record the decisions that are being made on the back of that discussion. So in this case, there were three decisions made. Three approvals made. And then the final section here is action. So given that those three decisions were made, what do we need to do next? And this records the action. And these actions are things that could go in the matters arising tracker for the next meeting. So I just wanted to show you this because it's a slightly different way of doing minutes. Both are completely fine. Both are different for good reason.

But I just wanted to give you a sense of two different ways that you can approach it. Both of them will be in the resources pack, so you can have a closer look at them later. And obviously just let me know if you've got any questions about them. Okay. So I'm going to switch back to carry on with the slides. And we're going to do our final section now, which is looking at how you manage committee information online.

So if you're not already familiar, Sussex Direct is the University's platform for managing a range of information about staff and students and publishing it for everyone to access via our website. One of those sections of information is the committee section, and that provides a list of all the committees that we know about. All of the ones the committee secretaries maintain.

And it lists all of the papers that are associated with each meeting. And this is really helpful because this helps us uphold the transparency principle of governance in that it gives all staff, regardless of whether or not they're a member of a committee, access to committee, business and decision making. One of the roles of the committee secretary is to maintain this information. And that's what I'm going to show you how to do in a moment.

One of the questions that I get is, well, what Sussex Direct for if we have this thing called Board Packs. Well, Sussex Direct is essentially something that's there for all staff to access via the web. Board Packs, if you know about it, you may not, is a platform that we use to support UEG, Council, Senate and its subcommittees, particularly for its members to help handle and review papers for meetings. So if you hear Board Packs mentioned, it's not necessarily something that you need to work with.

What you definitely need to do as a committee secretary, regardless of what committee it is, is work with and publish information to Sussex Direct. And then finally, I just wanted to say that I'm aware that understandably, people use Box for working with papers, for preparing them, for collaborating on them.

Box really shouldn't be used to distribute papers, though, for University committees, and that's because it undermines that transparency principle. If you do it that way, you're only going to be distributing those papers or making them accessible to committee members. You're not going to be able to make them viewable to staff elsewhere as well. There may be very valid reasons why you don't want other staff to access papers, and that's okay. We can come on to what those reasons are. But that has to be a deliberate decision, rather than just by nature of convenience of working with Box.

So I got a question from Lindy. Are steering groups supposed to be lodged on Sussex Direct? I think it depends. The answer to a lot of this, I think you'll find, is it depends. It's quite a good get out clause for me. It depends, is the answer though. I guess I would probably, if you're thinking of a very specific example that you want to contact me about, Lindy, I can help advise whether it's something that really needs to be up there or not, because without a bit more context, it's a bit tricky to tell, but I'm happy to help with a specific example offline.

I mean, one thing I would say is that if there are major decisions being made as part of it, I would expect it to be feeding into other committees anyway, in which case it sounds like it's a bit more of a working group than what we would traditionally call a committee. Probably not something that we would put on Sussex Direct but, you know, please do let me know what the example is and we can, we can work through that one. Yeah.

Okay, thanks. So to manage Sussex Direct, you've got to use CMS, which is also called yellow screens. And I'm afraid it comes with a bit of a health warning because as wonderful as yellow screens is, it is a system that's been designed, I think it started in the nineties, and it hasn't really been updated to reflect how that information is being managed these days. It will be, but it is a fairly antiquated system. It does a brilliant job of what it's supposed to do, but it means that it's not the most intuitive system to use. And for that reason, I'm not going to be able to, in the next 50 minutes or so, give you a really in-depth bit of training about how to use this.

However, what I can do is point you in the direction of how you get set up. So what I'm about to show you requires you to have done a bit of work at the outset to make sure that you can access your committee's information on Sussex Direct, if indeed it is something that needs to be on Sussex Direct. So the prerequisites are that you need to have permission and access to use CMS or yellow screens, and you need to have been given access to a specific screen which is called Groups Maintenance. And I've got the, the short code for it there. To do that, you need to go to ITS and ask for permission to access it, and that involves filling in a very short form which will then be pinged to your line manager to give permission for you to access that.

Once you've got that, you need to make sure that you're using Microsoft Edge because it's currently the only browser that will allow us to use our antiquated system, and it needs to be set up to be compatible with using our system. And I've put some brief instructions on how to do that in the resources folder that I'll send you a link to after this. That bit's not that complicated. It's just an extra step that you need to do. And then the final thing is that you either need to be working on campus to access yellow screens, or you need to be connected to it remotely via the staff VPN. I would just recommend waiting to be on campus, to be honest, because even the setting up of staff VPN requires a separate process in itself. However, ITS can help you with that, and they will be able to provide you with some separate guidance. Because though this is something that generally speaking, you'll only have to do intermittently in terms of managing this information, I would recommend waiting until you're on the campus network.

So let's just walk through how this actually looks in practice. And I'll also show you what Sussex Direct looks like too, in case you're not familiar. Bear with me a second. Share my screen. Okay. Let's go to here. So this is Sussex Direct. Am I sharing that with everyone? No. How about now? Yeah. So this is Sussex Direct. It's Hopefully, you should have seen it before. At the top here, you'll see that you've got this searches dropdown, and you'll see under searches, you've got a section called committees. If you click on committees, you'll get a list of the 136 committees that we have currently registered at the University. And you can scroll through these and get a sense of how they group. There's quite a large group of school level committees here. They make up quite a large section and you'll see that they're all roughly, all schools should have roughly the same committees in them. So you've got quite a large school section there, but above and below that, you'll find you've got all the other committees in there too.

If you click on a particular committee, you'll go into a list of its membership. And just note, when you're looking at membership that you've got these buttons down here, which if you're not seeing everyone, it's because they're not all being shown. And you'll see the way that they're grouped into their compositions. So what role are they playing on the committee? Who they are, their position, and their start and end date. They may not have an end date but they should do if it's a specific term listed in the composition. And then a bit further down, you'll find where individual meetings are listed against the individual papers.

So in this case, you'll see that we've got all of the papers for the 1st of April Council meeting. You'll see that some papers have got a grey icon next to them, and that means that they're available to all staff at the University, regardless of whether they're a committee member or not. And then you'll see that some of them have got red logos against them. And that means that it's restricted just for access by committee members. And the cover sheet template explains in which cases we would restrict things and in which cases papers would be open. So this is essentially the information that you are controlling via yellow screens. So to open up yellow screens, assuming you've done all of the prerequisites before. Assuming you've covered all of those prerequisites that I listed in the other slide, what you're doing is going to the ITS section of our website. You click on services, business applications, and you would find here, log into the database, and that's where you want to go to access yellow screens.

Once you do that, you should find that it starts firing up, fairly slowly. And then it'll start loading the database for you. He says with immense confidence. Here we go. So it's just opened a separate window, which means I'm now going to go and switch to that window so that you can actually see what I'm doing. This is what pops up in the window, and this is where you access Yellow Screens. So I'm just going to log in. And then you'll be confronted with a list of different areas. You probably won't see a list this long, but the thing that you will have access to if you've got the permissions granted to you, is this one called Groups Maintenance, which you click on. And this is where you start to look for the committee that you want to be, that you want to work with. So in this case, what I'm going to use is, if I can remember the name of it. There we go.

So I'm not going to go through the detail of how search works, how all of the various elements of this works, because this could easily be a separate training session in itself. But what I'm going to put in the resources section is a visual step by step guide on how to use this screen and what all of the different parts of it do so that you can come back to use it when you've actually got access to it, because there may be a gap between now and when you're accessing it. What you would do though, once you've got access, you would look up your committee and then this is what you use to manage all of that Sussex Direct information that I showed you before. So you've got a short group reference here. You've got a long name here, and this is the name that will appear on that Sussex Direct list of committees.

You've got a record here of which other committee it reports to. So in this case, this is an example of a committee that reports to UEG. And then you're able to record any particular comments about it, and when the committee came into existence as well. You would not normally have an end date to it, it's just that I want to make sure this disappears after the training. If you need to set up a committee on here, just get in touch with us and we can do that for you, so you wouldn't need to create one yourself. We would do that for you, and then we would hand it over to you to maintain from there on in.

What you've then got here are a list of the members of a committee structured by the composition. So one of the first things to do is to make sure that you've got the composition set right. And what this does is it means that you can add different roles. So we've got a chair. Every committee should have a chair. In this case, for this particular committee, the chair is the head of governance services. You tell it that you're only allowed one chair and that they're also someone that can vote. This is something called, so a doc person is basically someone that isn't a member of a committee but might be a secretary or an admin that helps upload papers to Sussex Direct. So if you've got an example where you have perhaps as a committee secretary, you work with some colleagues who help you out managing papers and you just want someone to have access to Sussex Direct to upload them, but you don't want their name to appear in the list of members, then you would call them what's called a doc person.

And then you've got here a particular type of member. In this case, the governance compliance assistant manager. So then on this screen, what happens is that you're able to actually start adding people. So let's go. For example, let's say I noticed that we're missing someone and we need to add a new member. So you can insert using the button above. You can say it's a member, and under that, you'll get a choice of what, it'll ask you what type of member? You would then put in who it is, so let's say you put in the surname, and then this button here would allow you to do a quick look up, and it will open up a staff directory, and you would just pick from the list of people who you were looking for. Click OK and it completes the rest for you. Then here, you just need to make sure that you've got their start date in, so this would be the date that you wanted to add them to the committee.

And then if you wanted them to finish at a certain time, you would have an end date, but in most cases, you can just delete that and leave it indefinite. So if I were to save that. Yeah. It's just given me a warning that there's more than three people in that category, which is something that I deliberately just did. If I then go back to Sussex Direct, I can show you that that will be showing on the list. Test. Test Committee for Governance Training. So this is what that committee looks like. And there you can see that it's added Kelly in which is based on what I've just done. So it's an instant system. Once you save something on the screen, it'll instantly show over here. And you can also see here that the document person, the admin that's helping manage this committee, they're not listed.

Once you've set this up and once you, particularly as a secretary or a document person, you're set up on it, what you'll find is that down here, you'll have access to this upload document button, and this is where that you can start adding papers. So if you click on here, it'll ask you to choose the file. So I recommend that you upload papers in a PDF format. You don't need to worry about the URL bit. You then associate that paper with a particular meeting. And you control the meetings from the yellow screens. You should be able to see that because I think I'm showing my entire screen.

You see this tab here, meetings, if you click on that, that's where you can add different dates of different meetings. So I recommend that at beginning of the year, you put in all of your meetings for the rest of the year. You then choose whether that's accessible to all staff, or you say it's actually something that I want to restrict because it's a sensitive or confidential paper. You then say it's a paper, or you might be uploading an agenda, in which case you choose that. I wouldn't generally bother with many of the others apart from minutes.

You then give it a quick title. You can see here an example of other titles I've put in before. You might have a paper number, but you don't have to have a paper number. The final thing you need to do is just give it an order. So if it's an agenda, it will be number one. And then from there on in, you want papers to go in a sequential order. And that's how you control that. So I'm really sorry that that's a bit of a whistle stop tour, but all I wanted to do is to just give you a flavour of how yellow screens work, how it looks on Sussex Direct, and how the two interrelate with each other.

Like I said, I'm going to be giving you a link to a resources folder that includes guides on how to do that. And then unless it's about permissions and accessing yellow screens, feel free to get in touch with the governance team and we'll do what we can to help you with that. I'm just going to stop sharing. And I think I've got a question in the chat. Oh, yeah, that's a good question, Matt. If you're uploading documents to board packs, which is that platform we talked about earlier, do I need to Sussex Direct as well? I'm afraid the answer is yes.

Board Packs is not going to give access to staff across the institution to look at committee papers. However, if you're talking about the sort of committee, I think you're talking about, those would not generally be, those would all be papers that are treated as sensitive or confidential, in which case there's probably no need to go and then duplicate things on Sussex Direct as well because you're not adding anything more by doing that, because you are only giving access to committee members. However for, let's say Senate or Council, we do duplicate between using Board Packs and also publishing things on Sussex Direct because it's really important that we're being transparent for papers that we are able to share with staff across the institution.

So I think we're kind of at the end of, we are at the end, which I'm sure you'll be pleased to hear. So that leaves us about 10 minutes now for any other questions that anyone's got. Is there anything that you feel I've glossed over, or that I haven't covered that you'd like to ask about now?

So, Anna's put a question in the chat. What is the Sussex approach to recording running transcription for committees? [inaudible] accessibility with recordings deleted after minutes typed up. So I'm guessing by that, Anna, you don't mean the live transcription feature of when we're working remotely. Is that basically recording and then typing up from a recording?


Yeah. So I'm used to just doing committees by MS Teams, I'm not used to Zoom at all as a platform. And we were routinely recording our committees, and then it runs the live transcript and we had feedback for members who had hearing impairments or other accessibility issues, that they actually found it helped them engage with the committee in a better way. That recording and transcription would be, as secretary, I would download it after the meeting and get it off the site, and then as soon as the minutes were typed, I'd just get rid of the recording altogether.

Sorry, that's my dog now barking at a squirrel. But yeah, I sense that there's not any appetite for that here at Sussex and people might be a bit concerned about not being able to speak freely if they're being recorded.


Yeah, it's a real minefield, this one, as you've probably already picked up at Sussex. And actually also thank you for the reminder about the transcript side of things because there will be a transcript on the recording for this session when anyone goes back to view this again. As a general rule, I think the default position is that we don't record meetings, committee group meetings. However, that doesn't mean that we can't, and if you're able to reach consensus with committee members, particularly working with the chair, that that is something that the people are comfortable doing. And it's clear why and it's clear what will happen with the recording then by all means, do that. There's no hard and fast rule about this, particularly if it helps you as a committee secretary, to make sure, you know, we've got a really accurate record further down the line. And if it helps with accessibility, then absolutely, please, please do it. The key thing is making sure everyone is supportive of it and everyone understands what will happen with that recording. And that's essentially the chair's responsibility.


So I've got another question. If I'm updating members in yellow screens, should I give them an end date or delete them?


Yeah, that's a great question. The answer is you should end date them, never delete them, because what happens if you delete things in yellow screens, so let's say a member has resigned or a member has come to the end of their term, if you then delete them from yellow screens, we've basically lost an audit trail there of what date someone was part of a committee. It's probably not the only record of that, but it's a very useful one. So on the yellow screen itself, if you remember, against each row, there was a start date and there was an end date. Once you know that they're coming to an end date, and you can do this for the future, just put an end date in there. And that means that they will no longer appear in the list of members after that date. And that will happen automatically once you set that date.

And so, Debbie asked, you mentioned that Box shouldn't be used. Current secretary of committee I'm taking over from uses both Box and Sussex Direct. Members prefer to access doc on Box. Presumably, this is okay [inaudible] Sussex Direct. Yeah, absolutely, I think that's fine. I completely recognise that Sussex Direct does a good job, but it is a bit of a pain. So as long as we're making sure that we are making things available on Sussex Direct to all staff, so we're upholding that transparency principle, then by all means. If people find it easy to just have a box link and we're making sure that the two tie together, absolutely fine, no problem with that. Yeah.

Great question, Annie. How would you define a restricted paper? So that's a yep, fine, how would you define a restricted paper? Well, that's on the committee paper template, and that's a really good excuse for me to quickly show you what is in the resources folder that I'm going to give you access to. So in the resources folder, I will give you access to this, it's got a copy of the slides, which will also include a recording of the session as well. It'll include some sample agendas for you to look at, some sample papers for you to look at. So you've got a decision-making example, assurance report example, etc. And that's the matters arising template I showed you before.

You've then got some examples of some minutes that I showed you earlier. And in here you've also got some links to both the service desk to request access to yellow screens. That's a shortcut that will open up the form that you can use. You've also got how to open instructions on using yellow screens in Microsoft Edge. And then you've also got this. This is a step-by-step guide that I referred to earlier, which shows you how to use the yellow screens. What isn't in there, which I thought was but I will add it, is the thing that I was just trying to do to answer your question about what's a restricted paper?And one way to get to that is by going to, he says, again really confident. So you've got a whole load of information, most of which I've covered with you today on our GCGC web pages. On the about committees part, so this is professional services, governance and compliance committees, about committees, you've got our paper template.

So the latest paper template will always be downloadable from here. And then I shall show you very quickly, in the last 2 minutes we've got, what that committee paper template looks like. So this is a committee term paper template. It is just about to be updated. So please just go back and download the latest version if you ever need to. I'm not going to go through it row by row, but you'll get a sense from this what it includes.

And the other thing to notice is that at the bottom, it's also got a template for the papers themselves and how they should be formatted, which is really helpful. So in answer to how do you know if something should be restricted, that's this status section. So what this is saying is that basically for pretty much all committees, you need to apply agreed principles on restrictions of papers. Essentially unless something falls under these two categories here, a paper should be open and unrestricted and available to all staff.

So principle two is generally about where we have something that might be commercial in confidence. It might need careful handling. It's in the developmental stage and not something that we are able to share at this point. It might really be related to sort of future strategy development before we've got to the consultation stage with the University community.

Principal three is anything that are, for example, draft minutes that haven't yet been approved by the committee. Those generally shouldn't be shared with staff across the University because committee members haven't had a chance to endorse them yet. Anything around interim financial monitoring. And you can see some other examples here. So that's the answer to what should be restricted and what can be open. And then you'll see elsewhere you've got bits of guidance about filling in the other areas too.

Okay. So we're just about out of time. I'm just going to check if there's any other questions I haven't managed to get around to. I don't see any more. Okay, well, look, it's 4PM and it's Friday afternoon, and you've just spent 2 hours with me very patiently while I talk to you about the committee secretary role, which I really appreciate. And thank you so much for all of you for coming along to this. I'll follow up with those resources, but please do get in touch with me or any member of the governance team. I'll give you some contact links and just let us know when whenever you need some help, we're happy to. Otherwise, I hope you all have a nice weekend. Thanks very much.

Resources and Presentation Slides

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