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University Governance: Notice

The Council are today publishing a consultation paper on Governance. The text of the paper is reproduced below. The Council invite comments from all interested persons or bodies to be sent to the Registrary to reach him not later than 20 March 2002. A web site has been established (http://www.cam.ac.uk/change/) through which comments can also be submitted. A series of open seminars will be arranged at which further explanation of the proposals will be given and comments received. Dates and details of the seminar series will be posted on the web site as soon as these are confirmed.

The Council also give notice that the recent approval by the Regent House of revised arrangements for the Unified Administrative Service will necessitate amendments to Statutes and Ordinances about the Principal Administrative Officers. These changes will be needed to clarify responsibilities and accountability but they do not have a significant bearing on the principles put forward in the consultation paper. The Council will report about this later this term. The Report will include provision that in addition to statutory responsibility, there should be a formal statement establishing that the Registrary should report to the Vice-Chancellor for the functioning of the University's central administration (Shattock Recommendation 17); and provision that some of the current statutory responsibilities of the Secretary General and the Treasurer should be transferred to other officers.

University Governance: A consultation paper

4 February 2002

1. Purpose of the paper

1.1 This paper is published by authority of the University Council and the General Board to seek views about changes to the governance of the University. It is based on a joint paper prepared by the Joint Committee on Governance and a special Working Party of the Council on the offices of Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor. Membership of the two groups is set out in Annex 1.

1.2 The paper is a consultative document. It is being circulated for comment to the Councils of the Schools, Faculty Boards, Departments, other University authorities and institutions, and to Colleges and the intercollegiate bodies.

1.3 The paper is also being published in the Reporter, and response and comments from individual members of the University and members of University staff are invited. The Council and General Board wish to engage in the widest possible consultation across the University. They have set up a website (http://www.cam.ac.uk/change/) where your views can be recorded. Alternatively, you are welcome to send in views by email (change@admin.cam.ac.uk) or writing. The address for comments is shown at the end of the paper.

1.4 There will also be a series of seminars for discussion of the proposals in the consultation paper. Governance affects everyone in the University, and all views will be taken into account.

2. The current structure

2.1 The University of Cambridge is a self-governing institution. Its constitution establishes a framework of academic democracy. Indeed, under its Statutes, its Governing Body is the Regent House of around 3,200 University Officers and College Fellows. But the Regent House is not an executive body. The Statutes give the principal executive and policy-making functions to the University Council. They also give the Council all the necessary powers to discharge those functions.

2.2 The Council is accountable to the Regent House through four main routes:

(i) a significant proportion of its membership is elected by the Regent House;
(ii) the Regent House is the University's legislative body, to which the Council must bring its proposals;
(iii) the Council must report annually to the Regent House;
(iv) the Regent House is a deliberative body which can consider policy proposals and other matters placed before it by the Council or otherwise.

2.3 In practice, the relationship secures accountability mainly through the reporting requirement, rather than through the Regent House taking positive action. Reports are published in the Reporter, and members of the Regent House (along with other members of the University) may comment on them in a formal Discussion in the Senate-House. Those comments must be considered by the Council. Members of the Regent House have power to challenge decisions of the Council. Ten members may call for an amendment of a Grace. Fifty members may initiate their own proposals. These powers are very rarely used, but they act as a check on the executive powers of the Council.

2.4 There is a second central executive body, the General Board. It is responsible for the academic and educational policy of the University. It is subject to the powers of the Regent House, and subject to the responsibilities of the Council, and it is accountable to the Council for its management of the University's academic and educational affairs (Statute C, I, 1(f)). Hence it has broad autonomy to develop and implement the University's educational policy. In practice, much policy making and resource allocation is undertaken through joint committees of the two bodies.

2.5 The Colleges are major constituents of the University, and are themselves self-governing institutions. It is vital for the University's constitutional arrangements to secure representation of College interests and to be such as to promote close co-operation and collaboration.

3. The need for change

3.1 Although the University is by many measures very successful, it faces a number of organizational problems. Some of these problems result from chronic under-resourcing and failure to develop the University's administration. Others spring from the complexity and formalism of its decision-making processes. There is an apparent inability to adapt quickly to changing demands and circumstances, or to grapple with long-term problems of strategic importance. There is a perceived lack of openness and transparency, and therefore of accountability, in the way decisions are taken and implemented. The major problems that occurred recently with the procurement and introduction of a new University-wide accounting system, CAPSA, have highlighted these shortfalls.

3.2 Two major steps have now occurred. First, the University has reorganized its administration including the Unified Administrative Service. This will provide greater effectiveness and efficiency in supporting the academic mission of the University. Second, the Council has committed itself to an action plan to ensure that the University will properly consider the recommendations in the two independent external reports on CAPSA.

3.3 This consultation paper outlines possible changes in the constitutional governance of the University. These changes are designed to address:

(i) the lack of clarity, transparency, and accountability in the central organization of the University;
(ii) the balance between good management and proper accountability;
(iii) the need to make the Council more representative, more responsible, and more effective in discharging its executive functions, and to develop its capacity to lead the future development of the University in a more strategic way;
(iv) the need to develop the role of the Schools of the University and to provide support for their Chairs;
(v) the need to make the governance of the University more inclusive and less exclusive;
(vi) the need to empower the office of Vice-Chancellor, to give it adequate support and to sharpen its accountability.

3.4 Structural changes are necessary to achieve these objectives. However, many of the underlying problems are problems not simply of structures but of culture. Effective academic self-government requires academic self-discipline, a willingness to take decisions and to oversee their implementation and to take responsibility for them, and to work closely and collaboratively with the University's administrative officers. Many of these problems were highlighted in the CAPSA recommendations, on which the Council is committed to an action plan.

4. Principles

4.1 The proposals in this paper are based on the following principles:

(i) that academic self-governance is important in ensuring the vitality of teaching and research in Cambridge, and should be maintained and strengthened;
(ii) that the executive responsibility for decisions should always be clear;
(iii) that governance arrangements must reflect the need for the Colleges to be appropriately involved in University affairs, because of the key role of the Colleges in the educational strategy of the University; and
(iv) that there should be adequate provision for accountability, including accountability for the use of public and charitable funds.

5. The Vice-Chancellorship and the Pro-Vice-Chancellors

5.1 Academic leadership of the University starts with the Vice-Chancellor. Yet the functions of the Vice-Chancellor are at present ill-defined, and the office is both over-loaded and inadequately supported. The Vice-Chancellor is expected to undertake a vast range of work, not all if it appropriate for the seniority of the office, and without sufficiently explicit authority to act on behalf of the University or to be effectively accountable for the discharge of the duties of the office.

5.2 It is proposed that the Vice-Chancellor be recognized in Statutes as the principal academic and administrative officer of the University, responsible for the overall direction and management of the University and its finances, and be given the necessary authority to discharge these responsibilities directly or by delegation.

5.3 The Vice-Chancellor would be accountable to the University Council, and so would cease to chair the Council.

5.4 The Vice-Chancellor would be supported by a team of Pro-Vice-Chancellors. Currently there are two, but it is proposed that there should be up to five. The Pro-Vice-Chancellors would derive their duties and authority by delegation from the Vice-Chancellor, and also by appointment by the central bodies as chairs of key committees. They would serve in defined areas, for example: finance, planning and resource allocation, personnel, research, and education. One Pro-Vice-Chancellor would be designated to take particular responsibility, under the Vice-Chancellor, for internal University affairs.

5.5 The Pro-Vice-Chancellors would be appointed from inside the University on a fixed-term basis and would have appropriate administrative and secretarial support provided through the Unified Administrative Service. They would receive policy support as appropriate from the Registrary, the Treasurer, and the Secretary General, and from the Directors of Divisions of the University Offices. They would serve as Pro-Vice-Chancellors approximately two-thirds time, and their time as members of University (or College) staff would be compensated for by payment to the Faculty or Department (or College) concerned. It should also be possible for a Pro-Vice-Chancellor to be offered provision for the appointment of a research assistant, or similar assistance, to help maintain his or her research activity.

5.6 The present statutory arrangement for the appointment of Pro-Vice-Chancellors (by the Council on the nomination of the Vice-Chancellor) would be replaced by a process of selection through a joint committee of the Council and the General Board, whose membership would include the Vice-Chancellor and the Chairman of the University Council. There would be a procedure for application and nomination.

5.7 At present the Vice-Chancellor is appointed for a period of five years, renewable for a further two. In normal circumstances this procedure seems, in the light of experience, to be unnecessarily complicated. (There are procedures under Statute U for the removal of a Vice-Chancellor in abnormal circumstances). It is proposed that appointments to the Vice-Chancellorship should be for seven years, not renewable, and in exceptional individual circumstances for such other shorter period as the University may determine. The appointment would continue to be subject to the general University retiring age.

6. The Council and the General Board

6.1 The University Council is already statutorily defined as the principal policy-making and executive body of the University. The Council has the major responsibility for the strategic development of the University, and for planning and resource allocation. The General Board is responsible for the University's academic programmes. It is concerned with overall supervision of the work of the Faculties, particularly in assuring the quality of teaching and research; and it responds to initiatives coming from Faculties and Departments for educational development.

6.2 In Oxford, new arrangements have brought together the responsibilities of the previous Council and the previous General Board. Functions have been decentralized or delegated to other specialist committees, or to the equivalent of Cambridge's Councils of the Schools. The two processes of merger and decentralization have meant that in order to secure appropriate representation from the bodies to which business is delegated, the Oxford Council is now significantly larger than the present Cambridge Council, and has fewer members directly elected by Congregation (the Oxford equivalent of the Regent House).

6.3 The Council and the General Board propose that direct election to the Council should remain significant at Cambridge. They envisage that there should, similarly to Oxford, be decentralization and delegation. However, they also propose that the present partnership between the Council and the General Board should be maintained, but with clarification of respective responsibilities and accountability.

6.4 The Council would continue to exercise overall responsibility for policy and strategic development, resource allocation and personnel, and for the academic self-government of the University and relations with the Colleges.

6.5 The General Board would be the principal academic management body, acting autonomously under the Statutes and Ordinances and within policies and allocations defined by the Council, with primary responsibility for the oversight of education and research. The present Cambridge dual system has much to commend it. It is a model which is particularly appropriate in a large and exceptionally complex university, with both a collegiate structure and a high degree of decentralization of authority to Schools, Faculties, and Departments with very varied long-established cultures. In exercising its responsibility to oversee the University's central function of teaching and research, the General Board can contribute to co-ordinated consideration of detailed proposals in the spheres of resources, personnel, health and safety, and library, computing, and museum matters.

6.6 The breadth of the Council's responsibilities makes it appropriate that its membership should be representative of all the major constituencies in the University, in most categories through election. Given the General Board's distinctive remit, it is important that the majority of its members should as at present be elected by the Councils of the Schools. It should also have members nominated by the University Council and student members.

6.7 Some minor statutory redefinition of the boundaries of responsibility between the Council and the General Board might be necessary (for example in matters of personnel and in certain formalities of resource allocation). There would, as at present, continue to be a series of important functional committees jointly between the Council and the General Board, dealing in particular with planning and resources, resource management, and personnel.

7. The composition of the Council

7.1 The role of the Council is of critical importance. It is important that it should be cohesive and able to discharge its strategic functions efficiently, and that its members should feel fully responsible for its business. To achieve this, there is a strong argument for not significantly increasing the size of the Council.

7.2 Its executive and strategic capacity, and its expertise, need to be enhanced. A powerful way of achieving this is to draw in outside expertise by extending the Council's membership to include people external to the University. This is already common practice in universities elsewhere: indeed, in many cases, external members are in the majority on university councils.

7.3 It is proposed that there should be three external members of Council. They should be nominated by a body appointed by the Council, and elected by Grace. Each would serve for three years, renewable by Grace for one further three-year period.

7.4 It is also proposed that one of the external members should be appointed by the Council to be its Chair, and that another should be appointed to chair the Audit Committee.

7.5 The external members would not necessarily be members of the University on election, but provision should be made for them, if not, to become members of the University and of the Regent House.

7.6 Second, membership of the Council, and the electorate for it, needs to be more inclusive of those who have an interest in the University. It is therefore proposed that the constitution of the Regent House be extended (see further below). It should include not only University Officers, Fellows of Colleges, and certain other staff as at present, but other academic and academic-related staff in the University. All would then be eligible to participate in the affairs of the Regent House, and to vote and stand for election to the Council.

7.7 Third, members of the assistant staff should also be represented on the Council, and hence be eligible to stand and vote in elections to the Council.

7.8 Those qualified to vote in elections to the Council would be the members of the Regent House (extended as proposed above) together with all eligible assistant staff of the University who qualified by a period of continuous service (say one or two years).

7.9 Students would be represented on the Council as now.

7.10 There would be a reduction from four to three in the representation of Heads of Houses.

7.11 There would be eight ex officio members: the Vice-Chancellor, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor leading on internal University affairs, and the Chairs of the Councils of the Schools (including comparable representation for the Clinical School).

7.12 The Council's composition would thus be as follows:

(a) the Vice-Chancellor;
(b) one Pro-Vice-Chancellor;
(c) the Chairs of the Councils of Schools and equivalent for the Clinical School (six);
(d) three external members, of whom one would normally be Chairman of the Council and one Chairman of the Audit Committee;
(e) three Heads of College elected by the Regent House;
(f) nine elected members, of whom six should be members of the Regent House and three should be eligible members of the assistant staff;
(g) three elected students.

8. The General Board and the Chairs of the Councils of the Schools

8.1 The General Board has responsibility for the academic activities of the University. Some of its functions are discharged on the advice of, or by delegation to important functional committees, including the Education Committee and the Research Policy Committee. There are also some committees established jointly with the Council, such as the Planning Resources Committee, the Resource Management Committee, and the Personnel Committee. Some of these functions would be led by Pro-Vice-Chancellors.

8.2 Cambridge does not have a system of Deans, but the role of the elected Chairs of the Councils of the Schools has been steadily evolving into something similar. Although there are differences between the Schools, the role of the Chairs is already of great importance, particularly in matters of resource allocation. The implementation of a new Resource Allocation Model, which is currently out to consultation with the Schools, will effectively devolve major responsibilities to the Councils and Chairs for the strategic development of their Schools.

8.3 The position of the Chairs of the Councils therefore needs to be further developed. It is proposed that:

(i) The responsibilities of the Chairs, especially in respect of resource allocation, should be defined by Statute or Ordinance, to give them appropriate authority within their School, and to achieve appropriate accountability to the University Council, which will continue to be primarily responsible for resource allocation.
(ii) The Chairs should continue to be elected by the Councils of the Schools.
(iii) The Chairs should be ex officio members of the General Board (under the existing system this occurs only by convention) and of the Council.
(iv) The Chairs should normally be relieved of an appropriate proportion, at least one third, of their University duties, with appropriate payment to the Faculty or Department concerned. That proportion may vary between the different Schools.
(v) Administrative, secretarial, and other support for the chairs should be increased.
(vi) The Chairs should serve for a fixed term, renewable once.

9. The Regent House

9.1 The composition of the Regent House has been reviewed from time to time so as to reflect the active academic community responsible for the governance of the University. However, a significant proportion of the academic staff of the University are presently excluded: unless they qualify under certain special categories (e.g., as Fellows of Colleges), research staff who are employed on 'unestablished contracts' are simply ineligible. It is proposed that the Statutes should be amended so that, with reasonable provision for a qualifying period of service, all such academic and academic-related staff would qualify for membership of the Regent House.

9.2 If this change is adopted, the size of the Regent House will significantly increase. It is appropriate therefore to review the way in which its members may seek to amend or challenge a Grace. The number of signatories required is at present 10. This figure was fixed at a time when the Regent House was smaller than it is today and significantly smaller than it would be under these proposals. It is proposed to amend the Statutes so that the number of members of the Regent House required to call for a ballot on a Grace, or for an amendment to a Grace, or for a request for a Discussion, should be increased to 50. This amounts to no more than 1% of the proposed membership of the Regent House.

10. The Audit Committee

10.1 The review reports on CAPSA make important recommendations about the Audit Committee. The Council has already reported to propose the reconstitution of the Audit Committee. (Reporter, p. 481).

11. Consultation and implementation

11.1 Comments on the proposals in this paper should be sent to the Registrary, University Offices, The Old Schools, Cambridge, CB2 1TN, in hard copy or by e-mail to change@admin.cam.ac.uk, if possible by Wednesday, 20 March 2002.

11.2 The Council intends to report formally to the University on the outcome of this consultation in the Easter Term 2002.

Annex 1
Membership of the Joint Committee on Governance

Dr G. Johnson (Chair)
Sir John Boyd
Dr D. A.. Good
Professor M. J. Grant
Professor I. M. Leslie
Dr G. A. Reid
Professor M. Schofield

In attendance: The Registrary and the Deputy Secretary General
Secretary: Dr A. Clark

Membership of the Council's Working Party on the Offices of Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor

Professor M. Schofield (Chair)
Professor A. J. Badger
Dr D. A. Good
Dr G. Johnson
Professor J. K. M. Sanders
Secretary: The Registrary

Annex 2
Summary of the principal proposals

The Vice-Chancellor

1. The Vice-Chancellor should be recognized in Statutes as the principal academic and administrative officer of the University, responsible for the overall direction and management of the University and its finances, and should be given the necessary authority to discharge these responsibilities directly or by delegation.

2. Appointments to the Vice-Chancellorship should be for seven years, not renewable (in exceptional individual circumstances for such shorter period as the University may determine), and subject to the general University retiring age.

The Pro-Vice-Chancellors

1. The Vice-Chancellor should be supported by a team of up to five Pro-Vice-Chancellors, who should derive their duties and authority by delegation from the Vice-Chancellor, and also by appointment by the central bodies as chairs of key committees. One would have particular responsibility, under the Vice-Chancellor, for internal University affairs.

2. They should be appointed from inside the University on a fixed-term basis and have appropriate administrative and secretarial support provided through the Unified Administrative Service. They should receive policy support as appropriate from the Registrary, the Treasurer, and the Secretary General, and from the Directors of Divisions of the University Offices. They would serve as Pro-Vice-Chancellors approximately two-thirds time, and there should be compensation to their Faculty or Department or College. They should have appropriate research support.

3. There should be a procedure for appointment through a joint committee of the Council and the General Board, whose membership would include the Vice-Chancellor and the Chairman of the University Council.

The University Council

1. The Council should be reconstituted as follows:

(a) the Vice-Chancellor;
(b) one Pro-Vice-Chancellor;
(c) the Chairs of the Councils of Schools and equivalent for the Clinical School (six);
(d) three external members, of whom one would be Chairman of the Council and one Chairman of the Audit Committee;
(e) three Heads of College elected by the Regent House;
(f) nine elected members, of whom six should be members of the Regent House and three should be eligible members of the assistant staff;
(g) three elected students.

The Chairs of the Councils of the Schools

1. The responsibilities of the Chairs, especially in respect of resource allocation, should be defined by Statute or Ordinance, to give them appropriate authority within their School, and to achieve appropriate accountability to the University Council, which will continue to be primarily responsible for resource allocation.

2. The Chairs should continue to be elected by the Councils of the Schools, for a fixed term, renewable once, and should be ex officio members of the General Board and the University Council.

3. The Chairs should normally be relieved of an appropriate proportion, at least one third, of their University duties, with appropriate payment to the Faculty or Department concerned. That proportion may vary between the different Schools. Their administrative, secretarial, and other support should be increased.

The Regent House

1. Membership of the Regent House should be expanded to include all academic and academic-related staff who are employed on 'unestablished contracts', subject to reasonable provision for a qualifying period of service.

2. The number of members of the Regent House required to call for a ballot on a Grace, or for an amendment to a Grace, or for a request for a Discussion, should be increased to 50.


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Cambridge University Reporter, 6 February 2002
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