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Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 28 October 1997. A Discussion was held in the Senate-House of the following Report:

 The Report, dated 13 October 1997, of the Council on the regulations for the Local Examinations Syndicate (Reporter, p. 50).

Professor T. D. LAMB:

 Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I comment not on the main part of this Report, but on three of the 'other minor amendments to Regulations'.

 First, one that is not mentioned in paragraph 5. Draft Regulation 12 includes the new requirement to append audited accounts to the Syndicate's Annual Report to the Council, but neither the Report nor the Regulations make any mention of the publication of these accounts. At present the Syndicate's accounts are not published to the University until some 15 months after the end of the relevant financial year. In their Notice dated 28 July (Reporter, 1996-97, p. 1031), the Council stated that earlier publication of these accounts would be possible, and, if Regulation 12 is intended to accomplish this, it is very welcome. It would be helpful if the Council were to clarify the intended timing of publication (since publication is a duty of the Council, rather than the Syndicate; Statutes and Ordinances, p. 869).

 Secondly, in draft Regulation 13, it is certainly appropriate both to shift from the Finance Committee to the Council the duty of agreeing with the Syndicate the appropriate proportion of the balance to be paid to the University, and to specify that the funds should be paid into the Chest. But at present, because of the lack of synchrony between the University's and the Syn-dicate's financial years, it is not necessarily straight-forward to reconcile transfers from the Syndicate with transfers to the University. To clarify matters, I ask the Council to adopt the practice of explicitly mentioning in their Annual Report the agreed level of transfer that has taken place during that financial year (of the University).

 Thirdly, draft Regulation 11(f) continues, and indeed extends, a mechanism for the transfer of funds that bypasses the University's central bodies, and that ought to be discontinued. The transfer of very large sums of money between different branches of the University ought properly to be a matter for the central bodies, rather than one for the individual bodies themselves.

 The issues are of particular concern in the case of Trusts that are independent of the University, and that do not publish their accounts to the University, as appears to be the case for Trusts which have the University as custodian trustee. In their Notice of 28 July 1986 (Reporter, 1985-86, p. 710) the Council stated that, 'They [the Financial Board] further consider that some information should be provided about the Trust Funds of which the University is custodian trustee, and they are consulting with the appropriate managing trustees about this.' In the eleven years that have elapsed since that statement of the Financial Board's intention, the central bodies appear to have taken no action to fulfil it, except in one case. For the Cambridge Foundation, the Council accepted the suggestion, made in discussion of the Report, that the accounts should be published (Reporter, 1988-89, p. 243).

 Although one might argue that the proposed Regulation 11(f) represents a minor extension to a principle that was established by open debate in the University, this argument is difficult to sustain. The forerunner to Regulation 11(f) was submitted as a Grace with footnote (Grace 3 of 21 July 1982, Reporter, 1981-82, p. 855) during the Long Vacation of 1982, and was therefore subject neither to Report nor to Discussion.

 I emphasize that I am not commenting on the merit of donations to these Trusts, but on the mechanism. Such transfers should be channelled through the University Chest (under the provisions of draft Regulation 13) so that they are under the supervision of the central bodies, and are readily visible in the accounts. The present Regulation 13(f) is unnecessary, and should therefore be rescinded, not extended.


 Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak in my capacity as Chairman of the Local Examinations Syndicate. The main proposal in this Report is that approval be given to the proposed agreement with the Royal Society of Arts Examinations and Assessment Foundation (REAF). Under this agreement, REAF's business would be transferred to a new company - to be called Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR) - of which the University would be the sole member. The new company would conduct the Syndicate's UK schools' business as well as the vocational qualifications business previously carried by REAF's examination board (RSAEB). This merger is the natural outcome of several years of collaboration between the Syndicate and the RSAEB.

 The merger is essential if the Syndicate is to continue to offer GCSE and GCE 'A' levels in the UK. Without a link to one of the new awarding bodies, the Syndicate would be excluded from the UK schools' examination market. Syndics are of the view that the University should continue to be involved in UK school examinations, an activity it pioneered in the 1850s. Withdrawal from this business would not only result in the loss of half the Syndicate's operating income, but would also be potentially damaging for the Syndicate's overseas operations, as well as the reputation of the University in the UK and abroad.

 I have listened with great interest to Professor Lamb's comments. They raise a number of technical matters, and I can assure him that the Syndicate together with the Council will consider those matters that he has raised.

 Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, at the end of this calendar year, I shall be handing over my responsibilities as Chairman of the Syndicate to the Master of St John's. In the four years that I have been Chairman, I have seen both the turnover and the number of members of staff of the Syndicate double in size. The Syndicate is a well-managed and highly efficient part of the University's operations, both in the United Kingdom and abroad, thanks to the dedication of the Chief Executive and the staff. I am confident that this latest merger will enable the Syndicate to continue to prosper to the benefit of the University and the wider educational community.

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Cambridge University Reporter, 5th November 1997
Copyright © 1997 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.