Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement

This is the sixth statement that the University of Portsmouth (“the University”) has made pursuant to the requirements of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The University remains fully committed to tackling human trafficking in its supply chains and in all other areas of our activity.

In this statement we will provide an update on the actions we committed to achieve in our previous annual statement and, reflecting on our previous activity in this area, we will set out the progress that the University plans to take over the coming twelve months to ensure, as far as possible, that slavery and human trafficking are not taking place in any part of our organisation or our supply chains.

The University’s Structure

The core business of the University is teaching, research and innovation, undertaken by five academic faculties, comprising of their own schools and departments, which are supported by a range of professional services departments.

The University’s Board of Governors is responsible for determining the educational character of the University, the mission of the University and for the oversight of its activities. The Board of Governors conducts its work through a number of committees. The University Executive Board is the senior executive decision-making body of the University, it is chaired by the Vice Chancellor and its membership includes the Deans of each of the University’s five faculties, the Deputy Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer, the Deputy Vice Chancellors, Pro-Vice Chancellors, the Executive Directors of Finance and Corporate Governance, and the Chief People Officer.

The University has approximately 3,500 staff and 31,000 students (this is the total student headcount inclusive of distance learning students and those students registered with collaborative partners). The University is supported by a centralised procurement and contracting function located within the Finance Department with transactional purchasing devolved to individual faculties and professional services departments.

Procurement in the University of Portsmouth

As a public body the University complies with the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, and currently manages an external spend of approximately £110 million per annum. The diverse nature of the requirements involves dealing with a large number of suppliers, their sub-contractors and their supply chains.

The University’s supplier base ranges from cutting-edge scientific/engineering equipment and materials required for the delivery of teaching, research and innovation to the goods and services necessary to support the operation of a successful University. Modern slavery is considered as part of each category or project strategy where appropriate in terms of likelihood of incidence, and any relevant mitigating actions required are identified.

The University conducts a large proportion of its spend via higher education purchasing consortia, the benefit in doing so is that suppliers accessed via these frameworks are subjected by the framework provider to scrutiny of modern slavery policies and practices in order to be included. In particular the University procures via the Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium (SUPC) and the London Universities Purchasing Consortium (LUPC). Through LUPC the University has access to the services of Electronics Watch which works to protect the rights of electronics workers globally.

The Procurement Manager is now a member of the both the SUPC/LUPC and HEPA Responsible Procurement Groups, which deal with social and environmental aspects of supply chain management, including moving forward with the modern slavery agenda. She is also a member of the civic university and carbon positive working groups set up to deliver against the University’s strategic priorities.

Update on Activities

The table below provides an update on activity in relation to the targets set in last year’s Modern Slavery Statement:

Target Update
To continue to raise the awareness of University staff of this key issue by issuing further all staff bulletins on the subject, including this time specific case studies which focus on the human and financial cost associated with modern slavery. Since our last statement a Staff Essentials bulletin has been issued to update all staff on the Procurement team’s activities in this area and to highlight specific issues in the electronics industry.
For all the Procurement Team staff to complete the advanced HEPA online Modern Slavery training and for targeted staff within the broader Finance Team to complete the basic level HEPA training. All the Procurement team have completed the advanced HEPA online modern slavery training. Other staff have been identified but not yet invited to take the basic level training.
To conduct an analysis of the Modern Slavery statements and activities of Universities with similar characteristics (those with similar student numbers and profile) to assess our performance against our peers and draw on best practice.

A review was carried out of all modern slavery statements of universities with comparable characteristics to the University. This group was established by looking at universities with comparable student numbers, turnover and split of teaching and research activities.

The published statements of comparable universities ranged from basic compliance statements to sophisticated reports on the approach of the university to tackling modern slavery. There were a number of learning points which we would like to take forward in our work in this area:

  • Many universities examined the link between their teaching and research into modern slavery and human trafficking and the university’s corporate stance on the issue. This has been an area that we have so far not explored.

  • Many universities used external tools to aid them in gathering robust supplier information in order to undertake supplier risk analysis and identify causes for concern from a modern slavery/ethical supply perspective. The most widely used tool appeared to be Net Positive Futures.

  • Presentation of the statements varied greatly between universities; the statements which were the most engaging and easy to understand were those which presented at least some key information on suppliers and their modern slavery activities in graphical or tabular formats.

To continue to require that new suppliers provide information on their policies and procedures for tackling modern slavery when tendering for business with the University. Throughout the last year we have continued to require that new suppliers provide information on their policies and procedures for tackling modern slavery when tendering for business with the University.
To undertake a risk assessment of all key suppliers to inform a view on compliance amongst suppliers and to identify any causes for concern.

When working through this action we found it difficult to independently acquire the volume and depth of data we require to be able to look at modern slavery risk across our whole supply chain. We noticed that many other universities had done this exercise using the Net Positive Futures Supplier Engagement Tool and have contracted with Net Positives for the University to make use of this tool going forward.

The tool means that suppliers are only required to input their company policies and procedures on modern slavery on to a single system which can be then accessed by many customers. Suppliers can access tools to create modern slavery improvement plans free of charge and, where relevant, the tool identifies actions for the supplier to take to mitigate the risk of modern slavery within their supply chain. The tool allows the University to run reports to see supplier progress against identified actions within their plan(s). The next steps will include working with key suppliers for the university to address any specific issues of concern.

An initial Net Positives report has been run to identify the existing University suppliers who are already using this tool, and this will then be used to identify and prioritise suppliers in high risk areas for particular consideration.

Activities for the Next 12 months

Drawing on learning from our analysis of comparable universities as outlined above, the University commits to completion of the following targets in advance of publication of the next annual modern slavery statement:

  • To fully embed the Net Positives Future tool within our procurement processes and to produce meaningful data on supplier engagement with the tool to develop robust approaches to tackling modern slavery. With this data we will identify key risk suppliers and work on supplier action plans as appropriate.
  • To conduct an audit of teaching and research that the University carries out to explore modern slavery in procurement and to establish whether there are any synergies to be exploited between this and our own procurement activities.
  • To look at ways in which the modern slavery statement and our reporting in this area can be presented in a more accessible and engaging format.

Alongside these activities work on a Responsible Procurement strategy is about to commence. This will cover both social and environmental aspects of our supply chain activity, and will be supported by an action plan. Modern slavery will be an important theme within the strategy.


Jenny Crighton

Chair, Board of Governors

This statement is made pursuant to section 54(1) of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and constitutes the University’s slavery and human trafficking statement for the financial year ending 31 July 2021.