University Senate meeting on 23 June 2021
Peter made this Freedom of Information request to University of Sheffield
This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.
Dear University of Sheffield,
I am writing to request information from you under the Freedom of information Act. The following information is requested concerning the meeting of the University Senate held on 23 June 2021:
1. The agenda and supporting papers of the University Senate meeting held on 23 June 2021, as defined and set out under Standing Order 2.3 of The Senate (including written questions tabled).
2. Persons present at the meeting referred to at point 1.
3. Copies of presentations made at the meeting referred to at point 1.
4. Notes made by the minuting official at the meeting referred to at point 1.
5. Copies of email correspondence dealing with the meeting referred to at point 1, sent in the period 23 May 2021 - 23 June 2021, between:
a) The University Secretary (Dr Strike) and the Vice Chancellor (Prof. Lamberts)
b) The University Secretary (Dr Strike) and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Prof. Valentine)
For the avoidance of doubt, at point 4, I am requesting copies of the actual notes taken, not the authorised minutes.
I am writing to provide a response to your FOI request. I can confirm that
the University does hold some relevant material in relation to your
request. Due to the file sizes, I will need to share the information
across several emails. We have included an explanation in relation to each
of your points below.
Agenda and supporting papers of the University Senate meeting held on 23
June 2021, as defined and set out under Standing Order 2.3 of The Senate
(including written questions tabled).
Persons present at the meeting referred to at point 1 [meeting of the
University Senate held on 23 June 2021]
I have been advised that there were no written questions tabled. The
agenda for the meeting and the persons present at the meeting are
contained within the minutes, and the minutes will be published on the
University’s website. We will therefore engage Section 22 of the FOIA,
which provides an exemption for information intended for future
publication. While the University recognises the value to the public in
understanding the proceedings of the meeting and the attendees, we feel
this need is met through publication of the minutes, and that this
represents the most cost-effective way of making the information
accessible. When the minutes are available, they will be published here:
Please see the attached folder 'FOI - Papers'.
Copies of presentations made at the meeting referred to at point 1
Please see the attached folder 'FOI - Presentations'.
Notes made by the minuting official at the meeting referred to at point 1.
For the avoidance of doubt, at point 4, I am requesting copies of the
actual notes taken, not the authorised minutes
Please see attached the notes ('Combined minute taker notes - Senate 23
June 2021_Redacted_Part1' - Part 2 and Part 3 to follow in separate
In order to balance the rights of individuals in respect to their personal
data against the right of the public to access information, we have
redacted the personal data of individuals. We do not consider it fair or
lawful to attribute specific comments or opinions to individuals at the
meeting. This information is withheld under Section 40(2) of the FOIA,
which exempts third-party personal data from disclosure, if disclosure
would contravene data protection principles.
The University has also engaged Section 43(2) of the FOIA in relation to a
small amount of information about competitor institutions (bottom of p.14
and p.16). Section 43(2) exempts information where disclosure would, or
would be likely to, prejudice commercial interests. While the University
recognises a public interest in the transparency of a public authority’s
operations, in this instance, the disclosure of this information could
prejudice the University’s commercial interests by potentially weakening
the University’s ability to secure cooperation and partnership with other
higher education bodies.
Copies of email correspondence dealing with the meeting referred to at
point 1, sent in the period 23 May 2021 - 23 June 2021, between:
a) The University Secretary (Dr Strike) and the Vice Chancellor (Prof.
b) The University Secretary (Dr Strike) and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Prof.
Please see attached the emails the University can release to you
We have chosen to redact the names and emails addresses of some
individuals, under Section 40(2) of the FOIA. Redactions have been made
where we judge the individuals would reasonably expect their details not
to be disclosed ‘to the world’, as under the FOIA.
Some of the emails within the scope of your request are exempt from
disclosure under Section 36(2)(b) of the FOIA:
“Information […] is exempt information if, in the reasonable opinion of a
qualified person, disclosure of the information under this Act-
(b) Would, or would be likely to, inhibit-
(i) the free and frank provision of advice, or
(ii) the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation
The application of s36(2)(b)(i) and (ii) requires us to conduct a public
interest test, to consider whether the public interest in maintaining the
exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
Factors in favour of disclosure
* The University recognises a public interest in the disclosure of
information relating to decision-making processes of public
authorities, such as the meeting of the Senate. In relation to this
case, disclosure of the emails would help to promote transparency and
openness in relation to issues considered prior to and during the
* Issues relating to the Department of Archaeology discussed at the
meeting of the Senate are currently subject to scrutiny and debate,
and there is an interest in the University being accountable for
Factors in favour of maintaining the exemption:
* S36(2)(b)(i) It is important that the provision of free and frank
advice to the Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice Chancellor is
maintained, to inform matters at Senate in relation to this request,
and more generally to ensure senior staff have access to complete and
uninhibited advice so the best decisions for the University can be
made. Subjecting this correspondence to public scrutiny would be
likely to impair the candour of such communications in future, and as
a result the staff may be inhibited in providing frank and complete
* S36(2)(b)(ii) The University acknowledges the importance of
transparency and openness in decision making, however public
authorities must be entitled to a ‘safe space’ where options can be
discussed and approaches to challenges debated without unnecessary
intrusion or interference. This is to allow robust decisions to be
taken, and for those involved in deliberation to put forward free and
frank views. It is important that the Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice
Chancellor have space to explore a range of options to agree on the
best approach to deal with matters at Senate, and other challenges in
future. If the deliberation process is inhibited, the quality of
debate would likely be poorer, thereby impairing the quality of
decision making by the University.
* A significant number of the emails requested constitute an exchange of
views for the purpose of deliberating the content and wording for
documents and correspondence relating to the Senate meeting. Senior
staff need freedom to explore options and refine wording so that
communications are published with the right message and appropriate
tone to reflect the sensitivities of the subject matter, away from
* During the pandemic and greater home-working, more advice and
deliberation has been provided via email than would normally be the
case. The prospect of publication of emails would likely make those
offering views and advice more cautious and risk averse in the future.
This in turn would deprive senior staff of valuable insights and
sources of information provided by such correspondence.
* While the governance processes to make a decision on the future of the
Department are concluded, the issues around the future of the
Department are still ‘live’. Disclosure of advice and deliberations
would be likely to compromise the ability of the University to
implement the decisions taken in regard to the Department as
effectively and efficiently as possible.
The application of s36 requires the ‘reasonable opinion’ of the qualified
person. The Vice Chancellor has decided in his capacity as the qualified
person that the exemption at s36 is engaged. Taking into account the
factors above, the balance of the public interest test lies in ensuring
the Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice Chancellor receive free and frank
advice, and have access to a range of views and options to inform decision
If you are not satisfied with the response you have received, please see
details of our internal review process via the following link:
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