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Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 9 March 2004. A Discussion was held in the Senate-House of the Report of the General Board, dated 16 February 2004, on the Directorship of Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning (p. 480).

Professor G. R. EVANS:

Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am flattered and surprised that my remarks about Director's Chairs in the last Discussion (Reporter, p. 483) were so carefully listened to and reforms put in hand so quickly. For here we have a model of how to do it, constitutionally speaking, published in the same Reporter as my speech. A Directorship of Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning is an office, the General Board suddenly see, which might become much more attractive to applicants if it went with an actual Professorship. 'Of professorial level' suddenly won't do any more. Applicants might be misled into thinking they were getting a Professorship when they weren't. Moreover (everyone clap here) they recognize that in order to create a Professor out of this Director they will have to report again to the University, recommending the establishment of a single-tenure Professorship for a named person (p. 480).

Mind, we are not quite out of the wood yet, constitutionally. The Directorships which have been set up as offices hitherto have not all found their way into the necessary lists in schedules and Statutes and Ordinances to entitle their holder to the right to sabbatical leave. Nor is it clear that they all fall under the provisions of Statute D, II, 4, and impose that important requirement to foster 'education, religion, learning, and research'. One example has in the definition of the duties of the office only the requirement to 'administer' the Centre in question and to supervise the choice of research topics to go under its umbrella.

Some of our Directors are curious animals, neither academic (for they are not Lecturers, Senior Lecturers, Readers, or Professors) nor, as far as one can see, administrative, for they are not under the line management of the Registrary and they do not form part of the Unified Administrative Service.

So, if this new Director turns out not to be a Professor, what category of staff will he or she actually be in?

You will notice that there is reference in this Report to the provision of 'academic leadership' and of course if the Directorship goes with a Professorship there will be no problem about that. But if the appointee should turn out not to get a Professorship there will be a real constitutional difficulty. A number of institutions under the direct control of the General Board or otherwise roaming outside our home paddocks need rounding up into a corral to have their hooves and teeth inspected for Constitutional Foot and Mouth. Constitutional Foot and Mouth is highly infectious.

Where such Directorships are in institutions under the supervision of the General Board I do not think they should be offering teaching on their own authority outside the Tripos structure, without some carefully articulated statutory protections.

Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning are a good thing. But if you look into the detail of what is being offered under this umbrella you will come away puzzled about some of the courses and their relation to the exercise of our degree-awarding powers. There are the ones which offer College but not University membership on completion (to get round the requirements of Statute G). I am not at all happy about a Director, Professor or not, being the principal adviser to the Council for Lifelong Learning and in effect it seems, the University's strategy-maker in this area 'of continuing education as a core element in the University's mission and the need to develop a University-wide strategy for future development in this area'. The signs so far are that 'strategy' is too strong a word for a muddle of ad hoc developments.

And there is Oxford leaving us at the starting gate again with its first-rate balanced consultation document on Academic Strategy (http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/epsc/oxonly/acstrategy.shtml and see the current Blueprint) from which it intends to begin to construct the Corporate Plan it has to submit to HEFCE this summer. Where is our equivalent consultation? No hint in this Report of anything like it being under way. Could the relevant Pro-Vice-Chancellor come back to us on that, please, since I understand the work has begun and we would very much like to see what is in our equivalent document?


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Cambridge University Reporter 17 March 2004
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