• Our members engage in a wide range of activities that may give rise to conflict of interest situations, whether potential or actual, perceived or alleged, and may expose us and our members to reputational damage or other liabilities.
• We are committed to maintaining the highest standards of ethics and integrity and as a recipient of public funds, we recognise our duty to fulfil the highest standards of corporate governance and as set out in the Nolan Committee’s seven principles of public life.1 We therefore require all our members to recognise and disclose activities that might give rise to conflicts of interest or the perception of conflicts of interest and to ensure that such conflicts are seen to be properly managed or avoided.
• If properly managed, most activities can usually proceed as normal whilst at the same time upholding the person’s obligations to the University, meeting regulatory and other external requirements and protecting the integrity and reputation of the University and its members. By contrast, conflicts which are not managed effectively may jeopardise the University’s public standing and may cause serious damage to the reputation of the University and of the individuals concerned.
• It is therefore our policy to encourage and foster engagement in activities whilst ensuring that when conflicts or perceived conflicts of interest arise they are acknowledged and disclosed, and in relevant cases, properly managed. • Scope • This Policy applies to all members of Council, directors of our subsidiary companies, staff and students, and all others working for us.
• It is the responsibility of each individual to whom this Policy applies, to recognise situations in which he or she has a conflict of interest, or might reasonably be seen by others to have a conflict, to disclose that conflict to the appropriate person, and to take such further steps as may be appropriate as set out under the procedure below in paragraph4.
• If you are uncertain about how this Policy might affect your activities or if you have any questions about its application, please contact the appropriate person (as set out in Appendix 1) or the University Secretary.
• Recognising a Conflict of Interest
• A conflict of interest arises where the commitments and obligations owed by an Individual to the University, a University subsidiary company or to another body (for example a funding body), are likely to be compromised, or may appear to be compromised, by that person’s personal gain, or gain to an immediate family member or a person with whom the person has a familial or close personal relationship ; or the commitments and obligations that person owes to another person or body.
(a) close personal friendships; (b) romantic/sexual relationships; (c) business/commercial/financial relationships, and (d) family relationships with an unmarried partner, parent, brother, sister, grandparent, grandchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, the (unrelated) child of an unmarried partner, as well as half and step members of family (this list is not intended to be exhaustive).
• There can be situations in which the appearance of conflict of interest is present even when no conflict actually exists. Thus it is important for all Individuals when evaluating a potential conflict of interest to consider how it might be perceived by others.
• The duty to declare a possible conflict applies to the perception of the situation rather than the actual existence of a conflict. However, the duty is not infringed if the situation cannot reasonably be regarded as likely to give rise to a conflict of interest.
• Conflicts of interest may be financial or non-financial or both. Under this Policy, a Financial conflicts of interest is one where there is or appears to be opportunity for personal financial gain, financial gain to close relatives or close friends, or where it might be reasonable for another party to take the view that financial benefits might affect that person’s actions. Financial interest means anything of monetary value including payments for services; equity interests (e.g. stocks, stock options or other ownership interests); and/or intellectual property rights (e.g. patents, copyrights and royalties from such rights).
• The level of financial interest is not the determining factor as to whether a conflict should be disclosed. What might be ‘not material’ or ‘not significant’ for one person might be very significant for another. Good practice in many situations will mean the disclosure of ‘any’ financial interest, however small. A conflict will arise if the interest might provide, or be reasonably seen by others, to provide an incentive to the individual which affects their actions and where he or she has the opportunity to affect a University decision or other activity (because for example he or she is the decision- maker or the principal investigator on a research project). For examples of conflicts involving financial interest see Appendix B. Non-financial conflicts of interest
• Non-financial interests can also come into conflict, or be perceived to come into conflict, with a person’s obligations or commitments to the University or to other bodies, for example a body of which he or she is a director or trustee. Such non-financial interest may include any benefit or advantage, including, but not limited to, direct or indirect enhancement of an individual’s career, education or gain to immediate family (or a person with whom the person has a close personal relationship). For examples of non-financial conflicts of interest see Appendix B (paragraphs B – D).
• Procedure for disclosing and managing Conflicts of Interest
• You are required to disclose any conflict of interest or any circumstances that might reasonably give rise to the perception of conflict of interest. Apparent or perceived conflicts of interest can be as damaging as actual conflicts of interest.
• The general rule, with the exception of committee business, is that disclosure should be made at the time the conflict first arises, or it is recognised that a conflict might be perceived, in writing to your Head of Department (or equivalent). If your Head of Department (or equivalent) has an interest in the matter to be discussed, the disclosure shall be made to the person at the next higher level of authority. For University Senior Officers, the line of approval is in accordance with the University’s management structure. Exceptions to this rule are outlined in AppendixC.
• If you are a student on a taught programme (undergraduate or masters or taught stage of a professional doctorate), you should discuss the relevant issues with your personal tutor, who, where appropriate, will consult with the Programme Convener, following which an approach for dealing with the conflict might be agreed. Where the conflict of interest arises between your interests and those of your Programme Convener, you should discuss the matter with the Head of Department.
4.4 If you are a research student (PhD or research stage of a professional doctorate), you should discuss the relevant issues with your Director of Studies, who, where appropriate, will consult with the Research Degrees Convener, following which an approach for dealing with the conflict might be agreed. Where the conflict of interest arises between your interests and those of your Director of Studies, you should discuss the matter with your Research Degrees Convener; where the conflict of interest arises between your interests and those of your Research Degrees Convener, you should discuss the matter with your Head of Department. 4.4 Many situations will require nothing more than a declaration and a brief written record of that declaration, which must be held in the department’s or college’s records.
4.5 Some instances will however need to be dealt with by agreeing how the conflict can be actively managed. The approach adopted should be documented and copies provided to the relevant parties. A copy of the final plan must be held in the department’s records. One or more of the following strategies may be appropriate to manage the conflict of interest:
4.5.1 not taking part in discussions of certain matters;
4.5.2 not taking part in decisions in relation to certain matters;
4.5.3 referring to others certain matters for decision;
4.5.4 resolving not to act as a particular person’s supervisor;
4.5.5 divesting or placing in trust certain financial interests;
4.5.6 publishing a notice of interest;
4.5.7 standing aside from any involvement in a particular project; and/or
4.5.8 declaring an interest to a particular sponsor or third party.
4.6 It is the responsibility of those affected to comply with the approach that has been agreed.
4.7 Any unresolved matter shall be referred to the Conflict of Interest Advisory Group for advice. In cases of particular difficulty, the Conflict of Interest Advisory Group may refer its recommendations to the Audit Committee of Council for advice or resolution.
4.8 Guidance on situations that are frequently encountered and which may give rise to particular kinds of conflicts requiring special action is set out at AppendixA.
4.9 There are however some particular instances where the general procedure is varied and further specific steps are required such that approval is obtained not only from the Head of Department (or equivalent) but from a designated University official, as set out in the table in Appendix C.
4.10 Each Head of Department or function will be asked to inform the Conflict of Interest Advisory Group of the actions taken to inform members of the policy requirements and to promote compliance.
5. Register of Interests
5.1 In addition to declaring any conflict or potential conflict in accordance with the procedure above, the following post holders shall be required to submit an annual declaration of external interests to the Conflict of Interest Advisory Group: 12
5.1.1 the Vice-Chancellor;
5.1.2 the Deputy Vice-Chancellor;
5.1.3 the Pro-Vice-Chancellor & Director of Finance
5.1.4 the Registrar;
5.1.5 the University Secretary
5.1.6 the Deputy Provosts
5.1.7 all members of Council;
5.1.8 all members of the Audit Committee;
5.1.9 The Heads of Departments;
5.1.10 Directors and Heads of Functions
5.1.11 Chairs of such other bodies which govern the University’s affairs, and such senior officers as shall be specified by Council in consultation with the Advisory Group on Conflict of Interest from time to time;
5.1.12 Directors of subsidiary companies of the University; and
5.1.13 Members of the Conflict of Interest Advisory Group.
5.2. Persons with grounds to inspect declarations of conflict of interest shall be allowed access at the discretion of the Chair of the Conflict of Interest Advisory Group.
6. Conduct of meetings
6.1 At the first meeting of the academic year, each committee within the University should have a standing item on their agenda about conflict of interest. This item should cover what a conflict of interest is and how the members of the committee should declare such an interest if and when such a circumstance arises;
6.2 It is also recommended that committees adopt the practice of including a similar statement to the following in each agenda: ‘Members of [Name to be inserted] Committee will be asked to declare any interest that could give rise to conflict in relation to any item on the agenda at the beginning of the item in question. All interests so disclosed will be recorded in the minutes of the Committee. If the chairman of the meeting deems it appropriate, the member shall absent himself or herself from all or part of the Committee’s discussion of the matter.’
7. The role and remit of the Conflict of Interest Advisory Group
7.1. A Conflict of Interest Advisory Group is established here under to advise on Conflict of Interest issues. The membership of this Advisory Group is set out in Appendix A below.
7.2. The Advisory Group shall be responsible for:
7.2.1 advising University bodies, University subsidiaries, Committees, and individual staff members or students (in appropriate circumstances);
7.2.2 monitoring the University’s Policy on Conflict of Interest and making recommendations in the light of experience, and of good practice guidelines established by outside bodies;
7.2.3 ensuring that there are appropriate systems in place to promote and monitor compliance with the Policy on Conflict of Interest;
7.2.4 reviewing Annual Declarations of External Interest and alerting the appropriate University body where further clarification or action is required;
7.2.5 advising on difficult cases referred to it;
7.2.6 giving advice in the case of individual questions referred to it;
7.2.7 performing any such other action on behalf of Council in relation to the University’s Policy on Conflict of Interest as may be required from time to time; and
7.2.8 reporting to Council, on an annual basis, on the operation of the Advisory Group and this Policy over the previous year.
8. Suppliers of Goods and Services All purchases for the supply of goods or services should comply with the University’s Financial Regulations. Where a conflict of interest occurs, those responsible for making decisions should take particular care when selecting a supplier or contractor. Individuals should take appropriate steps to ensure value for money. Advice should be sought from the Head of Procurement of the Deputy Director of Finance.
9. Gifts and hospitality Please refer to the Anti-Corruption and Bribery Policy.
10. Personal Relationships Please refer to the Personal Relationships at Work Policy.
11. Recruitment of Staff and Students
11.1 Any member of Council or staff who has a family member or person with a close personal relationship who is an applicant for a post at the University, should not take part in the selection process. Members with such relationships with job applicants or who line manage individuals with whom they have such relationships, must disclosure their interest to their Head of Department (or equivalent) or the Director of HR or nominated deputy where appropriate. All staff recruitment must be carried out in accordance with the University’s Recruitment and Selection Procedure (insert link).
11.2 Any member of staff who has a family member or person with a close personal relationship who is a student applicant, should declare the interest to the Head of Department and Head of Admissions. Such member should take no part in the decision of whether or not to offer a place to the applicant or advise on the nature of the offer.
12 Review of the Conflict of Interest Policy
12.1 This Policy shall be the subject of regular review by the Conflict of Interest Advisory Group, Audit Committee, Nominations & Governance Committee and, as necessary, other relevant bodies. Such review shall take place in the light of guidance on best practice issued by external bodies and, in any event, not less than once every three years.