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Annual Reports of the Council and the General Board for 1999-2000: Notice

26 February 2001

1. The Council have considered the remarks made at the Discussion of these Reports on 16 January 2001 (pp. 391 and 438). They have invited the response of the General Board to the remarks on the Board's Annual Report.

2. In their preliminary response to the remarks made on their own Report (p. 452), the Council concentrated on those of three of the four speakers who all raised the question of the CAPSA project. The fourth speaker, Dr Evans, raised a number of issues of which some, as a member of the Council until 31 December 2000, she was aware were under consideration by the Council and have been, or soon will be brought forward for the information of the Regent House. The Council share the opinion that some of these issues are urgent but consider that they are of such importance that wide consultation in the University is necessary in drawing up new procedures. The University is faced with a period of unprecedented change as a result of outside pressures and has limited resources within its administration to deal with all the necessary changes. The Council must therefore prioritize the business put forward.

3. Since the Discussion on 16 January the Council have approved publication of several Notices concerning on-going business. These include a Notice announcing a review of the CAPSA project (p. 403), the Equality Audit report from the consultancy, Schneider~Ross (p. 409) together with a commentary on its recommendations and a proposed plan of action, and a Notice announcing the proposals resulting from the Land Use Working Group's study of the University North West Cambridge Site (p. 466). They have also approved the publication of the General Board's Report on the ownership of intellectual property rights generated by externally funded research, which contains as an annex a proposed code of practice (p. 429).

4. At their meetings this term they are scheduled to consider a report on changes to the Unified Administrative Service which will include provision for quality control, a report from the Planning and Resource Committee on the University's proposed new Mission Statement, and the recommendations from a Working Party chaired by Dr J. A. Leake, and with full student representation, which has been reviewing student complaints and the development of more formal integrated procedures for dealing with these complaints. These will be presented to the Regent House for discussion in the usual way.

Turning to other points raised by Dr Evans:

Report paragraph 50

5. Dr Evans enquired 'what was coded within the text' of this paragraph. This concerns the Personnel Committee's review of personnel management and the equality audit. It refers to the desirability of delegating authority to individuals in order to streamline and speed up the process by which business is done in the University, without undermining the formal authority of the Regent House and without any suggestion of whips being applied.

Discussions

6. The Council have referred consideration of the procedures for Discussions back to the Committee on Governance. The Council continue to be concerned that Discussions should not be abused but should provide an effective mechanism for members of the Regent House to comment on the business put forward.

Personnel Consultants and personnel matters

7. As a member of the Council, Dr Evans received the minutes of the Personnel Committee amongst other bodies. She is therefore well aware that all Chairmen of Faculty Boards, Heads of Departments and other institutions, and Departmental and Faculty Administrators were circulated with details of the new Personnel Consultants who would provide consultancy and advice to Heads of institutions and members of staff on a range of personnel matters. The University administrative offices have an extensive website (www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/) which includes details of or links to codes of practice in many areas of the University's business.

HEFCE

8. Dr Evans states that 'HEFCE was not enthusiastic [about our accounting practices]. It gave us a bare pass.' On the contrary, the HEFCE praised the 'high level of openness and accountability within the governance structure' of the University and made no recommendations for fundamental change. The areas in which HEFCE sought improvement were areas involving the extension of good practice which the University was already working to achieve.

UCLES and NCS

9. Dr Evans calls for an 'honest and full account' of the collapse in negotiations between the Local Examinations Syndicate and NCS. In their Notice of 23 October (p. 107) the Council announced that the Local Examinations Syndicate had decided to withdraw from negotiations with NCS as it was not possible to reach agreement on a number of important matters. They gave as much detail as possible subject to a confidentiality agreement between the negotiating parties which is still in force.

Microsoft Research Building

10. Dr Evans asked what protection there was against the University having to buy back this building at inflated cost. Under the terms of its agreement with Microsoft, the University will purchase the completed building at a figure which will be determined on the basis of the actual cost of construction and associated expenditure. The building will have been constructed to a specification approved by the University, and the various cost elements of the reimbursable expenditure are also subject to capping arrangements.

Archaeological sites

11. The University's policy is to treat archaeological discoveries with utmost respect, as evidenced by its exemplary response to the West Cambridge discoveries. All excavation and preservation work was carried out in consultation with the County and City Councils under an Archaeological Masterplan Agreement. The University voluntarily committed itself to the highest standards of archaeological fieldwork, and received commendations from the County and City Councils for what was widely considered a showpiece of good developer practice.

Data Protection

12. The University Data Protection Officer is preparing a report to the Council to detail the measures that have been and will be taken to implement the recommendations in the report of the Working Party on Data Protection. All requests for access to personal data are handled in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998.

CMI

13. In their Annual Report the Council did not wish to duplicate the remarks on CMI which were contained in the General Board's Annual Report. In that Report the General Board informed the University that the Office of Science and Technology had released £65.1m of funding for CMI, following the submission of a proposal document. The text of the document is available on the intranet site (www.cmi.cam.ac.uk/policy/index.shtml) as is the 'Guide to Project Funding' which was also mentioned in the General Board's Annual Report. CMI's Corporate Plan has a structure for ensuring that projects are value for money and are used for activities in addition to those for which the University receives its HEFCE block grant. The public monies received by CMI are subject to the Department of Trade and Industry's normal auditing procedures which are applied to both finances and procedures.

14. The General Board for their part have agreed that, since none of the remarks were concerned with the substance of their Annual Report, a detailed response is not required.

15. The Council are submitting a Grace to the Regent House (Grace 3, p. 511) for the approval of their Annual Report.


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Cambridge University Reporter, 28 February 2001
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