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Fly-sheets reprinted

The following fly-sheets etc., are reprinted in accordance with the Council's Notice on Discussions and Fly-sheets (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 117).

REPORT OF THE COUNCIL ON THE MANAGEMENT OF THE UNIVERSITY CENTRE

These are the reasons why we oppose the abolition of the University Centre Syndicate and Management Committee.

1. The merits of the status quo. In their Reply to the Discussion (Reporter, 2000-01, p. 298) the Council say that it is 'essential that the University continues to be academic led in its governance and management'. We agree; and we believe that all University institutions should be governed by representative bodies. The members of such bodies can offer their respective skills and expertise to the enterprise with which they are concerned. In the case of the University Centre the present committee arrangements date from 1985. They have operated successfully throughout their existence, sometimes in very difficult circumstances. They have dealt with questions of finance, staff, computerization, buildings, litigation and many others. Credit for that success is due primarily to the Manager and staff, but we believe that the Syndicate and Management Committee have played an important role.

2. The demerits of what is proposed. The Council proposes the 'direct line management solution' meaning that the Chief Officer of the institution, in this case the General Manager of the Centre, should be personally accountable to a Principal Officer of the University, in this case the Registrary, without any intervening committee. This is contrary to the Council's policy quoted above, unless there are clear reasons to make exception. The Manager would be deprived of the support and input from the Syndicate and the Centre would lose the vigilance exerted by the Syndicate. With due affection to the present Registrary, we doubt whether a Registrary could be expected to offer the time and specialized advice needed for this role, in addition to all his other worries (including, at the present time, his ultimate responsibility for CAPSA, see p. 86!). By defeating this proposal, the Regent House would give a useful signal about such proposals for 'direct line management' in other contexts.

3. Failure to give reasons. The original Report (p. 214) made 'proposals for significant changes in the management structure of the Centre'. It contained no supporting arguments except for a reference to an annexed letter from the current Chairman of the Syndicate. That letter only offered the cryptic remark that 'the current structure did not produce a commensurately high level of added value'. This appears to mean that the current members of the Syndicate felt that they were wasting their time. The proposals were challenged on several points in the ensuing Discussion (p. 324, q.v.) most of which were ignored in the Council's Reply. The Reply again gave no arguments in support of the proposals; and although it included the phrase quoted above (para. no. 1) it said nothing to explain why the University Centre should constitute an exception to the quoted policy.

4. The proposals are unnecessary. At times when the Centre is running smoothly, the Syndicate and Management Committee can easily reduce the frequency and/or length of their meetings within the present framework, and the flow of financial information to Central bodies can continue unaltered. This can be done without alteration to Ordinances, while keeping open the possibility of input and assistance from the Syndicate, etc. when difficulties and major decisions occur. The proposed changes are thus not needed unless they are being promoted for other reasons not yet revealed.

We urge members to vote non placet.

 
STEPHEN J. COWLEY R. R HORGAN MARK KAPLANOFF M. R. E. PROCTOR
J. P. DOUGHERTY J. A. HUDSON M. E. MCINTYRE MARK SPIVACK
IAN T. DRUMMOND R. E. HUNT NIGEL PEAK B. J. USCINSKI
PETER H. HAYNES

REPORT OF THE COUNCIL ON THE MANAGEMENT OF THE UNIVERSITY CENTRE

In their response to the remarks made at the Discussion of the Report on the Management of the University Centre, the Council made plain that they attached great importance to the governance of the University remaining academic led. Both the remarks and the subsequent fly-sheet suggest that the Council's proposals for the management of the University Centre signify an erosion of this important principle. They do not. The Council will continue to determine the policy for the Centre and they will retain ultimate responsibility for its management. The Council, advised by the Finance Committee, will also retain oversight of the financial affairs of the Centre. Under the arrangements proposed in the Report, the General Manager will be accountable to the Council for the management of the Centre, but he will report to the Council through the Registrary, as Secretary of the Council, rather than through the Management Committee and the Syndicate as at present. The Council are clear that these arrangements safeguard ultimate academic authority and direction, whilst providing the General Manager with the flexibility he needs. Academic leadership and direction will continue to be essential but they are not to be confused with management, still less with management by committee.

The University Centre provides important services to the University community and must do so on a commercial basis in an increasingly competitive environment where the Manager needs flexibility to respond to the market if the performance of the Centre is not to suffer. In putting forward their recommendations to the University, the Council were acting on the unequivocal advice of the Syndicate, whose members understand both the Centre's history and its present needs. The Syndicate's comment that 'the current structure did not produce a commensurately high level of added value' is not interpreted by the Council to mean that members of the Syndicate were wasting their time; rather that the Syndicate themselves were acting in a policy framework set out by the Council and could contribute little that added significantly either to this framework or to the day-to-day management of the Centre undertaken by the General Manager.

The fly-sheet fails to take into account not only the competitive environment within which the Centre has to operate, but also the Council's proposals for a user group chaired by a senior member of the Council, which the Council believe will provide important advice and feedback to the General Manager from the Centre's direct users.

In summary, the Council are clear that their proposals: preserve overall academic direction in setting the policy within which the University Centre is to be managed; provide for direct management and more effective financial accountability; empower the General Manager to be responsive to a competitive market; and ensure that the views of the direct users of the Centre are represented to the General Manager.

I urge members of the Regent House to vote placet in the forthcoming ballot.

A. M. LONSDALE

on behalf of the Council


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Cambridge University Reporter, 7 March 2001
Copyright © 2011 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.