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Tuesday, 27 January 2004. A Discussion was held in the Senate-House.
The Registrary made the following introductory remarks before the start of the Discussion:
Dr T. J. MEAD:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I wish to make a brief comment to this assembly this afternoon about the news which has been given much publicity concerning the Council's decision in relation to the proposed Primate Research Centre. I do not wish to comment on the substance of that decision, or the reasons for it. I do think, however, that it is important for members of the Regent House to know that this has been an issue which was under consideration by the General Board at their meeting on 14 January and by the Council yesterday [26 January] with the expectation that there would be a Notice published in the Reporter to announce the Council's decision on 4 February. That news was leaked and unfortunately has been given publicity today, as a result of which the Notice will be appearing in the Reporter tomorrow. There has been some speculation as to the dates on which various acts were intended to happen. I thought I should be clear with the Regent House that the intention was to publish next week. Unfortunately other events outside the Council's and my control intervened, such that the news is now public and I regret that that news has become public before the University was properly informed.
The following Reports were discussed:
Joint Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 15 December 2003 and 3 December 2003, on a revision of the arrangements for appraisal (p. 314).
Professor G. R. EVANS:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, (3) 'the introduction of an appraisal scheme was necessary in order to comply with the requirements of the Government, as part of the introduction of a revised salary structure.' That was in 1987. 'As far as the University's scheme was concerned, the primary objective was to assist officers in the performance of their duties by providing them with an opportunity to discuss ways in which their work could be developed and ways in which any difficulties and obstacles to progress could be removed.' Those of us whose memories go that far back in the University know what happened. Some, allowed to be appraised by equals not superiors, went along with it, tongue in cheek, in the spirit of taking the opportunity to talk about themselves for half an hour with an old mate. Some found themselves trying to explain what was standing in their way to the very people who, they had reason to suspect, were putting the obstacles in the way of their progress.
The original idea that there would be appraisal all round, upward as well as downward, and that everyone would get a chance to appraise everyone else. That soon vanished into a top-down appraisal in which the powerful told the aspiring what to do to please them. The original assurances that the agreed 'action plan' would be seen only by the appraiser and the appraisee vanished as the document came to be seen by the Head of Department and others. Promises that the appraisee would always be asked for consent to its wider circulation were forgotten.
The guidelines in the present Report allow for these things to happen again. And surely they will? It is provided that the an institution may require the appraisal record to be signed by the Head of the institution. Under the new promotion procedures the Head of the institution decides whether you will have a realistic chance of advancement, by 'encouraging' you to apply (or not) and by ranking his own staff in an order of preference. So appraisal is going to be drawn inescapably (and without any clear ground-rules) back into the promotion process, from which it was evicted with difficulty in the battles of the late 1990s for fair procedures.
The appraiser is 'normally' the Head of institution or his/her nominated representative, for example the member of staff's line manager/supervisor or principal investigator or a senior member of the institution. No hint of the line-managed getting a chance of upward appraisal of their masters. As for the collegial friendly conversations of equals about their work, those seem to have vanished altogether.
How long is freedom to determine the direction of one's own research going to stay out of this loop? 'Research policy' is a new kind of talk in the University. When appraisal was first introduced it was with a 'firm' promise that one's research plans would remain out of bounds, firmly excluded from the scheme. General Board Annual Report for 2002-03 (21) (Reporter, p. 339): 'In view of the diversity of strategic approaches to research in different parts of the University, it was decided not to try to produce an overall statement of research strategy.' But that does not exclude local pressure. General Board Report (14): 'In their last Annual Report the Board announced their expectation of not less than the top rating in every Department and, consequently, of their review of those few Departments which, in 2001, did not achieve at least a 5 rating or retain their 5* awarded in the 1996 Exercise.' Does this not hand both power and incentive to Heads of institutions to put pressure on individual researchers through the appraisal system to conform their work to the institution's wishes?
Remember, too, that we are now all slaves to the General Contribution Requirement, aka Put Up with Administrative Overload or We Shall not Support Your Application for Promotion.
It is admitted that reservations continue to be expressed 'about the appropriateness' of appraisal 'for academic staff'. Those reservations surely do not apply in a line-managed administration? Administrators recommending all this can have no objection to a fresh eye being cast on their struggles, to having a comforting wise word or two about their personal development from others better developed than they. I shall be glad to offer my services as appraiser of the Registrary, the Academic Secretary, the Director of Personnel. Perhaps they would like to arrange a time when we may discuss their 'progress training and development needs, and agree an action plan for the future'. My diary could be quite flexible.
Mr N. M. MACLAREN (read by Dr M. R. CLARK):
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this Report contains some very fine words, and seems to have some very good intentions, but I doubt very much that it will succeed in most of its stated objectives.
The root problem with the appraisal mechanism is that it is largely unnecessary in a well-run institution and largely unhelpful in a poorly run one. Appraisals are useful tools in personnel management, but do not help to resolve problems that are due to failings in the management structure itself. I shall mention only a few points and, as usual, my examples do not refer to the Computing Service.
The first reason for the review refers to the Human Resources Strategy for the University, another document with some very fine words and apparently some very good intentions. But, as has been pointed out before, it includes some nasty and even unacceptable clauses. Let me mention just two that are particularly relevant to appraisals.
I have doubted the practicability of a common grading methodology for all academic-related staff before; even within the Computing Service, there is enough variation to make such a thing a bizarre concept. If it is practical, why is its lack being allowed to delay the introduction of a proper ad hominem promotion scheme, comparable with those for University Teaching Officers and University Librarians, as is implicitly required by the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association (UCEA) document 'Outcomes of Pay and Modernisation Negotiations July 2003'?
Similarly, the statement 'the link between the arrangements for determining the pay of academic and academic-related staff was no longer appropriate' is deeply offensive to many academic-related staff. There are many of us who lecture, supervise, examine, do research, and so on, and our academic status is very clearly defined in Statutes and Ordinances. At least one Computer Officer resigned to take up a chair at a well-respected university. If the Council and General Board feel that the link is no longer appropriate, it would be at least polite to explain why. But, as far as I know, the relevant document has never been published.
Perhaps worse is the second reason where it says 'there was a need for additional support to all staff on career progression, as some staff had reported that they felt unable to discuss the development of their career with their Head of institution'. Try as I may, I can see no way that this Report improves this problem one iota.
As I have mentioned, one problem is when there is a personality conflict between the member of staff and the Head of institution, or there is disagreement on the appropriate grade for the appraisee's workload and responsibilities. Such a problem puts the appraisee in an impossible position, yet the University provides no mechanism to resolve this except for the ridiculously confrontational Statute U.
Another problem occurs when there is significant mismanagement in the institution, whether attributable to or despite the best efforts of the Head of institution. Stage three (c) has the Head of institution or designated person co-ordinating the reviewer summaries. At best, this puts the Head of institution in an impossible position; at worst, it is a recipe for censorship.
I know of more than one case where information provided by an appraisee has been used to harm that person's career. My belief is that this is extremely rare, but my point is that the appraisee can do nothing about it, and that this inability is due to a failure of the mechanism. Because of the 'confidentiality' it is rare to be able to prove anything and, without convincing proof, Statute U is inapplicable.
Most Heads of institutions do a good job, and very few do a bad one, but the point of a personnel management structure is to handle the cases where the managers fall below the standard that is expected. And the appraisal mechanism, like most other personnel management mechanisms in this University, fails to do so. It should be fixed.
Dr N. SAVAGE (read by Dr M. R. CLARK):
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I note with great concern that reference is made in Annex 3 to 'The Career Management Scheme , recently introduced, incorporates the appraisal scheme for contract research staff and sets out arrangements for a career management review and the report to be subsequently completed.'
Reference  is Circular of 3 November 2003 - 'CRS: Probationary Arrangements and Career Management Scheme'.
I am a member of CRS I have not received any information about this new scheme. I have not been consulted in any way about these changes to my terms of employment. I have not received any information about the new arrangements for appraisal and I cannot find the above mentioned circular on the personnel Web pages.
In addition my contract of employment states: 'the Council and the General Board recognise 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'. As Honorary Secretary of Cambridge AUT I am unaware of there having been any consultation over these changes at all.
Would the Council and General Board be prepared to inform us of what steps they took to consult with employee representatives before making this change in our contracts?
Dr M. R. CLARK:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I would like to address some comments to this Report in my capacity as President of the Cambridge Association of University Teachers. As is clearly pointed out in the Report, the original appraisal scheme from 1987 was devised in consultation with the AUT. In looking at the new proposals for the renamed Staff Review and Development I would simply like to re-emphasize several points. As a local association we receive feedback from our members and several of them have raised appraisal as a topic of concern. From these concerns I can extract two key points.
The first is that the quality of appraisal varies across the University and this seems to reflect differences in the level of instruction that the reviewers have received before carrying out the appraisals. We would ask that a priority is given to the proper selection, instruction, and training of the reviewers, and that full information regarding the purpose and expectation of appraisal is also given to the person being appraised.
The second point relates to the confidentiality and the use of the individual appraisal reports. It seems that some of our members are concerned that some Heads of institutions have used information and documents obtained from the appraisal procedure in an innappropriate way. Paragraph 10 of the Report specifies that 'the process should not be used as a disciplinary tool or as a means of determining pay'. Further to this 'Annex 3 Section (b) Confidentiality', lays down strict rules under which the information is to be used or disclosed, which again makes it clear that the Head of institution should not be using the information for secondary purposes such as for disciplinary or promotions proceedures. Please could these points be given clear and prominent emphasis in the information provided to all parties, and could we be assured that serious notice and prompt remedial action will be taken over any report of a breach of these conditons?
Dr D. R. DE LACEY:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, any proposal to improve our appraisal mechanism is much to be welcomed. Apart from the point well made by Mr Maclaren concerning its value in principle, appraisal at present is open to gross abuse. Let me illustrate with one case known to me. An employee under direct management of the Chairman of the Council of a School was told that the appraiser for 2001 would be that Chairman. No opportunity was given to question this decision. That is, the appraisal was to be by someone already simultaneously the employee's line-manager, Head of Department, and person in charge of balancing the finances of that particular School; but now, apparently, also friend and confidant, the person to whom the employee should take concerns about under-resourcing, poor management (spot the first major conflicts of interest?), and other work-related problems.
The employee, showing rather touching naïveté, took seriously the appraiser's statements that in the appraisal only the last of these hats would be worn. Imagine the dismay on the discovery - some six months down the line when finally receiving a first draft of the appraisal document! - that this had been a most unwise course of action. The misrepresentations perpetrated in the proffered agreed document were enormous. The employee submitted a list of corrections, but despite several reminders, received no further communication. Yes, that employee is still waiting, nearly three years later, for even an acknowledgement of that list, let alone any step towards worth-while appraisal.
You may not be surprised, therefore, that the part of the recommendations I am least happy about is the continued devolution to Schools or their constituents of full authority in how appraisal might be undertaken. Annex 2 is valuable in its attempts to stop abuse; however, may I suggest that there is missing a zeroth stage: the appointment of the reviewer. Annex 4(b) states: 'Careful thought should be given to the method by which reviewers are selected; this should be specified in the institution's scheme. The reviewer will normally be the Head of institution or his/her nominated representative'. Would it not be preferable, at least say for every alternate appraisal, for the reviewer to be an explicitly independent person. The Annex also states that 'wherever possible, staff should be allowed to express a preference for a choice of reviewer'. It is unclear to me why it should ever not be possible, and I urge the Council to make this an obligatory part of the procedure.
There is an odd disparity in the quality of the Annexes to this Report. Annex 2 is remarkably clearly written, but Annexes 3 and 4 revert to a style redolent of those passives which so easily obscure the identifying of responsibility. 'Careful thought should be given' sounds all very well, but who is to do the thinking, and what is to happen if it is not done? 'The Head of Department shall consider' is so much clearer. 'All reviewers should receive appropriate appraisal training.' But will they, and will they be forbidden from appraising until they have? The removal of all passives, and all modals other than 'must' and 'shall', would at a stroke make the locus of responsibility crystal clear. May I request that the final draft be written without recourse to fudge?
Report of the General Board, dated 3 December 2003, on the establishment of a Professorship of Cosmology and Astrophysics (p. 319).
Professor G. R. EVANS:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, it is well-known that I am always reluctant to get to my feet in the Senate-House, but even the most diffident speaker must be forced to comment on this development of the consequences of our agreeing to allow outside bodies to appoint to Professorships in the University. Sir Martin Rees holds a Royal Society Professorship. The University undertakes to continue such short-term Professorships to retiring age. Now that he is to be Master of Trinity, the Royal Society will not allow him to continue. But Cambridge's convention is that an individual may continue to hold a Professorship alongside this senior College office. Now Trinity is not short of a penny or two. So the College is to fund a Professorship for Sir Martin, if we agree.
What sort of Professorship is this? Is it a personal promotion? But the list of new Readers and Professors has just been published for this year and Sir Martin does not appear to have gone through those hoops. Yet now that promotions are cash-limited, having a College willing to fund your Professorship may become an important and useful option for others if we allow it here. What would be the difference of principle between doing this for a Royal Society Professor and doing it for a personal Professor, since a Professor is a Professor in the University of Cambridge? Except that it will not be fair to those who are Fellows of poorer Colleges or not Fellows of Colleges at all, and will have no one to bankroll their Chairs.
Hybrid Professorships may be the way forward, but we do need to be clear what we are doing, constitutionally, and how we are to prevent riots when those denied Professorships because the University says it cannot afford them see colleagues granted them because their Colleges can. This is a special case, of course. But oddities like this do not make safe precedents.
Sir Martin cannot need the money. He is of an age where he would be entitled to continue to call himself Professor under our Statutes. So why this 'creative solution' for a problem which does not exist, when creative solutions for problems which do exist are not thick on the ground?
We infrequent speakers should be shy of going on too long. I must sit down.
Report of the General Board, dated 3 December 2003, on the establishment of a Professorship of the Economics of Education (p. 319).
No comments were made on this Report.
Annual Report of the Council (p. 335)
Dr C. F. FORSYTH:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, scrutinizing the Annual Report of the Council on behalf of the Regent House is one of the statutory duties of the Board of Scrutiny. However, the Board has only had one meeting since this Report was published on 17 December 2003 and so has not completed its consideration of it. The Board will publish later this year a Report to the Regent House which will contain the Board's further views on this Report and my remarks this afternoon should be regarded as simply provisional.
There is much in this Report which the Board heartily welcomes. In the first place the Board welcomes the progress that has been made towards the consolidation of the University's accounts. The important change so far agreed is the inclusion of the UCLES within the University accounts. But the Board notes that consolidation of accounts with the CUP is still 'under discussion' and hopes that this does not portend a decision to exclude the CUP from the consolidation. The Board also welcomes the announcement of the consolidation of Chest and non-Chest income and expenditure for the 2004-05 Allocations Report. 'Joined up accounting' and 'joined up budgeting' are vital steps towards ensuring that financial information is coherently presented and the true financial position of the University is understood. The Board of Scrutiny has called for these reforms for many years; it congratulates the Council for, at last, pressing ahead with them.
In the second place, the Board also welcomes the announcement that the Council through the Policy and Resources Committee has initiated the preparation of a new strategic plan. The Finance Working Party, Shattock and Finkelstein, and, of course, the Board itself have all called for such a plan. It is right that the University should have such a plan to inform rather than to determine decision-making on a day-to-day basis.
Thirdly, another reform which the Board, and others, has long called for is the review of committee arrangements announced in this Report. The relationships between the statutory Finance Committee, the Planning and Resources Committee, and the Buildings Sub-Committee of the Finance Committee need to be clarified. As the Board has pointed out in the past the mish-mash of statutory committees and non-statutory committees created on an ad hoc basis leads at best to duplication of work and at worst unnecessary conflict. The Board hopes that this will be only the beginning: the clarification and simplification of committee structures will lead to more effective and efficient government.
Fourthly, the Board is also pleased to note the progress that has been made by RAMDOG (the Resource Allocation Model Development Group) as shown by the Council's Report of 19 November 2003 (Reporter, 2003-04, p. 182) which was separately discussed. The Board welcomes the change of focus in the RAM to being a source of financial information rather than a mechanism to determine the allocation of funds. The Board will wish to ensure that this is the way that it in fact operates; and that the Allocations Report in fact reflects this. It seems likely that some Heads of Department will be able to use the RAM to manipulate inputs in order to maximize their income. This may lead to increased grants and other income with realistic overheads, but could lead to competition between Departments for sources of income (such as students). As pointed out in the RAM Discussion the law of unintended consequences will doubtless play a role. The operation of the RAM will rightly be kept under review.
Fifthly, the Board welcomes several of the governance changes including the broadening of the Regent House and the establishment of a team of Pro-Vice-Chancellors to ease the burden on the Vice-Chancellor. The Board shares the hope of the Council that this will strengthen academic leadership in the government of the University. The Board also welcomes the reforms to the Audit Committee which will now have an external member of the Council as a Chairman. Although most members of the Audit Committee will now be external the Board hope that co-opted members, who may be members of staff, will continue to be able to serve since they have 'on the ground' experience which is very valuable.
As adumbrated the Board welcomes much of this Report. But the Board's role is to provide independent and penetrating scrutiny. So, of necessity, I must now turn to more critical remarks. The Board should not, and does not, in my view, criticize for the sake of criticism. But it remains concerned about the quality of the University's government.
I mention first the very well-received report of Professor Cornish on intellectual property arrangements referred to in para. 8(b) of the Council's Annual Report that, subject to the approval of the Regent House, may come to form the basis of policy in this important area. As is well known, this report was preceded by an earlier Report from the Council which was perceived by many members of the Regent House as an attempt by the University to seize their intellectual property rights. The benefits of our form of government were shown by the very long Discussion on this Report in which the disquiet in the University became very clear. It was plain that the first Report could not be implemented; and Professor Cornish was called upon to save the day. The question for our system of government, none the less, remains: how did it come about that such a clearly flawed Report was approved by the Council and placed before the Regent House? Why was the Council, and those that serve it, not sensitive to the inevitable unpopularity and impracticality of these proposals?
A further example of poor government lies in a matter barely mentioned in the Council's Report but which occupied some of its time in the year under review. I refer to the Primate Research Centre. The University does not come with credit out of this saga. As the Board has several times pointed out, the purpose of this very controversial building was deliberately withheld from the Regent House with the result that it was not properly discussed and no ballot on this proposal was called. Did the suppression of the purpose of this building contribute to the failure of the University adequately to assess the security costs involved? After all, that this building would generate exceptional security costs must have been obvious to any one who knew its true purpose. The example of Huntingdon Life Sciences just up the road shows what might have been expected. Now the project has come to an end in the worst possible way for the University. Many tens of thousands of pounds, if not hundreds of thousands of pounds, have been wasted fighting for planning permission. We will be perceived by some - including some in the Government - as bungling incompetents. Others will fear that unpopular research has become more difficult within the University; and that academic freedom is under threat. All this while the Regent House was denied its voice in the matter. An episode like this must not occur in the future. And the first step in ensuring that is to see that the Regent House, the governing body of the University, is told the purpose of the buildings whose construction it is asked to approve.
Dr M. R. CLARK:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I would like to address some comments to this Report in my capacity as President of the Cambridge Association of University Teachers. There are some elements within this Annual Report which cause me great concern and which relate to the current national campaign and ballot of the AUT membership over terms of pay and conditions of university academic and academic-related staff (full details available from our website1). Having been working actively with my executive colleagues on the local aspects of this campaign I am well aware that there are certain sensitivities and polarized views amongst colleagues within this University and the associated Colleges. It seems likely that some of the comments I will make today will upset, antagonize, and may even cause offence, to some of these colleagues, nevertheless, I hold a firm conviction that to speak out forcefully is the correct thing to do. I have been a member of this University since 1978, as a graduate student at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and of Darwin College for three years, as a postdoctoral scientist on successive fixed term contracts in the Department of Pathology for nine years, and as a University Teaching Officer in the same Department for another thirteen years. I have also been a loyal member of the AUT for much of that time although I have only recently been persuaded to play a more active role in the executive of the local CAUT. With this background I believe that I can offer some insight at several levels.
In her opening address to the University2 entitled 'Values, leadership, and change' our Vice-Chancellor, Alison Richard, had many admirable things to say about the importance and the value of the members of this great institution. I gained a new hope from that address which was that a greater emphasis would be placed on the value of, and a commitment to supporting, our staff, even if that meant some difficult sacrifices in other aspects of our institution, such as the funding of new buildings. I have watched over many years as the pay and conditions of staff in the middle and lower ranks of the University have been eroded to the extent where many have difficulties in living locally and in supporting their families. This is no joke. We have staff with many years of academic qualifications and experience who aspire to a top of scale point salary which is less than the average salary of a train driver. Yet sadly I fear that for some in this institution who have a strong influence over policy, that buildings, personal prestige, and personal resources and privileges, are still given more emphasis than appropriately rewarding their more junior staff that they rely on.
Why am I so concerned? Within the Report of the Council, paragraphs 20 to 27 refer to lavish plans for the commitment and expenditure of tens of millions of pounds on new building programmes which would seem to me to be only increasing our levels of overspending from the Chest, particularly since little attention seems to be being paid as to how we can afford to cover the maintenance and running costs of the combined old and new estate. Yet when we come to the section of the Report devoted to 'Personnel' (paragraphs 28-31) we see that the plans are far less ambitious, and indeed I would regard them as highly retrograde. Paragraph 29 runs a vaguely disguised warning under the description 'Rewarding and Developing Staff' that in fact this may mean, for a research active university like Cambridge, a major reduction in income available to Schools and Departments for staff salaries. How that constitutes rewarding and developing staff I have no idea, but at least the authors of that section of the Report attempt a positive spin on things!
My main cause for concern is to do with paragraph 30 of the Annual Report which refers to the national pay negotiations. 'This year's pay negotiations have seen the employers offer a two-year pay settlement which is linked to the introduction of single spine and a framework agreement which is intended to facilitate pay restructuring and the introduction of common grading methodologies in institutions. At the time of writing it is not known whether all the trade unions nationally will accept the offer. Notwithstanding that, in order to assist recruitment and retention and meet equal pay considerations, the Personnel Committee hope to make proposals for significant changes in the structure of the University's pay scales and in the way staff are rewarded.' This again puts a positive sounding spin but one of the major problems that the AUT is having with accepting the national offer is that it is so vague and allows so much variation that it is impossible to be sure what we are signing up to (details on our AUT website1). However it seems most likely that if, and I emphasize the if, Cambridge does introduce a pay restructuring based on the national negotiations, many staff will in fact be worse off financially than they are under our present pay-scales. It is my sincere hope that members of Council have inadvertently signed up to this paragraph of their Report without having fully informed themselves of the full implications of the UCEAs proposals. If that is the case I ask them to now rectify that and then hopefully respond with a more reasonable proposal.
Cambridge University is actively represented within the University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA3) in the national pay bargaining, and at present there has been no statement that Cambridge disassociates itself from the UCEA position in any way. So until a statement to the contrary is made I believe that we must operate on the assumption that features of the proposed national framework might be implemented locally. Indeed I would appreciate a reply from the Council telling me whether our local policy is passively obtained by reference to the national position of UCEA, or whether alternatively Cambridge University exercises a major influence over the national policy position of UCEA. If the latter of these, who makes the decision as to what that policy position should be, because Regent House has certainly not been consulted?
I put to Council that several of the features within UCEA's proposed framework would do serious harm to the pay and conditions of large numbers of staff in academic and academic-related posts. One reason is that the proposed pay spine has more increments, 51, and each increment is an average of 3% compared to our current increment of about 4.6%. Thus even if you initially started off with higher pay when first appointed, after several years you would accumulate a smaller compound annual increase, and thus could rapidly end up with less money in total. A second problem is that the spine is divided up into more grades and there are more discretionary points at the top of each grade, which means that staff will not progress up the spine without assistance from frequent promotions or discretionary awards. This is clearly an intent at introducing performance related pay criteria. In their responses the UCEA have informed the AUT that our projections are pessimistic and that they would expect nationally that most university staff would be promoted on average every three years, or put another way that might imply that on average somewhere in the region of 1/4 to 1/3 of staff in the University should expect promotion each year. Would the Council like to provide data on what the current statistics are for promotions of various classes of academic and academic-related staff? I suspect that we are nowhere near to these figures. Indeed I am well aware of many local examples brought to the CAUT's attention, where highly experienced staff with very many years of postdoctoral experience, and high levels of autonomy and responsibility, have been informed by their Heads of institution that they are not being put forward for consideration of promotion to the Senior Research Associate scale as a cost saving measure for the University! Would those same Heads of institution be prepared to accept a personal reduction in their current pay? If not what gives them the moral right to hold back the career and salary expectations of their juniors?
On another point the UCEA proposal also plans to break the link between academic and academic-related grades, and also makes provision for local negotiations to vary pay and conditions for particular groups of staff independent of the rest of staff currently employed on similar pay scales . This proposal allows for increments to be deleted as well as added to staff salaries in response to local needs, i.e. some salaries might be allowed to decrease in a manner to be determined by decisions of the local administration. The proposal is that these pay negotiations should be conducted locally. But in Cambridge who would be involved in these collective pay negotiations? Not the AUT because Cambridge is unusual amongst most UK universities because it does not recognize us for collective bargaining. So can Regent House engage in this collective bargaining? Who will represent those who do not have a voice in Regent House?
Some of you might ask why, if the new pay offer is so bad, some unions and groups of staff are supporting the proposals? Analysis of the proposed pay spine shows that for some University staff this represents a slight improvement. Thus on the assistant staff scales some of the increments currently average out at 2.8%, so a 3% increment would offer an improvement, particularly if the lower points on the spine were at the same level, or slightly higher than the current levels. At the other end of the spine, point 51 only indicates the lowest salary that a senior academic might expect to be offered. Thus Professors and Readers might be encouraged to vote for the new pay-scales on the grounds that it doesn't affect their personal pay. I would make a plea to them not to support that viewpoint because it would seem to me to be akin to pulling up the ladder behind them. They have themselves climbed that ladder to their present positions and they must have some sympathy for those that follow in their footsteps? More importantly I would argue that it is those very people on the lower and intermediate steps of the ladder that are crucial to maintaining our international standing in research and teaching. To penalize them is to risk a gradual loss of our research ratings, and in turn to lose the associated research income that goes with it. It is a recipe for long term decline if we ignore those, and fail to support those that will make major contributions to our RAE. Also don't be mistaken into thinking that academic-related are not as important as academic. Where would you be without access to your computers, your libraries and journals, and your research grants and contracts?
When I was a junior researcher I was given every encouragement and considerable support by my group leader, and now in my turn I have every intention of doing the same for those who work loyally and hard in my own research group. As a President of the CAUT I give notice that I will fight equally hard in support of such valuable staff generally within the University. To those higher up the ladder I ask that you take notice, that you stop and examine the reasons why the AUT is so much against the UCEA's proposed framework, and don't be tempted to pull that ladder up after you.
I still have some hope and some optimism. The Vice-Chancellor and the Council could prove my assumptions wrong and decide instead to break ranks with the current UCEA bargaining position, they could introduce a more generous offer that does not seek to penalize those in the middle and lower ranks of the academic and academic-related scales. They could reaffirm those values, and rebuild that trust, which the Vice-Chancellor spoke of, in her opening address to the University.2 Yes I would like to see new buildings and vast resources, but not if that means sacrificing those who are our most valuable future assets and on whom we all depend for support in our research and teaching. I'm not tempted to pull up any ladders behind me, but what about the rest of you?
2 Reporter, 2003-04, p. 19.
Professor G. R. EVANS:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor:
'One of the major immediate challenges facing the University, and therefore the Council, is to achieve, without damage to the principles governing academic and educational work in the University, rectification of the financial problems which the University at present faces because of deficiencies in public funding (my italics).' On 13 January, the Vice-Chancellor published an article in the Guardian which seemed to go along with that, accepting 'the possibility that historic levels of support for higher education will decline' further and arguing not only for top-up fees, but for variable fees, as the way of filling the gap.
The Council, like the Government, is having difficulty in giving up its habit of spinning like a top. No one thinks public funding is adequate, but our University's extreme financial difficulties at present are surely chiefly the result of CAPSA, the over-ambitious building-programme (just read paras. 20-27 of this Report) and the decision to pay a select few enormous salaries with money which, redistributed, could promote and upgrade a much larger number. In the Personnel section of this Report we read of the national negotiations about: 'the introduction of single spine and a framework agreement which is intended to facilitate pay restructuring and the introduction of common grading methodologies in institutions.' Whatever one's view of all that, what possible meaning can attach to it in Cambridge where we secretly top up people's jam-jars and do not tell the Regent House what we are actually paying them? I see they have had the face to do this for only a few academics this year, but there are all the eligible Senior Administrators too. Did we really agree to secrecy over what they were getting? Top-ups have two frames of reference in Cambridge. Perhaps those getting the staff ones will stand up and tell us who they are and how much each?
And on the subject of topping-up tuition fees (paras. 6-7). We have not discussed the University's policy. We must please be allowed to do so. Cambridge has still not considered what it wants to do and announcements are being made in our name as though we had.
Para. 7. 'An essential requirement if a new fee system is introduced will be that there should be no disincentive to students without significant financial resources of their own to apply to those universities which must charge high fees (my italics).' As to the Bursary scheme, should we not separate the undoubtedly good objective of ensuring that the poor will be with us in appropriate numbers from (a) the prior question whether we should be charging top-up-fees at all, and at what rate and (b) the (to my mind very sticky) question what is going to happen when it is clearly realized that the students who are paying fees are subsidising those who are getting the bursaries. The bursaries are to be 'supported by a portion of the higher fees' (Alison Richard, Guardian, 13 January). This could well mean that of two old school friends, one of whom has parents with such and such an income while those of the other earn slightly less, one will be going into the future with an enormous burden of debt partly so as to pay for the other not to have to do so. The General Board Report refers (10 (ii)) to 'above-inflation rises for Overseas student fees (but with a proportion of the additional income being used to increase funding for bursaries)'. So here again the plan is to overcharge some so as to subsidize others. Have we given approval for that robbing of Peter to pay Paul? To some of us it appears profoundly unfair. And fees will rocket once they are allowed, whatever the Secretary of State is saying to coax MPs to vote for Blair in tonight's historic vote. 'Heavy debts and repayment schedules increasingly burden graduates in the US', admits the Vice-Chancellor in her Guardian article.
I trust that our new Pro-Vice-Chancellors, those so-familiar names, will be rendering account to the University for their exercise of their 'responsibilities'? What exactly is meant by 'a team' (para. 10). There are clues in (11): 'this team of Pro-Vice-Chancellors will significantly strengthen the academic leadership of the University, and will enable the Vice-Chancellor herself to concentrate particularly on strategic development.' (On the day the morning news is that 'we have decided not to go ahead with the controversial Primate Research Centre', we are grateful to the Registrary for his reassurance that the University was to be consulted and informed in the proper manner if the news had not been improperly leaked before this could be done.) Do we naturally warm to those on the list of Pro-Vice-Chancellors? Are these our natural leaders and people to whom we are willing to designate decision-making?
Andy Cliff's great interest in life, according to Who's Who, evokes Tom Sharpe. It is the fate of Grimsby Town in their next football game. But that may be the best possible qualification. How exactly did these particular names come forward and move onward until they got the job and the huge salary and the announcement in the Reporter? Is it too late to ask for a declaration from each of these new appointees of their personal priorities and their achievements, as is our constitutional norm for elections?
Alas, there is no requirement of an Annual Report from them and the Vice-Chancellor to set beside this one from the Council and the one from the General Board. Yet surely they will be taking de facto powers in all sorts of ways, powers for which they will be largely unaccountable. Will the Board of Scrutiny be allowed to see all the papers passing across their desks? I hope its welcome just now will not have to be qualified. Will the 'team' meeting in the Dome Room be minuted? Minutes on the Web? If not why not? We have not voted for a secret top layer of government in the University, for the formation of a Cabinet taking power and decision-making away from our Parliament. Or have we?
I believe the Registrary too should be reporting directly to the University. The promised report to the Council will not do: (15) 'The Council have agreed that the Registrary will report to them annually on the Service and, on the recommendation of the Registrary, have agreed to undertake a series of reviews of parts of the Service on a rolling basis. The first of the reviews will be that of the Research Services Division in early 2004.' It is too incestuous. He is the Council's Secretary. The Head of the administration of the University ought to be reporting to the Regent House. With a Discussion like this to follow.
'(12) The Council are reviewing certain aspects of University committee arrangements'. Is this review to include appointments to committees? Test-boring for my own name will not discover it on any University committee. There are still very few women Professors and we have a Vice-Chancellor who said on appointment that she wanted to ensure that we got our fair share of chances to participate,
'(13) The Council expect to report to the University in due course proposing statutory changes as regards the two offices' of Secretary General and Treasurer. Who is sitting down with the Statutes and Ordinances and making a list of these necessary changes and drafting the Reports we shall need? We surely cannot have Professor Minson going on and on with 'responsibility' for Planning and Resources and also being Secretary General and Treasurer? This is a potentially explosive mess, members of the Council, and it is high time it was tidied up.
'14. The new statutory review jurisdiction of the Commissary came into force on 1 January 2003. The Council have been informed that three applications for review have been made to the Commissary, all of which have been rejected. The Commissary will in due course publish a summary of his decisions.' Where? Will this appear in the Reporter? Do individuals have a right to confidentiality? Is there to be a requirement on the Commissary that he publish his decisions in a timely way, since those who have resort to him are under a time-limit themselves?
How is the Commissary's jurisdiction going to sit with that of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator? Our Commissary has a very limited jurisdiction. The memorandum of association of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator is now available. The scope of the jurisdiction proposed (indeed already defined) for the Office of the Independent Adjudicator is enormous. It is to cover 'any breach or non-observance of any legal duty or obligation by an HEI', which would include negligence, contractual breaches, human rights, data protection issues, health and safety, personal injuries, discrimination. Students elsewhere will be able to refer complaints on all these matters to the OIA.
The Higher Education Bill published a week or two ago envisages the compulsory imposition on all universities of a requirement to 'comply with any obligation imposed upon it by a scheme for a review of qualifying complaints that is provided by the designated operator' (s. 15(1)). Are our students to be forced to go to the Commissary before they can take their wider concerns outside the University? Surely we need to tidy up our Statutes pretty speedily if students are not to be subjected to an even longer series of 'internal' processes before they can approach the OIA? Our Commissary is merely a quasi-Visitor. Is his jurisdiction set aside by the proposals about Visitors in the Bill? Probably not. And if Parliament thinks a wider jurisdiction appropriate for students' problems, should we continue so severely to restrict the jurisdiction of our Commissary with reference to his remaining clients, members of the University who are not students?
The Council have begun to get some training. Bonding weekends. Good. But there is also the question of keeping up with developments. How many of them have read the Higher Education Bill and examined the extension of the 'conditions of grant' principle it adumbrates?
Dr D. A. GALLETLY:
Madam Deputy Vice Chancellor, I have but two brief points to make. The first could equally well have been made to this or to the first Report.
Paragraph 10 of the Joint Report of the Council and the General Board on a revision of the arrangements for appraisal says: 'The Council and the General Board acknowledge that the process should support, not replace, good management practice, and should not be used as a disciplinary tool or as a means of determining pay, since these matters are more appropriately dealt with through other Personnel procedures.'
Paragraph 30 of this, the Annual Report of the Council for 2002-03, says: 'This year's pay negotiations have seen the employers offer a two-year pay settlement which is linked to the introduction of [a] single spine and a framework agreement which is intended to facilitate pay restructuring and the introduction of common grading methodologies in institutions. At the time of writing it is not known whether all the trade unions nationally will accept the offer. Notwithstanding that, in order to assist recruitment and retention and meet equal pay considerations, the Personnel Committee hope to make proposals for significant changes in the structure of the University's pay scales and in the way staff are rewarded.'
In order to determine where an employee should be placed on this single spine, there must be some form of appraisal. Indeed, I was under the impression that the University intended to appraise every employee over the next two years for this very purpose, under the guise of a 'job evaluation exercise'. How, then, can the Council and General Board square this with the noble statement in the appraisals Report that 'the process [...] should not be used [...] as a means of determining pay'? It seems to me that they cannot.
The second point I have to make concerns paragraphs 6 and 7, where the Council shows itself to be concerned, very properly, with the issue of the future direction of higher education funding. It says in paragraph 6: 'The choice facing the country is clear: either there will be a significant, and probably irreparable, decline in the quality of higher education, especially undergraduate education, or substantial additional resources must regularly and reliably be available to those universities which provide high-value, but higher-cost, education. This could be done either through public grant, but the Government appears to be unwilling significantly to increase such public funding, or by raising funds from other sources, in particular through fees or the equivalent.'
A worrying note is sounded, however, in a recent article by David Howarth1 in which he says, amongst other things, that 'as the House of Commons Select Committee on Education and Skills pointed out, in its 2003 report on tuition fees, the total funding of higher education by government was simply reduced by the amount raised by fees. Universities as a whole did not gain from fees - the government gained. Tuition fees were another stealth tax' and that 'the Select Committee, knowing what happened to fee income last time, asked the Department of Education and Skills to guarantee that it would not happen again this time. The Department refused to give any such undertaking.'
But this time the Government is requiring that part of this extra income from top-up fees must go to fund bursaries for students in financial difficulties. Paragraph 7 of the current report concurs: 'An essential requirement if a new fee system is introduced will be that there should be no disincentive to students without significant financial resources of their own to apply to those universities which must charge high fees.' This on the surface sounds entirely appropriate, but it is worth considering the possibility (as indeed David Howarth already has) that the Government may again deduct all the income from fees from the amount central government gives to universities, whilst requiring the funding of bursaries.
This would leave the University in a worse position than currently. This is surely not what is intended by the Council. A watching brief is required.
Dr N. J. HOLMES:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I wish to comment on the information, given in paragraph 30 of the Council's Report, that the personnel committee are preparing proposals for significant changes in the structure of the University's pay scales. In order to avoid repeating myself when we discuss the next Report, may I say now that my remarks apply equally to the Annual Report of the General Board, in which a similar form of words is used in paragraph 24.
I think we need to be cognisant of the background against which any new proposals will take place. In particular I refer to the national negotiations which have been going on for over two years between representatives of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) and the trade unions representing staff in higher education institutions. UCEA, of which Cambridge is a subscribing member, have proposed a new national pay spine consisting of 51 salary points in which the successive points differ from one another by 3%. It is intended that this single pay spine will be used for all staff below Readership and senior management level. Given our membership of UCEA it is difficult to imagine that any new proposals will ignore the proposed single pay spine.
While this proposal along with the other components of the framework may represent a fair deal for many University staff and has been accepted by most of the trade unions involved, it does not represent a fair deal for academic and some academic-related staff. At the national level, the existing scales for technical staff for example have an average increment of 2.8%, though this varies slightly between individual scale points. However, the current average incremental value of the academic scales is higher, for example the national Research Associate 1A scale averages 4.6% increment between spine points. Although not all local Cambridge scales are identical with the national ones, the Cambridge Research Associate scale is. This scale is very important because it is the main pay scale for the majority of contract research staff, at least in science Departments. I accept that there is much more to the framework agreement and the whole pay structure issue than incremental points but these are nevertheless critical. A precise assessment of the effects of the framework cannot be made as there are many details regarding grading and progression lacking. However, I have made a variety of different theoretical comparisons about what the effects would be if the proposed national scales and grades for research staff were introduced - in Cambridge or elsewhere - varying assumptions about grading and progression. During a career of more than a few years all scenarios result in the academic researcher getting lower pay at some stage and losing out in terms of cumulative earnings over number of years, even if very optimistic assumptions about promotion and progression are used. I think members of Regent House will find it easy to imagine that over the average period of postdoctoral career, the effect of a salary increase of 3% per annum rather than 4.6% can only result in lower earnings overall. If the assumptions about progression and promotion more closely reflect experience, then the effect on likely future earnings of postdoctoral staff is severe.
I assert that any scheme based on the 51 point national pay spine proposed in the framework document will lead to a reduction in career earnings for the majority of academic staff. The adverse effects will be worse for a vulnerable group of staff who already experience significant financial pressures, namely postdoctoral research associates in their late twenties and early thirties. I argue that adoption of the proposed 51 point national pay spine will not treat such staff fairly. But I also believe that any proposals to implement this pay spine for academic research staff are likely to damage Cambridge University by resulting in a worsening of our ability to recruit and retain such staff.
I will add that the adoption of the single pay spine is likely to have adverse effects on the earnings of established academic staff too. I am not thinking of myself here, I no longer receive increments so their size is unlikely to affect my own pay, but the difference will probably be felt by many more recently appointed University Lecturers. Similar arguments apply to academic-related staff as well.
So to summarize, my plea to members of the University is this. In your deliberations at all levels of University Committee please ask for a realistic analysis of the effects of any new pay structure on staff over the course of their occupation of the various roles they are likely to fill during their careers. Please ensure that any new proposals will, at the very least, not diminish the earnings of our staff nor our consequent ability to recruit and retain staff at all levels.
Dr S. J. COWLEY:
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, my remarks refer to paragraphs 28-31 on personnel.
In the past few months there have been welcome noises suggesting that there is a greater realization in the central bodies that academic and academic-related pay is inadequate and something needs to be done. I have two questions. I declare an interest in the first.
First, given that the University has in the past been careful to state that it is not bound by national negotiations, why has no interim pay-rise been made following the breakdown of negotiations with the AUT? Is the University really not going to increase our pay by at least the amount that has already been offered nationally, or is the deficit so large that the interest on our pay-rise is needed by the central bodies?
Second, if academic and academic-related pay is inadequate, why is the University party to negotiations whereby the automatic annual increment of staff would decrease (as referred to eloquently by Dr Clark and Dr Holmes), leading to an integrated loss of earnings over the years of many thousands of pounds? Will the Council guarantee that there will be no such loss of earnings? For instance, will the Council agree that the default increment should be two steps rather than one, or promise that initial appointments are sufficiently far up the scale that the smaller increments do not lead to an integrated loss?
Mr N. M. MACLAREN (read by Dr D. R. DE LACEY):
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I shall refer to only a couple of aspects, which are related to those I made on appraisals.
The first relates to the opposition to the settlement referred to in paragraph 30. My only comment on the reduction of the automatic pay increases from about 5% to about 3% is to request that the Council be open about this being effectively a cut and that it respond accordingly.
A much more serious issue is what the settlement does not say, but how it is being used. This is to drive a wedge between academic and academic-related staff, initially to the detriment of the latter, as seems to be happening very badly at Nottingham University. As many people have said at many Discussions, there are already significant problems in this respect at Cambridge, which should not be made worse.
One should also observe the way that an increasing proportion of the actual teaching in Schools is being transferred to cheaper, semi-skilled 'teaching assistants'. We can expect increasing pressure for university teaching to be 'modernized' to use an increasing proportion of recorded lectures, shown and explained by demonstrators employed on academic-related scales. And similarly for research, with a decreasing number of primary researchers and an increasing number of assistants, again on academic-related scales.
Let us also refer to the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) document 'Outcomes of Pay and Modernisation Negotiations July 2003'. Its key features include the following interesting statement: 'In all cases new pay structures will need to meet agreed basic principles about equal value, equity, transparency, and suchlike; opportunities for pay progression within grades to be available to all staff, based partly on length of service and partly on an assessment of the individual's contribution'. This is demonstrably not being delivered for Computer Officers, as I and others have said in previous Discussions, and I am repeating my request that the Council and General Board attempt to remedy the situation as a matter of urgency.
I believe that these points are the main reasons why the settlement is being opposed, and not because people oppose change or improved management in principle. That is certainly my position, and I should appreciate not being misquoted.
The second aspect refers to paragraph 31. I welcome such work, but am seriously disappointed that the Council did not start by consulting the people who are most affected. I sincerely hope that this is not going to be another process that is conducted entirely behind closed doors, with the first permitted feedback being in the Discussion following the Report. That is not an efficient way to proceed.
I beg the Council to contact at least all of the relevant unions and everyone who has spoken in Discussions on the matter, and ask for suggestions on what could be done to improve the current situation. Please do not force us to call for a vote in order to get our concerns and suggestions even considered.
Annual Report of the General Board (p. 339)
Professor G. R. EVANS:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, (2) an 'Institutional Audit of the University by a team of auditors from the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) took place in the week beginning 28 April 2003.' The auditors 'confirmed that 'broad confidence' could be placed in the soundness of the University's current and likely future management of the quality of its academic programmes and the academic standards of its awards.' 'As well as commending a number of aspects of the University's activities the Report included a number of recommendations which the Board are addressing and on which they will report during 2003-04.' The Board speaks cheerily of 'this positive outcome'.
The Report unaccountably omits reference to the numerous moments in the QAA Report where the auditors show that they have noticed that many of the procedures we claim to be using for quality assurance are so new that neither staff nor students know about them. An example of this ignorance of the basic rules and the way it can damage a student's confidence in the whole system has come to light in the last week or so in my own Faculty. The Board of Graduate Studies says in its Annual Report (p. 3, Reporter, Special No. 9) that it discusses 'the applicability of QAA guidelines'. Does it plan to do anything with them at all? A half-acknowledgement is (5) 'The Education Committee has reviewed the first year's operation of these procedures and expects to make adjustments to them, in the light both of experience and of the references to those procedures in the Institutional Audit Report.' May we have clarity on the reference in (3) to 'relationships with key players in its quality assurance procedures'?
The Report also omits to mention that the University is robustly criticized by the auditors for the messy state of its arrangements for degrees involving 'partnerships'. May we know what rules are going to be drawn up in this area to protect the integrity of our degree awarding powers?
There is an assurance at (6) that the General Board 'has kept in close touch with representatives of the Cambridge-MIT Institute over the undergraduate exchange scheme with MIT'. I should think so too! These include our students. It is deeply worrying that CMI Ltd should have been allowed so much privilege and so many fast-track and I suspect imperfectly supervised special arrangements, such as (8) 'the arrangements whereby particular M.Phil. programmes may involve a period of study and residence at another university (in this instance MIT)'. Then there is the danger of degree-inflation, also liable to be driven by the 'boil-up-a-stew' method of devising courses with an eye to partnerships. ('The M.Phil. in Industrial Systems, Manufacturing, and Management will replace, with effect from October 2004, the Postgraduate Certificate in Design, Manufacture, and Management.') Supervision of our fringe-activities in delivering courses to those who are not members of the University needs vigilance too. ('The Board's Education Committee also agree the means whereby award-bearing courses administered through the Institute of Continuing Education and the Cambridge Programme for Industry are considered by the Education Committee.')
More on CMI Ltd. As we enter 2004 I invite the Council and the General Board to report to the University in a timely manner on the use which has been made of the five years of funding which began with the award of £68m by Gordon Brown under the announcement of November 1999. That £68m is the equivalent of well over 20,000 students' fees at £3,000 a time. You can do your own arithmetic to arrive at the numbers of student fees it equates to at the present lesser figure. One can see why the Government has no taxation reserves left to spend on direct funding and needs to claw fees from students (though of course really it is general taxation which is going to be paying until 2009 or later when some of the new top-up fees will begin actually to be paid off by graduates).
Above all I think we want to know about value for money and the amount and type of resources within the University the whole project has 'cost'. It is admitted that CARET, a cognate project, and one which I doubt we should have launched except in the shadow of CMI Ltd, has not been a howling success or cost-effective. The Board 'were unable to maintain the funding of the Centre at its current level'. It is proposed to ensure that it is 'more closely aligned with the needs of Faculties and Departments, and funding for the Centre for a three-year period from 2003-04. They expect to report further on new constitutional arrangements for the Centre in the course of the next academical year.' We need all these major policy matters properly reported to us for Discussion, in plain language, so that it is clear what is a failure, what is just taking time to get going properly. These uncertainties must not be pushed around in the litter of papers on the table in the Dome Room as the Pro-Vice-Chancellors carve up the University among them.
Personnel issues (and CARET again). Some of us have received a questionnaire from http://survey.caret.cam.ac.uk. It helps to set in context the Personnel points I want to pick up from the Report before us. It is a staff satisfaction survey, sent round to academic staff in the first instance. Its purpose is 'to guide the implementation of the action plans arising from the University's Equality Audit.'
The administrative officers in charge of this are to be thanked heartily for doing it and consulting us before reporting to us. But is the Equality Audit approach the right one when the staff of the University tend to stare gloomily at their feet when asked about their job satisfaction in Cambridge and think thoughts that are not at all confined to matters properly the subject of an Equality Audit? (And how are the reasons of the non-responders to be weighed? Too busy? Afraid?)
You are asked about your workload. You are not asked how much control you have over it. These are complicated stories. What inferences are to be drawn from the bare measurements? It could easily become as misleading as that adaptable little questionnaire our local MP Anne Campbell has been using to discover 'our' views about top-up fees.
There is a series of questions about mentoring. I am not sure that scholars should willingly enter dependent relationships at all, and certainly without real clarity about the rules governing the conduct of those who may come to know a good deal about them and their work (see appraisal Report today). Yet you need someone to explain the intricacies of the way things are done in Cambridge. You may well need someone to fight your corner if there is a flare-up.
The Retention questions are whether you have ever received a (better) offer and whether anyone tried to make it worth your while to stay. Many of us are head-hunted and do not respond by trying to use the opportunity to wring more money out of the University.
The Work and Family section rather absurdly asks about unsocial hours. In Cambridge! And why is there no question for disabled employees about the extra time everything takes when you are in a wheelchair? And one for those of faiths which have days of celebration which do not coincide with the Christian calendar?
So please, yes, staff [dis]satisfaction needs urgently to be explored. But let us approach it more broadly when this 'pioneering' experiment is followed up. And give the Equal Opportunities administration enough support to allow them to put out a survey without its having to go through CARET!
It is admitted in the present Report that 'They' got it wrong the last time in various personnel policies of the General Board. 'They' tried crude manipulation to save on academic salaries. 'In addition to recommendations leading to savings, the Board accepted that the cost to institutions of continuing the pause in approving the filling of vacant offices was out of proportion to the financial savings and recommended that it be lifted.' But they are at it again, targeting posts which do not currently find favour with those in power in 'institutions' (23).
'[R]evisions to disciplinary, grievance, and other procedures including Statute U and other related Statutes and Ordinances.' Is this going to include robust redundancy procedures to deal with the flood of forthcoming (and present) redundancies? The procedures available for officers at present are vestigial. There is not even an Ordinance to underpin Statute U and provide some basic protection against casual and unlawful sackings.
You may hang onto your job for the moment but be downgraded. '(24) the Personnel Committee will be considering significant changes in the structure of the University's pay scales and in the way staff are rewarded, in order to assist recruitment and retention and meet equal pay considerations.' Is this going to be shaped by the responses to that Staff Satisfaction Survey? A rush to early retirements is to be anticipated if the threat of lowering existing pay is realized. May we know how much notice is to be given of any such degradings of the financial value the University places on our work? Shall we have time to arrange our departures before we find ourself facing poorer retirements? For one's pension will be affected if one's terminal salary goes down.
We are beginning to reap what the General Board's Secretariat has been sowing in the last decade or so, under its various titles of office (the General Board itself panting compliantly in its wake). Mistake after mistake, now admitted. The costly early-retirement scheme which was supposed to save money. The introduction of contracts for University officers with the misleading insistence that they had to sign away freedoms under the University's Statutes to get the job and the salary, when they did not. The catastrophic freeze of vacated academic posts just mentioned.
Professor McKendrick is to be the Pro-Vice-Chancellor in charge of Education. Is it going to be pistols at dawn if she challenges the Academic Secretary or he her? Where does she fit in the structure? As far as I can see the actual powers we delegated we delegated to the General Board and not to either of these officers. So, General Board, pick up the reins and let us have some leadership both constitutional and academic and of rather higher quality than we have recently seen.
Dr M. R. CLARK:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, again I would like to address some comments to this Report in my capacity as President of the Cambridge Association of University Teachers. Much of what I said in response to the Annual Report of the Council is equally applicable to the Annual Report of the General Board. I don't propose to repeat myself but simply ask that they also address my remarks.
However, I would like to comment on the prominence given to the Human Resources Strategy as mentioned in paragraphs 22 and 24. This Strategy was originally drafted some years ago and submitted to HEFCE before it was ever published for the Regent House to consider. I also do not think that the AUT was consulted in any way over the contents of this Strategy. Within that Strategy are statements such as breaking the link between academic and academic-related pay, and restructuring of pay scales. These are ideas that are now part of the UCEA's proposed framework agreement. Where did this Strategy come from? Who was its chief author? Was it influenced by UCEA policy or did it influence UCEA policy?
Financial Statements (Abstract of Accounts) for the year ended 31 July 2003 (p. 345).
Dr C. F. FORSYTH:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, scrutinizing the Abstract of Accounts on behalf of the Regent House is one of the statutory duties of the Board of Scrutiny. However, the Board has only had one meeting since the Abstract was published on the 17 December 2003 and so has not completed its consideration of it. The Board will publish later this year a Report to the Regent House which will contain the Board's further views on the Accounts and my remarks this afternoon should be regarded as simply provisional.
The Board welcomes the reduction in the deficit to £2.2m. This is a small deficit in an organization that has an annual expenditure of £467m. It should not be overlooked though that this containment of the deficit has been achieved at a cost. To achieve it, all across the University awkward savings have had to be made, figures juggled, plans postponed, and vacant offices left unfilled, often at short notice. This is not good for the morale of staff and renders the University less efficient. Moreover, as the Annual Report of the Council points out (para. 25), the savings exercise has led to a reduction in minor works and maintenance programmes. While for the time being it may be, as the Council suggests, that the estate remains in reasonable order, the cutting of maintenance on buildings is the classic false economy and should be avoided.
Thus the Board considers the deficit still a matter of concern. As the Acting Treasurer remarks, the deficit may not be sustainable without damaging our academic activities and infrastructure. There are increasing pressures on salaries, and significant increases in pension costs are likely.
Another important factor in the containment of the deficit has been the strong growth in research grants and contracts - from £149m to £162.2m in the past year - and this too must be welcomed.
The Board notes that the value of the University's securities portfolio did not decline as much as the WM Charity index. And that a good performance (this time positive) was also achieved with the property portfolio.
Members of the Regent House may wish to note that the sum of £721,000 was paid as compensation for loss of office to higher-paid staff (both to the staff themselves and for enhanced pension benefits). This represents, the Board understands, the price for securing the vacancy of the offices of Secretary General and Treasurer. Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Minson now holds both these offices on an acting basis. Their future remains uncertain. This is another episode, now coming to an expensive end, which does not reflect well on the government of the University.
The Board points out that, as was the case last year, the University's external auditors (Deloitte and Touche) do not formally state that the accounts 'give a true and fair view' of its financial position. The Board has not yet been able to investigate the full import of this. But it presumes that this is once more a reflection of the fact that the practice of excluding from the consolidated accounts those of the CUP and UCLES prevents the University's accounts from complying with the relevant accounting standards.
Finally, the Board notes with dismay, but not surprise, that while the Council considers it necessary to explain that it maintains internal control by the establishment of 'a risk prioritisation methodology based on risk ranking and cost-benefit analysis', no mention is made of the Board of Scrutiny as a part of the internal control of the University!
Professor G. R. EVANS:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, almost simultaneously with the publication of our Annual Accounts, HEFCE sent out a draft for consultation on its Institutional Audit and Accountability Code of Practice. Responses are to be sent by 27 February to email@example.com, and that could mean you, individually, since the Council will certainly not be consulting the Regent House before filling in the form at Annex B.
Para. 45 states that 'The HEFCE Assurance Service has access to all records, information, and assets and other entities and can require any officer, including members of the governing body [their italics], to give any explanation which it considers necessary to fulfil its responsibilities.' Watch out Pro-Vice-Chancellors! Our Board of Scrutiny must be green with envy. Think how much trouble it has getting sight of what our own Statutes and Ordinances clearly state it should be shown on request. But then HEFCE can use powers to impose conditions of grant to punish us financially if we do not hand over the evidence.
As a member of the governing body of the University of Cambridge I have some personal concern about the sweeping character of this formulation, and I know that others have too.
There are new things in these Accounts. Our auditors, now Deloitte and Touche, are very careful indeed to limit their liability. They state most elaborately (p. 349) that their report 'is made solely to the Council as a body' and they 'do not accept or assume responsibility to anyone other than the University and the Council as a body' for their audit work or for the 'opinions' they have formed. They damn us. 'The Council has adopted accounting policies, as required by the Statutes or which the Council has deemed appropriate. These policies do not permit the financial statements to comply with applicable United Kingdom accounting standards'. So our auditors have done all they could in the circumstances. They have reported 'only on whether the financial statements comply with the accounting policies determined by the Council of the University and disclosed therein'.
The Statement of Internal Control is full of our new risk management strategies 4 (a)-(h). That is designed to fit the requirement of HEFCE's Code of Practice at 50-62. More or less. For it seems we still do not consider that our risks include failing to have adequate procedures or to implement properly those procedures we do have, so that we end up having to make expensive payments in connection with the resolution of difficulties with students and staff. I have referred in Discussion before to our (apparently continuing) failure to make systematic use of the HEFCE-funded ARMED (active risk-management) materials available on the Bristol.ac.uk website.
This takes me conveniently to an interesting set of figures we have all been wondering about, and that curiosity will have been sharpened as eyes lit on the heading 'Treasurer's report' and looked down to see it signed by our (up-to-now) solitary Pro-Vice-Chancellor. This is made the more topical by the impending issue of what Cambridge is going to decide to do about top-up fees and variable fees. So turn to p. 358 and see where a sum equivalent to the income from a lot of student fees has gone this year.
First, the cliff-hanger, on which the Chairman of the Board of Scrutiny has, I was glad to hear, stolen my thunder 'Compensation for loss of office to higher-paid staff'. Termination payments £404,000. Payment to USS for enhanced pension benefits £317,000. Total £721,000. Cast about in your mind for any higher-paid staff who have conspicuously left office this year. They were not made redundant by Statue U processes. But they clearly did not just decide to resign. To write a mere letter of resignation does not put you in a position to insist on payment for loss of office or enhanced pension benefits. You can do that only if your hand is forced, and the University just might be facing an expensive court case if it does not settle with you.
Then the rest of it. A Vice-Chancellor now costs us a total of £156,000. From now on five Pro-Vice-Chancellors are going to be getting great big salaries too, as I have pointed out before. Add in the 50 or so other individuals getting in the region of £100,000 or above (43 of whom are in the Clinical School) and we have well over another £5m of those putative extra student fees spent on a few giant salaries. Thousands of Cambridge students going forward into life with enormous long-term debts, and it is all, in reality, going to go into a few dozen staff pockets. How many students' £3,000 fees will it take to pay for just the seven clinical staff above £140,000 and the Vice-Chancellor's salary? If I were those students paying those fees off for years on my salary of £15,000 a year or whatever it is going to be, I would resent that. I would be reading the Reporter with particular care for hints of special salary deals to enhance 'recruitment and retention'.
And these figures are also important to the rest of us staff, as the salary negotiations and reconstructed job evaluations juggernaut rolls ahead. Whatever money we have, the vast bulk of which comes not from student fees but from other sources, ought surely to be subject to some control to prevent these special secret deals. Time for another vote on the secrecy of the top-up payments to Professors and Senior Administrators?
This year (well done Unified Administrative Service) the Financial Management Information has been published before we discuss the Annual Accounts today.
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Cambridge University Reporter 4 February 2004
Copyright © 2011 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.