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Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 13 March 2001. A Discussion was held in the Senate-House of the following Report:

The Report of the Council, dated 26 February 2001, on the construction of an Equine Diagnostic and Rehabilitation Centre for the Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine (p. 506).


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Reporter of 7 March (p. 522) contained a brief Notice alerting the vigilant to the Vice-Chancellor's address yesterday to members of the Regent House on the proposals for development of the University North West Cambridge Site. In the event, most of the talking was done by some of those expensive consultants we keep hiring, as we did for CAPSA. They had a 'sales pitch' on a number of policy questions.

The shape of Cambridge: a plan (December 1960) may be read in the Library. It then seemed clear that it must be the policy of the University to avoid moving outwards to develop West Cambridge. It was vigorously argued that the central sites must be better utilized so as to avoid the outward drift. 'The case for the concentration of teaching at the centre is a strong one.' That was still thought to be the right way in the 1974 Report of the General Board on the Long-term Development of the University. It may be argued now that that pass has been sold. We have blundered round 180 degrees and are now facing the other way, with a series of Reports over the last few years steadily moving the University out to the West and the North and now planning to add a town nearly the size of Reading.

This present Report proposes only a little bite at the cherry on the 'West' site and I am sure 'the equine community' referred to at the beginning of this Report will neigh its welcome for this small extra building since we are putting it up for its benefit and the Home of Rest for Horses seems to be happy about that.

My reason for speaking is just to plead once more that we do not lose sight of the danger of blighting our beautiful environment in the excitements either of getting new buildings erected for particular purposes or of driving 'forward' with ambitious schemes. Reading the surviving papers in connection with the Royal Commissions of inquiry into the University of the 1850s, 1870s, and 1920s, one cannot but be struck by the repeating patterns. 'There can … be no manner of doubt that far too many of the administrative affairs of the University are in the hands of men whose minds have lost their elasticity', said one respondent to the last of these Commissions (Bodley, MS Top. Oxon. b.104, Box 1(42)). That means, in practice, that when someone with an agenda wants to push something through, and especially when politicians are in favour, that other 'equine community' of our committee-members will trot obediently in harness. The revelations in the Sunday Times of 11 March about ministerial intervention 'to help a Syrian arms broker with a controversial plan to build' the Said Business School at Oxford on the site of a grade II listed building without an inconvenient inquiry delaying things should give us pause. Come on, you 'safe pairs of hands', darlings of the Committee on Committees; wake up and ask some questions! The Vice-Chancellor did publicly promise yesterday that there would be no seeking of ministerial ears to get planning consents.

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Cambridge University Reporter, 21 March 2001
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