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Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 14 November 2000. A Discussion was held in the Council Room of the following Report:

The Annual Report of the General Board, dated 25 October 2000, on the establishment of personal Professorships and Readerships (p. 140).

Dr D. R. J. LAMING (read by Mrs S. BOWRING):

Mr deputy Vice-Chancellor, a month ago there was a Discussion on 'The University's new on-line accounting system (CAPSA) and its implementation'. That Discussion had been called as a 'topic of concern' because the initial introduction of CAPSA had been a near-disaster. That near-disaster is relevant to today's Discussion because there are similarities between the managements of the introduction of CAPSA and of our promotions procedure. There are some lessons to be learned.

In both cases there has been a culture of secrecy. If you are a software house operating at the cutting edge of programming technology, then, of course, you do not want any potential competitor looking over your shoulder to see how you are doing things. But that excuse - and this is the point I emphasize - also serves to cover up professional incompetence. I had a word with my Department's accounts clerk. When CAPSA was first introduced - not now, but at the beginning of August - it sometimes took her 10 minutes to move from one cell of the input table to the next! I think that must mean that CAPSA had been set up to transfer each cell input, each single number, in a separate message to the central computer. That way of doing things greatly increases the number of messages that have to be sent. If the intention had been to gum up the works - and I emphasize that I do not for one moment suggest that our software contractors had any such intention - but if, this is a simple and effective way of doing it.

The secrecy surrounding our promotions procedures means that we have no way of knowing whether those candidates who have been promoted this year are those who ought to have been promoted according to the General Board's published criteria or not. By 'secrecy' I refer here not to personal details that are rightly confidential, but to statistical details and to an assurance from some kind of quality control on promotions decisions. In default of any other explanation, the General Board seems to be supposing that just because it has published a list of seven criteria, Faculty Promotions Committees will adjudicate applications precisely in that way. That is naïve, exceedingly naïve.

In the late 1980s the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food issued a directive that the thymus, spleen, intestines, brain, and spinal cord should be removed from all beef carcasses before processing, whether rendered for animal feed or slaughtered for human consumption. But there were no checks, and specified bovine offal continued to pass into the food chain. What the Ministry had overlooked was that renderers and slaughtermen cannot be programmed like computers to do whatever the Ministry directs; they are real people and consult their own interests, which are not the same as those of either the Ministry or the consumer. The General Board will reply that there is a member from outside the Faculty placed on each Faculty Promotions Committee. That 'General Board' member can indeed observe whether procedures are followed correctly but is in no position at all to report on the fairness and reliability of a Promotions Committee's substantive decisions.

A second similarity between the University's monitoring of the introduction of CAPSA and the General Board's oversight of promotions appears in the desire of the committees charged with these respective responsibilities not to know too much. When it became clear that CAPSA was going seriously wrong, the Steering Committee needed all the information and expertise it could command, simply to defend the University's interests. There is some considerable experience of ORACLE databases within the Computing Service. But that experience seems not to have informed the Steering Committee - not, at least, to judge from the Chairman's report to Council at its September meeting, or from Mr Jardine's speech read to the Discussion on 10 October (Reporter, pp. 96-7).

Given the General Board's apparent commitment to promotion strictly on the basis of academic criteria, one would expect Faculty Promotions Committees to wish to know as much as possible about each candidate, subject only to keeping the burden on committee members within reasonable bounds. On this basis I sought to add an appendix to my 1,000-word statement when I applied for promotion in the 'Yellow Book' round. There was no suggestion that anyone should read through my appendix. It was chiefly a list of sources and its purpose was to provide ready answers to a variety of questions that expert referees might well want to ask and thereby save them a great deal of work. My appendix was disallowed because it was regarded as 'additional information and therefore outside the guidelines' (letter from the Secretary of the Faculty Board of Biology, 12 September 1997). There were no guidelines, of course, but there was a pre-existing culture that Faculty Promotions Committees are not to know too much about any candidate. I comment that such a limitation sits ill with the General Board's published intention.

But it fits very well into the way promotions used to be determined prior to the recent reforms. A candidate's name used to be put before the Faculty Promotions Committee by the candidate's Head of Department. Candidates who were not put forward in that way did not get promoted. 'Additional information' would give one Head of Department an advantage over his or her colleagues in securing support for a favoured subordinate and that would be unfair - as between one Head of Department and another. Of course, the question of fairness to the candidates did not at that time arise.

It is now the responsibility of each teaching officer to apply for promotion in person, but the former way of doing things still persists. Indeed, the General Board specifically says: '… Heads of Departments and Chairmen of Faculty Boards can (and surely should as part of their job) sometimes encourage someone to apply for promotion.' (Reporter, 1999-2000, p. 484). It thus happens that some who are promoted one year did not even apply the previous year. How so? Because Buggins was told by his Head of Department: 'Do not apply this year; there is someone else who must be promoted first. It will be your turn next year.' Of course, if your application is not orchestrated in that manner, you do not get promoted, and it remains substantially true that candidates who are not put forward by their Head of Department do not get promoted.

Orchestration of applications by members of Faculty Promotions Committees raises the question how far those Committees are adhering to the criteria that the General Board has laid down and how far individual members are simply advancing their favourite subordinates. The General Board does not know. Its lack of knowledge is not, however, a matter of oversight. The suggestion has been put several times that there should be some kind of quality assurance applied to decisions on promotions, but it has been repeatedly rejected by the General Board. 'It is worth adding that, if the function of the Appeals Committee were to consider cases referred to it ab initio, the Committee could find itself duplicating the function and the work of Faculty Promotions Committees and the General Board's Committee …' (Reporter, 1998-99, p. 224). But that is how the General Board can discover how far its instructions are followed by Promotions Committees. Six years on the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food finally succeeded in excluding potentially infectious beef from the food chain when it began inspecting the output of the slaughterhouses. But the remit of our Appeals Committees is carefully restricted to procedural matters only and does not address this point. The inference is inescapable that the Board so lacks confidence in the fidelity of Promotions Committees' work that it fears the procedure would lose all support if questions of reliability and fairness were objectively addressed.

Mr deputy Vice-Chancellor, I wish them well, those who have been fortunate enough to be promoted in this year's round. But I suspect there are more than a few to whom it has to be said that their failure to gain promotion is nothing to do with the quality of their work, but everything to do with a lack of sponsorship in their Promotions Committee. It would be easier to bear if the Board was honest about the influential role of patronage (but the present procedure would then certainly collapse). As matters stand the pretence that promotion is determined on academic merit according to the Board's seven criteria is an insult to many who are left unpromoted.

Dr G. R. EVANS:

Mr deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am sure no one was surprised to find my name missing from this list. I opened the e-mail on the American campus where I was lecturing and went back to being an internationally-famous celebrity scarcely missing a beat.

Perhaps other unsuccessful (and successful) candidates in future may care to do what I am about to do so as to help future applicants get a clearer idea of the normative level of achievement of a plain Lecturer in the University of Cambridge.

By 1978 I had published twenty-nine articles, like almost all my articles, in refereed journals, and my first Oxford University Press book, Anselm and talking about God, 202 pp. I was a lecturer in Theology in Bristol. In 1979 I published seven more articles. I also organized the Third International Anselm Conference. In 1980 there were eight more articles and two more OUP books, Old Arts and New Theology, 232 pp., and Anselm and a New Generation, 212 pp. 'The book confirms Dr Evans's place in the forefront of the new generation of Anselmian studies', said the Journal of Theological Studies.

Reviewers as referees? Depends who the Faculty chooses of course.

I came to Cambridge in 1980. The History Faculty fell over itself to get me, though I left it in no doubt that I was primarily an interdisciplinary scholar. Several Colleges wooed me. I chose, fatefully, Sidney Sussex College, which, as it proved, had a 'history' of quite another kind. That is another story, which some of you may know. It explains, I believe, a great deal of my personal subsequent history in this University.

In 1981 I published six articles, an invited article for a Festschrift, and a translation of the twelfth-century Latin text, Alan of Lille: The Art of Preaching (Cistercian Publications, 1981), 169 pp. In 1982 I published ten articles. By now I was more deeply than ever into interdisciplinary medieval themes, and I was publishing, for example, in mathematical and literary critical journals.

In 1983 I edited the first issue of a new journal, Anselm Studies I (Kraus, 1983-), and three books came out together, with eleven articles: The Mind of St Bernard of Clairvaux (Oxford University Press, 1983) (which has been reprinted), 239 pp., Alan of Lille (Cambridge University Press, 1983), 249 pp., Augustine on Evil (Cambridge University Press, 1983) (reprinted, then put into paperback, and translated into Italian and Portuguese), 198 pp. 'A brilliant, stimulating and engagingly written volume', said one reviewer. 'The author presents the most coherent analysis of Augustine's views that I have ever seen, clearer perhaps than Augustine was able to achieve himself', added Church History. 'Her brilliant book, Augustine on Evil', said The London Review of Books in 1999. So people are still reading it, then. But I know that my work is considered authoritative because of the frequency with which it is quoted in footnotes.

By 1983 I had undergone my C. P. Snow baptism of fire at Sidney Sussex, and my first Cambridge battle for survival, which I won; and although my Fellowship there would have continued, I moved, at its invitation, to Fitzwilliam. But the Sidney Sussex affair had crippled my enjoyment of College life. I could not stomach it even in quieter waters, and, after seven years, I resigned my Fellowship.

I was now being systematically 'excluded' in the History Faculty, all part of the same story (I name no names). I was not allowed to have any involvement with Faculty administration. My colleagues simply cut me dead in the corridor, on the stairs, in the Library. Prospective Ph.D. students wrote to me from all over the world and I welcomed them and gave them advice. But when they arrived in Cambridge few of them were given to me, and they would come and talk to me in puzzlement, saying they were not clear why I was not their supervisor and could I help them anyway. I did of course. I gave my lectures, taught students (who have never had any complaints), and otherwise spent my time studying and writing and exploring those avenues which were opening to me in the wider world since the normal avenues here were closed.

In 1983 I was awarded a Doctorate of Letters by the University of Oxford. That gave me a Litt.D. by incorporation here at the unusually early age of thirty-eight. I noticed in this year's honorary degree procession that I am pretty much the most senior 'doctor who is not a professor' in the order of precedence of those entitled to walk in full scarlet with our honorands.

In 1984 I published, with a British Academy grant for its preparation, The Anselm Concordance (Kraus, 1984) (4 vols.), 1,923 pp., and The Logic and Language of the Bible: The Earlier Middle Ages (Cambridge University Press, 1984) (reprinted, now in paperback), 199 pp., and three articles. 'Many people will certainly be delighted, as I was, to read such clever and sympathetic pages …', said a reviewer. I was also an Oxford University Preacher in that year - as I have been in Canterbury Cathedral and many other places of ecclesiastical repute, such as College chapels in Oxford and Cambridge.

In 1985 I published four articles and another invited contribution to a Festschrift, and the second volume of The Logic and Language of the Bible: The Road to Reformation (Cambridge, 1985), 192 pp.

In 1986, The Thought of Gregory the Great (Cambridge University Press, 1986), 164 pp., came out. It was reprinted and went into paperback. I co-edited the Latin Works of Gilbert Crispin (ed.) with A. Abulafia, Auctores Britannici Medii Aevi (British Academy, 1986), 245 pp.

In 1986-88 I held a British Academy Readership in Theology. Only six were awarded each year throughout the UK in total. Naturally, I expected that my Faculty would put me forward for a Readership when this prestigious British Academy Readership came to an end. It did not do so. My first opportunity to be considered for promotion at the History Faculty's hands was not until 1992, and then only because I began to kick up a fuss. But then, I was told, I had not been in Cambridge long and real Cambridge people had a better claim to promotion. (Compare our present policy of capturing outsiders for Chairs.)

In 1987 there was a translation of Bernard of Clairvaux: Spiritual Writings, in the USA series, Classics of Western Spirituality (1987), 296 pp., several reprints, up to 1998, and still selling well across the Atlantic and here. I also wrote one third of The History of Christian Theology (Marshall and Scott, 1987) and one article. In 1988 I edited a Festschrift by invitation of OUP, entitled Christian Authority (Oxford, 1988), 353 pp., and co-edited by invitation the Atlas of the Christian Church (Equinox and Macmillan, 1988), translated into Dutch, French, Japanese, German, and other languages. I made three invited contributions to books and encyclopaedias and published three articles.

By now I was increasingly working in the nascent area of 'ecumenical theology', as my interest in the intellectual history of the Middle Ages expanded into an interest in trying to resolve problems of ecclesiology (governance) and definition (logic and language), which had arisen then and have not been solved yet. This rather technical area is where the nexus of the interdisciplinary unity of my work lies. No potential referee exists with the same span, who could fully understand what I do.

I do not think our promotions system is geared to rewarding people whose work develops in this intellectually entrepreneurial way. I observe that the straightest way to promotion in Cambridge is to stick to one straightforward thing for which it is relatively easy for a sympathetic Faculty to find appropriate referees.

In 1989 I published Anselm (Chapman, 1989), 108 pp., a book I had been commissioned to write, and five articles. I was drafted on to the Archbishops' Group on the Episcopate which had got stuck after some years' work, and in the end, I wrote most of its report: Episcopal Ministry (Church House Publishing, 1990), 354 pp. Authority in the Church: a Challenge for Anglicans (Canterbury Press, 1990), 147 pp., came out in 1990. In that year I published three ecumenical articles and one on the medieval abacus and an article from a contribution to the World Methodist Institute, 1987, to which I was sent as the Church of England's Anglican Observer.

This kind of thing is the humanities equivalent of being invited to be a consultant. It is our (unpaid) version of the non-executive directorship. It comes one's way only if one is carrying Cambridge's name out into the world as an 'expert'. I was getting on to committees such as the Faith and Order Advisory Group, on which I served for ten years, and quietly being pretty effective wherever I went, as a consult-ant or external examiner to other universities, or broadcaster, in the UK and abroad, or occasional journalist. I was reviewing regularly for a long list of journals - of course one may offend potential referees by one's comments on their own books.

In 1991 I published The Anglican Tradition: a Handbook of Anglican Sources (ed. with J. Robert Wright) (SPCK, 1991), 620 pp., and three articles.

In 1992 Problems of Authority in the Reformation Debates (Cambridge University Press), 328 pp., came out as the first volume in the trilogy I wrote as the result of the British Academy Readership, and four articles. 'This is a major work for all seriously concerned with contemporary ecumenical debates on authority, in the broadest sense of the term, and a powerful and persuasive apologia for the continuing importance of historico-theological scholarship for ecumenical discussions', said Theology. 'The great strength of this book lies in the many insights it offers', said the Journal of Theological Studies. I had for some time regularly been invited to give keynote addresses at international conferences or to give named lectures and series of lectures. I was also being asked to be consultant editor to journals and publishing projects.

In 1993 I published, in German, Philosophy and Theology: The Middle Ages (Kohlhammer, 1994). That one has been quite a success in its English form, which was published separately by Routledge the following year and has been widely translated. There were also eight articles.

In 1994 I published the second British Academy Readership volume, The Church and the Churches: Toward an Ecumenical Ecclesiology (Cambridge University Press), 329 pp., which has become something of a standard work, in the USA especially. 'Her ability to ask searching questions … She forces us to face many issues that have tended to get neglected … her book will be a valuable tool', said one review. 'A rich and important theological reflection', said the leading ecclesiologist, Jean Tillard, in another review. (I hear today, sadly, that he has just died.) 'Well known as a distinguished medievalist … an important work … an invaluable contribution to ecumenical ecclesiology', said Theological Studies.

I also did some research in twenty-five universities and wrote 'Prospects of Promotion', Council for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards (CAFAS), Report No. 3, 24 pp., the first of a series of CAFAS reports of my authorship. (You will see that I was getting cross.) I made four invited contributions to books and encyclopaedias and published six articles.

In 1995 I co-edited another Festchrift, Communion et réunion (Peeters, Louvain, 1995), 431 pp., and published (with two co-editors) Encounters for Unity (The Canterbury Press, 1995), 234 pp. There were six contributions to books and encyclopaedias and three articles.

In 1996 the third British Academy Readership volume appeared, Method in Ecumenical Theology (Cambridge University Press), 233 pp., a subject no one else has touched. 'A valuable source of light' and 'a capacity for creative thinking with robust realism', said Theological Studies. 'Evans's latest book is written with the clarity and thoroughness we have come to expect of her', said One in Christ. 'Professor Evans's research is a signpost towards the future', wrote Georges Tavard in the Tablet (though it was not, of course, a signpost towards a Professorship here). 'This is an impressive study which will be an essential companion for both historians and practitioners of the ecumenical enterprise', said the Journal of Theological Studies.

Books published in foreign language editions in that year included Filozofia i Teologia (Krakow, 1996), 201 pp., and Tra Fede e Ragione, Edizioni Culturali Internationali (Genova, 1996), 165 pp. I do not think foreign publishers buy the rights to the books of persons who do not have an international reputation. I also co-edited Anselm, Aosta, Bec and Canterbury, the proceedings of yet another international Anselm conference (Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), 394 pp. There were five contributions to books and encyclopaedias and four articles, including, by now, some in legal areas, for I was getting interested in the law, and two more CAFAS reports.

The book of 1997 was The Reception of the Faith (SPCK, 1997), 229 pp., again on a key topical ecumenical theme, and there were four articles. 'All the distinctive marks of Dr Evans's previous works: wide-ranging scholarship and perspicacity in judgement … This incisive study merits wide acceptance', said a reviewer.

By now I was finding, and continue to find, that it is increasingly difficult to clear space for the writing of books one simply wishes to write, so numerous do invitations and commissions become.

In 1998 I published Getting it Wrong; The Mediaeval Epistemology of Error (Brill, Leiden), 224 pp.; The Works of Anselm of Canterbury (in translation), edited with Brian Davies (OUP, World's Classics), 513 pp.; Discipline and Justice in the Church of England (Gracewing, 1998), 163 pp.; Calling Academia to Account (Open University Press, 1988), 256 pp.; and a string of Popes for Lives of the Popes (Salamander, 1998); and four articles.

I have counted about ten articles and contributions to this and that in 1999. Books published in 2000 are Bernard of Clairvaux (commissioned by the New York end of OUP), 220 pp., hardback and paperback; A History of Pastoral Care (ed.) (Continuum), 476 pp.; Managing the Church (ed. with Martyn Percy) (Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 258 pp.; The Mediaeval Theologians (ed.) (Blackwells), c. 400 pp., companion volume to The Modern Theologians, ed. David Ford, Regius Professor of Divinity and member of the General Board Promotions Committee which denied me promotion this year (do look up his own list in the University Library); and half a dozen articles.

There is also a forthcoming book on student rights and remedies, to be published by Kogan Page conjointly with the Times Higher Education Supplement. My interest in the law of higher education is yet another interdisciplinary outward movement of the same core interests, founded on my earlier studies of governance in the Church and the early history of universities.

Books scheduled for publication in the next year or so are Mediaeval Commentaries on Peter Lombard's Sentences (ed.), Vol. I (commissioned by Brill, Leiden: a contract for a second volume is promised); Law and Theology in the Middle Ages (Routledge); Fifty Key Mediaeval Thinkers (Routledge, another commissioned volume); and Faith in the Mediaeval West (Lion, a further commissioned volume).

All this has been my scholar's way of trying to do something of permanent value and use to others even in the midst of great difficulties in getting recognition for a lifetime's achievement. I have not listed all my activities over the years. Some of them are in Who's Who. Those who say one can publish too much should bear in mind that some of us just work rather hard. The former Regius Professor of History, Owen Chadwick, has rather a long list too.

I learn that my appeal was accidentally sellotaped to five copies of the 'Green Book' procedures and put away in a cupboard without acknowledgement. I have sorted that out now with the helpful secretary (not her fault). Still, an appropriate metaphor perhaps.

Dr A. W. F. EDWARDS:

Mr deputy Vice-Chancellor, if a person remains silent after benefiting from a promotion scheme which he has criticized in the past, he is open to the suspicion that he may have been motivated purely by self-interest. I shall therefore offer some comments from my new vantage-point of a probable beneficiary.

At the Discussion on 10 November two years ago (Reporter, 1998-99, p. 167) I made some remarks concerning the procedure. In their reply the General Board of the day adopted a tone of injured innocence which I thought was rather inappropriate, but they did at least undertake to 'consider which elements of the procedure it would be appropriate to include either in the Statutes or the Ordinances'. They have not honoured that undertaking. My other points they ignored.

I have read my remarks again in the light of the present Report, and as I find them as persuasive now as when I first made them, I propose to repeat them in order to give today's Board an opportunity to make a fresh start mindful of the undertaking. Naturally, some things have changed; the 'Yellow Book' is now green.

I said:

'It must by now be obvious even to the most casual reader of the Reporter that all is not well with the business of creating Readerships and Professorships for named persons. There has been, and continues to be, public conflict of a kind hitherto unknown in Cambridge, spilling over into the courts and gravely damaging the reputation of the University. Some wrong turnings must have been taken if a dissident minority, acting with constitutional propriety so far as my limited knowledge allows me to judge, is able to hold centre stage for so long. A well-ordered University would have settled the matters in dispute some time ago to the general satisfaction, if not to the entire satisfaction, of the aggrieved parties.

I am going to be so bold as to discuss what I see as the principal error that has been made. It is, of course, not customary for the Old Schools to admit their errors, but I venture to suggest that the resolution of the conflict requires such an admission, at least in the private counsels of those involved.

The kernel of the problem is that an attempt has been made to effect a major change in the policies and procedures of the University in connection with the creation of Readerships and Professorships for named persons without a corresponding adjustment in the relevant Statutes and their associated Ordinances. Matters which should properly belong to the Statutes and therefore be beyond immediate dispute are not to be found in the Statutes; lesser matters which are the prerogative of the University itself and which should be in the Ordinances are not to be found in the Ordinances; and matters of procedure which should be the responsibility of the bodies concerned subject to any statutory provisions are instead being specified ad nauseam by the General Board.

Instead of regular statutory arrangements like those for the election of ordinary Professors or the appointment of University Lecturers, everything to do with the operation of the new policy is encapsulated in a 'Yellow Book' to be issued by the General Board, with an attempt at validation by Grace. It would be hard to think of a surer way of causing conflict, with its open invitation to the putting of endless sequences of detailed amendments.

What should have happened is this. First, the policy should have been promoted, discussed, and then approved by the University, that is, the Regent House acting by Grace. Secondly, the outline procedures thus approved should then have been cast into statutory form in accordance with the existing conventions of the Statutes and approved by the University and the Queen in Council, thus removing them from controversy. Thirdly, any supporting Ordinances dealing with lesser matters should have been drafted and approved by the University (possibly at the same time as the statutory changes if all was running smoothly). Finally, the administrative arrangements should then have been put in place by the administrative officers acting under the authority of the General Board.

What has actually happened is that the Old Schools have relied on two elements of Statute D ('The University Officers') which were never intended to cover a policy such as that now being implemented. The first is Statute D, XV, 1(b), which allows the appointment to 'a Professorship limited to the tenure of one Professor only, if established for a particular person by Grace', and the second is Statute D, XVI, 1 and 5 which state that 'The University shall have power to establish and maintain such Readerships as it may from time to time determine' and 'The appointment to a Readership shall be made in such manner as the University may from time to time determine'. In connection with the Readerships, the University some time ago determined, by Ordinance, a parallel procedure to that for the Professorships.

These provisions were originally introduced to cover exceptional cases. Within recent memory, when the numbers were still modest and the concept of 'promotion' had not yet been introduced, they were operated without conflict. But they are inappropriate for a general scheme of promotion which, it should be obvious, requires just as extensive statutory treatment as Statute D devotes to elections and appointments to all other University offices. The procedure for the appointment of a University Lecturer, for example, is specified in detail, and anyone who has served on an Appointments Committee will know that a General Board administrator is present to ensure that the business is conducted in accordance with the Statute and the other general Statutes regulating procedure at meetings.

The essential need has been for a new chapter to Statute D headed 'Promotions' to govern the operation of the new policy. The absence of this chapter has been, I believe, the major single cause of the prolonged difficulties.

Not everyone finds these abstract arguments about the importance of proper statutory provision easy to grasp, so I will illustrate them with a particular example. 'The Yellow Book' will promulgate a rule (2.5) that 'Any person who had reached the age of 67 by 1 October 1998 ... will not be eligible for appointment to a Faculty Promotions Committee'. The Regent House is invited to approve this rule and, in the same breath, also invited to give the General Board authority to change it if they consider it necessary 'for the proper management of the promotions exercise'.

My first observation is that questions of ineligibility on account of age are matters for the Statutes and are not within the jurisdiction of the Regent House alone and certainly not within that of the General Board. Currently age-limits are specified for membership of the Regent House itself (Statute A, III, 7), of the Council (Statute A, IV, 8), of Boards, Managers, and Syndicates (excluding occasional Syndicates) (Statute A, VI, 3), of the Board of Scrutiny (Statute A, VII, 3(c)(i)), of Boards of Electors (Statute D, XV, 9), and of Appointments Committees (Statute D, XVII, 5(b)). This leaves no room whatever to doubt that age-limits are a matter for the Statutes. A Grace does not confer legality on a regulation which should properly be a Statute; it is itself ultra vires.

It may be helpful if I here interpolate a comment on some people's belief that if an act, such as the setting of an age-limit by the General Board, is not prevented by a Statute or an Ordinance, then it is permitted. This is to misunderstand the basis of the Statutes. They are principally enabling Statutes, conferring powers and privileges on the University and its constituent bodies, and often duties and obligations as well. They confer rights and they prescribe remedies. They are not a compilation of rules that must not be transgressed, like the criminal law, and nowhere should one expect to find a Statute defining questions of age-limits to be a statutory matter. From recent General Board circulars to University officers it is difficult not to get the impression that the Board have come to believe that they have the power to vary or supplement the provisions of Statute D and its associated Ordinances. It is unlikely that the High Court would agree.

My second observation on the promulgated age-limit is the trivial one that by the statutory precedents it is the wrong age-limit anyway. Except in special cases like the provisions for young people on the Board of Scrutiny, the Statutes normally specify 70 years, not 67, and, in particular, this is the age specified both for Appointments Committees and the Regent House itself, the actual appointing body to the offices in question. (It will not, of course, be possible to meet my first point by simply changing the number in the 'Yellow Book'.)

I hope this example illustrates the position clearly, and that I have clearly conveyed my view that the main cause of current difficulties is the substitution by the Old Schools of an unstatutory managerialism for the proper government of the University'.


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Cambridge University Reporter, 22 November 2000
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