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Report of the Council on the Unified Administrative Service: Notice

18 June 2001

The Council have considered the remarks made in the Discussion of their Report, dated 19 March 2001, on the Unified Administrative Service (Reporter, pp. 560-4). In this response, they comment on the main themes in those remarks and also make proposals for the way ahead.

The Council are and always have been clear that in its overall direction the University must continue to be academic-led. They are clear too that the management of the University's activities, which is already largely in the hands of academic staff, must also continue to be academic-led and they are happy to take this opportunity to correct any other impression that might have been given and to which Dr Dougherty drew attention. However, they are concerned that those academic staff involved in the management process need more developed and more professional administrative support and training. Much of that support must inevitably come from the Central Administration (the Unified Administrative Service) and their proposals were designed to enhance the capacity of that Service both to manage itself and to deliver effective services in support of academic management. The proposals were also designed to differentiate between the management of the administration and the senior management of the University. The role of the administration is to support, not to manage, the delivery of high-quality teaching and research. The Council are clear that senior administrators in Cambridge understand that role and in turn the Council respect and welcome the experienced advice that is available to the University and its academic management from its administrative staff.

The organization of the University is under some strain largely as a result of its success, in particular, in the continuing expansion of its research capacity and infrastructure. Furthermore, all universities are now operating in an ever-changing external regulatory environment. This changed external context places great demands on all institutions in the University and imposes additional administrative burdens. Many members of the academic staff are engaged in administrative tasks. Members of the administrative staff outside the Unified Administrative Service provide invaluable support to Faculties, Schools, and Departments. The Council acknowledge the point made by Dr Winter on behalf of the Council of the School of Physical Sciences with regard to contributions made by administrative staff outside the Service. There are however specific burdens placed upon the Unified Administrative Service, and the Council repeat their view that whilst administration is not a core objective of the University, the delivery of effective administrative support provides essential underpinning of the University's continued success. The Council have no doubt that without some further development both in terms of resourcing and of organization, the Unified Administrative Service will continue to be handicapped in its efforts to provide the services that the University expects and needs in a rapidly changing environment.

The provision of administrative services should be at the highest levels of professional expertise and effectiveness and the Council recognize that this requires there to be a clear policy towards professional and career development for administrative staff. They note that the development and application of such policies will be helped by the additional resources in the Personnel Division and the organizational changes in the Unified Administrative Service. The Registrary, as the principal administrative officer, will be discussing with the Chairmen of the Councils of the Schools, how career development opportunities can be expanded for all administrative staff and how communication between the Schools and the University centrally can be enhanced. It is already practice in the Service to seek to ensure that, where appropriate, at an early stage in their careers, members of administrative staff spend some time in a Faculty or Department, but the Council hope that these arrangements can be strengthened. Similarly it is already practice in the Service for academic staff to be involved in the appointment of staff at all officer levels and for the personal profiles of posts being advertised to include a requirement for the candidates to be able to demonstrate a sympathy for and understanding of higher education. These practices will continue under the arrangements the Council will approve if, as the Council judge is necessary, greater efficiency is introduced in the recruitment process by authorizing the Registrary to make appointments to the more junior levels of administrative staff. To be effective, staff at all grades and levels need to be able to relate to and work with academic staff in the Cambridge context whilst still being able to contribute to service development and innovation. These qualities are not easy to find but they are always sought.

In response to Professor Spencer's request for data on staff turnover, the Registrary has provided the following figures for the Unified Administrative Service:

   Leavers, year to 31 March 2001, full-time
Officers 30
Assistant staff 50
   Leavers, year to 31 March 2000, full-time
Officers 27
Assistant staff 41
   Vacancies, 1 April 2001 30
   Vacancies, 1 April 2000 5

 These figures include officers and assistant staff taking early retirement and posts authorized through the New Needs rounds. The percentage of those leaving in the separate Divisions in the Service is variable, ranging from 0% to over 25%. The Council, as well as the Registrary and his senior colleagues, regard this level of turnover as too high. The reasons are various, and similarly a range of factors can be expected to contribute to an improvement including: clear leadership, enhanced terms and conditions of employment, encouragement of career development, and a culture of respect for professional skills and expertise.

The Council note that several speakers referred to the implementation of CAPSA (now the Cambridge University Financial System) as an example of the failure of administrative services and suggested that further reorganization of the Service should await the report of the review of CAPSA and its implementation which is being undertaken jointly by the Audit Committee and the Board of Scrutiny (see p. 754). However, the Council are satisfied that the changes they proposed are necessary in themselves for the development of the Service and would not preclude further change arising from the recommendations of the review. The Council propose to comment further when they publish the report of the review.

The Council have noted Professor Edwards's remarks about the employment of contract research staff. The Council have asked the General Board, through their Research Policy Committee, and the Personnel Committee, to consider Professor Edwards's suggestions. The Council are committed to the development of fair and appropriate employment policies and practices and to equality of opportunity. They are also conscious of the importance of the role played by staff in all grades and categories in supporting the University's academic performance. They believe that the University's continued success depends on the integration of those staff groups and categories and on developing partnership arrangements with research sponsors. They would therefore view with concern developments which marginalized research staff and research sponsors or which were otherwise inconsistent with the Research Careers Initiative.

The Council have also noted Dr Dougherty's remarks about the Sports Syndicate. The Council take this opportunity to state that they have no plans to suggest that the Syndicate's constitutional position and responsibilities should be changed.

In the light of their consideration of the remarks, and of the review of their proposals, the Council believe that it would be appropriate, indeed that it is necessary, for the reorganization of the Unified Administrative Service to go ahead. In their view, those arrangements are largely separable from the broader consideration of the role of the Pro-Vice-Chancellors and of the offices of Treasurer and Secretary General. The Council will be reporting to the University on these matters. In this context they have noted Professor Humphreys's remarks in the Discussion on 10 October (p. 90) about the desirability of developing explicit linkages between Pro-Vice-Chancellors and Divisions in the Unified Administrative Service. The Council also expect to issue a consultative 'green paper' on related governance matters. It is the Council's view however, that the reorganization of the Unified Administrative Service and the arrangements for its accountability are urgent.

Accordingly they recommend that the draft Ordinance published with their Report, amended to include the membership of the Standing Appointments Committee in Regulation 6 as shown in the attachment to this Notice, be approved with effect from 1 October 2001 and that the existing Ordinances relating to the Unified Administrative Service (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 650) and to the Estate Management and Building Service (ibid, p. 883) be rescinded from the same date. They have agreed to submit Graces to the Regent House for the approval of these recommendations (Graces 1 and 2, p. 889).


  D. A. GOOD    


University Offices

1. The staff of the University Offices shall form a Unified Administrative Service which shall be organized in such Divisions as the Council may from time to time determine.1

2. The head of the Unified Administrative Service shall be the Registrary who, as such, shall manage the University Offices and their staff, budgets, space, and other resources provided to the Offices by the Council. It shall be the duty of the Registrary to ensure that arrangements for the quality assurance of the services provided by the Offices are presented to the Council and are implemented as agreed by the Council.

3. Within each Division of the University Offices there shall be an established office of Director (or such other title as may be determined from time to time by the Council) who shall be head of the Division and whose duties shall include the management of the Division, under the overall responsibility of the Registrary.2

4. Within the Unified Administrative Service there shall be the following established offices, in such numbers as may be agreed from time to time by the Council: Deputy Director, Assistant Director/Registrary/Treasurer (including the grades of Principal Assistant and Senior Assistant), Administrative Officer (in three grades, I, II, and III), Computer Officer (in five grades, Senior Computer Officer and Officer I, II, III, and IV), Advisory Officer (including the grade of Senior Advisory Officer).

The allocation of offices between the Divisions of the Unified Administrative Service shall be determined by the Registrary.

5. The duties of the various offices, their conditions of service, the scale of stipends and the duration of tenure attaching to each office and grade shall be determined by the Council.

6. Appointments to the offices of Director, Deputy Director, Assistant Director/Registrary/Treasurer (in the grades of Principal Assistant and Senior Assistant only), and Computer Officer (in the grade of Senior Computer Officer only) shall be made by a Standing Appointments Committee which shall be a Committee of the Council. Appointments to other offices shall be made by the Registrary under procedures to be agreed from time to time by the Council. The Standing Appointments Committee shall consist of :

(a) the Vice-Chancellor (or a duly appointed deputy) as Chairman;
(b) four persons appointed by the Council, one on the nomination of the General Board, one on the nomination of the Finance Committee, and two on the Council's own nomination;
(c) the Registrary (or a deputy appointed by the Registrary) and the head of the Division in which the appointment is to be made.

Members in class (b) shall be appointed in the Michaelmas Term to serve for two years from 1 January following their appointment. The Registrary, or a University officer designated by the Registrary, shall act as Secretary to the Committee.

7. The University Offices shall be open throughout the year at such hours as may be approved from time to time by the Council except for such periods of closure at Christmas, Easter, and other public holidays as may be authorized by the Council.

1 The Council have determined the following structure of Divisions:

Academic (including the Planning and Resource Allocation Office)

Estate Management and Building Service


Health and Safety

Management Information Services


Research Services

Secretariat (including Legal Services)

2 The Council have determined that the head of the Academic Division shall have the title of Academic Secretary and the Head of the Secretariat shall have the title of Administrative Secretary.

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Cambridge University Reporter, 20 June 2001
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