Governance

How to put together an information package

An information package, whether presented as a simple collection of documents or as a formal Handbook, is a valuable tool in providing members with key information about a committee, and provides an ideal starting point for the committee's Induction Session.

  1. Introduction
  2. Basic information package
  3. Handbook of information
  4. Handbook for members of the Senate of the University of Western Australia

Introduction

Rule 23 requires that "Executive Officers should work with the Chair to provide all new members with induction briefing material and appropriately induct members into the committee." The aim is to ensure that every new member comes to his/her first meeting with at least the basic information about the committee and its work. Depending on the nature/work of the committee, you may choose to provide a fairly basic information package or a more comprehensive set of reference documents, perhaps formally packaged as a Handbook. Discuss with the Chair what would be most appropriate for your committee.

While it might be possible for your information package to comprise simply a list of website addresses for the necessary documents, there are disadvantages to this approach. For example, you'll find it less effective to "talk through" the package as part of the induction session if members don't have hard copy in front of them, and it's less likely that members will read the information.

Let's look first at what you might include in a basic information package, before moving on to look at what might be included in a more "deluxe" version, in the form of a Handbook of Information.

Back to top

Basic information package

The constitution/terms of reference of the committee

The place of the committee in the system

If possible, provide a diagram of where the committee sits in the overall structure.

Refer to:

The dates, starting times and venues of all meetings for the coming year

Committees in the formal Senate/Academic Board/Faculty system have scheduled meetings days/times throughout the year, and you (or your assistant) will have booked the venue/s. Information is therefore readily available for these committees

For some committees (for example, newly established committees, working parties) it may not be possible to provide full information on meeting dates, times and venues as these may have to be determined from meeting to meeting to fit with members' existing commitments.

The current membership of the committee

Ideally the list of members should be set out so as to show the names of members against their category of membership, as in this example:
  • Chair: (Title and name - for example, Professor Peter Dunne)
  • Deputy Chair: (Title and name) 
  • Ex officio members: (Offices - for example, The University Librarian, titles and names) 
  • Elected members: (Titles and names) 
  • Co-opted members: (Titles and names) 
  • Executive Officer: (Title and name)

Past agendas and minutes

Ideally, give new members hard copies of the agenda and minutes of the most recent meeting of the committee, and provide written information on the Web addresses of earlier agendas and minutes on the Web.

Annual Report

If your committee issues a reasonably brief Annual Report, this could provide a good introduction to the work of the committee.

Advice on being an effective committee member

Give members a hard copy of The Effective Committee Member or provide written advice of its location on the Web.

Back to top

Handbook of information

Some Executive Officers may choose to take the concept of "briefing material" somewhat further than the basics, and provide all members with a relatively formal Handbook. Such a Handbook could include not only basic information such as that listed under Basic Information Package, but also a range of other documents with which members of the committee are expected to be familiar, and which may be referred to in agendas or in discussions at meetings.

There are a number of options for putting the Handbook together, with varying costs. The simplest option is to assemble the chosen documents, label them alphabetically, have a cover page (e.g. Handbook for members of the (name) Committee) and an index at the front, and pre-punch the collection so that members can put them in a file of their own. The most elaborate would probably be along the lines used for members of the Senate. Documents are printed on different colours of paper, and indexed by title and colour. (Sample Index of Handbook)

The index and documents are each inserted in a clear plastic sleeve within a folder. Folders containing varying numbers of these sleeves are available from stationers.

Members are asked to bring the Handbook to every meeting. The Executive Officer issues replacements of any documents in the Handbook which are amended/updated. When a member leaves the committee, the folder is returned to the Executive Officer for re-use.

Let's look at what might be included in a Handbook.

Materials listed under Basic information package

Access Basic information package.

Relevant Acts, statutes, by-laws, regulations

If members of your committee regularly need to be aware of/reminded of particular pieces of external or University legislation on a regular basis, you might think it worthwhile to include copies of the relevant legislation or sections of it, in the Handbook.

Relevant policy documents

If members of your committee regularly need to be aware of/reminded of University policy documents which relate to the committee's work, you might want to include copies of those documents in the Handbook. This can save re-issuing the policy documents as attachments to the agenda whenever they are required.

For example, faculty boards and the Academic Council, which regularly consider proposals for new degree and diploma courses might usefully have the Guide for Submission of Proposals (for new degrees, diplomas, units and the like) included in a Handbook for reference. Inclusion of this document in the Handbook would help to ensure that members were reminded regularly of their responsibilities when undertaking this aspect of their work.

Extracts from relevant strategic plans

If some section of a Strategic Plan (whether at University, faculty or school level) is of particular relevance to the work of your committee, you might want to include that section in the Handbook as a reminder to committee members.

Relevant resolutions

If specific Senate, Academic Board/Council or faculty/board resolutions are of particular relevance to your committee's work, these might be included in the Handbook.

Sample Index of Handbook

The index to the Senate Handbook is reprinted below to give an idea of the information which is given to members of this committee.

Back to top

Handbook for members of the Senate of the University of Western Australia

Index

UNIVERSITY ACT
LEMON
SENATE CHARTER
BLUE
SENATE CODE
BUFF
SENATE STANDING ORDERS
GREEN
SENATE MEMBERSHIP
WHITE
INFORMATION ABOUT MEMBERS
PINK
CONTACT DETAILS
GREY
SENATE DATES FOR THE YEAR
YELLOW
PROGRAM OF EVENTS FOR THE YEAR
ROSE
COMMITTE CONSTITUTIONS
Chancellor's Committee
Audit and Review Committee
Development Committee
External Strategies Committee
Strategic Resources Committee
GOLD
CURRENT COMMITTE MEMBERSHIPS
TURQUIOISE
SCHEDULED MEETING DATES OF COMMITTEES FOR THE YEAR
ORANGE
OVERVIEW OF UNIVERSITY GOVERNANCE
WHITE
(BLANK: FUTURE PAPER ON SENATE'S ROLE IN GOVERNANCE)
BUFF
SENATE STANDING ORDERS
GREEN
CURRENT EXECUTIVE MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE
DARK GREEN
OVERVIEW OF UNIVERSITY PLANNING
LILAC
EXTRACTS FROM THE UNIVERSITYƆS STRATEGIC PLAN
LEMON
CYCLE OF PLANNING AND ACCOUNTABILITY
BLUE
BRIEFING NOTES ON VARIOUS TOPICS
WHITE

Back to top