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Report of the Council on the Composition of the Council

The COUNCIL beg leave to report to the University as follows:

1. This Report submits to the Regent House for comment the question of principle whether the composition of the Council should be extended to include members external to the University, and an element of membership by staff of the University other than members of the Regent House. The Council are submitting this Report for discussion on 18 January 2000 (see the Vice-Chancellor's Notice, p. 226). The Council will consider what, if any, further action should be taken in the light of the remarks made at the Discussion.

2. The present composition of the Council has been defined following the process of consideration of the recommendations of the Syndicate on the Government of the University (the 'Wass Syndicate') about the composition of the Council of the Senate.

3. The Council, under the present Statute A, IV, 2 consists of the Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor and nineteen elected members in the following classes:

(a) four from among Heads of Colleges
(b) four from among Professors and Readers
(c) eight from among other members of the Regent House
(d) three from among students in the University, of whom at least one is from among graduate students.

Members of the Council in classes (a), (b), and (c) serve for four years, and student members for one year.

4. The Chairman of the Council is declared by Statute A, IV, 9 to be the Vice-Chancellor, provided that the Chancellor has the right to take the Chair at any meeting of the Council at which he or she is present.

5. In considering the composition of the Council, it is important to be clear about the Council's functions. The Council has broad statutory powers and duties, as well as detailed executive functions. The Council is declared by Statute to be 'the principal executive and policy-making body of the University'. The Council is stated by Statute to have 'general responsibility for the administration of the University, for the planning of its work, and for the management of resources'. The Council has 'power to take such action as is necessary for it to discharge these responsibilities'. It is also to perform such executive and administrative duties as are delegated to it by the Regent House or assigned to it by Statute or Ordinance. The Council is to advise the Regent House on matters of general concern to the University. The Council is to perform such duties in connection with financial matters as assigned to it by Statute F, I. The Council is to oversee the work of institutions in the University placed under its supervision. The Council is central in the University's legislative processes, and discharges important functions of making appointments to bodies inside and outside the University. The Council nominates the Vice-Chancellor.

6. The Council believe that in considering changes to the composition of the Council, the aim should be to improve its functioning and the contribution which it makes to the good government of the University.

7. Various matters concerning the University governance have recently been considered by the Council following observations made to it in the Easter Term 1999 by its ad hoc Committee on the Second Nolan Report (which at the time consisted of Dr D.M. Thompson (Chairman), Dr G.R. Evans, Professor B.A. Hepple, Ms H. Linklater, and Dr R. Thornton).

External membership

8. The Committee suggested to the Council that a scheme should be considered whereby two external members would be appointed by Grace, on the recommendation of the Council, after a process of public advertisement, to serve for four years. A committee would advise the Council on the names submitted by the process of public advertisement. These external members would be full members of the Council and would take a full part in its work, including where relevant service on its Committees, and on other bodies in the University. The commitment of time and energy required would therefore be substantial. The special contribution which these members would make would be to bring an external perspective and external expertise to University business. The Committee suggested that for constitutional reasons it would be appropriate for these members of the Council to become members of the Regent House by virtue of Council membership.

9. The Committee have recommended that if external membership of the Council is introduced the existing Consultative Committee, introduced through the Wass process, should be abolished, as its functions would be subsumed within the Council's external membership.

Other new categories of membership

10. The Council's Committee on the Second Nolan Report have also put forward to the Council a scheme whereby two further members should be elected to the Council. One of these would be a member of the Assistant Staff of the University, elected by Assistant Staff. The other would be an employee of the University, not being a member of the Regent House or a member of the Assistant Staff, elected by that group of employees. The vast majority of this group are those research staff employed on short-term contracts who are not members of the Regent House. There would be a qualifying period for candidature in either of these categories of one year's employment by the University and if a member in either category ceased to be employed in that category, his or her membership of the Council would lapse. The period of office would be two years.

11. Staff arrangements at Cambridge University Press and the Local Examinations Syndicate differ from those in force elsewhere in the University and the staff of the two institutions would not, therefore, be included in this scheme.

The size of the Council

12. In practice, the Council at present consists of the Vice-Chancellor and nineteen members, including three student members. If, eventually, the proposals out-lined in this Report are implemented, the effective membership of the Council would rise to twenty-four. The Council's Committee believe that this is a practicable figure, but that, were further changes to be proposed which would otherwise have the effect of increasing the size of the Council further, it would be necessary to consider reducing the number of members elected from the Regent House, in order for the Council not to lose coherence and efficiency.


13. The Council have considered the proposals of the Committee, and believe that the Regent House should be invited to express an opinion about the proposals, at first in a Discussion (see paragraph 1).

13 December 1999


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Cambridge University Reporter, 15 December 1999
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