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Report of the General Board on the establishment of Royal Society Professorships and related matters: Notice

28 January 2002

The Council have considered the remarks made at the Discussion of this Report on 16 October 2001 (Reporter, p. 130) and have referred them to the General Board who have agreed to comment as follows:

With regard to Professor A. W. F. Edwards's remarks, the Board wish to provide the following explanation.

In 1995-96 when the Royal Society changed its arrangements whereby Royal Society Professors were appointed by the Society and then, following negotiation, assigned to institutions, to a scheme under which universities were to employ individuals awarded Royal Society Research Professorships, all universities, with the exception of Oxford and Cambridge, readily accepted the new arrangements.

The constitutional and administrative arrangements at Oxford and Cambridge, as Professor Lachmann pointed out at the Discussion, inevitably led these universities to express reservations about the scheme. However, at its meeting on 2 November 1994 (Minute 94.223) the General Board concluded that, in the light of the highly prestigious nature of the Royal Society scheme, the University should participate in the revised scheme. Copies of relevant minutes of the General Board and the Work and Stipends Committee have been made available to Professor Edwards by the Director of Personnel.

The Board subsequently referred to the revised arrangements in their Report, dated 15 May 1996 (Reporter, 1995-96, p. 713), on the establishment of a Professorship in Mathematics and a Readership in Earth Sciences, whose proposals were a consequence of the first appointments to Royal Society Professorships under those arrangements.

The General Board's Notice on appointments to unestablished posts at the level of Professor and Reader (Reporter, 2000-01, p. 552), which followed Professor Edwards's challenge under Statute K, 5 to the Board's practice of making appointments to unestablished Research Professorships, drew attention to other prestigious national schemes and the importance in general of being able to take benefit from research opportunities offered to the University by research bodies, including commercial organizations and private donors. In this context it is worth reiterating paragraph 4 of that Notice:

The Board believe that it is important to be able to continue to appoint senior academics to professorial posts for the primary purpose of carrying out research. There are prestigious national competitive schemes such as the Royal Society, Leverhulme, and Medical Research Council Research Professorship schemes which aim to provide that opportunity for distinguished academics to concentrate primarily on research activity. In addition to such schemes, there are considerable opportunities for obtaining external sources of income to support research appointments at professorial level for fixed periods. The Board are convinced that it would not be in the academic interest of the University to discontinue their policy of setting up fixed-term research posts at professorial, and, where appropriate, readership level but they recognize that their policy and practice must be in harmony with the Statutes and Ordinances of the University.

The Notice referred to above explained the procedure and the criteria involved, including the publication of a Report for approval by Grace, in accordance with the provisions of Statute D, XIV, 3 and 6 and Statute D, XV, 1(c)(iii). For the purpose of clarification, the Notice drew to the attention of the Regent House to the following:

- that all fixed-term Professorships and Readerships established under the procedure described in the Notice would be advertised (unless the Board decide there are particular circumstances that justify the establishment of a Professorship or a Readership for a named person as in the case of a Royal Society Professorship);
- that funds must be available to meet the cost of appointment for not less than five years;
- that the criteria for appointment would be the same as specified in the annual guidance for personal Professorships and Readerships but excluding the teaching criterion;
- that professorial stipends would be determined under the arrangements currently applying to elections to Professorships;
- that holders of fixed-term professorial offices would be eligible for the professorial recruitment incentive payments scheme, while requests from Readers would be considered under the non-professorial arrangements operated by the Councils of the Schools.

Following discussions between Professor Edwards and Professor P. Lipton, the Chairman of the Personnel Committee, it appears that Professor Edwards's main ground for challenging the Report is that establishing a Professorship on outside funds would bind a future generation to create another Professorship to which the post-holder would transfer after ten or fifteen years. The Board are clear that their general practice with regard to such Professorships, whereby the Board either recommend the establishment of a Professorship at the time appointment to the Royal Society Professorship is made or (where an individual already holds a Professorship in the University) recommend a change of title to reflect the change in status, does not have this effect and is lawful. The Board are clear also that the specific proposals in the Report do not have this effect. In the case of Professor C. M. Bate the Report recommends a change of title for his existing chair for the remainder of his tenure. In the case of Sir Martin Rees the Report proposes the creation of a fixed-term Professorship. In respect of Professor A. Kouzarides the recommendation is for the creation of a Professorship for a single tenure.

Turning to the issue of the applicability of the Statutes and Ordinances in the case of a Royal Society Professor, it is unequivocally the case that the holder of a University office is subject to the provisions and procedures of Statute U (see Statute D, I, 1(a)). As is stated in the Conditions of Tenure of the Royal Society Research Professorship Awards Scheme, Royal Society Research Professors are not employees of the Society. In each case, the host institution undertakes to issue a contract of employment at the start of the award in accordance with the requirements of national employment legislation and the holder of an award will enjoy the same conditions of employment as those of other employees of the same institution of comparable status. The Royal Society cannot by its own decision and action discipline or dismiss an employee of the University: Royal Society Professors may only be disciplined and dismissed in accordance with the requirements laid down in Statute U.

The General Board have no comment to make with regard to the remarks made by Dr G. R. Evans and Professor D. N. Dumville, and their remarks are, in the Board's view, not pertinent to the substance of the Report.

With the concurrence of the General Board, the Council are submitted a Grace (Grace 5, p. 491) to the Regent House for the approval of the recommendations of the Report.


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Cambridge University Reporter, 30 January 2002
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