Minutes and Actions
Minutes are a vital component of good governance. The minutes of a meeting provide an accurate, impartial and balanced record of the business transacted at a meeting. Minutes record in clear and concise form:
- the formal recommendations, and formal decisions which a committee has made, in line with its terms of reference;
- the documentation which the committee had before it to enable it to reach that recommendation, or decision;
- as appropriate, the key points in the documentation and discussion which led to the committee’s formal recommendation/decision.
Minutes should normally:
- be action focused and indicate responsibility for actions, key deliverables and timescales;
- be drafted in the past tense;
- not attempt to be a verbatim record of discussion, akin to Hansard. A good set of minutes will strike a balance between being concise, but also precise. Minutes should document the reasons for the decision and include sufficient background information for future reference;
- not identify individuals by name, although reference can be made to office holders (e.g. the Registrar, Secretary and Chief Operating Officer, the Director of Planning, etc). If an individual member objects strongly to a decision taken by the committee, and asks for this objection to be recorded in the minutes, it is reasonable for this request to be accepted.
Sign Off and Approval of Minutes
Once a set of draft minutes has been written, it is good practice to ask the most senior officer in attendance at the meeting to review them, prior to them being shared with the Chair. The Chair of a Committee is responsible for signing off draft minutes as ready for sharing for approval with the committee as a whole. Minutes are normally presented to the committee’s following meeting for formal approval. On occasion, especially if there is a substantial gap between meetings, minutes can be approved via correspondence.
Minutes should be drafted as soon as possible following the meeting. Once the chair has signed off the un-approved minutes, it can be helpful to share these with committee members for comment. This can enable any suggested revisions to be considered and amendments made before the minutes are presented for formal approval at the next committee meeting.
Expectations of the Office for Students (OfS)
The Office for Students Regulatory Framework condition E2 (Management and Governance) paragraphs 446 to 451 provides guidance on OfS expectations regarding the public availability of minutes and papers from decision-making bodies.
The OfS currently recommends that institutions should
- make publicly available the minutes of the meetings of its governing body and committees, except where such material is genuinely confidential;
- keep full minutes of decisions;
- ensure that reports and minutes are (normally) in the public domain, and the designation of material as confidential is kept to the minimum necessary
Colleagues should therefore be mindful of these expectations when drafting minutes.
Availability of Minutes
At present, the University makes publicly available the minutes of the Board of Governors and its committees. These minutes include a small number of redactions where confidential matters were discussed by the Board or its committees. Colleagues requiring further guidance regarding minute writing are welcome to contact the Governance Office via email@example.com
Minutes of Senate are currently available on StaffNet, and colleagues may wish to consider using StaffNet to share approved minutes of meetings with the wider University community.
Further guidance on minuting of meetings can be accessed at the Faculty of Humanities Handbook on Committees and Groups and the Staff Learning and Development Toolkit
A recommended template for minutes (with guidance notes) is available to download
It is good practice to include actions (and responsibility for their completion) in minutes, and also as a separate Matters Arising/Action Log.
Actions should normally be drafted to be SMART – Specific, Meaningful, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Timely.
Actions should normally include a target date for completion. In most instances, this will be by the time of the committee’s next meeting.
It is helpful to provide a list of actions to colleagues who need to take steps on any point, as early as possible following the meeting and the drafting of the minutes.
A recommended template for Matters Arising/Action Log is available to download.