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Tuesday, 16 October 2001. A Discussion was held in the Senate-House of the following Reports:
The Report of the Council, dated 23 July 2001, on the construction of a new building for the Institute of Criminology on the Sidgwick Avenue Site (Reporter, 2000-01, p. 1001).
Dr G. MEEKS
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, to my eye this de-sign is seriously flawed: too big for the plot and too timid and commonplace to justify a site near the distinguished work of Casson, Foster, and Cullinan. But, although the Council promised in February to 'provide further opportunity for consideration of specific construction projects', such as Criminology's, the present Discussion comes far too late in the planning process for meaningful scrutiny or debate: it's simply too late to change the plan. The proposal went to the City planners months ago; and returning to them now with a change of heart would damage our future credibility. Delay at this stage would also increase building costs and damage the academic programme of the criminologists, whose case for re-housing is overwhelming. To be realistic, this is a fait accompli.
Moreover, it would be harsh on Criminology to delay them now since they have themselves been forced into this corner by an earlier pre-emptive move on the part of the Central Bodies. Our User Representative tells us that the Needs Committee decided to insert an extra Department onto the Sidgwick Site (on Criminology's current plot, as it turns out), before consulting the existing users of the Site about their accommodation needs - before developing a master plan.
Following the discussion of the master plan, in which some Faculty Boards complained of lack of consultation, the Council promised to 'ensure that all the Faculty Boards on the Sidgwick Site [would be] specifically addressed in any further consultation process'. Yet my own Board has not been included in formal consultation about Criminology's plan (although my Faculty is one of the main users of the adjacent Lecture Block, and will be affected both during construction and in the long term). Nor has it been formally consulted over a plan to change the use of the quad. adjacent to its building. And, were it not for the vigilance of the Chairman of our School, it clearly would not have been consulted about the imminent takeover of one floor of its Faculty building by a Department from another Site.
I am therefore using this opportunity not to ask the Council to block this particular proposal, but to reconsider its consultation procedures for the longer term, and issue guidelines to those who have to lead future planning proposals through the University.
Clearer guidelines, resulting in more effective consultation, could help in several ways. Consultation could help Departments plan more successfully to deal with neighbouring developments which will affect their work. Then, if the consultation demonstrated that no better options were available, it might help reconcile to the new developments those who lose from them: in the Criminology case losers include University members in adjacent buildings deprived of light and outlook by Criminology's painfully close concrete walls, and staff now forced by Criminology's displacement of parking to spend several extra hours a week commuting (these staff having in many cases been offered parking permits when they were appointed). Serious consultation could also protect overworked administrators from allegations of 'steamrolling' and of sidelining established democratic channels - demoralizing when they are struggling valiantly to cope with 'client' Departments, with benefactors, with architects, with City planners and with rapidly rising building costs. Finally, proper consultation might even result in design improvements.
If the Council were sympathetic to my request to reconsider consultation procedures for these large and irreversible investments - to bring consultation closer to the standard we enjoy in relation to student and employment matters - they might find it helpful to consider the model established by the Maths Faculty in developing their new Centre. Wide and formal consultation about the desirable density and scale of development preceded the development of a master plan for their site; and this took place before Department Heads had become wedded to particular plots; detailed plans were discussed at an early stage with all affected groups, not just the users of the new buildings (and the plans were significantly amended as a result); a Discussion was held before making planning application; and a website and open meetings were used to supplement rather than to supplant established consultation procedures.
Dr G. R. EVANS
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, many of you will be able to read this only because the decision to take the Reporter off the web has been postponed (Reporter, October 3). The Council has sensibly listened to the numerous representations which were made when it was announced that it was to disappear. The presence of the Reporter on the open web is now important to its fulfilling its constitutional and statutory functions, in a world in which many of the members of the Regent House work abroad or outside Cambridge in research and other contexts. The University depends for the maintenance of its high international reputation on encouraging this geographically wide-ranging activity. Those who may wish to exercise the franchise or to be kept up-to-the-minute for purposes of speech-writing, or to make the cross-references so easy with the electronic Reporter, will suffer seriously if they can access the electronic Reporter only from a computer in the cam.ac.uk domain. Members of the University at large entitled to speak in Discussions form a far wider constituency than those who can use such computers.
It does not appear to be in dispute that any necessary safeguards to ensure that we comply with the Data Protection Act can be built into our system, and that the ostensible reason for the decision to take the Reporter off the web is the contention that we do not have the necessary resources to set up these safeguards. This is surely a matter of getting our priorities right. As with the still-delayed appearance of the Minutes and Agenda of Council and General Board the work which needs to be done is, I understand, technically not complicated, and it need be done only once to set up a new working system. It is reassuring to learn that this is now at last in hand. We hope that means now, with results in our lifetimes.
I have not been joining in the arguments about the reshaping of the Sidgewick Site. It is already full of buildings of architectural note which leak, or are so unfriendly to human occupation that no one lingers within them. (The reasons why the History Faculty Common Room is always deserted may not of course be wholly architectural.) I just want to draw the attention of members of the Regent House to two points at which decision-making goes on out of their sight and out of their control, to one of which the previous speaker has already drawn attention. We have moved (p. 1001) from the identification of an area to be made available for a new building for the Institute of Criminology to a proposed new building already planned and drawn up for you to look at in the Old Schools arcade. Who was involved in the stages between the gleam of an idea and the tempting promise of those covered bicycle-sheds, which the Discussion on the Computer Building a year or two ago showed to be of central importance in winning the Regent House to approve a building scheme? At what moments could you have had a say in the choice of architect and the selection of the design? And now you are to hand to the Treasurer, uncertain as the future of that office now is, authorization to accept a tender for the works in due course. Again, no Regent House supervision, and I seem to remember that the choice of a tender in the CAPSA area could have done with the Governing Body keeping an eye on things.
Naturally, I am not suggesting that the Regent House should adopt a hands-on approach to every detail of administrative activity. I endorse the sensible suggestions just made. I am, too, suggesting that we rethink the framework of reporting and accessibility of information, with, perhaps a bulletin-board of ongoing projects, where details can be inspected, published regularly in the Reporter. The Reporter used to have a letters page. We could return to that too. All part of improving our electronic access to our own affairs, as the Vice-Chancellor favours in his annual address. But Sir Alec, when you work out protocols that keep the debate within 'intellectually principled boundaries' (Reporter, 2001-02, p. 60), do glance at the legislation which protects academic freedom of speech. You remain (at present) merely the creature of the Regent House and it is not for you to tell us what we may say in our ancient parliament.
The Joint Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 23 July and 11 July 2001, on amendments to regulations relating to deductions from and additional payments to the stipends of University officers (Reporter, 2000-01, p. 1003).
Professor D. E. NEWLAND
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I welcome this Report. Its most important part proposes removing the maximum limit that an officer may earn as non-pensionable payments additional to stipend in any particular year. The ceiling on these payments has become wholly unrealistic. I am sure that I need not list the extensive additional administrative duties that have fallen on Departments during the last years. Inevitably they involve University officers, generally teaching officers, in heavy and relentless administrative demands which are additional to what formerly were regarded as 'normal duties'. At the same time, many other teaching officers are in receipt of consultancy and other payments from non-teaching duties outside the University which those carrying heavy administrative loads are no longer free to pursue. It is only right that there is some greater attempt at achieving a realistic financial reward for administrative duties which are taken on to ensure the smooth functioning of our organization and on which we depend.
The only persuasive argument I have heard against allowing more realistic payments is that some Departments and Faculties do not have the resources available to them to make such payments, whereas others can pay from their research grant overhead income or private sources. The General Board should recognize that its resources may have to be distributed unevenly to compensate for this inequality. I would be content for that to be the case because it is essential that this difficulty should not stand in the way of implementing the proposals now put forward in this Report.
This Report does not refer to payments to University officers in connection with research (Statutes and Ordinances p. 167), but I assume that the maximum limit that applies to those payments will also be removed if this Report is adopted.
In conclusion, I would prefer all administrative payments to be pensionable payments. Very often these duties are taken on by University officers who are approaching retirement and in my opinion it is only right that their contribution should be a factor in their continuing income after retirement. I cannot see why administrative payments should not be regarded as part of the pensionable stipend of University officers as they are, for example, for Heads of Department.
Dr G. R. EVANS
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, in this Report we have some stocktaking about the consequences of the move away from that old world on which many of us look back with nostalgia, of the generous giving of administrative time to the general good, to the new world of substantial emoluments for those with administrative responsibilities.
This has further implications which still do not appear to have been thought through. If we are to be paid for everything we do, what is the incentive to give extra time to students, to prepare speeches as a contribution to our democratic process (journalist's rates for that would be nice). A cash economy is not the right environment for this University, surely?
The increasingly misty picture of the relationship between the published salary-scales and what those in favour are actually paid grows still fuzzier with these changes. How many extras can someone have, and how are those secret extra payments to Professors and senior administrators to be factored in? Incidentally, who exactly does know what the favourites are getting? Where is the list and who has access to it? Where is accountability to the Regent House for all this special expenditure of their money?
Should members of the Council be paid? It is quite time-consuming to sit on the Council and then there are all those committees (at least for those members of the Council not denied their fair share of seats). Will election to the Council then become a scramble for yet more money? Will the power-games of appointment and non-appointment to committees become matters of financial gift as well as the gift of influence? Those few individuals whose names crop up on almost every committee might be onto a nice little earner. But then if money was involved we might have to overhaul appointments to committees at last, or fall foul of equal opportunities legislation.
The Independent on 26 July described how 40% of Vodafone shareholders put up one of the largest protest votes seen over executive pay and attacked directors' multi-million pound salary packages. The speaker before me spoke of consultancy fees. Is it time for the University to be informed how much the Vice-Chancellor was paid last year (we have the figure for the previous year) for this job we allow him to do alongside being our senior servant, despite the potential conflicts of interest?
Here is another bit of tinkering which gives more to those who 'have' and does nothing much for those who 'have not'. The ordinary staff of the University, academic, administrative and assistant, all need to become the focus of the systematic review everyone agrees we need. Please may we have no more of these special-order Reports making adjustments round the edges to the advantage of those who are already doing rather nicely, until we have tackled the problem of the inequities of reward and recognition for the whole community of the University's employees? Some of us are smarting afresh in that area. I am sure I am not the only candidate given a full row of strong green lights by a Faculty this year to have been denied promotion. In my case we may suspect that power politics has had a hand; but others are simply having games played with their lives by decision-makers still untrained despite the promises in the Vice-Chancellor's annual speech last year. One would be delighted to read in paragraph 19 of the Vice-Chancellor's annual address this year that 'we' have to change and that he remains 'firmly committed to this priority' (Reporter, 2001-02, p. 60) if he was not continuing to chair committees, himself untrained and in the knowledge that his promise is being broken all round the table.
The whole question of remuneration for administrative tasks and revised deductions from salary ought to be rethought in the context of some hard expectation that no one gets such moneys without undergoing the relevant training and being made accountable for performance.
The Joint Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 23 July and 11 July 2001, on continuing education and lifelong learning, and the Cambridge Programme for Industry (Reporter, 2000-01, p. 1004). Under the provisions of Regulation 6 for Discussions (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 112) the Registrary has omitted 43 words from the remarks made by Dr Evans; these omissions are indicated by square brackets.
Mr M. RICHARDSON
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the joint Report of the Council and the General Board is welcomed by the Board of Continuing Education as a clear and externally visible signal of the University's firm commitment to Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning and its future development. The proposed creation of a Council of Lifelong Learning provides for the first time a University-wide forum where all parties with an interest in Lifelong Learning provision can exchange practice and contribute to policy development. Likewise, the proposed re-designation of the Board of Continuing Education as an Institute for Continuing Education and the transfer of its line of responsibility from the Council to the General Board is timely and appropriate in the light of the much increased proportion of Continuing Education work within its extensive teaching programme, which for some time now has been capable of carrying award and certification at levels up to and including the Master of Studies Degree.
Dr G. R. EVANS
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, 'We need to shrink-wrap our programmes and brand them in ways that makes (sic) people want to buy. Remember the sales pitch: we are selling social transformation through personal development'. I quote Bryan Sanderson Chairman of the Learning Skills Council.1 'The idea that world-class centres of learning and research should be run as public limited companies betrays a narrowness of thought'. I quote Oxford's Vice-Chancellor2. Which would you prefer Cambridge to line up with?
The University of Cambridge is a degree-awarding institution. Continuing Education is a branch of our activities in which, historically, anyone could 'enrol' without becoming a member of the University. We must not get these things confused.
Why are we handing yet more power to the General Board when the future of the General Board and its remit are in question? Under the proposed new regulations, and under the General Board's (no longer the Council's) direct supervision, there is to be a category of 'other qualifications' (8,d) distinguished from the harmless areas of educational provision for those who just sign up (p. 1006). They are to be 'approved by the General Board'. They are to go to those who 'have followed the Institute's courses and whose work on those courses has been assessed by criteria determined by the Institute', and therefore not by any Department or Faculty. There are to be advisory bodies 'including persons who are not resident members of the University', which means that the award of these 'qualifications' will not be fully under the University's control.
The sting is in the tail. These outsiders will be 'representing interests and activities associated with continuing education as it seems fit'. Seems fit to whom? To our industrial, commercial partners and good old MIT perhaps? Possibly the holders of those Honorary Professorships they are proposing to award without our having to Grace them. Is 'Professor' Chris Gent of Vodaphone going to be sitting there? [43 words omitted.]
The Cambridge Programme for Industry has for some time been one of the 'barnacles' on our surface, running courses in our name without proper regulation by the University. I am glad to see it brought under academic supervision. But here too are going to be advisory bodies, and this time the text comes clean about the interests they are to represent: 'industry, business, and government' (5) (p. 1007). When are we going to stand back from this rush into industrial arms and make a proper job of establishing academic safeguards and protections for our statutory educational purposes?
I turn now to the Principal Conclusions and Recommendations of the Review Committee (pp. 1008-1010), to ask first why this text could not have been made available in the Reporter or for reference in the Old Schools before it came to us as an appendix to a fair accompli.
2.3 mentions the e-university. This faintly sinister creature lurks about in corners of our activities. It is said that Dr Livesey (still drawing his salary as Secretary General) is working on it. The Times Higher Education Supplement on October 5 quoted a recent briefing paper on the e-university. 'It would be wasteful to generate awareness and build expectations when there was little possibility to satisfy it.'
In 2.4 we are invited to pat ourselves on the back while swaggeringly liberating ourselves to do anything we fancy since we can't really know what we shall need to do in the future.
6.3 plans to kill the residence requirement for our students. (Did I not say they would do that?) Oxford, by contrast, is holding out for 'the requirement that most graduate and undergraduate teaching should be on a full-time residential basis' (Corporate Plan, Gazette, 26 September, p. 77).
6.4 opens a gap in the fence so that in future undergraduates may not need to be admitted by a College and could perhaps come in by getting credits on Continuing Education courses, or, if they are businessmen, through the Cambridge Programme for Industry. There were rumblings about CMI Ltd 'placing' in Colleges, too. Has anyone asked the Colleges?
6.10 Although we still lack the Report which would enable us to move forward to the part-time doctorate, it is proposed that new part-time courses should go forward in other areas.
6.11 Begins well. It seems to be understood that 'there must be clear understandings about authority to offer entry to courses (Colleges pushed out again?) to examinations and assessment, and for the award of qualifications and credit'. But look at that sum-mary of our task as a University. Are you happy to be associated, members of the Regent House, with 'applying the Cambridge brand to learning opportunities and qualifications'?
It is admitted that all this takes us back to that mission statement again (6.11). Please may we have a properly-formulated and detailed text for discussion (in less than another two years, and at a time of year and on a day when it can be given proper attention)? The Oxford Corporate Plan (Gazette, 27 September) is an example to us.
The post of Chief Executive of the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate has been advertised, at a salary 'in excess of £100k, to be negotiated'. Here is another advertisement bearing the marks of the prose style of those head-hunters we use nowadays and begging the question what our mission is. The desired new post-holder 'will be entrepreneurial and innovative in developing new products, processes and markets. S/he will display a high degree of business acumen, clarity of strategic vision and' as an afterthought 'an ability to relate the operation of the UCLES Group to the activities of the University'. But UCLES is not Marconi or Vodafone. It runs examinations. It has, as part of the University of Cambridge, exempt charitable status, for we are an educational charity. We do not have to use this language and put ourselves in danger of attracting the kind of person who will agree that our goal is now making money, as Professor Windle told the Cambridge Evening News in his capacity as Director of CMI Ltd (more on that later). Compare a recent advertisement for an Assistant Director for the Scottish Office of the QAA. They want someone with 'experience in university-level teaching or administration or a related area'. They want someone 'able to command the respect of staff at all levels in Higher Education institutions'. They want someone with 'the ability to represent our work authoritatively to a wide range of audiences'. Which kind of person would you prefer to be sending out messages about our conduct of examinations and the priorities of the University of Cambridge?
6.13. Slightly scary stuff about stints. Why is it assumed that lifelong learning is going to have to fall outside our normal activities? Did you all see copies of that letter about the Time Allocation Survey written by Pro-Vice-Chancellor Hugh Mellor to Heads of Departments and Chairmen of Faculty Boards (6 July 2001) saying that 'it has … been agreed' to ask heads of institutions 'to chase their non-respondents until they achieve an acceptable response rate'. Well we shall find out whether I can run faster and further than the Chairman of my Faculty Board if he tries that. But I might even fill it in if it would help to prevent this kind of creep in the span of our duties.
The Joint Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 23 July and 11 July 2001, on the relaxation of the restrictions on the holding of certain College offices and on the amount of College teaching that may be undertaken by Professors and Readers and academic-related officers (Reporter, 2000-01, p. 1010).
Professor D. N. DUMVILLE
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, July 25 this year was a doubly memorable day. The daily newspaper informed me that it was the birthday of a distinguished professional colleague. The Reporter, when it arrived, told me that he and I and all the other Professors and Readers of this University were to have the statutory framework of our professional life changed. How would that be received as a birthday present, I wondered? For my part, I received it with some irritation, since it was the first which I had heard of it. Irritation increased as I read of this group, that committee, and sundry boards who had discussed or been consulted about the proposals. The one group of people not to have been consulted, it seemed, comprised the Professors and Readers themselves. At best, this is a remarkable discourtesy. At worst, one supposes that it is legislation intended to benefit institutions - in this case, the Colleges - and what Professors and Readers might have thought was neither here nor there. Here, then, is a situation where even the most senior academic officers of the University can find themselves the unexpected targets of legislative change: let not those in other roles in the Unversity think that it is only they who tend to be on the receiving end of such treatment!
Might the Council and the General Board even at this late stage consider explaining to the Professors and Readers why this lack of consultation was felt appropriate? We are told that Faculties and Departments were consulted. I suppose that this means that the choked arteries which pass for normal channels of institutional communications were used. There have been many previous complaints, including today, about this method. Let its employment not be used as an excuse in any explanation of the failure to consult the Professors and Readers themselves.
As the Joint Report indicates (in paragraph three) the General Board has visited this territory in the relatively recent past. In 1996 the Board was concerned that relaxation of the existing arrangements might undermine the position of Readers, whose time for research should be protected against encroachments. The General Board now 'believe[s]' - there's that word again - that this is no longer the case: the position of Professors and Readers will not be undermined. Perhaps in the last five years these senior officers have acquired more moral fibre, have learned how to say 'no' even to their Colleges. Or perhaps it is today as convenient to meet the Colleges' concerns as it was not in 1996. One can hope, however, that the throwaway item in paragraph five is the more significant element of this Report, and that the Colleges will give increasing consideration to drawing such University officers into their fellowship. Recommendation IV, unlike the rest, seems to me to be worthy of support. But, I wonder, has anyone consulted those University officers whose duties consist mainly of work other than teaching and research?
Dr G. R. EVANS
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this proposal is driven by a shortage consequent upon the slow, reluctant, but now statistically significant movement to making more promotions to senior academic offices. The proposals in this Report are not visibly influenced by academic considerations or a determination to protect the time and mental space of our leading researchers. Here is a further movement away from the underlying principles of the 'old' contracts and of the statutory purposes of University offices.
More tinkering round the edges. More failure to see the picture as a whole, to notice knock-on effects. Where, for example, is the will, while we are rebalancing things, to address the underlying problem of the relationship between University and College offices, and the widespread exploitation of those who hold only College offices? Their prospects of promotion are nil and their career prospects often not much better. The Oxford model of conjoint appointments has a certain amount to recommend it, not least in its effect on salaries.
Before we rebalance in this ad hoc way the contributions to the work of Colleges of Professors and Readers and by consequence others, let us look at Paragraph 4 of the Vice-Chancellor's annual address (Reporter, 2001-02, p. 58). He says that 'we have, to some extent, been able to address the problem of recruiting Professors, especially from overseas, and that of retaining the quality of international leadership on which our reputation - and the prosperity of us all - ultimately depend'. Has this been done with careful consideration of the effect on everyone else and upon the needs of the Colleges? Does he take the same active interest in the needs of the academic staff already here and the way their workloads and prospects and duties to their Colleges are affected by the arrival of these favoured individuals?
The Vice-Chancellor says that he insists on 'seeing personally every complaint received in the office'. (p. 58). And what happens when you have seen it, Sir Alec? What are you doing about the case of Roger Tapp who spoke in this forum in the summer about his struggles as a disabled member of staff? Nothing, as I hear, despite the fact that an Employment Tribunal has given you two months to resolve this matter. He has, I understand, been threatened with having to move his room, a major matter for someone with his disability, to make way for one of these 'prizes' we are anxious to purchase. His College, which I know values him highly, is going to suffer if he is put under this unnecessary additional stress. If you really care about the welfare of your staff and the welfare of Colleges, Sir Alec, you will put some detailed and sustained effort into carrying through your public promises, before you return as Chairman of the Council and the General Board to 'leading' their deliberations on the issues in this Report. For does it not behove 'big leading players' to demonstrate that their leadership leads somewhere, especially if they wish to be allowed to be Chief Executives?
This Report, like others today, should have formed part of an overall review: in this instance, of the interconnected ways in which the changes rushed through in recent years affect the viability of College teaching provision.
The Report of the General Board, dated 11 July 2001, on the establishment of a Professorship of Experimental Combustion (Reporter, 2000-01, p. 1012).
Dr G. R. EVANS
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I thought we had had our fingers burned recently over one of these rolling proposals for external funding where the funding abruptly ceased to roll. The Times Higher Education Supplement on 14 September suggested that we may be going to be disappointed over that mass of Marconi money we were triumphantly trumpeting about some months ago. Could we have a note on that from the Treasurer please, Registrary? What exactly will be the cost to the University of having to pick up the bills behind this failed company?
I see that this one will be even more expensive if that happens since there is to be funding not only for the Professorship but also for 'associated staff costs and for research' (p. 1012).
One further point: is this going to be like other recent examples, an 'academic' project where the funder has membership of the Board of Electors and the steering group, and has in effect the possibility of running industrial R and D in our labs to suit itself? With no one able to say with any certainty, for VAT purposes, whether they are academic or commercial labora-tories? Experimental conflagration not experimental combustion looms if the National Audit Office really starts to look into all this. The Cabinet Office Better Regulation Task Force Higher Education Scoping Paper is due to become public tomorrow. Our task is going to be to show that we do not need inspecting when their proposed review of Higher Education begins in a few months.
The Report of the General Board, dated 11 July 2001, on the establishment of a Professorship of Quantum Physics (Reporter, 2000-01, p. 1013).
Dr G. R. EVANS
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, well well! A CMI Ltd project! What was that quantum paradox about bringing kettles slowly to the boil? CMI Ltd has been notable for its silence on what it was actually doing with all that government money (£68m) which was bestowed on us by Gordon Brown in 1999 in a flurry of (in both senses) vain posturing by all concerned. Repeated requests to Professor Windle, the Director for information, have been met by silence. (Though my request to know where his declaration of interests list might be inspected did in the end get me a note from a secretary that he would be lodging it when it was 'appropriate'.) Hunts on the Cambridge and MIT website versions of the CMI Ltd story have left me no clearer as to what was going on. I felt, and have said to Professor Windle, that if there was lots of good news to tell us I was surprised that he and the websites were not bursting to put it before us with pride.
Our August/September Newsletter carries a mention of CMI Ltd funding bestowed on 'an exciting new project to advise' the CMI 'on setting a technology transfer system in place'. A 'licensing officer from MIT has just completed a preliminary fact-finding mission in the Research Services Division, gathering information about the University's intellectual property strategies'. (That would not have needed Government money if we just had a detailed code of practice which could have been handed to her.)
The press has, however, been taking an interest. The Times carried earlier in the summer a frustrated letter about the lack of progress and the culture gap, from Professor Vander Sande (who is surely personally responsible himself for the expenditure of this British public money, since he too is a Director of this project on behalf of MIT, which is allowed by the rules to take the larger share). That prompted an article in The Times drawing attention to the problem. One was tempted to suggest that among the 'entrepreneurial' courses CMI Ltd ought to be running, there should be one on the very UK-USA cultural differences of which Vander Sande's letter despaired.
The Cambridge Evening News ran an interrogative piece in its pink business pages a few weeks ago. There had been rumours that CMI Ltd money was to go the way of the CRASSH project, perhaps to make virtual reality Shakespearean productions to show what they might have looked like in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. (Spot on for creating entrepreneurial attitudes in our students that one.)
The Press Office was so cross about this that Professor Windle the CMI Ltd Cambridge Director was at last persuaded to agree to speak. On 25 September the Cambridge Evening News published his views. 'Cambridge, according to Professor Windle, has come right round to the view that making money is the goal'. He explains that 'It's no longer the be all and end all to be brilliant'. 'The big difference now is that Cambridge is coming round to applaud commercial success'. He identified among 'projects CMI is supporting' 'using a bug to make a new antibiotic, developing ultra-light metal, the ultimate in polymers'.
But the public funding which is being handed out was given for educational purposes not for starting spin-out companies. It is precisely this kind of thing I feared, and said so on the Council, when CMI failed to get charitable status as an educational charity and became a limited company. Apparently 'BT is on side, and wants to get involved in social sciences in a bid to find out how much 'over engineering' of consumer products people will tolerate'. What became of the pursuit of truth? Is Cambridge really to associate itself with marketing and exploitation in this way? Well yes, if indeed 'making money is the goal'. Until we get that mission statement together we shall not really know the purposes of the University we are becoming.
But here is news for the Regent House at last in this present Report. And it is exactly the kind of news I and others foretold. I said it would prove impossible to keep this project within educational bounds and that the Government money would end up being used to foster industrial projects. Now we read (p. 1013) that in the area of quantum physics 'industrial collaborations are being fostered' and that 'a grant application' for 'funds provided by the UK Government' to CMI Ltd has been successful.
This is a big one. Two and a half million of that £68m is to go to this single project for three years, 'with the possibility of a further year's funding thereafter'. So of course we need a Professor. He is to be funded from the CMI Ltd money but after three years he will become a charge on the University (with his project, we assume, since there is no provision for the continuation indefinitely of that £2½ million short-term sum). There is an uncommonly vague promise, even for Reports of this type, keen to get on with things, about 'an endowment which has been pledged, but which has yet to be finalized'.
The main point I want to make is a warning. Presumably anyone who wants to set up a Chair can now put in a 'grant proposal' to CMI Ltd and try to get a slice of the cake. Look at the procedure for vetting these grant proposals and the people who have authority to hand over this public money. The CMI Ltd web page says that decision on the allocation of sums up to £1/4m - the total sum spent on promotions until very recently, in each year - has been delegated to the two Directors acting jointly. 'CMI will set in place mechanisms through which the portfolio of work it supports can be analysed and evaluated'. By these two? Yes. 'The two Executive Directors will manage the review of research proposals on behalf of the Operating Committee'. They decide who is consulted. The Operating Committee is supposed to 'evaluate' bigger proposals itself. It is supposed to take into account the 'novelty and importance of the research'; 'strengths of the methodology'; 'strength of the research group proposed'; 'potential impact on UK productivity, competitiveness and entrepreneurship'; 'likelihood of influencing future technologies'; 'the way in which the volume of expenditure relates to the volume of activity'; 'sustainability of the effort beyond CMI funding if necessary'; 'the opportunity to leverage [that word again] CMI support through matching funds'. They have no training of course. Neither do the Directors, I believe. Bit like the promotions process really. Lots of fine words and no buttered parsnips.
Professor P. V. LANDSHOFF
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the discovery of quantum mechanics in the first part of the last century is one of mankind's greatest intellectual achievements. Quantum mechanics deals with the incredibly small, far beyond our everyday experience, and it has a number of very strange features. Some of these we still do not understand, but we do understand enough to realize that peculiar quantum phenomena promise to be of enormous practical importance.
Most immediately, quantum cryptography is likely soon to make it possible to send messages with the absolute certainty that they have not been intercepted. In the longer term, quantum computing will make available computing power far beyond what I, at least, am able to envisage.
The study of quantum information brings together a number of scientific and technological disciplines to study a subject of major importance. In recognition of this, the Cambridge-MIT Institute has offered a major grant that will bring together the work of half a dozen Departments in the University and a similar number at MIT. The new Professor will lead this collaboration and help the United Kingdom to be one of the leaders in this important research.
A benefactor has promised to endow the Professorship within the next three years or so, when her late husband's affairs have been settled with the appropriate authorities. I hope that the University will join me in expressing to her our gratitude for this generous offer.
The Report of the General Board, dated 11 July 2001, on the establishment of Royal Society Professorships and related matters (Reporter, 2000-01, p. 1013).
Professor P. LACHMANN
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, at the time that the new arrangements for the Royal Society Research Professorship Scheme were brought in, in 1995, I was the Royal Society's Biological Secretary and, as the officer in charge of the Research Support Programmes, responsible for the Professorship scheme. I greatly welcome the Report of the General Board which implements, for the University of Cambridge, the changes that were then introduced.
Royal Society Research Professorships allow research workers of the very highest calibre to devote substantially their full time to research during an important part of their careers where, in normal university posts, this is not possible. They are highly sought after and have been extremely successful at pro-moting outstanding research as well as, in some cases, attracting back research workers from abroad or preventing others from being tempted to emigrate.
After extensive consultation, the Royal Society decided, in 1995, to modify the conditions of the scheme so as to allow more people to benefit from it. In place of either appointment to the retiring age or of fixed term appointments, the Royal Society decided that all their chairs would in future be for a fixed period of between ten and fifteen years, depending on the age at which the holder was appointed, with the condition that they would then be taken on to the university's own professorial staff until retirement. This arrangement was warmly welcomed by the great majority of UK universities although it was appreciated that it would give the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, with their distinct administrative structure, some difficulty. This was a matter of concern to the Royal Society, because the two ancient universities have a high research capability and hold a number of Royal Society Chairs. It is, therefore, of great importance for the working of the new scheme that the ancient universities do come on board. This report by the General Board now ensures that this will happen in Cambridge (as I believe also to be the case in Oxford).
The three individuals named in this report are of the very highest calibre and their research will cast lustre on the University, on the Royal Society, and on UK science.
Professor A. W. F. EDWARDS
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the new arrangements described in paragraph one of this Report are neither acceptable nor lawful nor necessary, and the Royal Society should have been so informed when they advanced them in 1994. It is unacceptable for any external body to have a de facto power of appointment to Professorships in this University; there is no provision in the Statutes which enables the University to give the assurances that the Royal Society require; and in any case the previous arrangements appeared satisfactory from the point of view of the University, and compelling arguments from the Society would be needed to change them.
Were the Royal Society informed that their new arrangements were acceptable to the University, and if so by whom and on what authority? This is a specific question and I look forward to a specific answer, preferably quoting the minute of the body that considered itself competent to give its consent, if any consent were indeed given.
Royal Society Research Professorships date from 1922 when the Foulerton was established, to be joined in due course by three others on private funds, the Henry Dale, the Napier, and the Wolfson. I see from Oxford's Blueprint newsletter that there is also now the GlaxoSmithKline Professorship. Since 1962 fourteen further Research Professorships have been established on grants from the government, that is, from the same ultimate source as the University's own grant from public funds.
Over the years many of the holders of Royal Society Professorships have been welcome guests in the University, and the University has indeed, in the words of the Report, gained considerable benefit from their presence. But everyone has clearly understood, including the holders, that the Professorships have been Royal Society Professorships filled by the Society, and not Cambridge University Professorships filled by the University (or, exceptionally, the Crown).
It should really not be necessary to comment on a proposition so singular as one in which the University is to create a Professorship on outside funds to be filled by the nominee of an outside body and at the same time is to bind a future generation to create another Professorship with its own funds to which the holder is to transfer after 'normally ten to fifteen years'. The Royal Society should have been informed at a very early stage that such a proposition was incompatible with the University's autonomous status.
The Royal Society Year Book coolly states 'In 1994 Council agreed that the Society would pay for the first 10-15 years of the appointment, following which financial responsibility would pass to the host university, which would continue to employ the professor until retirement'. Was no-one's breath taken away by this? Or did no-one notice, the University's silence being presumed to mean acquiescence? And if it is acceptable for the Society to behave unilaterally in this way, what is to stop them unilaterally changing ten years into five, or indeed five into none at all?
The Royal Society Year Book says that there are General Regulations governing Research Professorships. These were perfectly acceptable to the University as a host institution for many years prior to 1994, when evidently the Society felt the need for some revision, but if any revision impinges on the interests and procedures of the University then it must be agreed with the University, with a change of Statute if necessary.
Apart from the important questions of principle, there would be many details to be considered. For example, any scheme under which the University accepts as one of its own Professors someone nominated by an external body will need to have very clear rules about who can dismiss him. Under the earlier General Regulations it was the President and Council, but what is now proposed? Are the Royal Society to have the power to dismiss a Cambridge University Professor? Not even the Crown claims that.
Was the Royal Society informed that under their proposal Royal Society Professors at Cambridge would become subject to the Statutes and Ordinances of the University, and in particular Statute U, which enables the University 'to dismiss any member of the academic staff by reason of redundancy' or 'for good cause', with elaborate provisions for disciplinary hearings, appeals, and so forth? Members of the General Board who are riled by statutory government may need to be reminded that Statute U was imposed by Commissioners as a result of the 1988 Education Reform Act, which applies to the University but not to the Royal Society, the latter not being a 'qualifying institution' under the provisions of Section 202. Is it credible that the Society really want their Professorships to forgo their exempt status?
The proposition that we should undertake to use our government grant to relieve the Royal Society's government grant of responsibility for a Professor in 'ten to fifteen years' so that they can appoint a new one is not attractive. It is interesting to formulate a reverse unilateral condition to see how it sounds: 'The University of Cambridge has agreed that when it assumes financial responsibility for one of its Royal Society Professors, the Royal Society will elect the holder into a Fellowship if it has not already done so'. Outrageous, isn't it?
If the Royal Society were indeed informed that their new scheme was acceptable they will have now to be informed that unfortunately a mistake was made; if not, now is the time to inform them that the University is happy to continue to play host under the original scheme whilst negotiations take place to try to meet some of the Society's concerns. Such negotiations need not be at all one-sided, for the Society's need to find hosts for its Professors is surely as pressing as the University's desire to accommodate them.
It has to be said, though, that the idea that the government should give money to a body external to the University so that that body can select a Professor for the University of Cambridge is rather strange. If the government wishes to provide funding for Research Professorships at Cambridge it should surely give the money to the University, earmarked for the purpose, which will appoint to them by its regular methods, laid down, let it be said, by government in the first place.
One also wonders whether the Trust Deeds or other instruments governing the privately-funded Royal Society Professorships permit the Society to act as they proposed. It is hardly our business, but the University could reasonably seek assurances on this score in a particular case.
Finally, it may be noted that the undertaking about future employment which the University would be required to give the Royal Society under their proposal dedicates money that could instead be used for internal promotions in ten or fifteen years time. It is hardly conducive to the morale of today's young lecturers to know that when, after half a lifetime of devoted teaching during which they have managed to keep their research activities at the high level expected at Cambridge, they may fall just below a cut-off whose position has been determined by the existence of commitments entered into fifteen years previously.
I hope very much that the General Board will feel able to explain frankly what the position is, for only as a result of this Report has the matter come to light. When I successfully represented to the Vice-Chancellor that certain Professorial appointments were ultra vires I did not envisage that the Royal Society Professorships would become involved, for I supposed them to be continuing under the former acceptable arrangements.
Dr G. R. EVANS
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, refer back to July. Did I not say that holders of short-term Professorship would become holders of permanent Professorships? Clearly one could have no objection to the individuals in this case, but in general it means that I was right when I said that if you are given a Research Professorship for a few years you are pretty sure of having one for good. That may be right, but we ought to get the thing clear as a policy matter important to those who aspire to Chairs here.
I just put down a marker for the Personnel Division that the endless delay on revision of procedures and the comprehensive overhaul of policy objectives to ensure a fairer deal all round is now unacceptably overdue. It needs to be conjoined with an overhaul of procedures and policy for members of the Unified Adminis-trative Service too. (What procedures, do I hear them murmuring?)
And someone has got to ensure that before any more rounds of the flawed promotions process are allowed to begin, something is done about the performance standards of the Committees. The straight row of top evaluations my Faculty gave me this year have turned at the hands of the GB Committee into a straight row of top marks with one 'reasonable doubt'. They do not say why, or how they disposed of all those references which say a Chair is long overdue. How can someone so close to a Chair as to have moved in a few months from last year's equally bizarre SPRRSSP on almost exactly the same work to this year's PPPRPPP not live in hopes that another year the erratic committee might move the Rs and Ps and Ss around again, for no obvious reasons, so that the fruit machine showed a straight row of Ps. For there are no obvious reasons, except the politics of [dare I say reprisal or will that go into square brackets?]
A consultation document on the reform of the rules about creating Senior Academic Officers has gone out over the name of M. J. Horne, Assistant Director of Personnel. (When it is so desperately important that we establish the principle that the new Directors are to be professionally qualified in their areas, I am not clear why the familiar Mike Horne who is not, as far as I know, a qualified professional, now has the title Assistant Director of Personnel.)
This document has so far gone only to Heads of Department but I understand in a week or two the Reporter is to invite members of the Regent House and others to comment. It can, however, be read now, if you call up www.admin.cam.ac.uk/cam-only/offices/personnel/promotion/. I am not at all clear why that information has not already been in the Reporter.
It is, in my view, vital that the Royal Society Professorships and related matters form part of this consultation. 'Unified Senior Promotions slash cir-cular HODs etc' it says on the hard copy. Unified Appointment to Senior Offices is what we need.
Professor Edwards's constitutional points should be attended to as part of this consultation. Indeed, they should be its starting-point. They bring into sharp focus the inner tensions in the Vice-Chancellor's speech of 1 October.
Professor M. J. GRANT
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I should like to make some unscripted remarks. I know that that is not the proper way in which we in this University conduct what we laughably call a Discussion. In what is not a packed Senate-House this afternoon, comprising on my estimation only sixteen members of the Regent House, we have heard a succession of eloquently and elegantly crafted contributions, but certainly not to a debate and not to a discussion. There has been nothing but a succession of monologues, which on their completion have been handed to the Registrary's Assistant for publication in the Reporter. That, with great respect, Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor is not a sound basis upon which to establish a democratic system of University governance.
I'm drawn to the podium only by the comments of the last speaker in which she referred to the procedures of the University's General Board Promotions Committee of which I am a member and the only member present in the Senate-House this afternoon. I wish to take this occasion to draw to the attention of members of the Regent House both the criteria and the procedure by which promotions are considered in this University. The process that we follow owes a great deal to Dr Evans's contributions in these Discussions over the years. It is a process which is rigorous, objective, and fair.
The principal criterion by which the Promotions Committee is governed is respect of a Professorship is the following:
A Professor is appointed in recognition of an established and significant international reputation for what is widely acknowledged to be outstanding research and scholarly distinction in the forefront of the relevant discipline or interdisciplinary subject.
In order to appraise any application for a Professorship not only the Faculty Promotions Committee but also the General Board's Promotions Committee is obliged to seek evidence of the candidate's satisfaction of that criterion.
It is not for me to reveal or disclose any of the workings of the General Board's Committee or of the references in any particular case but I am willing to attest to the rigour with which the Promotions Committee (which included not only members of this University but two distinguished academics from Oxford) conducted themselves throughout the promotions exercise on this occasion. It would have been improper for them to have recommended the promotion of any candidate were they not satisfied on all the evidence available to them that that candidate met that criterion.
Now it may be tempting for any candidate who is disappointed by the process to look for other explanations, to look for the play of power politics, or to look for reprisals. All that I can do this afternoon is to assure those present in the Senate-House and the Regent House beyond that no such consideration was taken into account in the course of the consideration of the promotions applications in the current year.
Professor D. N. DUMVILLE
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I'm grateful to the last speaker for moving us into the direction of a discussion. I should simply like to say as someone who wasn't a candidate for promotion in this year or in the last few years that I regard his remarks as alarmingly complacent. The erratic outcome of this procedure year after year after year can only indicate there is something fundamentally wrong with the way the procedure is carried out and it needs radical revision and it needs it now.
1 Bryan Sanderson, 'Branding Education', RSA Journal, 3/4 2001, p. 24.
2 Colin Lucas, Financial Times, 30 November, 2000.
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Cambridge University Reporter, 24 October
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