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Tuesday, 2 December 2003. A Discussion was held in the Senate-House of the following Reports:
Report of the Council, dated 17 November 2003, on the reconstitution of the Joint Committee on Development (p. 181).
PROFESSOR G. R. EVANS:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this seems to be the first of the adjustments which will be necessary to remove the Secretary-General and Treasurer from positions they still occupy ex officio although these posts are vacant and will remain vacant until they are abolished. May we get on with the abolition soon please, for the sake of tidiness? The reply to the Board of Scrutiny in the Reporter of 26 November asserts that review of the Statutes and Ordinances 'must depend on the outcome of any future review of governance'. But surely we cannot go on, limping along for years with those ghostly figures or their alternatives in the person of Professor Minson attending every committee apart from this one?
I see no one on this list with special responsibility for considering the ethics of benefaction. There now appear to be two areas which ought to receive active consideration whenever money is offered to the University. The first was looked at by the Working Party chaired by Baroness O'Neill before she decided to Trust the system (just a friendly jest, Onora). The second has emerged as a priority in consequence of the expensive mess we have got ourselves into about the Primate Research Centre. The Joint Committee on Development must surely be sensitive to sensitive questions likely to arise about the ethics of the work proposed to be done with money received as gifts. A Working Party on all that, too?
'The University will soom be celebrating the eight-hundreth anniversary of its foundation and a major campaign for fund-raising to mark this anniversary will be undertaken' (3). There is reference to this in the Notice on the proposed bursaries scheme too (Reporter, 26 November), on which I shall have more to say in another speech today. I suppose it is no good suggesting that we might give our energies to reviewing what the University has been all these centuries and thinking about our enduring deeper purposes instead. It seems a pity that this of all things should have to be turned into a money-spinning opportunity. For that attitude contaminates.
And on that question of the bursaries - when the new Development Committee gets to work on them - note the reference here at para. 2 to 'disputes which may arise between the University and the Colleges with regard to fund-raising' and ' in proportions yet to be agreed' (Bursaries Notice about the source of that £8m a year). Remember, we need to go down the bursary route in that particular form only if we choose to charge top-up fees. To the best of my recollection we have made no such decision. Please insert as many exclamation-marks as you feel appropriate in your personal printed copy of the Reporter at this point.
Joint Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 17 November 2003 and 11 November 2003, on resource allocation: introduction of a Cambridge Resource Allocation Model (p. 182).
Professor A. C. MINSON:
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the design of a Resource Allocation Model for the University has been a priority for several years and has been a major task for three consecutive Pro-Vice-Chancellors. I hope that during my term of office I shall be concerned with the operation and improvement of the RAM, rather than with its birth.
Before discussing the RAM and its implications, I would like to reflect upon our current process of resource allocation. When established academic or academic-related offices fall vacant, institutions in the University seek permission to fill vacancies. Central Committees, in their wisdom, give permission to fill or not. Each year, after the University is notified of its HEFCE block grant the same committees recommend supplementary allocations for the following year, depending on the availability of funds. For many years these supplementary allocations to Schools and institutions have been informed, at least in part by an income and expenditure analysis, the disaggregation analysis. In good times, when additional funds are available each year, this system of central management has been accepted because it tends to maintain the status quo, but this annual process does not provide a sound basis for planning in the medium term and there is no objective reason to believe that it distributes resources in the best possible way. In hard times, when savings must be made, the system is potentially disastrous. Departments and other institutions are informed in June of the savings that will be required during the next academical year, and there is little alternative but to hold posts vacant or to cancel other expenditure almost without regard to academic priorities. We are now faced with hard times and to reiterate this process for several consecutive years will unquestionably be damaging. The alternative process is to encourage the academic Schools and other institutions to make medium term plans within a financial framework and with proper regard to academic priorities. The purpose of the RAM is to provide the financial framework: to provide a better description of how income is derived and costs are generated, and to show the financial consequences of future academic plans.
I do not wish to describe the RAM in detail - that is the purpose of the Report and annexes. But I would like to review briefly the history of its design. The RAM was developed initially in 2001 by Professor Mellor's working group and was distributed to Schools and institutions for consultation in Lent 2002 with the expectation that it would be implemented in academical year 2003-04. Further work on the RAM was interrupted by staff turnover and by the work of the Finance Working Party, set up in response to the 2001-02 deficit. The delay proved to be beneficial in that it allowed time for reflection following consultation. Equally important, changes in the HEFCE funding mechanism demonstrated the sensitivity of the model to external changes and highlighted the need to reserve funds to moderate these effects. The RAM Development Group chaired by Professor Grant therefore made modifications to the RAM such that General Income could be used, in part, as a moderating 'safety net' or for other strategic purposes. In the current financial circumstances the Development Group, and the Chairmen of Councils of Schools, believe that the funds should be used to alleviate predicted Schools' deficits and should be distributed such that no School in deficit is required to make changes that would reduce its chest expenditure by more than 1% per year averaged over a five-year period. This proposal provides an insurance against violent effects of the model, though it assumes, of course that there will be sufficient residual General Income to achieve this level of 'moderation', an assumption that depends on the overall financial position of the University. The important point is that, in our current financial circumstances, it must be preferable to plan for financial change (by reducing expenditure or increasing income) than to be faced with the annual attrition of a 'savings exercise'.
A recurring theme during the consultation exercise and one repeated by the Seventh Report of the Board of Scrutiny, is the need to apply disciplines and incentives of the RAM to institutions that are not within the academic Schools, and, in particular to the central services and the UAS. A satisfactory solution remains to be found. The Development Group recommends that 'non-School institutions' and central services should make the same proportional saving as is required of the Schools. This controls expenditure of the UAS and other parts of the University relative to the Schools, but does not identify the 'appropriate level' of resource allocation. This requires further work but should not prevent implementation of the RAM.
The use of Resource Allocation Models can create problems; this has been the experience elsewhere. RAMs create tensions between different parts of the University; financial incentives can begin to override academic priorities; false incentives may be inherent. For example, an internal competition for undergraduate students redistributes resources and costs but brings no additional funds to the University and uses our energies to no benefit. It is essential that the model, and the response to it, are kept under careful review and it is crucial to recognize that final agreement to academic plans and future resource allocation remains in the hands of the General Board, Council, and Regent House.
Given the collegiate nature of the University and the importance of the Colleges to so many aspects of University life, it seems perverse that the Colleges are excluded from consideration in the RAM. The proposal to top-slice the College fee element of the HEFCE block grant, before applying a model, was one of the first recommendations made by Professor Mellor's working group, and has been widely accepted. There are three important reasons for this 'top-slice'. First, it recognizes that the Colleges are financially independent institutes and make their own decisions about appropriate ways to achieve student admissions, teaching, student welfare, and other functions. Second, it provides for the transfer of funding in accordance with the current agreement between the University and the Colleges. Thirdly, it provides an explicit mechanism for cross-subsidy of low HEFCE-weighted subjects in Arts and Humanities. In this respect the RAM is different from a pure financial model and it is important that this is recognized.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I propose this model with reserved enthusiasm. Operation of the model will create tensions. The model may contain unidentified flaws. The numbers will change as new data are entered, but the broad picture is unlikely to change. During the first years of operating the RAM, the Development Group, or its successor, must keep the model under review, and there should be a major review within five years - I suggest in year three - to consider whether there should be changes in principles. A Resource Allocation Model is useful only if it has broad acceptance in the University and I have no doubt that this RAM will need to be modified in response to experience and to external changes.
This RAM is not perfect. No model is. But its principles have widespread support including that of the Chairmen of Councils of Schools, the University Librarian, the Director of the Fitzwilliam Musem, and the Joint Museums Committee. I believe the model forms a reasonable financial framework for planning over the next five years. What is certain is that in the absence of an agreed financial framework we will have no option but to continue with our current annual allocation method and this, I believe, will be both demoralizing and damaging.
Dr D. M. THOMPSON:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Report we are discussing today is interesting in that it has no Grace attached to it. This presumably means that the Central Bodies have decided to introduce the Resource Allocation Model anyway, and this Discussion will simply provide additional points for them to consider in due course. I can see the advantages of such an approach and, since in any case it is vital to secure the agreement of the various Councils of the Schools, it is not easy to operate two processes of securing consent simultaneously. Nevertheless I hope that the Council and the General Board will listen carefully to what is said this afternoon, since it will still be necessary in due course to secure approval for the Allocations Report.
My own memory in this area goes back to my time as a member and later Chairman of the Needs Committee at the end of the 1980s, when we were constantly assured that the new disaggregation model being developed by Sir Peter Swinnerton-Dyer was intended as a way of allocating Government funding among universities, but it was not intended to be a way in which universities should allocate that funding among their various departments. It never seemed likely that this line could be held for long, and the developments of the 1990s make this present proposal inevitable. Even in those days I was puzzled by the disconnected way in which income and expenditure were considered, and I warmly welcome their bringing together which the present Report indicates.
I also welcome the decision to make allocations to the level of Schools rather than Faculties, so as to make it possible for the responses to the particular needs of Faculties to be made by people who are much closer to the work of those Faculties than those in the central administration. However, it is also important to be sure that the scope exists at School level for such adjustment. One of the sharp differences between the School of Arts and Humanities and the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences is that the former contains a large number of small Faculties and the latter a small number of large Faculties. Since there are particular problems in making adjustments in small Faculties, where such a high proportion of total expenditure is on posts, the risk exists of building in a systemic weakness at this point, unless the balance of large and small is very carefully considered. On the basis of what we have been told already it seems inevitable that there will now be a further savings exercise. I recall with some weariness that when I was appointed to my first post in 1970, I had to cover the work previously done by two people because of the savings exercise which was going on then. Some things never seem to change!
However, the effects even of the removal of single posts have much more serious consequences in small Faculties, or even Departments, than in larger ones. This is why the kind of enterprise which we have developed in my own Faculty of Divinity is so important. In the last ten years we have raised the funds to endow four posts - Lectureships or Assistant Director of Research - in areas which we needed to develop. Our Faculty Board would regard it as extremely unjust if these posts were taken into account in the way in which the Faculty's resources were assessed from the point of view of the Resource Allocation Model. A firm assurance from the Council and the General Board that this is not intended would be welcome, and it is particularly important as we prepare for the 800th Anniversary Appeal.
In this connection I also think it is important to be clear whether the new Model applies to all income received by the University from whatever source, or whether it applies only or primarily to HEFCE income. I have read the Annexes several times and I have to say that I am still not absolutely clear on that point, although it seems to apply to all income. I would welcome further clarification.
I note with interest what is said about the various kinds of volume drivers to be applied, particularly that concerning space. In the last thirty years most Arts Faculties have acquired buildings that previously only one or two like my own had before the First World War. I know that there has been a lot of concern over the principle of providing a University office for every University Teaching Officer (UTO), and I shall not develop that point further now. But it needs to be noted that, quite apart from the problems that faced Faculties such as my own when an increasing number of UTOs failed to secure College Fellowships as the number of lay people appointed increased, who could not become College Deans or Chaplains, there is now an increasing tendency for offers of Fellowships to be delayed for a year or two, and in some cases then declined. My concern that Arts Faculties may suffer unduly from the application of this kind of space driver is accentuated by my awareness that new appointments in Science Departments over the years often involve expenditure of at least £0.5m a time on refurbishing laboratory facilities, which somehow never gets counted into the cost of the appointment. Perhaps this is a new driver which could be investigated.
My final point relates to top-slicing. I recall that at an earlier stage of this process, there were rumours that the two Arts Schools might be expected to carry a larger proportion of the total costs of the University Library than the Science Schools. Paragraph 51 of Annex B suggests that this is still true to a certain extent. I would welcome an assurance from the Council and the General Board that the University Library will be treated as a resource for the whole University, and that its costs will not fall disproportionately on any particular Schools.
PROFESSOR R. J. BOWRING :
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, it is heartening to see in this Report a recognition that 'moderation' must be introduced in order to ensure that academic policy in this University is not driven entirely by a funding mechanism over which we have little control. I have just two observations to make and they both refer to Professor Minson's introduction.
Firstly, he states that 'elements of the RAM (T-weightings, space weightings) are sensitive', but he then goes on to emphasize their insignificance in the larger picture. The second part of this statement is undoubtedly true; the first part is not. Considerable thought will have to be given to various forms of cross-subsidy that are still hidden from view.
The allocation of student numbers to Faculties and Departments is at present too crudely calculated. In the Faculty of Oriental Studies, for example, there are a number of lectures and seminars where the majority of students attending (in some cases 100%) come from a different Faculty, and indeed a different School; none of these are at present reflected in the figures that feed the RAM. As far as space weightings are concerned, over 60% of users of the Faculty Library are from other Faculties. As far as I am aware, this is not allowed for in the present figures. Perhaps it should be. It may sound like small beer, but it might amount to the equivalent of a full-time teaching post.
Related to this is the question of the present constituency of the two Schools of Arts and Humanities, and Humanities and Social Sciences. I do not know how the groupings were originally arrived at, but they now seem random. A rearrangement would not, of course, affect the global figures, but might well affect decisions at the margin. My previous observation means that one or two of my colleagues do more teaching for Faculties in other Schools than they do for their own, and this needs to be recognized. I would hope that these matters are looked into carefully before we proceed further down the path of devolved budgets.
Secondly, there is Professor Minson's final paragraph, which I read as a piece of sophistry. If I read it correctly, the University has expanded the Clinical School on short-term funds, promising to pick up the tab when the money runs out. I am sure there were good reasons for this, but to try and argue that what looks like a transfer of funds into the Clinical School is merely maintaining the status quo is surely disingenuous. I would rather we simply admitted that the University has expanded the Clinical School at the expense of its other operations.
Dr S. J. COWLEY:
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, in his remarks of 6 July 1999 Gordon Johnson stated that the Wass Syndicate 'thought that the obvious, efficient, and speedy way for the Board of Scrutiny to proceed would be for it to consider the various Reports for which it had responsibility, to work at understanding the context in which they were written, and then, through its chairman or its members individually, to take the lead at the various Discussions at which the Reports were to be dealt with by the Regent House'. I speak as an individual, but also as a member of the Board of Scrutiny (and as such have benefited from both access to background documents, and helpful discussions with Professor Minson and his team).
In the first paragraph of this Report it is stated that the RAM is 'a tool to inform resource allocation and budgeting'. Given the University's deficit few would probably question whether such a tool is needed. Is the proposed RAM the correct implement?
Churchill's famous quote that 'it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those others that have been tried' might apply to the RAM. Democracy is the least worst form of Government; what is needed is the least worst RAM.
Compared with the January 2002 RAM, there are significant improvements in this model, not the least the use of general income both to support key activities (such as the Museums), and for moderation in order to reduce deficits. The present Report is also more candid than the January 2002 consultation letter: e.g. there is an open acceptance that 'cross subsidy is normal', and some shortcomings are identified. Solutions to some of these problems can be envisaged given time, e.g. the space definitions and space weightings. However, the statement that 'no satisfactory mechanism has been found to determine the appropriate level of funding for academic services and other 'non-School' institutions' should have had a 'yet' at the end. Such a mechanism needs to be found if we are to have an efficient and cost effective administration. Imposing a 10% cut in the central costs attributed to Schools (as suggested in note 3 to Annex 5 of Annex B), i.e. a 10% cut in some type of activity, on the basis that this somehow corresponds to a 10% savings on the Schools' deficits (which is in reality 5% since the deficits have been halved by moderation) seems somewhat arbitrary, indeed bizarre. The explanation in paragraph 4 of Annex A (viewing both types of cut as a percentage of activity) seems to hold more water, but is still not really satisfactory. Arbitrary cuts are as bad as, say, unjustified expansion (although £0.88m of cuts is possibly not too hard in the same year that you receive £1.25m in new needs).
This brings me to the cuts to the funding of Schools, i.e. the academic cuts. It seems that unless the University can increase its level of income, e.g. through increased research grants with large overheads, some 'retraction' will be necessary. To that end, it is important that the RAM is 'based on fair and objective criteria' (see paragraph 3 of Annex B). For the rest of my remarks I wish to address this issue.
One of the objective criteria referred to a number of times in the Report is that 'all income is attributed to Schools and institutions as earned' and that 'the RAM basis is to attribute expenditure and income as earned'. Is this true? In the case of teaching income this does not seem to be so, and neither am I yet convinced (although I may be wrong) in the case of overheads. In order to justify my concerns some technicalities, e.g. income/resource per student, cannot be avoided.
First, should the College fee be top-sliced? My guess is that few would argue that this is justified as regards the QR and transitional components of the College fee. However, the remaining £2,000 or so per student should logically be set against the income brought in by that student, if income and expenditure is to be attributed as earned. In order to do this it is necessary to identify the resource per student, and this is a non-trivial matter because of the way HEFCE determines T income (see paragraph 32 of Annex B). However, for the purposes of argument I will work with the figures in Annex 2 on p. 194. If one does this then, after subtraction of the College student fee, the income to a Department for an Arts (price group D) student drops 60% from £3,332 to approximately £1,332, while the income for a clinical student only drops 15% from £13,307 to £11,307. The end result is that the Arts Schools are even more horrendously in the red. This is apparently politically unacceptable to the Arts Schools (even though, I emphasize, it is probably the true financial picture), since they do not want to feel that they are always 'begging' for money through moderation (although that would be possible), and a 'fix' has been arrived at.
As I shall note in a moment a fix may be required (although not the current fix which yields a 'sensitive' model). However, a fix it is, and the statements that 'all income is attributed to Schools and institutions as earned' should be tempered.
The fix is to top-slice the student component of the College fee, and then to distribute the remaining HEFCE T income using, it is claimed, the 'HEFCE Price Group weightings re-weighted by small adjustments'. But does this make sense, and how small is small (given that in Annex A it is admitted that the RAM is sensitive to T-weightings)? I would argue that the HEFCE weightings 1:1.5:2:4.5 only make sense after the T and composition fee (or tuition fee) components have been added together (as evidenced by the fact that they did not change when the composition fee was introduced). However, in the proposed RAM, modified weightings of 1:1.6:2.3:5.51 are applied to the T income alone, and then the outcome is combined with a flat-rate composition fee. This may be acceptable as a fix to produce an answer for one year, but it is not in the spirit of the HEFCE weightings, and moreover it does not produce a good model.
A good mathematical model should be 'robust', i.e. if you change the inputs you should not get wildly different, or anomalous answers. Unfortunately the above model does just that. For instance, suppose that the Poldovians won power at the next election on the basis of tax cuts and no top-up fees. However, despite ruling out top-up fees, they were very careful during the election campaign not to rule out a change in the composition fee. Once in power they cut taxes by increasing the composition fee to, say, £3,332, and decreased HEFCE T by an equivalent amount. The income to Cambridge did not change, HEFCE's view of the standard student resource did not either. However, when the RAM was run, the contribution of an Arts student to a school was £3,332 (a 22% increase compared with the current RAM), with balancing cuts in the case of Science students! A RAM that is not neutral to a neutral change in income is a bad political fix.
If a fix is needed, as it might be, then it needs to be robust, and preferably not produce large swings as a result of changes of HEFCE policy and other external factors. Another way of looking at the figures may be helpful. Consider instead the effective subsidy the University provides per student. This is of course difficult to assess, but let us suppose that as a charity we are not making too much money out of the overseas students, i.e. let us assume that overseas fees reflect the true cost of educating a student. After subtraction of the approximately £2,000 College fee, what is the subsidy for home Arts, Science, and Medical students? My estimates are £6,400, £6,000, and £7,500 respectively. Looking at it this way, it is the medics who lose the University the most money per student. This leads me to a positive suggestion (most probably for next year rather than this). Might it not be sensible, rather than playing around with the HEFCE T weightings in an illogical manner, to dispense with a formula based solely in attributing income as earned, and instead build in a component whereby teaching and/or general income is attributed on the basis of a percentage of the true cost of educating a student?
Reference to overseas student fees also illustrates another point. The RAM must be such that it does not contain drivers that lead Schools and/or Departments to adopt what might be regarded as undesirable outcomes. A moment's thought might convince you that possibly one of the most efficient ways for a School to eliminate its deficit would be for the College Fellows in the School to admit overseas rather than home students when they had their College hat on. The loss of any HEFCE T income would be more than offset by the overseas student fees. Some other universities have already followed this route; does the Council wish to provide such an incentive? I believe that it would be naïve to assume that schools will not adapt their behaviour once the parameters they are working within are known (as evidenced by the explosion in the number of M.Phil. students over the past few years).
As regards income being attributed (or not) as earned, my second point concerns overheads and in particular the split of overheads between Chest and non-Chest. Understanding the flow of overheads is non-trivial, involving as it does Appropriations in Aid and the 'D08' targets (which rather amazingly are, I learn, inflation free). As a result it is far from transparent what proportion of overheads really appear as Chest income and what proportion as non-Chest income. However, it is important that these proportions correctly reflect Chest/non-Chest expenditure. Certainly Chest income should cover Chest expenditure (this is the converse point to that made in paragraph 78 of Annex B). This is because of the formula used for moderation. To illustrate my point just suppose that all overheads were counted as Chest income. This would increase a School's non-Chest deficit (or reduce its surplus), but reduce its Chest deficit. At first this looks financially neutral. However, reducing the School's Chest deficit reduces the School's share of the moderation, and in so doing increases the School's combined Chest/non-Chest deficit (while reducing the deficit of a school with smaller overhead income). It is therefore in the interests of Schools with large overhead incomes to ensure that overheads are treated as non-Chest, and for the other schools to ensure that overheads being used to meet Chest expenditure appear as Chest income. I presume that this point was addressed by the Research Overheads subgroup.
Of course there would not be this Chest/non-Chest problem (with inflation-free overheads) if the Council had heeded the Board of Scrutiny's repeated suggestion, since echoed by the Finance Working Party, of introducing integrated budgeting. Indeed, we might be able to learn from Oxford, whose RAM does not have this artificial divide.
I have two final points. First, how consistent are the RAM and the financial model? My guess, on the basis of the way the RAM treats teaching income, is 'not very'. However, if they are not consistent then we will have one formula driving income and expenditure, and another being used for planning. That is potentially a recipe for disaster.
Second, let me emphasize that the fact that other models to the published RAM produce different outcomes is a strong argument for not treating the RAM formulaic outcomes as if they were immutable laws that must be rigidly obeyed.
1 Is a 22% change from 4.5 to 5.5 'small'?
Professor M. SCHOFIELD:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I just want to make two quick points. The first is to welcome the fact that we do have a Report to discuss today. Some of us feared for a while, by which I mean some years, that the RAM was destined to remain forever a mechanism devised, haggled over, and implemented in smoke-filled rooms. Of course, I've got nothing against smoke-filled rooms, but now that the wraps are off I imagine I will not be the only member of the Regent House to be grateful for the massive amount of hard and subtle thinking put into the RAM by the various teams and officers who have been at work on it.
Secondly, I want to offer strong support to the principle enunciated in paragraph 53 relating to the University Library, the museums, the galleries, and the Botanic Garden. These are great historic institutions of the University, and as such it seems entirely appropriate that funding them from the UEF should in the first instance be by top-slicing. At present the provision specified in the principle restricts it to historic costs, but costs do increase and I trust that, as and when new money might flow into the University, this principle will be reconsidered to be extended to top-slicing in those circumstances also. By the same token I want to give similarly strong support to the principle spelled out in paragraph 94 that 50% of income after top-slicing be available to the Council for strategic support: principally for managing the moderation process.
There was widespread concern for a while that if all, or a very significant proportion, of that income was passed down at once to the Schools, the University would effectively be abandoning all capacity for strategic thought and action in determining its academic priorities. Ideally a RAM should operate within the framework of an agreed academic strategic plan. Formally speaking we don't yet have such a thing, at least as regards what might be the balance between our different subject areas. Informally however I have little doubt that the great majority of colleagues want to see Cambridge remain a true University in which numbers of students in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences on the one hand and Science, Medicine, and Technology on the other are in rough balance, as symbolized in our Statutes and Ordinances in the formal constitution of the General Board if nowhere else. Long live the General Board. And I think people want to see a University in which the Faculties and Departments which foster the development of our students have the resources and self-confidence to flourish at the highest levels of scholarship. I recall on one of my very rare visits, I regret, to the Department of Engineering being accompanied on my way out of the meeting I was attending by a very senior figure in the Department who was eloquent on the need for Cambridge to resist any movement which might turn it into a monotechnic for technology and medicine. He cheered me up no end for about ten minutes.
Paragraph 94 seems to me a vital safe-guard towards ensuring that there is no chance of letting the balance between our subjects slip even by inadvertence.
PROFESSOR M. KELLY (read by Professor I. M. LESLIE):
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, seven years ago, I was one of the people involved in the introduction and implementation of the Resource Allocation Methodology (RAM) at the University of Surrey. I worked with and refined the RAM over the following six years before returning to Cambridge a year ago. I am convinced about the merits of the system, which brings a level of financial clarity and realism into academic decision-making. In our homes we are careful over budgets, and most of us take care in the disposition of resources. Why do we not have the same degree of financial clarity and realism when disposing the sums involved in the operation of our University?
I am concerned that myths do not gain currency, and also that some of the lessons that are to be learned in Cambridge come with less pain by learning from elsewhere.
First, the disposition of finances within the University will NOT move substantially over the first year or two. Those who think that they will suddenly become rich, having been done out of their hard-earned resources in the present regime, will almost certainly be disappointed in the first instance. Those who fear the worst will find that it takes a little time before the really hard decisions have to be faced.
I want to describe in the present tense the RAM with which I worked. The starting principle is that every pound coming into the University goes in full to the person, group, or Department that generated the money. There is no top slicing on the way in. The catch, however, is that the person, group, and Department have to pay their way in full. Among the direct costs are the obvious ones, such as all the salaries of the people who are required to bring any particular activity (teaching, research, consulting ) to a satisfactory conclusion. In addition there are indirect costs, such as rent, heating, lighting, and maintenance, but also a whole lot more, starting with an infrastructure charge to the Department and to the University. Within the Department, all costs need to be covered, such as for assistant staff who work out of finance offices, examinations offices, as laboratory technicians, the Head of Department's PA, etc. At the University level there are all the administrative and support staff, and the costs of the premises they occupy. Some of the costs we recognize but find hard to swallow, such as the considerable resource required to be spent by the University to prove that it is in compliance with the laws of the land, as they apply to health and safety, disability legislation, equal opportunity, risk management, and financial controls. The total infrastructure charges at both the departmental and University level are to be the subject of real and actual costings, including a 3% levy on total costs to ensure that the University is investing in present plant and estate to maintain adequately the fabric going forward.
It is important to discuss how the infrastructure costs are collected in practice. The infrastructure costs as just described are incurred on the basis of a number of drivers. Four that come to mind within a Department are the salary bill of the academic staff, the area of floor space or the volume of rooms occupied, the number of students being taught, and the value of research contracts. The total bill for the infrastructure costs is divided up among the contributing income-generators according to some agreed formula based on the drivers, and there are good examples for such formulae.
There are two extra disciplines required for a successful working of the RAM. The first is that the University needs to have a strategic development fund, paid for by those at 'the top of the pile' at present, such as Engineering, Biosciences/Biotechnology, and Computing, to name a few. They have reached their present robust position as a result of previous strategic investment. We might complain that the investment was modest, or that strong-minded individuals raised funds, in spite of, rather than because of University support. That is no legitimate excuse in the context of the RAM, and with a strong University strategy in place (and RAM is not equal to strategy), to withhold a contribution to a strategic development fund. The question, as with many other aspects brought to a head by the RAM, is the size of this fund. For a University with a turnover of £400m per annum, and wanting to be in a robust and strongly competitive position, internationally, a decade and two decades from now, should this fund to be on the scale of £1m, £3m, £10m, or £30m per annum, and how much of this is to be recovered from levies and how much from endowment income? The RAM demands that this question is debated and agreed upon at a strategic level within the University, and the requisite sums collected.
The second discipline is one that affects more people in Cambridge today. To what extent do we accept that there are features of the University which are 'must have' on some scale, and again what is that scale? This applies especially where the relevant unit is not covering its costs under the RAM. Note that this is not a measure of academic success, but it gets terribly close to the question asked by Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education. Just how many medieval historians does Cambridge need in its Faculty: 1, 3, 10, 30? The RAM forces these questions into the open, and demands a rational debate and a clear conclusion to be reached that all buy into. Cambridge also has a number of special entities not present in many other universities: a copyright library, the Fitzwilliam Museum, and the Botanic Garden, to name just three. What is the financial model for these on which the rest of the University agrees to continued funding? How do we decide the scale of the support? There may be scope for top-slicing this on the way in, but the RAM will be compromised if this process is any less transparent and consistent than the other processes.
Once some of the ball-park figures for the infrastructure charge are known, one can easily establish the staff-student ratio and the research income per head that is needed for a Department to pay its way. This knowledge can then inform the departmental strategy for securing a more robust position in the future. If too many minority subjects are supported for too long, the more robust Departments will have too little to invest to maintain their positions against international competition, and the University will lose out. Some will argue that costs are too crude a surrogate for deciding on issues of balance or shape of the University, but at least an utter clarity about the financial consequences of value judgements is better that a fog of ignorance or an unwillingness to face facts.
It is clear from this that activities that pay their way are in a strong position. In particular, they can enter into a robust debate on the level of the infrastructure charge, agreeing what level of service they are prepared to pay for. Those who are running a deficit will know who is supporting them, and the supporters will want to know what steps are being taken by the supported to reduce their deficit.
One important consequence of the RAM is the need for very clear, robust, and fully-costed plans. This is a highly non-trivial exercise, and one for which careful training will be required for all the participants across the University. The RAM only works if the University as a whole and the constituent elements have a balance sheet, with clearly stated assumptions, and preferably a standard set of common assumptions, underlying the figures. We know what income the University receives for each student and each student type. We know what other sources of income are available. Several months before the beginning of any academic year, the relevant units (e.g. Departments) will have to prepare an income and expenditure account, including all the expenses as described above. This plan will include specific targets of income under the various headings for the year ahead. The plans will have to be tested centrally for their robustness and realism, and once agreed, there will need to be a discipline imposed on Departments that they preserve the bottom line, whatever it takes. Shortfalls in income (whether from student numbers, or research contracts, or other services rendered) will have to be met by shortfalls in expenditure in the year within that unit. This is where the discipline of realistic planning comes in.
Another feature required to make the RAM work is to largely eliminate unplanned expenditure. This applies especially to what academics have traditionally referred to as their 'slush funds'. They will come under exactly the same scrutiny as any other source of expenditure. A run on such funds in a year can throw departmental accounts out of balance. Again there are sensible disciplines for containing this.
Rather than say more now, I am prepared to share my experiences in more detail in other fora, and work to help the introduction of the RAM in Cambridge. The first two years will involve intense effort by many people, and all will be affected to some extent. There will be sharp lessons of financial realism from many quarters. In my previous experience, I found the RAM empowered individuals, groups, and Departments to have much greater control over their own activities and futures, and that the planning exercise was the place where the strategy of different groups had to be clearly and unambiguously enunciated. This control and freedom really encouraged initiative, provided only that the sum total of infrastructure and strategic development charges did not serve to act as a brake. The financial health of the University was seen to be the responsibility of everyone, and one could not blame 'them' anymore as the cause of difficulties.
Professor I. M. LESLIE:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I should begin by declaring an interest as a Head of a Department which has been underfunded since the concept of underfunding within the University was invented and whose underfunding, as a percentage of allocation, remains monotonically increasing. However, I would like to add that I believe very strongly there has to be cross-subsidy if the University is to behave consistently with its core values.
The RAM is a model, not an algorithm. It will inform allocation. I suspect that the precise manner in which the RAM is used will evolve, very much as the RAM itself will. One might ask, with all this evolution to come, why is this current RAM a step forward? I would like to highlight five reasons why I think it is a step forward.
First it is an initial step toward transparency in allocation. One might think we are replacing a well honed allocation system with a financial profit and loss driven allocation system. My view is that we are replacing a lack of system (or more accurately, a system in which a group of people try their best to be 'reasonable' with no guidance on what 'reasonable' means) with a system that takes account of the financial survival of the University. This does not mean that one cannot invest in activities that lose money, it just means that one would be aware that one was doing so. This process of transparent allocation will take time to achieve, not least because we will have to arrive at an understanding of what proportion of allocation is to be formulaic, what the steady-state levels of cross-subsidy will be in the formulaic allocation, and the time-scales on which these quantities will be allowed to vary.
Second, and here again I declare an interest as a Head of Department, it will allow me to plan. I will have confidence that actions which my Department takes that have financial consequences for the University will have correlated financial consequences for the Department. I made financial decisions prior to the last RAE, committing departmental funds to help create posts in time for that RAE, underwritten in the long term by future retirements. These actions have brought, in strict financial terms, a positive benefit to the University, but under the current system, when the retirements underwriting those posts come up, they would not be refilled. The University as well as being academically worse off would actually be financially worse off. (I was a young Head of Department in 1999 and was naïve enough to believe that a Resource Allocation Model would be in place by now.)
I should say under this point about planning that I have been somewhat disappointed by discussions which view the RAM as a zero-sum game. It is important to recognize components which are zero-sum such as endowment income and, to a first order, HEFCE T funding. But it is equally important to recognize areas where internal actions change the income of the University, HEFCE R funding being perhaps the biggest.
A third benefit of the RAM is that it provides clearer financial incentives for Departments, and although one could distinguish a Resource Allocation Model from devolved budgeting, I believe the two go hand in hand. There are complexities of trust funds, in particular just how restricted they are, unrestricted departmental balances (and commitments against them) which are managed (or unmanaged) at local level, and Chest Funds which are allocated centrally. We can talk until the cows come home (and some of us do) about Departments which only spend the interest on the interests generated by trust funds, or we can simply put more financial control in the hands of Departments and Schools to manage their affairs more efficiently and responsibly. Our aim should be to remove the 'them and us' mentality in which 'their' money is always spent in preference to 'ours'.
A fourth benefit of the RAM, which I am sure many will say is its biggest weakness, is that it puts a spotlight on the costs of non-School activity. I predict much wrangling about the formulae by which central costs are attributed to Schools, but I hope we can move rapidly to developing allocation models for central services. Arguably this should be considered in the review of each UAS division.
One should not overlook the fact that in the model, servicing of space is charged as a central cost, thus inflating the costs of what are termed 'central services'. As an aside, wouldn't it be nice - and environmentally friendly - for Departments to be charged for their energy costs at least partly by use, rather than only in proportion to the amount of space they occupy? As a native North American I might be able to get away with a call to 'Green the RAM'. Perhaps not.
A fifth benefit, and again I declare an interest, is that the RAM provides a clear disincentive for cutting activities which are producing surpluses for the University.
There are a number of areas for further work:
First, it would be unreasonable to expect that there are no perverse incentives (even of a strictly financial nature) remaining within the current RAM. It will require constant review to eliminate them and any that creep in in the future.
Second, determining the time frame over which changes to the model are to be allowed will be difficult, having to balance the need for timely corrective action with the desire to provide stability for planning. This is certainly a frequently encountered trade off in control theory. (Perhaps someone should tell HEFCE about this.)
Third, communication and training will be required to ensure that Schools and Departments can cope with the devolved planning and budgeting responsibilities which will be placed upon them by the new arrangements. Lessons learned elsewhere, not least, but not exclusively, at Oxford, should be disseminated widely. In particular I would caution against everyone jumping on the M.Phil. band-wagon.
The current RAM is but a starting point, and it has to be said that many have been waiting a long time to get to this position. It is a tool, not a master. With care it will allow us to move away from what I have always seen as a fundamental contradiction: detailed central planning in an institution whose strength is bottom-up initiative.
Professor G. R. EVANS:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, as a medievalist I must propose an alternative picture to the crisply black and white one we have just heard from CMI Ltd. This academic year I have (after years of battle) been free to offer interdisciplinary lectures on medieval texts. They have been attended mainly by research students, from a wide range of Faculties and Schools. Many of those students have asked for opportunities to discuss their work. I have been glad to give them the hours they wanted. Give is the operative word. I am not paid for these hours and I do not expect to be. I hope that over the next few years this is going to provide a means by which graduate students in more than one School, working on similar topics and texts, can find out about one another's presence in the University.
But whatever will the RAMPOLICE say? Here is an expensive Professorial Person who does not fit the specification, a University Teaching Officer who is supposed to be offering lectures for History doing no such single-discipline thing. This is not work which can be costed within a School. The RAM envisages bilateral exchanges (para. 91). But how can I or anyone know ahead of time which Departments and Faculties a given year's students attending these lectures will come from, so as to cost them in? And what is the RAMCHIEFCONSTABLE going to say if I Chair the Patristic Seminar next Michaelmas Term, as I have been invited to do, to replace someone who is on leave in another School? Gosh!
There is another model, at least for academic staff, the one in Statutes and Ordinances. It is the idea of appointing people to be essentially their own masters, in an area where the University wants academic 'cover', and sitting back and waiting, confidently, for innovatory and generous use of their time and energies on behalf of the University. 'The money for teaching research postgraduates' is to be distributed through the teaching formula (para. 33). But I am not paid piecemeal for such teaching. It is part of my statutory duty to 'foster' religion, education, learning, and research. The RAM as so far conceived is fundamentally opposed to any such old-fashioned notions of academic freedom. The danger is real that it will (if run efficiently) lead to top-down control by Heads of Department and no one being able to try anything new or meet any perceived need unless it can be shown, in advance, what it will cost. There are other incentives than money. There is surely a way of setting things up with room for experiment and flexibility?
For the urge to subdivide leads to absurdities. Top-slicing (para. 21, ff) includes provision for the support of the 'public/historic' functions of the University Library, museums, and galleries. How is the 'cost' of maintaining the Library for departmental and Faculty purposes to be distinguished from its 'public' and 'historic' functions? The fingerprints of scholars from St Andrews or Harvard overlay those of the locals on book after book. Unless identity cards are to be employed each time one pulls a book off a shelf to check a reference, we cannot possibly know whether the usage is 'public' or 'Cambridge departmental'. And which bit is 'historical'? The University archive?
Then there is the hopeless vagueness about space. The spaced-out space sub-group envisages 'public' space, but only in a 'provisional' way (para. 50) and it is not at all clear how Departments in need of somewhere to teach but lacking RAMCLOUT are going to get on. Or those wandering UTOs Dr Thompson has mentioned, with nowhere to lay their lecture notes.
But, critics will say, we have to link what we spend to what we have available to spend (the same basic requirement as took us into CAPSA). All right, let us look at what our sister ancient University is doing. Oxford's current RAM may be read about in the Oxford University Gazette of 19 November, Supplement (1) to No. 4676. They have had a RAM since 2001-02. They have also had some policies and some plans. 'Implementation of the RAM is designed to link the allocation of income directly to planned academic activity, so that money flows according to the strategic academic priorities set by the University and the divisions' (para. 6). Where is our equivalent of such up-front setting of agreed priorities? Without it the local allocating will be heavily influenced by local politics and needs of the moment.
If you want to know what your 'division' is up to in Oxford, you can find out. 'Details of the application of the method within each division may be obtained from the relevant divisional board secretariat'. Full transparency is essential, so that the whole University can see what money has been put where and why, and robust accountability. If, to use my stock example, it is decided in our School of Arts and Humanities or the Faculty of Oriental Studies that Sanskrit is too expensive to run for a few students a year, can that decision be challenged? The idea that Schools must consider the support required for minority subjects (para. 119) is not enough. The University has an interest. The Development Group slides out from under this immensely important policy question in the Report. Council Minute 208 of 9 June 2003 notes that 'major strategic decisions (such as to initiate inter-school activities, or to terminate a discipline ) must continue to be taken through proper full processes of strategic and academic planning' but it does not say how, and it allows that 'budgetary consideration would inform the strategic planning'.
Oxford's RAM is also set out as a series of steps which may easily be followed (summarized at para. 8). I do not find ours at all clear when I try to work out what will actually happen, in what order, and why. There is no excuse for this failure to match Oxford's standard of drafting. Council Minute 208 of 9 June 2003, refers to Oxford's RAM, so it was being read for comparison.
What should have been the starting-point of the RAM? Surely a review (a) of the priorities of the University of Cambridge and (b) of our policy in the matter of protecting those areas of our activities which could suffer under a Resource Allocation Model where financial considerations in local power bases are the drivers. Then (c), there should have been less of an air of 'take away the figure you first thought of' about the calculations.
'There are governance issues to be addressed in terms of scrutiny and approval of budgets and plans' (para. 72). Indeed there are. 'Delegations and empowerment' (para. 113), clear in the Oxford RAM, are a muddle with us. 'University activities and services' crop up a good deal (para. 97). We need to have these defined. It is admitted in the introduction to the Report that 'no satisfactory mechanism has been found to determine the appropriate level of funding, through the RAM, for academic services and other 'non-School' institutions'. No wonder if they have not even been defined. 'The RAM will be amended and adjusted in the light of experience' (3 (f)) we are promised. So it is apparently intended to put it into operation without any of the essential preliminaries being attended to.
Before I end, let me briefly flag up two topics. Redundancies: our present Statute U is in process of being rewritten (pace the reply to the Board of Scrutiny in the Reporter of 26 November). As it stands it would allow any School or other competent authority to decide that there is no further need for your kind of job. There has to be a Report and a Grace about that. In the case of such decisions affecting non-Officers there is no such requirement. I think we may look forward to a future of tremendous job insecurity under the RAM and shoals of redundancies locally and centrally driven. As Dr Thompson has pointed out, the impact will be very different in small Faculties and in large ones, when staff are lost.
Student fees: paras. 28-42 seem to bear out what I said in my letter to The Times last week (25 November). Cambridge cannot cost its teaching. The Development Group elected not to produce a notional 'teaching resource' for 'allocation by total student load'. Why not? Because it 'would dilute incentives to increase fee income where there is freedom to set fees' (para. 29). Turn now to the gun-jumping Press Office statement of 27 November about the announcement of the new 'bursary' scheme, and to the Notice about this scheme in the Reporter of 26 November. The Notice asserts that 'The University is facing financial deficits as a consequence of maintaining teaching quality in the face of falling income'. But para. 29 of the Report we are discussing admits that they made a deliberate decision not to discover whether that might be true. On the face of it is the least of the reasons for our deficit. Giant building projects and CAPSA surely come ahead of the cost of teaching our students as reasons why we are in the red? So I do not see how we can justify insisting that the student body should pay extra for us to waste. And what can 'as earned' possibly mean here?
I am a little uneasy about the way this bursary scheme has been launched on the back of Government policy (not yet our policy) about top-up fees. I do think there is a case for a bursary scheme, of course. But we need to look at the issues independently of the heated politics of the moment.
And I am quite bewildered about the way it is going to work within the RAM. Top-slicing £8m for student bursaries does not figure anywhere in this Report that I can see. We are to raise funds for an endowment in 2008.
Dr A. W. A. PETERSON:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I should start by declaring an interest, in that I am a member of two of the Sub-Groups set up by the RAM Development Group. I am also a member of the Faculty of Economics and Politics. However, my remarks are made in a personal capacity, and do not reflect the views of any of these bodies.
There are two obvious criteria for assessing a mechanism which is designed to allocate resources within an institution - is it better than what was there before, and is it the best that can be achieved. These criteria cannot easily be applied to the RAM. Since there are both gainers and losers, whether it is better than the current non-mechanism involves a value judgement which most members of the University would not wish to make. And, however favourable our view of the proposed RAM, it is clear that it is capable of improvement.
An alternative procedure is to assess how well the RAM meets three of its objectives - transparency, stability, and the provision of appropriate incentives to allow decentralized decision-making. If the mechanisms used to allocate resources are not transparent, decision makers within the system will devote much of their effort to exploiting its ambiguities and bending the rules in their favour. Such activity is sensible from the point of the individual institution, but if everyone does so it becomes pure waste. On this score the version of the RAM described in this Report is a substantial improvement on the prototype revealed in 2002, and the Annexes provide a very clear account of the principles employed and the resulting implications for institutions in terms of resources and costs per student. But some important features of the process, particularly those associated with the College fee transfer, remain unclear. This obscurity has the advantage of limiting divisive debate, but it also makes it more difficult to persuade members of the Regent House that the RAM is really as fair and objective a mechanism as it claims to be.
The second key objective, stability, is hard to achieve in an environment where Government policy towards universities, and HEFCE weightings, change at the drop of a consultation paper. In this context the proposal to phase the movement towards RAM-based allocations over several years, and to retain a component of general and endowment income for strategic purposes, is welcome, since it reduces the risk that future changes to external funding arrangements will push the University into abrupt reversals of policy. However it is important to point out that the sensitivity of RAM outcomes to HEFCE weights, which is revealed in Professor Minson's report, will be much more serious at lower levels of the academic hierarchy. So, if Schools plan to push RAM allocations down to individual Departments, or even lower, they may find that they need to retain substantial resources at the centre to cushion the short-term effects of external funding changes. The more diverse the institutions within the School in question, the greater this need is likely to be.
Finally, one of the expressed aims of the RAM is to 'help Schools, and Faculties and Departments and other institutions, to take greater control of budgetary processes which affect them'. If this is to be more than a pious hope, the incentives which such institutions face should reflect the overall benefits to the University of their activities. However, the Report has little to say explicitly about how these incentives might work, beyond a brief discussion of space planning and a mention of the (possibly inappropriate) incentive to increase fee income by expanding the provision of one-year M.Phil. courses. This may reflect the fact that designing an appropriate system of incentives for a University as complex as Cambridge is bound to be extremely difficult. But it also arises because the designers of the RAM are trying to do two distinct things with a single policy instrument. The first of these is to allocate resources across institutions, and here the key variables (on the teaching side) are the average payments and costs associated with each student in the institution. The second is to provide incentives to institutions to expand, or conceivably contract, their activities: but for this purpose it is the extra resources which come from an additional student which are important. Since average and additional (or in economists' language, marginal) costs differ, a single RAM figure for 'net income per student' cannot achieve both objectives.
What this means is that the University may well find that the RAM is an example of the 'Law of Unintended Consequences', which has afflicted many institutions that have introduced similar price-based incentive mechanisms. If this is to be avoided, it is vital that those responsible should identify the most important cases where the incentives offered (and needed in order to provide an institution with adequate resources in total) also ensure that any resulting expansion or contraction leads to perverse outcomes. Any such incentives must be neutralized before they lead to policy decisions which have adverse effects on the overall interests of the University.
The authors of the Report and its annexes are aware of some of the principal issues involved - for example, the incentive for individual institutions to compete for home/EU students in a context where overall HEFCE T income is fixed, and the benefits to an institution of taking more overseas students in preference to those from the EU. But the proposed solutions are limited to a faith in individual goodwill and a policy of continued review. Economists are often accused of taking an excessively cynical view of human nature, but unfortunately experience tends to confirm their belief that goodwill can easily be corroded by the desire for a larger share of the available resources, and the knowledge that one-sided altruism does not pay. And if the only method of stopping behaviour which is rational for the institution, but damaging for the University, is detailed central monitoring, the RAM will fail in its key objective of empowering Departments and allowing them greater control over their own activities. For these reasons I would urge that the policy of continued review which is promised should not stop at the stage when the outcomes for the various Schools are regarded as satisfactory (or, more cynically, politically acceptable). The incentives implicitly offered by the RAM will alter behaviour, and indeed this is part of the motive for its introduction. Those who review the RAM must confront these issues openly. If they do not, the introduction of the RAM is unlikely to lead to any significant improvement in the University's planning and budgeting procedures, and (as with rail privatization) the outcome could well be even less satisfactory than that provided by our current mechanisms.
Dr O. RACKHAM (read by Mr T. N. MILNER):
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I have just finished a term of service on the Board of Scrutiny. One of my last tasks was to take part in drawing up the Board's Eighth Report, paragraphs 16 to 25 of which deal with the Resource Allocation Model. In this we pointed out that: a cost-cutting exercise that operates through the RAM means that vital decisions of principle about the future shape of the University are made, not by a transparent process of open discussion leading to principled decision, but in a less transparent manner in the course of the detailed construction of the RAM. A Resource Allocation Model is a human construct: it is not a natural law, like the rules of thermodynamics, that is immutable, and which scientists discover and describe. To change the metaphor, it is an animal that has been genetically engineered, by creators who have a result in mind that they hope it will be achieve. What it will do therefore depends entirely on the desires of those who frame it, and their competence to turn their desires into a mathematical form. To put it in technical terms, everything depends on what algorithms are employed, what the parameters are, and on whether sensitivity analyses have been performed. And whether what the formula will do actually reflects the wishes of the University depends on who draws it up, and on whether the relevant University body that finally approves and implements their handiwork actually grasps what the effects of the formula will be. The Board hopes that when the version of the RAM is published the algorithms and parameters on which it is based will be clearly explained, and that the Regent House will have an opportunity to examine and discuss them (Reporter, 2002-03, p. 1277).
The Report before us is about principles underlying the RAM. The principles are interesting and important, and others will criticize them better than I can. But the devil is in the detail. As last year's Board of Scrutiny pointed out, what really matters is how the principles are put into arithmetical effect.
This the Report does not explain. Some of the algorithms may be hidden in off-hand and unreferenced allusions to 'the T formula' and its like. Those in the know presumably understand what is meant, but not a single algorithm is spelt out. There are oddments of parameters, such as the 'weighting of 1.25 for all postgraduate students', conjured out of thin air for all we are told. As for sensitivity analysis, the Council loftily pronounces it to be 'insignificant'.
The Regent House may or may not approve this Report, but approval of the Report will not constitute approval of the RAM: it will be only a first stage towards it. To secure that approval the Council needs to explain to the Regent House, in terms which ordinary MAs such as myself will understand, what are the formulae and equations being used and how they are arrived at; what numbers are being fed into them and how they are arrived at; and what difference varying the numbers makes to the outcome. The process needs to be laid open to anyone who wants to replicate the calculation and see whether they get the same answer. This is what transparency means. Otherwise the Council will forever be bogged down in bickering, as Departments that have done badly out of the RAM will suspect that this is because someone behind the scenes has been tweaking the numbers in favour of a rival Department.
Dr D. R. DE LACEY:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I shall endeavour to make my points clearly, since the Council appear to have twice misunderstood previous remarks of mine in the Discussion on 7 October; their Notices (in http://www.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2003-04/weekly/5940/5.html and http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2003-04/weekly/5942/7.html) therefore evade my concerns.
Many aspects of the RAM proposal should deeply worry this University. A most unscientific survey of friends and colleagues suggests that if it does not seem to do so, this is because they have had no time to read the Report and cannot abandon their teaching duties in order to attend and speak this afternoon; or in other cases that they believe it to be simply inevitable however disastrous the RAM may be. May I be permitted to comment on just three aspects.
'The Cambridge RAM is a tool to assist decision-making within the University, not in itself a decision-making mechanism' (3(b)); 'It is important to emphasize that the introduction of the RAM and the method of dealing with the University's deficit are separate issues, but the RAM provides a new tool' (Annex B, 10; emphasis mine). If this is so, then it appears that we are not discussing the RAM at all this afternoon, since the majority of this Report appears to be about the way financial cuts are to be handled - it has made the decisions. Are these soothing sentences inserted to disguise the fact that Annex 5 to Annex B translates into three redundancies in the coming year in my own School alone; with a further three (since it is hard to make a fraction of a person redundant) in the next? And this level only because of the 1% cap to which Pro-Vice-Chancellor Minson drew attention.
'All income is attributed to Schools and institutions 'as earned'. This may not reflect the University's value judgements but it does reflect our true sources of income and avoids arguments about value judgements' (Annex A, 2; emphasis mine). The RAM should 'deliver the necessary resources to institutions to enable them to operate effectively and make an appropriate contribution to meeting the University's objectives' (Annex B Specification). We have of course famously never had a chance to discuss the Mission Statement for the University; the points made by Professor Ford on 11 March 2003 have yet to be addressed. But the RAM will clearly pre-judge many of these vital policy issues. If it were true that the RAM 'avoids arguments about value judgements' it could only be that the values involved are merely financial. Who is to decide the policy by which the three posts in my School must shortly disappear? Not the Regents, not our Administration, but the untrained amateur dilettants who run the arbitrary conglomeration of Faculties which is the School of Arts and Humanities. I endorse Dr Thompson's concerns.
The Report admits that 'There is a governance issue in relation to the management of top-sliced funds' (Annex B, 25). Who is to decide it? On what principles? Where is the transparency the RAM is supposed to offer? And where is the policy basis of the development of the UAS?
The initial model funded museums from top-sliced funds and taxed Schools to finance them; but this was felt to expose them to budget cuts (Annex A, paragraph 2). Now they are to be part-funded directly by the School, by an amount somehow proportionate to their teaching value. I fail to see how this eases the possibility of budget cuts. If the Schools are truly to have the promised financial independence, it might be thought a very attractive way of saving funds for teachers by making the museums merely virtual. And why should Philosophy pay for the ornate torsos of the Museum of Classical Archaeology? As a member of the Council of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, which has had a long and distinguished relationship with this University for over 150 years, I have been asked to express our gravest concern if the public functions of libraries and museums might be compromised. It is worrying to see this issue simply left in the list of 'Uncertainties' (Annex B, 80).
Dr N. O. A. BULLOCK:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, at the meeting of the Council of the School of Arts and Humanities last Friday, members expressed the hope that the Joint Report on the introduction of a Cambridge RAM would allay some of the wilder fears in the School that had been aroused by the prospect of implementing the RAM. Following this discussion by the Council of the School I want to make four points. The first is to draw attention to the crucial difference between the proposed RAM and the current savings exercise. The RAM, as the Report makes clear, is a general set of principles for calculating the distribution of resources. The RAM will reduce the level of funding to the School of Arts and Humanities relative to most other Schools but we should not blame, on the principles of the RAM, the cuts that have already been forced upon us to make good the University's deficit.
The second point I want to make is that the present method of allocating resources based on disaggregation analysis is no longer acceptable. Whatever reservations there may still be about the decisions such as the use of the HEFCE weightings the principles of the RAM devised in large measure by a former Chair of the School of Arts and Humanities have been recognized as fair and just.
The third point is that though much has been made of the possible damage that might be done to the School of Arts and Humanities by the introduction of the RAM, what is proposed here at Cambridge is much less harsh than the system of allocation used in a number of other universities - the point emphasized by Professor Baranski in comparing Cambridge's RAM with Reading's RAP. That the Cambridge RAM will be less harsh is due both to the design of the model and to the way in which it is to be used. In the design of the model, the interests of the Arts and Humanities have been protected in a number of ways. I hope three examples may suffice to demonstrate this: the mechanism for top-slicing the College fee, the inclusion of the costs of all staff including research staff rather than those supported by Chest funds alone in calculating the costs be borne by each School, and the use of a number of different space categories with different cost weightings rather than the single category used in many universities. More important still is the way in which the raw results of the RAM will be moderated as part of the process of determining the annual allocation of resources. In para. 93 of Annex B there is reference to the proposed use of a cap on the maximum amount that any one School may lose in any one year. Oxford uses a limit of 2%, the figure considered by PRC is 1%. In para. 94 it is proposed that the University's general and endowment income not spent on top-slicing will be available to the Council for moderation to ensure that the results of the allocation of resources meet the strategic aims of the University and to safeguard 'priority academic disciplines and teaching areas where income raising potential is limited'. The RAM represents a very real challenge for the School of Arts and Humanities. It will be tough, but the Council of the School of Arts and Humanities was persuaded on balance that, implemented in the terms described, the damage to the Arts and Humanities would be limited as far as is compatible with the agreed principles of the RAM.
The final point that I wish to make is that I hope the immediate priority for the institutions in the School of Arts and Humanities is to accept the discipline of the RAM and look ahead. We must press forward with drawing up strategic plans that set out the future for our Faculties, for the School, and for collaborations with other Schools. It will be these strategic plans which will ensure that the Faculties in the Arts and Humanities can succeed both in competition for funds made available as part of the process of moderation and in raising funds as part of the campaign to celebrate the University's 800th anniversary.
Joint Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 17 November 2003 and 14 November 2003, on the appointing arrangements for certain academic-related offices and analogous unestablished posts (p. 197).
Mr N. M. MACLAREN:
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, it would be sad if the worthy reforms of this Report were to be rejected because of its flaws, because much of it is good. Unfortunately, its flaws are serious.
This Report proposes to remove the actual procedures for appointing academic-related officers from the Ordinances, without providing any explanation of why it is doing so. There were good reasons for doing this for Administrative Officers, on a temporary basis, because the procedure was experimental and might need changing at short notice. However, the proper place for the University's permanent procedures is in the Ordinances, which are largely for that very purpose. It is not reasonable that the procedures for appointing officers are less formally specified than those for allowing undergraduates to keep bicycles.
The process of a Report, a Discussion, and a Grace is precisely to ensure that consultation is not overlooked and to correct oversights. For example, I believe that the Information Technology Syndicate made some important changes when it saw a draft of this proposal, but has not had an opportunity to respond to the final Report. More than one member has expressed surprise that this Report proposes to remove the procedure from the Ordinances. If this proposed change to the Ordinances is made, further changes could be made without even that level of consultation.
The original consultation document made much about harmonization, but it is unclear whether this Report improves that. The current Appointments Committee members are typically appointed for a period of years and many of them act for all Departments, but the new proposal means that there need be no members in common between two Committees that appoint the same class and grade of post in the same week. While the proposed scheme is more flexible, is it likely to be more consistent?
A reasonable compromise would be have half the members selected from permanent, University-wide panels, which would have members appointed for a few years and have regular (perhaps biannual) meetings to discuss relevant issues, as I believe appraisers do. Selecting from a panel maintains flexibility, and the other half could be appointed by the Head of institution for each occasion. It would also be desirable for at least one third of the members to be from outside the institution, and not just one person.
There are several other, minor anomalies that are worth mentioning, in addition to further inconsistencies that I shall mention later.
It proposes to promote Senior Assistant Registraries and Treasurers and above by a Standing Appointments Committee of the Council, but the comparable grades of Senior Under Librarian, Senior Computer Officer, and even Principal Computer Officer by an institution-based mechanism. Is there a good reason for that?
The proposed Appointments Committee for Computer Officers requires a senior academic-related officer with knowledge and experience of the role of the office/post; surely that should be a senior Computer Officer? The model for the appointment of Librarians requires far more people with specialist expertise on the appointments committee, and it is difficult to see why this is less desirable for computing posts.
The same section also says that Computing Officers (which I assume means Computer Officers) who are members of an Appointments Committee must be at a grade at least equivalent to the office/post to which the appointment is being made. That seems reasonable, but why are Computer Officers selected out for such a condition? I should hope that it would apply to all members, academic and otherwise, for all classes. If it needs saying, it should be said generally.
However, the worst fault of this Report is that it fails to address the current procedurally unfavourable treatment of academic-related staff, and Computer Officers in particular; indeed, in some respects it makes it worse. This is now the second Report that has done this. Will it be necessary to produce a 50-signature Grace to get the matter of fair treatment even considered by the University? Before I start, I must stress that actual discriminatory treatment is not the norm, and my examples do not refer to the Computing Service. But the fact that cases occur at all indicates that the University's procedures are not what they should be, and it is the procedures that are being discussed today.
As I pointed out in the Discussion on 29 April, discretionary payments are entirely in the gift of the Head of institution, and regrading is not very different. In its response of 21 July, the Council stated that this was deliberate and appropriate for academic-related staff. This Report proposes to replace the current University-wide procedures for appointment by ones that are largely controlled by the Head of institution. I accept that there are good reasons for this, but it is also necessary for there to be appropriate checks to ensure fair treatment, and there are not. If we take the Council's view-point (as given in that response) that the way academic-related officers should obtain promotion is by moving to a higher-graded post, the issue of fair treatment applies as much to appointment procedures as to discretionary payments and regrading. Let us consider some of the issues.
Ordinances, Chapter IX, p. 625, makes it the duty of the University Library Appointments Committee to issue ad hominem promotions, much as is done for academic staff, and this Report proposes to maintain that. But why is that not done for other classes of academic-related staff? I do not know if that is legally discrimination, but it must be close to it, especially given the next point.
The lack of any overlap in the Computer Officer grades, which was introduced a few years ago to replace a truly bizarre previous scale, was apparently intended to be linked to a simplified promotion scheme. The current inflexible combination of no overlap and no appeal means that Computer Officers are treated unfavourably compared to almost all other classes of officer. The proposals in this Report will allow Heads of institution to alleviate this, but will not help in the few and serious cases where the unfavourable treatment is because of action or inaction by the Head of institution.
I know of several cases where computing and other staff have been expected to shoulder responsibilities and workloads far beyond their grade, and have sometimes even been inflicted with those after appointment, which is potentially a breach of contract. This can only get worse with the Resource Allocation Model, because lower-graded staff are cheaper and promotions cost money. Where is the requirement on a Head of institution to ensure that a post is at an appropriate grade for its responsibilities and workload?
I know of several cases where staff have taken on tasks in addition to the workload of their post, including lecturing, examining, research, and administration, but have not received credit for it. I also know of a few cases where they have been under pressure to do so under circumstances where such tasks were clearly beyond the duties of their post.
The Council and the General Board referred to the University's grievance procedures, by which I understand them to mean Statute U, Chapter VI. It is obviously an unsuitable mechanism for appealing over a refused discretionary payment, regrading, or appointment to another post. Even if the member of staff won, it would make working within that Department intolerably stressful at best, and would more realistically result in the Head of institution standing down or the member of staff resigning.
I know of several cases where computing staff have applied for posts in other parts of the University and asked for their application to be kept secret from their Head of institution unless they were appointed, because they feared discrimination over discretionary payments, regrading, or other aspects. That is clear evidence that the current procedures are not leading to fair treatment.
The cause of all of these problems is that the University's procedures include neither the necessary and appropriate checks and balances nor mechanisms for correcting simple misjudgement, bias, and personality conflicts. It is all down to the Head of institution, who is as human as anyone else, rarely a trained personnel manager, and may be involved in the problem anyway. This should be remedied before this Report proceeds to a Grace.
Professor G. R. EVANS:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, what have we got? Appointments Committees.
What are we going to have? Anything the 'competent authority' decides to have 'from time to time'. So should someone be keen to get a favourite appointed the 'arrangements' can be quite special. Join these special ad hoc arrangements with the freedom not to advertise when 'managerial reasons' decree, and I should think we are opening the door wide to nepotism.
You see that the number of votes required for a valid decision to appoint is to go down from five to three. You can write your own Laurie Taylor back-page-of-the-THES dialogue about how the 'other two' will be squared by the one who wants his protégé to get the job. The choice of members of the Appointments Committees is to be left to the Head of institution and he can consider it 'anew' for each particular appointment. He will choose his own secretary for each meeting. These secretaries will write the minutes which will have to record only the outcome and 'comments relevant to the Committee's consideration'.
We are also allowing the local baron or 'Head of institution' the right to sack, or 'authorize the termination of the appointment where performance is unsatisfactory'. Who says? What right of appeal will the sacked individual have? For there will be no disciplinary process to be gone through, it seems. This is going to cost the University quite a lot in out-of-court settlements of Employment Tribunal claims, an element I do not see allowed for in the RAM proposals. Will each School be paying out its own slices of the tens of thousands a time it costs to keep these cases out of the newspapers and get people to go quietly?
And the Unified Administrative Service. I remember protesting ineffectually when power to make appointments to the more senior grades was given to a Standing Appointments Committee with no power left to the Council to review decisions. But now, in rather more cases, the Registrary will be able to choose his own staff 'under procedures to be agreed from time to time by the Council', which I do not expect will be much of a fetter upon him, should he ever need to be fettered.
In short, more moves to unreviewable exercise of personal power in a line-management structure in the University of Cambridge. You will realize why this matters, employee and would-be employee of the University, when you yourself see a post you would have liked to apply for mysteriously filled without advertisement by a process the Byzantines would goggle at admiringly.
I apologize if this looks like constructive mistrust again, and I know many posts will be filled quite sensibly, and not at the whim of someone who favours a particular replacement and has the power to ensure that his or her wishes are met. But experience of hard cases I could add to Mr Maclaren's list suggests that someone ought to be raising these concerns publicly. Then we can see in due course whether I was right.
Dr M. R. CLARK:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, although I speak as a member of the Regent House, with regard to this Report I should declare another interest in that I am currently awaiting confirmation as the newly elected President of the Cambridge Association of University Teachers (CAUT1). The association exists as a union to represent its members both locally and nationally. As a guide to eligibility for membership, we consider it to include all those staff who are considered eligible for membership of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and to reflect this the Association of University Teachers has an important role in appointing three of the directors to the Board of the USS.
The role of the AUT within Cambridge can be summed up by a quotation which I take from a contract of employment. This is a clause taken from a 'Contract of Employment' for the post of Senior Lecturer in the University of Cambridge, dated January 2001, but I believe that similar clauses exist in many other contracts.
25. Although the Association of University Teachers is recognized by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principles for the negotiation of the national structure of the stipends of academic and academic-related staff, you should note that no collective agreements exist between the AUT and the University. Although the University has followed pay agreements negotiated under the national agreements, the University's pay structure differs from the national structure and there is no obligation for the University to adopt national agreements as the determination of the University's pay structure rests constitutionally with the Regent House. You should also note, however, that the Council and the General Board recognize the Cambridge Association of University Teachers as the appropriate trade union for consultation on matters affecting the conditions of employment of academic and academic-related staff employed by the University.
With regard to this and similar Reports, it is worth noting, that as far as I have been able to determine, and despite the promise in this last sentence of the quotation from an employment contract, that the Council and the General Board have not routinely consulted the CAUT on matters affecting conditions of employment. Unlike Heads of institutions, who are usually consulted at an early stage and who often see the draft copies of Reports, the CAUT has had to wait until the final Reports are made available to Regent House via publication in the Reporter.
Returning specifically to the current Report, I can see that it is a desirable aim to streamline and to speed up the process of appointments to many of the academic-related offices. It is also welcome that the Council and General Board see a need to harmonize the appointment processes for analogous unestablished posts. Removing many of the offices from a need to have large standing Appointments Committees and instead to allow smaller and ad hoc Appointments Committees would seem a sensible approach. However, the new arrangements do not seem to address important issues inherent in appointments and which may be exacerbated, rather than corrected, in the proposed reforms. At this point I endorse the concerns raised by Mr Maclaren and Professor Evans in their remarks.
The first point is that with small committees which are selected largely by a Head of institution there exists the possibility of unfairness or discrimination in the procedure of appointment, either intentionally, or more likely merely through lack of experience or awareness of the selected Committee members. Having some required representation on Committees by members who have a wider experience of appointments, in other institutions of the University, would seem desirable to ensure fairness. Indeed I note that it is considered a desirable requirement for the appointment of Secretaries and Superintendents of Faculties (Table 1), Senior Technical and Technical Officers (Table 2), Computer Officers (Table 3), and Librarians of Faculties (Table 5), that at least one member must be from outside of the institution. Perhaps it would be possible to require that the selected person also had a reasonable level of experience of making appointments within those other institutions. For Computer Officers (Table 3) there is a requirement that when they are also members of an Appointments Committee they should be of a grade at least equivalent to the office/post to which the appointment is being made. Why is this not considered necessary in the case of Appointments Committees for other offices?
On another issue, it is difficult not to view the proposed local amendments in relation to the proposals at a national level for a reform in the pay and conditions of all university academic and academic-related staff. The University of Cambridge is actively represented on the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA2) and current proposals for changes in pay and conditions under negotiation through the Joint National Committee for Higher Education Staff (JNCHES) require the adoption of a new 'Framework Agreement' which can be read on the UCEA website3 or on the AUT website4. Amongst other things this framework proposes the adoption of a much longer pay spine with 51 points separated by an average 3% increment. Also the framework allows for more variation in procedures for promotion, and for determining precise levels of salaries between higher education establishments. At the same time both academic and academic-related scales will be separated into many more grades than at present, and the grades will not overlap by many points. Progression within a grade will in part be subject to performance criteria, and progression between grades will require formal promotion procedures. Thus there will be many more promotional barriers to the progression of staff up the scales.
An example of such a situation already seems to exist for Computer Officers within Cambridge University where there are six grades of Computer Officer starting at Computer Officer, Grade IV (CO IV) and ending with Principle Computer Officer (PCO), see Annex 1 on p. 205, and the table on p. 198 of the Reporter 19 November 2003. Progression between grades requires promotion by a formal Appointments Committee, and under the new procedures this would be largely dictated by the Head of the institution concerned. The willingness of a Head of institution to propose an officer for promotion is likely in future to be strongly influenced by perceived availability of funds as given by results from the Resource Allocation Model, and this could lead to differences in the way staff are treated for promotion within different institutions of the University. With this in mind I would ask the Council and the General Board to take a look at the data they have provided within the Report on p. 198 with regard to Computer Officers in different institutions of the University. For example it can be seen that there are more appointments at the higher levels of the CO scale within the Unified Administration Service than within the University Computing Service, and this is even worse if account is taken of the fact that according to the latest list of University Officers (Reporter, Special No 6, 28 November 2003, p. 37) that there is not a PCO within the UCS although there is a Deputy Director. Does this reflect a difference in the abilities of the officers, a difference in the job descriptions, or is it a reflection of differences in the incentives for recruitment and retention of staff in these two services?
Finally, and on a point which is related to the previously discussed Resource Allocation Model, I note that item 31 in Table 1 of the Allocations Report (Appendices I and II of the Reporter, 18 June 2003, p. 1084) shows that currently the University saves about £5m a year on stipends and wages, presumably mainly through delays in recruitment and reappointments. If the main aims of the reforms of the procedures given in this Report are to speed up the process of recruitment and appointments, will this not lead to the undesirable aim of increasing our current predicted budgetary deficit by up to another £5m a year? Of course I recognize with some concern that this money could be saved by deliberately keeping University officers on lower pay scales as indicated in a recent press story on student top-up fees and bursaries.5
1 CAUT details at http://www.aut.cam.ac.uk/.
2 UCEA details at http://www.ucea.ac.uk/.
Report of the General Board, dated 5 November 2003, on the probationary arrangements for academic offices and comparable unestablished posts (p. 206).
Professor G. R. EVANS:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, do we need all this? Exactly how numerous are examples of 'performance issues' needing 'proactive' 'remedial action'? Do we really have such numerous unsatisfactory performers that we need to employ these draconian measures and welcome these General Board directives about what we should all be doing and its policy of reducing us all to clones making a general contribution?
Look at the philosophy of para. 3.2: 'Satisfactory levels in all relevant criteria'; 'General contribution'. So we are going for the across-the-board performer? The academic must administer (and that of course depends not on his willingness but on what he is given to administer), teach, and do research in an evenly-balanced manner, allocating his energies indifferently to each of the demands which come his or her way. When did we decide as a University to disapprove of the lop-sided individual? Your slightly more uneven personality is not going to stay with us now. The charmingly inefficient brilliant teacher, the kindly pair of broad shoulders doing all the departmental donkey-work although his solitary monograph of a decade ago is not to be joined by anything else even 'forthcoming', these will be out on their ears, as will perhaps those whose chosen research does not fit the departmental specification or is a trifle too long-term for it to show results in a hurry. The example of the Acta Regum Andegavorum, funded by the British Academy, which gave me a temporary foothold in academe at Reading a very long time ago, while I got a permanent post, comes irresistibly to mind. It relocated itself eventually to Cambridge with Professor J. C. Holt, and I found myself in the amusing position of providing a former research student as postdoctoral research assistant to its continuing endeavours decades later. A probationary Lecturer with a project like that might not have much to show for it during his probationary period.
Look next at the definition of probation. This is to be the 'period of the appointment of a new member of staff during which the probationer will demonstrate that s/he has the capability to undertake the duties' of the office, etc. Statute D defines those duties in terms of 'fostering' religion, education, learning, and research. There is nothing about administration or 'general contribution'.
Besides, the 'criteria' are to be used to judge performance not capability. And the separation of misconduct from performance is not going to be straightforward. One disagreement with your Head of institution in five years and you may be found guilty of disobedience in a disciplinary process which he or she will conduct. But supposing your disagreement is about some point involving academic freedom or professional standards on which you maintain that in order to demonstrate your capability and perform well as a professional, you must stand your ground. It will be a nightmare.
What are going to count as 'outputs?' Numbers of students 'processed'? Numbers of committee meetings attended? Numbers of articles and numbers of pages in books published? Certainly not the inspiration of the odd student and the rare truly important insight, both of which are likely to be invisible to this kind of assessment.
And five years! Five years during which 'information' about you will be 'gathered' from your colleagues and student evaluations and there is talk of 'peer observation', which probably means coming to watch you lecture and taking notes if you fluff a line. An existing University Lecturer appointed to the retiring age would be mad to apply for a Senior Lectureship and expose himself or herself to being spied on and to this kind of job insecurity, for so long. (And none of this will prevent the creation of redundancies on excuses shortly to be created under the RAM.)
But let me end on a positive note. The requirement for the probationer to get some training is excellent. The only problem is that it does not include those who will be acting as 'informers' or making the decisions not to confirm appointments, who do not have to know as much as those whose careers and futures they are determining about legal duties (Day 2) or (presumably) have to get up 'buddying' (6).
May I refer the careful reader back to the Report on appointing arrangements. I am pleased to see that the Personnel Division has put down some good practice markers about training there. 4.1. Chairmen of Appointments Committees are to be 'expected' to undertake training. (What training exactly and will they have to show that they have mastered the essentials of fair treatment?) Should those supervising other people's probation not be trained too? There are plenty of options on the list and I would like to see both the probationer and his or her head of institution attending the same sessions: 'Handling Difficult People?' (January 13); 'Navigator: A development programme for Men' (also January 13) (women only get a 'Springboard'); 'Assertiveness in Action' (January 27). Should be fun. My serious suggestion for these purposes is the 'Career choice' series and the series on 'Recruitment and selection'.
It is good to hear from the CAUT in the Senate-House. High time. I am not a member and would resist allowing its membership to make decisions about employment matters which should remain the business of the Regent House. But for the AUT to be audible in our parliament is a very good thing, not least because it can speak for those of its employee members who do not at present have a voice here.
Dr M. R. CLARK:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I draw your attention to the remarks I have just made on the previous Report where I declared another interest in that I am currently awaiting confirmation as the newly elected President of the Cambridge Association of University Teachers (CAUT). In my remarks I drew attention to the clause derived from a contract of employment within the University of Cambridge on the recognized role of the CAUT 'as the appropriate trade union for consultation on matters affecting the conditions of employment of academic and academic-related staff employed by the University'.
Again I would point out that in the case of this Report now under discussion, and despite the statement of widespread consultation within section 3 of the Report, the CAUT has not to my knowledge been included in consultation in advance of this publication to the Regent House.
Whilst the important constitutional role of the Regent House in these matters is duly recognized, it should be noted that whilst most academic and academic-related officers will have automatic membership of Regent House, which currently stands at approximately 3,800 members (Reporter, Special No 4, 7 November 2003), the vast majority of the unestablished staff will not have membership. As another source of information Appendix 1 (B) of the Reporter, 18 June 2003, p. 1082, indicates that currently there are approximately 1,900 academic and academic-related staff, whilst at the same time there are approximately 2,500 unestablished staff. All of these staff, both established and unestablished, are likely to qualify for membership of the Universities Superannuation Scheme and thus would also be eligible for membership and representation by the CAUT. If many of these staff are not to be given membership of the Regent House, perhaps the General Board could consider honouring the promise made in the contract of employment to treat the CAUT as the appropriate trade union for consultation on matters affecting the conditions of employment of academic and academic-related staff employed by the University?
With regard to the current Report, I welcome the introduction of these reforms for an assessment of a probationary period under the University's Human Resources strategy. I also recognize that many of these reforms are required by changes in national legislation. What does however concern me is the fact that we do seem to be facing difficulties in recruitment and retention of new staff. Whilst some of these difficulties might be related to our lower salary levels relative to the national average for the higher education sector, I also think from my own experience that other factors come into play. I was most interested to read a recent news release on the University website entitled 'Time is Money'2 in which it was argued that a very high proportion of individuals are prepared to take a lower salary in return for the time to devote to a better quality of life. I believe that one of the factors that has attracted many excellent individuals to apply to work in Cambridge University has been a freedom to devote large amounts of time to their academic and academic-related interests, free to a large extent from continual interference and distractions. Unfortunately this aspect of University employment within Cambridge is steadily being eroded by a continuous stream of requests for administration-related paperwork, attendance on numerous courses, and participation in assessment exercises, whilst at the same time experiencing hardships in the raising of funds for research and teaching programmes. If we are to continue to recruit the very best and able, we might do well to remember to try as much as possible to allow new recruits the time and resources to get on with their main work-related interests.
1 CAUT details at http://www.aut.cam.ac.uk/.
Report of the General Board, dated 5 November 2003, on the establishment of a Department of Clinical Neurosciences (p. 213).
No comments were made on this Report.
Report of the General Board, dated 5 November 2003, on the re-establishment of a Professorship of Medical Genetics (p. 215).
No comments were made on this Report.
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Cambridge University Reporter 10 December
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