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Annual Reports of the Council and the General Board: Notice

2 March 1998

The Council have considered the remarks made by Dr Evans at the Discussion of the Annual Reports of the Council and the General Board on 20 January 1998 (Reporter, p. 340).

With regard to the remarks that concern the Report of the Council, the Council wish to make it clear that it was not their intention to give bland reassurance in the Report about the operation of the central bodies; they will initiate change where they believe it to be necessary. In the present session, for example, the Planning and Resources Committee has been established with the intention of enabling the Council more properly to fulfil their statutory responsibilities for planning and for the management of resources. The Council, however, must depend on committees to carry out detailed preparatory work and to present reports and proposals to them for approval. Where the Council feel it necessary, such recommendations are tested at the Council and are referred for further consideration, if that is required. The Council do not recognize the picture of their procedure and their proceedings which is given in Dr Evans's remarks.

The remarks that concern the General Board's Report have been referred to the Board, who have commented as follows:

The General Board have noted that a number of the points raised by Dr Evans in her remarks are matters currently under consideration by the Council and the Board, and that a detailed response in the context of the Annual Reports is therefore not appropriate. They believe that her selective quotation from paragraph 3 of their Report, when read in context rather than in isolation, explains the Board's view that 'scholars' responsibility for all aspects of the academic programme is the essence' of their policy. The Board's ability 'to appoint able academic staff and to give them an appropriate degree of tenure and adequate facilities to perform their duties' depends on a combination (see paragraph 39 of the Report) of unearmarked funds and of 'contributions towards projects to which the Board attach the highest priority'. Such earmarked contributions release unearmarked funds, thus creating, rather than diminishing, opportunities for new academic developments.

With regard to the University's research programme and the influences that affect it, a diversity of funding is an aid to academic freedom rather than the reverse. As the Board make clear in paragraph 39 of their Report, Research Council funding has become more sharply focused in response to the Government's requirement for evidence of value for money. The freedom of the researcher depends on the existence of enough alternative sources of funding, and this is greatly facilitated if the University has long-term and strategic partnerships with major industrial concerns. Such partnerships can be of great intellectual, as well as financial, benefit to the University; they sometimes provide access to technology, specialized techniques, and expertise not available in the university sector. In addition, industrial funding enables the University to offer positions to research workers, at all levels, whom it would not otherwise be able to employ. A further point in this connexion is that public funding, both national and European, is becoming increasingly dependent on evidence of financial participation by industry.

In relation to the publication of results, strenuous efforts are made to ensure that contracts with outside sponsors do not include indefinite or unusually onerous restrictions. In scientific work, a modest delay in the publication of research results is often advisable, whether outside sponsors are involved or not; a member of the University staff who develops a potentially valuable idea will be well advised not to publicize it before deciding whether to protect it.

The Council are submitting a Grace to the Regent House (Grace 1, p. 495) for the approval of their Annual Report and that of the General Board.

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Cambridge University Reporter, 11th March 1998
Copyright © 1998 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.