|Academic freedom: Academic staff at an English higher education provider have freedom within the law:
(a) to question and test received wisdom; and
(b) to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions;
without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges they may have at the provider.
|Academic freedom is defined and provided for in Part A of Statute XII (Academic Staff and the Visitatorial Board). This Statute was revised, following approval by the Privy Council, with effect from 15 February 2017. Disputes over academic freedom are referred to the Visitatorial Board and regulations describe the procedure to be followed.
|Accountability: The provider operates openly, honestly, accountably and with integrity and demonstrates the values appropriate to be recognised as an English higher education provider.
The University’s Statutes, and the regulations made under those statutes, provide the framework for accountability.
Staff and students
(and the regulations made under these statutes)
Finance and resources:
(2) Policies and procedures
Council, itself or through its committees, issues policies and procedures regarding, amongst other things, different aspects of accountability. Examples are provided below, where relevant with the responsible committee in parenthesis.
Council’s Education Committee publishes Examination Regulations and policies and procedures relating to teaching and learning, and is responsible for oversight of this area. Further information on that may be found below.
|Student engagement: The governing body ensures that all students have opportunities to engage with the governance of the provider, and that this allows for a range of perspectives to have influence.
Section 13 of Statute VI, concerning Council, provides for three student members to attend meetings of Council except for such matters of business as may be prescribed by regulation. Regulations 4-10 of Council Regulations 13 of 2002, concerning Council, and Council’s Standing Orders (scroll down to access them) further provide for the role of those student representatives.
Council’s regulations for committees (Council Regulations 14 and 15 of 2002, passim) provide for student representation on the relevant central committees, and regulations 31-39 of Council Regulations 17 of 2002 provide for student member attendance at Divisional Boards.
Policy and guidance
Beyond this legislative provision, Council’s Education Committee has issued Policy and Guidance on student engagement and representation which is complemented by Oxford Student Union’s Staff Guide to Student Representation.
|Academic governance: The governing body receives and tests assurance that academic governance is adequate and effective through explicit protocols with the Senate/Academic Board (or equivalent).
Academic governance of education quality and standards is conducted primarily through Council’s Education Committee (Section 23 of Statute VI and Part 2 of Council Regulations 15 of 2002).
Education Committee reports to Council annually and at other times as required.
Research and Innovation Committee is responsible for oversight of research and innovation policy. It reports to Council annually and at other times as required. The Pro-Vice-Chancellors for Education and Research are in attendance at Council’s meetings report on matters relating to their committees. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Innovation) attends Council and reports on matters within his remit when relevant.
Divisional Boards regulate academic policy and strategy in each of the University’s academic Divisions.
|Risk management: The provider operates comprehensive corporate risk management and control arrangements (including for academic risk) to ensure the sustainability of the provider’s operations, and its ability to continue to comply with all of its conditions of registration.
The University’s Risk Management Statement is provided in the University's Financial Statements.
|Value for money: The governing body ensures that there are adequate and effective arrangements in place to provide transparency about value for money for students and (where a provider has access to the student support system or to grant funding) for taxpayers.
Council’s Audit and Scrutiny Committee reviews the adequacy and effectiveness of the University’s arrangements for, amongst other things, value for money (Part 8 of Council Regulations 15 of 2002).
This is reported on to Council in the Annual Internal Audit Report.
The Planning and Resource Allocation Committee produce an annual Value for Money report to Council.
|Freedom of speech: The governing body takes such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured within the provider.
||Council has issued a Statement on Freedom of Speech and a Code of Practice on Meetings and Events. The Code of Practice on Meetings and Events sets out in its preamble and key principles the centrality to university life of freedom of speech within the law. Freedom of speech within the law is addressed further by Council in its implementation of the Prevent duty.
|Governing body: The size, composition, diversity, skills mix, and terms of office of the governing body is appropriate for the nature, scale and complexity of the provider.
Council is the University’s governing body. Its composition is laid down in sections 4-14 of Statute VI, concerning Council. It has between 26-28 members. Its membership consists of the principal elements of the University, including the Vice-Chancellor, the heads of the four academic divisions, the chair of the Conference of Colleges and one person elected by the Conference of Colleges, eleven members elected by Congregation, and four external members (currently in the process of being increased to five as a part of the effectiveness review completed in 2018). Its role and composition in the context of the University’s governance structures are set out in the University’s Financial Statements and are discussed further as part of the history and overview of the University's governance arrangements.
The current membership of Council is provided in the Financial Statements and is kept updated on the Council website.
|Fit and proper: Members of the Governing Body, those with senior management responsibilities, and individuals exercising control or significant influence over the provider, are fit and proper persons.
Prior to taking up office, and annually at the start of the academic year thereafter, members of Council are required to make a declaration of eligibility as fit and proper persons to act as charity trustees, in accordance with Charity Commission and HMRC guidance. The Pro-Vice-Chancellors with portfolio, the Registrar and the Director of Finance are also required to make the same declaration as fit and proper persons prior to taking up office and annually thereafter. The declaration form is checked annually for currency by Legal Services prior to issue.
Those above people and other senior officers, as defined in the University’s Conflict of Interest Policy and in Council’s Standing Orders are also required to make annual conflict of interest returns. The conflict of interest declarations made by Council members and certain senior officers are available on the Council website.