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Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 7 July 1998. A Discussion was held in the Senate-House of the following Reports:

The Report, dated 15 June 1998, of the Council on the statutory provisions for the Board of Scrutiny and on regulations for the Board (p. 802).

Professor T. D. LAMB:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this Report has taken an excessively long time to publish. A draft version was produced last August and sent to last year's Board of Scrutiny, who informed the officers on 25 September that they were happy with it; subsequent delays are listed in the Board of Scrutiny's latest Report (Reporter, p. 818, para. 2). It is simply incredible that the Council have taken eight months beyond the Board's original acceptance to publish their Report.

Indeed, the present Report is so out-of-date that the Council mislead the University. In paragraph 3, the Council claim that the discussions between the Board and the Press Syndicate took place 'over the past year'. Those discussions actually took place in the preceding year, having been completed by May 1997.

The present Report covers three straightforward matters: (i) interactions between the Board and the University Press, according to a formula previously agreed between representatives of those two bodies; (ii) alteration to the criteria of eligibility for election, as already accepted by the Council in their reply of 28 July 1997; and (iii) the drafting of regulations to implement the 'statement of remit' in the Board's Report dated 2 June 1997.

I ask the Council to explain to the University why it has taken them twelve months, since receiving the Board's Second Report, to publish their present Report on such straightforward matters.

The contention in paragraph 2 regarding 'potential overlap' between the Board and the Audit Committee is a red herring. The duties of the two bodies are entirely different: the Audit Committee report confidentially to the Council, whereas the Board of Scrutiny report publicly to the Regent House. Technicalities concerning the operation of the Council's Audit Committee must not be brought to stand in the way of arrangements for the University's Board of Scrutiny.

Finally, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: an additional phrase has crept into Regulation 3. Statute A, VII, 6(a) empowers the Board to consult certain documents 'which may be relevant to any enquiry'. Regulation 3 now appends to this wording the qualification 'that they may conduct under the provisions of Regulation 2'. But the Board are empowered by Statute A, VII, 1 to make enquiries other than those that might happen to fall under the new Regulation 2. In order to ensure that the new regulation does not conflict with the Statute, the additional phrase should be deleted.

The Report, dated 8 June 1998, of the General Board on the recruitment, reward, and retention of academic and academic-related officers (p. 804).


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, paragraph 55 of the Report states that College teaching is not to be taken into account when considering promotions to Senior Lecturer. By explicitly excluding College teaching the Report is perpetuating a false dichotomy between University and Colleges and is sending a dangerous message to newly appointed staff.

In the Undergraduate Prospectus we say, to prospective students, that '...College teaching...is an important part of a Cambridge education'.1 In the Teaching Quality Assessment, it was obvious from the Assessors' reports that College teaching contributed heavily towards many Departments' Excellent rating. This University says to the Government, to the Press, and to prospective students that College teaching is important. It now turns round and says to its own staff that College teaching is, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, positively detrimental to one's promotion prospects.

Even without this Report, a significant number of University Teaching Officers in my Department have already concluded that College teaching is irrelevant to their promotion prospects. They therefore undertake no College teaching whatsoever. Surely this is wrong. College teaching is intimately related to University teaching. Participation in one greatly aids one's participation in the other. So, arguably, refusing to take part in College teaching is not good for these Teaching Officers, and, furthermore, it places extra strain and work on those of us who are willing to do College teaching. And now, on top of this extra strain and work, the University has the gall to tell us that, by undertaking College teaching, we truly are damaging our promotion prospects.

Let us look, then, at the Report's reason for claiming that College teaching is irrelevant when considering a University Lecturer for promotion. The reason given is that 'College teaching itself is rewarded by Colleges'.2 But the Colleges principally reward College teaching in the form of money. The University principally rewards University teaching in the same form. Yes, there are other benefits associated with each, but in both cases it fundamentally reduces to payment given for services rendered. To say that College teaching must not be taken into account because it has already been rewarded by the College is as stupid as saying that University teaching and research cannot be taken into account because one has already been rewarded for it in the form of one's stipend. There is no reward offered by the Colleges that can match, in any conceivable form, the increased academic prestige afforded by promotion.

Promotion to this new rank of Senior Lecturer, or, indeed, to a Readership or a Chair, should be based on consideration of one's overall contribution to this collegiate university. It should not be based solely on those parts of one's work which happen to fall under the aegis of the central University bodies.

But wait: if I applied for promotion, the University would not just consider my University work. In common with many scientists and technologists in this University, I have the opportunity to sell my services as a consultant. This consultancy work leads to publications and enhances my international reputation. It thus counts for promotion. The University appears, therefore, to value moonlighting more highly than honest labour.

Consider now the message which this Report sends to our younger staff members. I have been a University Teaching Officer for only three years. Within weeks of my appointment to a University Lectureship I went against the advice of my departmental mentor and accepted a College Fellowship and the office of Director of Studies. I estimate that College teaching now occupies, in one form or another, four weeks of my year. The message of this Report is clear; it says to me: 'Young man, if, in the fullness of time, you wish to seek promotion in this University, resign your Fellowship forthwith, and spend those four weeks of your year doing research.'

1 University of Cambridge Undergraduate Prospectus 1999-2000, p. 9.
2 Reporter, 17 June 1998, p. 811.

Professor A. M. SNODGRASS:

Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, it is now nine years since the University first had forced upon it, by the then government, the institution of discretionary or supplementary payments, for both professorial and non-professorial staff. Times have changed, and I am not going to repeat the substance of the many objections which some of us then raised. Very few Cambridge voices have publicly expressed resignation to, let alone support of, a system in truth many of us acutely dislike; it is only private actions which, however reluctant, may have given it a semblance of vindication.

But what is now proposed in this Report goes, in certain directions, much further. I concentrate only on the thing which seems to me most objectionable: the fusion of two existing policies, neither of them popular but both of them arguably necessary, into a hybrid, two-headed monster. I fully accept the necessity for the Vice-Chancellor to have some means of attracting outstanding academics to Cambridge Professorships; and, much more grudgingly, I accept that the University had no choice but to introduce some form of discretionary awards for existing staff. But to use supplementary payments which, as the General Board has again reiterated, are for 'outstanding contribution to the work of the University and the furtherance of its aims' (Reporter, p. 808, para. 31) in order to reward people who, by definition, have yet to make any contribution to the work of the University, outstanding or otherwise, is so palpable a misuse of language as to be an insult to us all. Let means be found to assist the recruitment of Professors from outside; but not this means. But there is more to it than that; and in the longer term too. The Report hints, fairly clearly, that a high priority will be given to awards on first appointment. It is at least equally clear how difficult and embarrassing it will be - and I can attribute this view to the previous Vice-Chancellor himself - ever to take away a Supplementary Award once made. Thus, whatever proportion of awards is given to new appointments, that proportion will tend effectively to increase over time, leaving less and less for awards to existing Professors, and possibly also for existing non-professorial staff.

The other changes, in this particular field of additional payments, are almost trivial by comparison. Professors will now have to apply, as non-professorial staff have always had to, for awards of this kind (p. 808, para. 32): and so they no doubt should. No longer will Professors who want to dissociate themselves entirely from this practice be able to say so publicly: it could be argued that the requirement to apply makes this superfluous. But as before, the names of successful applicants will be confidential: only 'statistical data…giving the number of the awards made and their value' (p. 809, para. 40) will be published. As in 1989, so today this ruling seems to me unacceptable: we shall all know who has been promoted to higher office, we shall all know who is acting as a Head of Department; but we may not know who has secured something more lucrative, yet less obviously scrutinized or publicly justifiable, than either of these.

I am not going to weary you with a repetition of the arguments against the secrecy rule, which were advanced then by my former colleague Professor Burnyeat. I will only add the arguments that disclosure would surely put the recipients on their mettle to demonstrate why they have been so rewarded; and that even a young and ambitious Professor who approved of the system, on learning that one or more colleagues are receiving up to 183 per cent of his or her own salary, might be seriously curious to know their identity, as a clue to how to achieve similar recognition.

But I doubt that this will persuade the General Board to review their decision. So let me instead end with a much smaller, and surely entirely realistic request: that the 'statistical data' be extended to include one further item - the number of applications made, together with the proportion given to new appointments. If we cannot know whose services the University especially prizes, we should at least be reassured that there was a respectable level of competition for these signs of recognition. For nine years it was possible for Professors to renounce this system publicly: they have at least now earned the right to know how many of their colleagues embrace it privately.


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, a year and a half ago the General Board put forward a Grace proposing inter alia a consultation exercise on the possible introduction of an office of Senior Lecturer. Some of our colleagues evidently thought this sounded rather too tentative. They therefore exercised one of those new rights wished upon us by the Wass Syndicate, and proceeded to notify the Registrary of an amendment to the Grace. The point of the amendment was to add in a range of closely connected topics for the consultation: the recognition of high-quality teaching, administration, and research management in promotional criteria, the route from Senior Lecturer to Professor, and so on. The language of possibility was notable by its absence from the amending clauses; and the General Board was to get on with the job - a report (if not a Report) was to be required by the end of the Michaelmas Term. What the Regent House subsequently decided to vote for was this amended form of the Grace. The Regent House flexed, or seemed to flex, its newly developed constitutional muscle.

The General Board, then, had received its marching orders. Or at any rate, that is how it appeared to members of the Work and Stipends Committee, the body charged with detailed work on the consultation exercise (here I have to own up that, though not on the General Board, I am a member of the Work and Stipends Committee). So we knuckled down and produced the sort of consultation exercise we supposed the Regent House was asking for, i.e. a questionnaire weighted very heavily towards issues in the Senior Lecturer zone, with comparatively light coverage of other matters. When the replies came in, in reasonable if not overwhelming numbers, the ticks favouring the introduction of an office of Senior Lecturer greatly outnumbered the crosses against. So the General Board had had, or seemed to have had, further confirmation of its marching orders from the troops. Hence the present Report.

But does the Regent House really want the office of Senior Lecturer? Or is the popular desire for it evidenced to date an illusion, a trick of the light engineered by use of the bewildering new Wass machinery? I do not know. And perhaps we shall never know, because it may be that the Regent House - for all its apparent initial enthusiasm for Senior Lectureships and for an early report from the General Board - will now decide after all that it doesn't want to vote democratically on the question, but would rather boot it into touch, or more exactly into the capacious mind of another quango: what we might find ourselves calling the 'son of Wass Syndicate'. If so, I will blame Wass and the promoters of Wass for the mess and the waste of time and energy (mostly, as usual, the time and energy of our long-suffering officers), not the Regent House.

But that is all a bit hypothetical. What I do note as I talk to colleagues around the place is a spectrum of attitudes to the prospect of the office of Senior Lecturer ranging from measured approbation of rational change, or toleration of something conceived of as desired relatively harmlessly by others but not oneself, through indifference, to hostility, the hostility beginning to harden as people start to contemplate what will be entailed by the savings exercise needed - in part, at least - to pay for the scheme. Everybody senses that something has gone wrong with what we now call our career structure - indeed, went wrong as soon as we started thinking of it as a career structure.

The amended Grace which launched the process leading to the present Recommendation IV seemed to make the proposed new office of Senior Lecturer carry a very significant part of the burden of putting right what is wrong. I am wondering whether that office can bear the load of so much expectation, or rather, whether colleagues really think it can.

While I am on my feet, I will add a remark on Recommendation II of the Report, i.e. on the new supplementary payment scheme proposed for Professors.

The General Board has been prodded in this direction by the Board of Scrutiny, another Wass creation, of course, which in its own recently published Third Report complains about feet-dragging in the matter. I wish feet had been dragged still more slowly. The effect of Recommendation II is to change the method of awarding supplementary payments to Professors from the discreet exercise of judgement by the Vice-Chancellor appropriate to such a sensitive matter into something much more similar to the bruising and - as we now know from the consultation exercise if we did not know before - deeply unpopular and indeed alienating discretionary payment scheme non-Professors have to put up with. It beggars belief that in order to give Professors more career satisfaction it is thought right and sensible to introduce the sort of mechanism which has helped to fan the flames of career dissatisfaction among the rest of the UTOs. The details published in the Report do not specify the means whereby unsuccessful applicants will be informed of the outcome. Presumably this will take the form of a rejection letter signed personally by the Vice-Chancellor. Is that the way to reward and retain distinguished and hard-working members of the academic staff?


Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I shall confine my remarks on the General Board's Report to the section concerned with Senior Lectureships. I made a number of points on this issue in the previous Discussion most of which have not been addressed in this Report or have only been addressed superficially. As I do not wish to repeat myself I shall simply ask a number of questions which I feel need to be answered by the General Board before members of the Regent House can finally decide whether or not they want the scheme proposed by the General Board or indeed whether they want Senior Lectureships at all.

1. The main problem with the Report is that it is extremely vague about the key issue, which is how many individuals do the General Board expect to be promoted to Senior Lecturer? Do they intend that this should be analogous to the numbers promoted to Readerships, in other words a relatively small number each year, or do they envisage that the majority of those at the top of the Lecturer scale should be promoted to Senior Lecturer? The figures given at the end of the Report do not help much in this respect because comparisons with other universities are problematic given that such a large proportion of Lecturers in Cambridge are at the top of the scale. If we were to reduce the proportion of Lecturers from 64 per cent to 47 per cent of the establishment, to be in line with the Russell Group, then this seems to suggest that about 17 per cent of Lecturers would be promoted, in other words not that many. Is this percentage roughly what the Board intend? Would not seeking to establish a 'steady state' mean that once this balance had been achieved there would then be a 'waiting list'? Is the Senior Lectureship idea, therefore, going to create yet more discontent among the people it is intended to reward in some way or another?

2. Paragraph 48 of the Report says while 'it would be possible to regard appointment to a University Senior Lectureship as an extension of an officer's tenure of a University Lectureship, the Board have concluded that, as for Readerships, separate Statutory provision should be made for University Senior Lectureships and appointment to the office should be distinct'. Why? Are the duties of the officer going to change if they become a Senior Lecturer? Or do the General Board simply wish to get rid of tenure as defined prior to the 1988 Education Reform Act? Why is it not possible to see the Senior Lecturer grade as an extension of the Lecturer grade to which all Lecturers would be expected to proceed unless they demonstrate incompetence?

3. In paragraph 52 of the Report it states that the officer may chose the period of their teaching career that they wish to be taken into account for promotion, as long as it includes the last three years. Do the General Board think it is a good idea to be comparing individuals on very different time scales?

4. Also under paragraph 52 a number of terms are used which require definition. What is meant by 'innovative teaching' and what is meant by 'new materials'?

5. Finally under paragraph 52 it states that at least one referee should be external. Why? What exactly is this referee supposed to comment on? If promotion to Senior Lectureship is based primarily on the individual's contribution to teaching and administration within the University then how can an external referee, who is highly unlikely to have seen either of these in operation, be expected to comment on them?

6. In paragraph 57 the General Board state that promotions should be determined by the Councils of the Schools rather than by Appointments Committees. Appointments Committees work perfectly well in dealing with the upgrading of University Assistant Lecturers; why then can they not be trusted to deal with the promotion of Lecturers to Senior Lecturers?

I believe, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, that the answers to these questions are vital if the Regent House is to fully understand exactly what the General Board are proposing. If this Report means what I interpret it to mean - that only a relatively small number of individuals are actually going to get promoted - then the Regent House may like to reconsider the Allocations Report for 1997-98 where the Council set aside money for restructuring the top of the Lecturer scale, money that was never spent but was carried forward to be put into the scheme for Senior Lecturers. The Council's intention in proposing restructuring was, in effect, to lengthen the Lecturer scale in Cambridge so that it corresponded to the top of the national Senior Lecturer scale, without the discretionary points, which would have been to the benefit of all. How many people the scheme for Senior Lecturers is going to benefit remains the crucial question. The Regent House may also like to consider whether the idea of Senior Lecturer cannot be combined with extending the scale. It is perfectly possible to have a bar at the top of the current scale, progression beyond which would require individuals to demonstrate that they had been performing their duties to a high standard. Those who did progress could then be given the title of Senior Lecturer. I would be grateful if the General Board could explain why they do not favour this approach.


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, it is warming to read in the Summary of the General Board's Report on the recruitment, reward, and retention of academic and academic-related officers, that the University's staff are its most valuable resource, and that the University is wholly indebted to its staff for the contribution they make to maintaining the University's world-class reputation. Much of the University's research, particularly in the science subjects, is carried out by the unestablished staff. Indeed, it is arguable that the University would be unable to function as a leading research institution without the valuable contribution of such persons. But does their treatment by the University demonstrate that their contributions are genuinely valued? Paragraph 67 of the Report admits that there is a need for greater coherence in the present arrangements in respect of unestablished staff. Speaking from personal experience of such arrangements I must wholeheartedly agree with that proposition. Even if paragraph 67 is accepted, unestablished staff are going to have to wait at least until the other proposals in the Report have been approved. It is, I believe, of the utmost importance that attention be given, as a matter of urgency, to the achievement of that greater coherence the Board recognizes to be lacking. The Report mentions the Concordat between the Research Councils, the CVCP, and other bodies on the career management of contract research staff. However, some will be tempted to ask in respect of this University - what career management?


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, let us take an overview of this Report, for it is only by flying over it in a helicopter that we are able to see that there is a great empty space in the middle of it. The first part is thickly planted with provisions under which the Vice-Chancellor will be able to dip his hand into a seemingly bottomless pocket at his own discretion, with only the limited check of a close huddle of advisors, and secretly pay a few individuals specially high rates for the job. The second part is almost equally densely forested with provisions under which, in a strictly monitored way, a proportion of those at present stuck on £29,000 a year will be given a few more thousand in return for surrendering their tenure and making themselves liable to be made redundant - possibly directly by the Secretary General, if it is true that he has personal powers to hire and fire. The other thing they will get is a title, which many of those bitterly angered by the refusal to promote them to Readerships or Chairs once more this year would regard as in no way an appropriate reward for their research contribution to the University. Some may even feel that it would be such an insult that they will not be prepared to apply at all.

In the middle is this empty space. What ought to be in it is a recognition that many more deserve Readerships and Chairs than have been getting them. Those are the promotions we need more of, alongside and in tandem with the introduction of Senior Lectureships for those whose contribution has not been primarily in research but who have done sterling work in teaching and administration.

The employment practices of this University have now become a public scandal and the running sore of this continuing battle is not going to heal unless this central problem is addressed, and addressed quickly.

The Report is both entertaining and galling reading for those of us who have been intimately engaged with this battle year after year. The General Board is making its own with pride many of the things we wrung out of it with our hands about its throat. It publishes its list of Notices and Reports as if they were all its own idea. All may read the real story in the Reporter since 1994.

The Report is also self-contradictory. 'The Board remain of the view, expressed in their Notice…dated 2 March 1998, that increasing the number of promotions will not of itself provide a solution'. But 'the Board believe that the most effective means of rewarding staff is by promotion'.

To points of detail. Are we going to have a rerun of the fiasco under which last year there was a ruling after people had put in their applications that those who had applied directly for Chairs could not be considered for Readerships by default in the same year? The argument advanced, and supported by the Vice-Chancellor's Deputy when I invoked Statute K, 5 on that point, was that the two competitions ran on parallel tracks. Is it going to be made clear in advance whether someone can apply for both a Senior Lectureship and a Readership or Chair in the same year? Those are clearly parallel tracks. Or are they?

We may take comfort from some movement away from the fixing of numbers for Readerships and Chairs in advance, and with no reference to the question how many meet the standard. But it will not be much comfort until we clear up the question what that standard is. For we still have no definition of the difference between a Readership and a Chair because we have no definition of what is required for either.

This year the standard to be met was considered only after the General Board's committee and all the subordinate committees had given numerical values to people's achievements as if they actually knew what they were measuring. I cannot remember how many times I have called in Discussions for the University to agree a definition of the difference between a Reader and a Professor, and settle this question about standards, so that the committees recommending the award of these titles can know to what they are addressing their minds.

Another hopeless muddle surrounds the talk of the exercise of 'collective judgement'. What happened this year was unlawful in that there was no orderly forming of a collective judgement on any of the committees as far as I have been able to discover. (And I should not have to be playing Sherlock Holmes and surprising members of committees into making admissions by pinning them to the wall in the University Library without warning and making the unfortunate Secretary General jump and spill his grapefruit juice when I bear down upon him in the Combination Room. The Regent House ought to be being told about the revisions and enlargements of the Graced procedures which have been kept from us this year. They are our procedures.)

We do not class Tripos candidates by casting vaguely round the table to see what people think. We mark their examination papers and tabulate the marks and discuss them in a rational manner with every examiner explaining his reasons.

The Promotions Committee of the General Board had, under the Yellow Book rules, a duty to frame its own evaluations for each candidate, 'applying' the criteria one by one, and each member had, in law, a duty to do that for him or herself. One of its members admits that they did not do so. They merely decided whether or not they wished to amend the Faculty's evaluations, and the 'reasons' given bear that out. For those whose Faculties gave them less than wholehearted support, and created evaluations which needed a hard look, that guaranteed failure. That was a breach of a duty, and it was not fair.

For that reason, the prospect of leaving it in the hands of Faculties to hand out Senior Lectureships fills some of us with a well-founded horror.

And - for the umpteenth time - what about the interdisciplinary candidates? The Higher Education Funding Council now acknowledges that they are not getting fair assessment in the RAE and that works down to the local level here too. It is not satisfactory merely to ask a few referees from the 'other' discipline. Such work is an intellectual whole and needs to be judged as such.

I must draw the Regent House's attention to something extremely serious. The feedback, which it was important for the University to handle with care and thoroughness to meet the terms of Mr Justice Sedley's judgement, was apparently written by the Secretary General and not by the General Board's Promotions Committee. The Secretary General is not a member of the committee, but its secretary. The members of the committee never saw the feedback or approved it. It presumably reflects his notes taken at the meeting, but those cannot have been ratified by the committee as minutes, or in any other way, for the committee does not meet after the session at which it agrees its recommendations for promotion. They therefore remain merely his recollections. At a hearing at which I represented a member of staff at another university last week, the university had appointed an equivalent senior administrative officer to take notes. At one stage the judge appointed by the university's Council to conduct the hearing asked this 'secretary' to read back something I had just said. It came back in a hopelessly garbled and inaccurate form. There was a pause. The judge asked me to say it again so that it could be properly recorded. I dictated it at longhand speed and it was duly captured. Are we to believe that the Secretary General's notes constitute any more reliable a record of the committee's discussion of each candidate, and that he is the appropriate person to tell the highly distinguished individuals the University has just informed that they are failures as academics, and that it does not see its way to rewarding them with a title, why this is? It seems he did not have access to the individual judgements from which the collective judgement was formed, since those were not made available to one another by all members of the committee with their individual reasons. Perhaps I am wrong, but if so, why will he not tell me?

I have asked for feedback from my own Faculty Chairman orally. He is having some difficulty in locating a date in his diary. He has conceded that I may bring a witness, but he is going to bring one too, from the General Board. We are now at the stage of trying to get it established that there must be tape-recording of what he says, or professional verbatim recording by, for example, a court reporter. He knows that I have a number of procedural questions to ask him, as well as questions about the way in which the Faculty committee and the General Board committee defined the criteria before 'applying' them, as they would have had to do for each subject if they had been an RAE panel working for HEFCE. He has refused in a series of letters in which I detect the now familiar tones of our expensive University solicitor, to answer those questions. I would also like the answer to such questions as why the reasons given by the Faculty committee, the appeal committee, and the General Board committee all contradict one another. I think these are fair questions and I would like them answered. If no one has anything to hide they should be easy to answer and there should be no reason to shrink from having the answers on record.

I must apologise for referring to my own predicament. I am aware that that invites the accusation that I am interested only in my own candidature. I hope by now the Regent House knows that that is a calumny. But one must cite specific absurdities in order to bring home the rockiness of our decision-making processes even in their partially reformed state. There has not been the hoped-for culture-change; just the old familiar cock-up and confusion and secrecy.

May I mischievously suggest, before I have seen the list, that the University will turn out to have promoted as many women as it could find this year, except me, so as to be in a stronger position to resist any future Sex Discrimination claim I may bring. That will not help them, for the victimization case at present afoot can cite comparators of either sex. But it ought to anger male candidates if they feel that their chances have suffered for the University's political advantage. They can claim discrimination, too. I am sure that the plain truth is that this year as every year far more deserved promotion than have been given it, and that most of the candidates for Chairs and Readerships, of either sex, ought to have been given what they applied for.

What is to happen in the next annual round to the candidates who failed this year? Are the references and comments of their Faculties and the Secretary General's 'official feedback' to go into the system for the future? Even if they do not, members of the committees will recollect much of what they thought this year. We 'failures' will have a far higher mountain to climb to win promotion that we have ever faced before.

These are urgent questions. It is only a few weeks before we must wretchedly put our applications again into the same imperfect and only half-reformed system, in which the old ignorance and patronage and prejudice still runs largely unchecked.

Members of the Regent House, we need the Syndicate very badly, and I do most passionately hope that you will not let the opportunity slip when the ballot is held in the autumn. Read the Reporter for 1896-97, for 1918-22, for 1946-48 and see how hard a struggle there was then to get Syndicates set up and how easily their purposes could be frustrated even when they were at last brought into being. Dr Schofield misleads you. A Syndicate will make only recommendations to the Regent House; the decisions will remain yours. But a Syndicate can take stock of the whole complex of issues as the General Board will not.

Once more a Discussion of a matter of huge concern to us all has been set for the Long Vacation. There was no need for that. The Vice-Chancellor expressed sorrow and puzzlement over the length of time it took to get full membership of the University for women when he spoke to those who were here before 1948 at the ceremony on 4 July. Why does it threaten to take just as long to get fair rewards and proper career prospects for today's academic staff? None of us will be here in fifty years. Of course it may now be felt that it was not such a good idea after all to allow women to make speeches.


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I feel what I have to say comes rather late in the day, because the proposals that are before us are so highly developed, but it is something that has been on my mind for some time and I would like to put it on record.

My reservations about these proposals arise from their age-bias: they improve the rewards to the longer-serving, older members of staff while the younger are for the most part left where they are.

If we take a long-term, or even a medium-term, view, then surely we should be paying as much if not more attention to the needs of younger academics: the starting salaries should be at a level which would compete, all things considered, with comparable professions and which would also comprise recognition of the very long period of training, and therefore low pay, required by an academic career in which a doctorate is the minimum qualification. The Report does propose provisions for recruitment incentive payments, which might apply to younger colleagues, but these are presumably only for exceptional use, and in any case the more generous such a payment, the less the individual concerned would subsequently rise up the pay-scale, and the more stagnant that person's pay would therefore be afterwards, so a one-off initial payment does not solve the problem entirely.

These matters involve delicate decisions about allocation of scarce resources for incentives and delicate judgements about the effect of differential rewards. There are reasons to doubt whether the level of satisfaction or the quality of work (already very high) among (relatively) older members of staff would improve with increasing numbers and proportions of promotions, just as there are reasons to doubt, as Dr Beard explained so well in the last Discussion on this subject, whether measures to make the system more transparent (and therefore more bureaucratic) would increase the general level of happiness.

We also have little systematic information about the effect of levels of pay on the recruitment of younger staff. Anecdotal evidence abounds, but it is just anecdotal, and long-term planning requires that we know how the quality of applications and the level of satisfaction of younger members of staff have changed in the last ten or even twenty years. It is conceivable that the resources which it is proposed to spend on promotions of broadly middle-aged people would be expended to better effect for the long-term future of the University on younger people.

One effect of such a proposal could be indeed to flatten the pay-scale. If this were thought to reduce incentives then we could extend the discretionary mechanism so as to reward people for specific achievements such as number and quality of publications or quality of teaching, or - as is already the case - for their administrative contributions. These differ from the current promotion proposals because they do not automatically last for the entire remainder of a person's career but only for the tenure of an administrative position or the duration of a Discretionary Award.

To some extent, remuneration in money and/or in kind, for supervision and for College administration, is a similar arrangement: if you do it you get paid, and if not, not. Strictly, this is not a matter for consideration in the present context, but it will be no news to anyone here that changing funding arrangements mean that the distinction between rewards from University and College teaching and administration may become much less clear in future, and perhaps the quite near future. In any case College remuneration is a fact of Cambridge life which cannot be simply ignored when considering the advantages and disadvantages of working here for anyone, whether a College Fellow or not.

There may be lessons here: the unquantifiable, though by no means cost-free, prospect of collegiate life seems to attract people to Cambridge. This is an indivisible good, and leads in turn to the question whether there are not other benefits which the University itself could provide and which would increase satisfaction more in proportion to the expenditure involved: improvements in individual pay will, in the final analysis, always be small in relation to the outside world. It should be remembered for example that sabbatical entitlements are a major advantage of working in Cambridge compared with most other British universities. But there are other benefits which arise in this context and which deserve as much attention as pay, namely nursery provision (see the Third Report of the Board of Scrutiny), which I think is terribly important for young people, housing, the (admirable) Dental Service, health insurance, among others. We might, for example, consider adopting the mechanism used by Harvard, where the University takes an equity share in houses purchased by staff, to be cashed in when the staff member moves on. That could be worth thousands of pounds in additional annual pay.

To some extent we should think about a choice - already evoked by the President of Wolfson College - between a 'Republic of Letters' ruled by a democracy of esteem and a culture of resentment ruled by a bureaucracy of finely tuned remuneration scales.

More concretely we need to pay attention to the needs of younger staff and to the possible advantages of investing in non-monetary and collective but unquantifiable rewards and benefits. We need to gather evidence about the recruitment of younger staff and also, if possible, about the real satisfactions and dissatisfactions from a shift towards a more stretched pay scale, which may itself be based on methods of management regarded as outdated in business today.

Dr D. A. GOOD:

Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I wish to comment on one small matter to do with this Report. I speak as a member of the General Board and the Library Syndicate, and wish to comment on the report only in so far as it relates to the stipend of the Librarian.

In the General Board notice of 28 April 1997 which included a response to remarks by the Chair of the Library Syndicate on an earlier Report, the General Board committed itself to returning to the question of the Librarian's stipend in this Report. Paragraphs 41-46, when read in conjunction with Ordinances, do attend to that commitment and specify a review process for the Librarian's stipend.

However, Annex 2 of the Report does not include reference to the Librarian, but does refer to the two other offices which are listed at step 32 in Ordinances (p. 632). This might be taken to imply that this Report does not apply to the Librarian. To the best of my knowledge, this was not the General Board's intention, and the implication can be avoided by including reference to the Librarian at step 32 in Annex 2.

Dr S. J. COWLEY (read by Mr H. J. EASTERLING):

Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, notwithstanding the addendum to the Report, dated 8 June 1998, I am surprised that this Report has been presented to the University in advance of the vote relating to the establishment of the Syndicate to consider the structure of academic offices. The detailed proposals in this Report seem to be a rather unsophisticated attempt to pre-empt the deliberations of that Syndicate (if established). Further, that such an important Report should be discussed in the Long Vacation when many are away from Cambridge, or at least concentrating on their research, suggests that the General Board may have something to hide.

Despite the references in the Report to the fact that most University Lecturers 'are very able and of high calibre', that many members of the non-professorial staff are of 'outstanding quality', and that 'the University is indebted to its staff, who are its most valuable resource', it seems to me that the Board is trying to buy off its Lecturers with peaches and custard, while reserving the strawberries and cream for Professors and senior academic-related officers.

Without further detailed justification, I do not accept that 'the lack of competitive remuneration in the Cambridge arrangements is most apparent at professorial level'. Given some recent promotions at other universities, I find it inconceivable that almost all those at the top of the Cambridge Lecturer scale would not be at the top of the Reader (or Senior Lecturer) scale at most other universities - indeed many would be well into the professorial scale. After accounting for discretionary payments, this suggests that most of our University Lecturers of 'outstanding quality' are underpaid by at least 13.5 per cent. How does this compare with professorial pay? Well, 13.5 per cent added to a professorial stipend with the higher supplementary payment, results in a salary of well over £59,000 - which as far as I can gather is there or thereabouts, as regards a competitive salary at many other UK universities. All salaries at Cambridge are non-competitive, and it is not just at the professorial level that there are difficulties with recruitment.

Further, what would be the possible results of the proposed increases in supplementary payments to Professors? An increase from supplementary payment level 2 to level 4 represents a 21 per cent increase in salary. Moreover, after accounting for the recent restructuring of payments to Heads of Departments, a Professor who received a level 2 to level 4 supplementary payment increase, and who was also the Head of a Schedule 1 Department, would be over 31 per cent better off (over and above inflation) compared with two years ago (certainly a figure of £75,549 would seem to be very competitive as a salary). The recent increases for the Registrary (25 per cent at present, 27 per cent proposed), and for academic-related officers on step 32 (15 per cent) are not as good, but are still respectable.

In contrast, a Lecturer promoted to Senior Lecturer would be only 11 per cent better off after three years, and if such a Lecturer was already in receipt of a discretionary payment, s/he would only see a 5 per cent increase in salary (recall also that the Report states there should not be a presumption of promotion).

It could of course be argued that professorial supplementary payments will be much harder to obtain than I have implicitly assumed above. However, as far as I can ascertain, the only restriction on the number of payments is in the weasel words, 'It is expected that only a small number of supplementary payments would be made, especially at the higher levels'. A small number compared with what? Although we are asked to vote on this scheme, details seem to be very vague. Compare this with the Board's deliberations on non-professorial grades - in that case it has already been decided that discretionary awards will be 'made within an annual allocation determined by the General Board', despite the fact that the full proposals for the discretionary scheme are yet to be finalized.

Maybe I am naive, but once new appointments know that supplementary payments are possible, it would be very surprising if large numbers of supplementary payments were not awarded (paragraph 37 notwithstanding). Further, once these new appointees are making hay, do the General Board really not expect a certain amount of discontent from existing professorial staff? Or are they in fact hoping that the 'small number' will not be too small?

For fairness to the non-professorial staff, if the proposed levels of supplementary payments are to be proceeded with, then there must be a rigid cap on total expenditure (similar to that being proposed for non-professorial staff). A good way forward might be to [re-]introduce the idea of a professorial average. For instance, this might be fixed either at 11 per cent above the basic stipend (reflecting the premium of a Senior Lectureship over a Lectureship), or at 5 per cent above the current professorial average (reflecting the 5 per cent difference in salary between a Lectureship plus discretionary payment and a Senior Lectureship). I believe that something like this was suggested at the General Board, but was ruled out. Why?

The General Board need to take seriously their belief that non-professorial staff are of 'outstanding quality'. Given that a 5* in the RAE equates to attainable levels of international excellence in a majority of sub-areas of activity and attainable levels of national excellence in all others, maybe they need to be reminded that star Professors alone do not make outstanding Departments (otherwise Chemistry at Sussex would have surely obtained a 5*). The Indians are in their way as important as the Chiefs, and as deserving of equal increases.

There are three other points I would like to raise briefly.

First, I do not understand how supplementary payments awarded for six years, and, inter alia, based on publications over the previous five to six years, will help to ease the concern of newly appointed Professors with regard to pension entitlement. Given that few academics do their best work just prior to retirement, it seems unlikely that most Professors will have their highest supplementary payments in one of the three years prior to retirement (i.e. in those years when one of the USS formulas for calculating pensions is applied). Maybe the General Board should think again, or alternatively are paragraphs 33 and 38 just window dressing?

Second, I note that the academic-related officers have been smart enough to ensure that their increases should be permanent, and not just for six years. Further, it is proposed that they should have their own special committee, and apparently there are no limits on the number of supplementary payments that can be made. Is this fair given the constraints imposed on the remuneration of non-professorial staff?

Third, some explanation of the academic-related scales in paragraph 63 might be in order. For instance, how was the 3.6 per cent increase in salary for offices on step 26 fixed? Why can it be decided now what the discretionary payment for academic-related staff on steps 26 and 28 should be, when the Board still 'have under consideration whether there should be a discretionary step above the fixed-rate stipend for [similarly paid] Readers'?

Salami publishing is one of the banes of research. Salami decision-making appears to be the bane of Lecturers. The Board should withdraw their current proposals (which featherbed a few), in favour of a scheme that is equitable to all who are 'its most valuable resource'.

The Third Report, dated 1 June 1998, of the Board of Scrutiny (p. 818).


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I warmly welcome this Report. It is all that the Report of a Board of Scrutiny should be: judicious, but taking a firm line with the fudge which obscures from view much of what really goes on in the running of this University and the use to which it puts its public funds. We saw something very ugly and even evil at the Discussion of 12 May. Lately, things have been glimpsed scurrying from the light upon which tails and whiskers have been observed, although there have not been sufficient sightings yet for us to be quite sure what is living behind our wainscoting. We should take care that we do not find some Government Rodent Control Operative such as the National Audit Office on our doorstep. Anselm of Canterbury learned the hard way not to press an analogy too far when arguing with Greek Christians about the procession of the Holy Spirit, so I will simply leave you with the image.

I share the Board's concern that it can operate only retrospectively. We need machinery for dealing with a crisis and for calling a halt when something of concern to the University goes badly wrong.

May I make one or two comments, mostly by way of underlining with approval what the Board have said? The discrepancies between estimates and actual expenditure are worrying, because policies are built on the contention that there is money for this but not for that, and that can hold water only if the figures work out as predicted. It seems they rarely do. Unspent allocations are as much a matter for concern as overspent allocations (paragraph 12).

It will not surprise members of the Regent House that I agree with the Board's criticisms of the Council (paragraph 21). I do so from the vantage-point of one who actually sees what happens.

The Council's Standing Orders are in process of revision at my instigation as well as the Registrary's. I wrote to him, after one meeting in the Michaelmas Term when the meeting broke down in chaos and recrimination and accusations against me, to say that we must have an agreement to treat one another with courtesy. I made a list of points I thought should be included in our Standing Orders. We are still not quite there on their revision because I continue to challenge the rules about secrecy. The Nolan Committee recommended that the proceedings of governing bodies should be accessible. Those of the Regent House are, but not those of its Council. I contend that it cannot be right that Council members should be required to keep Council business from members of the Regent House. Moreover, the provisions of the forthcoming Public Interest (Disclosure) Act (on whistleblowing) will have a bearing on the duty to make disclosure in the public interest or in the interests of the University. One will have a right to tell one's employer of one's concerns, and, as far as I can see, the Regent House is my employer.1

But the question we ought to be asking is why the Council should wish to be so secretive. There is of course a temptation to draw parallels with the discussions of the Cabinet. I accept that there must be room for people to be frank and to take risks. But that need not include conspiring to keep things from the Regent House. I never say anything at a Council meeting which I should not wish the Regent House to hear. I think other members should do the same. I only wish our meetings were taped so that you could hear every word of what goes on.

I hope that in future we shall see the agenda and the minutes of the General Board on the Council.

As to the retrenchment exercise - I certainly do not know the reasons for it. We have not been given them except in the vaguest terms of shortage of money (so what is new?), so I do not know that this can really be described as the Council's policy. And huge sums pour out of our purse when the will is there, without the Council's knowledge.

There are matters of profound importance in the list in paragraph 22, some of them with vast implications for the community of scholarship, for the pastoral care of staff and students in the University, for accountability for mistakes made in the Old Schools. It is important that we recognize that even the hardest-working and most well-meaning of our officers make mistakes, and create the expectation that they will admit them and put them right, not close ranks and cover them up.

The proleptic appointments for the Research Assessment Exercise (paragraph 26), past and to come, continue to concern me and others. I have made in Discussions on more than one occasion several of the points the Board makes and been ignored. I hope the voice of the Board of Scrutiny will be taken more seriously.

Except to welcome it heartily, I will refrain from commenting on what the Board says about promotions. The Regent House hears quite enough from me on that subject. Hugh Latimer preached a sermon before the King in 1549, in which he said, 'the drop of rain maketh a hole in the stone, not by violence, but by oft falling'. It may also irritate like a dripping tap. I cannot but be aware after the 12 May Discussion that I have caused profound irritation, even to some of those I have sought to help through pressing for these reforms. But the hole in the stone is not going to be made in any other way, and I fear the Regent House and the Old Schools may have to continue to listen to the persistent 'plop' in the future, and indeed have done so today in a speech on another Report. I apologise for the effect upon everyone's nerves. Of course we could replace the washer by completing the reforms we need and then the drip would naturally stop.

1 The Act has Royal Assent and should become law in January.

Professor N. O. WEISS:

Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I feel obliged to respond briefly to the Board of Scrutiny's comments on the 1996 Research Assessment Exercise (the RAE). The University took two steps to enhance its position for that RAE. First, there was an increase in the number of internal promotions, with the aim of encouraging highly qualified Lecturers to remain here; secondly, there were a number of new or proleptic appointments, designed to strengthen or raise the grades of individual Departments. The initiative for these measures came from the School of Physical Sciences and I speak as Chairman of that School.

The University was fortunate at that time in that the cap on the research income from the Funding Council had just been lifted, releasing funds that could appropriately be used to promote research. As the Board say, this resulted in some twenty-eight new or proleptic appointments, including nine Professorships (which were as usual advertised and filled by competition). The Board's Report attempts to compare the outcome in the RAE for those Departments that were thus reinforced with that for those that were not, and comments that the success rates were much the same. To me, that indicates that the General Board succeeded in targeting those Departments that needed to be strengthened - though in reality it is hard to judge without being privy to the deliberations of the individual panels. Where there were only one or two 5* departments across the country, our action may have ensured that we were successful; where there were seven, it may not have made much difference. What is undeniable is that we came well out of the RAE and that the result has made a substantial contribution not only to our prestige but also to the Chest income. In a large scientific department with a volume corresponding to, say, a hundred research active staff the difference between the multipliers for Grades 5* and 4 leads to a total difference of about £1.3m in annual income. That should be compared with the extra £375,000 recurrent spent on creating new posts and about £800,000 spent once and for all in bridging the proleptic appointments to the retirement dates of the underlying posts. The Board of Scrutiny would have sung a different song if the General Board had sat back and allowed our ratings to slip.

What matters now is to learn from this experience in planning the next RAE. We must ensure that as many of our Departments as possible achieve Grade 5* or at least Grade 5. The competition will be stiffer: other universities are already building up their strongest departments and attracting our most talented Lecturers to chairs. Procedures for ad hominem promotions have already been improved but we shall again need to release funds for targeted positions and proleptic appointments in time for the critical date. That is now expected to be April 2001, so these people ought to be in post by October 2000. Unfortunately, this action is required when, instead of having our HEFCE income increased, we face a savings exercise. What we should do is anticipate and smooth out the stream of retirements that will come after the turn of the century, when the generation appointed in the 1960s - my own generation - will retire. Cambridge can only maintain its position by being proactive: our greatest danger is complacency.

No remarks were made on the following Report:

The Report, dated 28 April 1998, of the Library Syndicate on the 250th anniversary of the establishment of the Syndicate (p. 777).

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Cambridge University Reporter, 22 July 1998
Copyright © 1998 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.