Students Staff

Policy on the publication of committee papers

Proactive publication of information about the University, especially committee information, manifests our place as a key institution within Essex. It allows us to deal with requests for information in an efficient and timely manner and to promote effective administration. Publication demonstrates our openness, is conducive to building relationships, and shows that we are proud of the things we do. It also allows us to safeguard information that should rightly be kept internal.

Decisions about what we publish are made at an institutional level, to ensure consistency and continuity. In general the University is an open organisation that makes information available. However, some committees deal with personal or other information which mean that it would not be appropriate to publish.

Our policy is to publish agendas and minutes of the University’s primary decision making committees. Our committee structure has many layers to ensure that a wide range of stakeholders can be involved in, comment on and shape policy. Sub-committees give more detailed consideration to issues than is possible at Senate or Council. Sub- committees make recommendations to their parent committee. There are some areas for which Senate has delegated authority to sub-committees, allowing them to make decisions which are then reported to Senate. Important decisions about the University will either be made by or reported to Senate or Council, and noted in their minutes.

We will normally publish committee information in circumstances where it is possible to publish the entire minutes of a committee without redaction and:

  • the committee is covered specifically by the ICO’s guidance
  • the committee is one that makes relevant decisions in its own right
  • best practice, guidance or legislation from elsewhere encourages it

We will not normally publish where Freedom of Information exemptions are likely to apply, in particular:

  • section 36 (protecting the University’s ability to have free and frank discussion)
  • section 40 (protecting personal information)
  • section 43 (protecting information of commercial value)

Individual requests

Individual requests for specific agendas or minutes that are not routinely published, or for discussion papers, will be considered on their own merits. The value and importance of information can change over time so the same decision will not necessarily be taken when the same item is requested at different points in time. Items may be redacted before release, where appropriate. Requests should be addressed to foi@essex.ac.uk.

Terms of reference and membership

These are published on our website for all formal University committees. They are published annually and updated in the interim as necessary.

Agendas and minutes

Committees that publish will make available the agenda and minutes for each meeting. In general, where minutes are likely to need redaction they will not be published.

Discussion papers

The term “papers” refers both to all paperwork relating to a committee, but also, more specifically, to those documents drawn up to inform a committee on an issue, or as a starting point for discussion. These discussion papers will normally move through the committee structure, being amended at each stage. They may be amended further even after being seen by the final committee. Papers in this sense can only be considered to be draft documents until they have been seen, commented on, and amended by the final committee on their path. Any decisions arising from a paper will be recorded in the minutes. These discussion papers are not published.

Timescales

Published agendas and minutes will be those which have been approved by the committee. Drafts will not be published. In general this means that the minutes will be published by then end of the term following the next meeting of that same committee, so for a committee that meets in November and January the minutes of the November meeting will be published by the end of the summer term, after they have been approved by the January meeting of the committee. The timetable for committee meetings is published on our website.

USG

USG – the University Steering Group – is the University’s executive leadership team. It meets fortnightly to advise the Vice-Chancellor on matters relating to the management of the University. It is also a forum for open discussion and the ability to have full and frank discussion is key to the purpose of this group. Most of the items discussed by USG are included in the regular Top Lines briefing, available to University members.

Policy created: 2014
Agreed by: Council July 2014
For review: 2017