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Report of the Council on certain administrative offices

The COUNCIL beg leave to report to the University as follows.

1. The offices of Secretary General and Treasurer are established by Statute and have various formal responsibilities under the Statutes and Ordinances. A Pro-Vice-Chancellor is currently the acting holder of both offices following the retirement of the previous holders.

2. The two offices have had both administrative and broader duties. The functions of the two offices have varied significantly from time to time, as the needs of the University have changed, and according also to the aptitudes and interests of the officers concerned, and the developing responsibilities of other officers, in particular the Vice-Chancellor and the Pro-Vice-Chancellors, and the Registrary and Directors in the University Offices.

3. Until the changes made following the Wass Report the roles of Secretary General and Treasurer went significantly beyond those of routine administration and were particularly important in supporting the policy work of the General and Financial Boards, and in terms of executive authority and leadership under the chairmanship of a part-time, short-term, Vice-Chancellor. Following the Wass Report, the Vice-Chancellorship has developed, but at the same time the two officers were designated as the Council's principal advisers, respectively, on educational and financial matters. Those designations, however, had to be seen in the context of the responsibilities of the General Board for the academic and educational activity of the University and for advising the University on educational policy, and of the Finance Committee to advise the Council on financial matters.

4. The designations were also becoming increasingly inappropriate as first one and then two Pro-Vice-Chancellors were appointed to support the Vice-Chancellor and to provide further academic and strategic leadership, particularly in the area of planning and resource management. With the recent appointment of three further Pro-Vice-Chancellors, there is now a strong team of five Pro-Vice-Chancellors with leadership responsibilities under the Vice-Chancellor in the areas of planning and resources (including strong participation in financial matters); education; research; personnel; and special responsibilities (which include aspects of the relationship between the central University authorities and major units such as Cambridge University Press and the Local Examinations Syndicate).

5. These developments have made the designation of the offices of Secretary General and Treasurer as principal advisers inappropriate. The Council therefore propose that these statutory designations should be repealed.

6. The Council have already reported to the University in a consultative Report about the future of the Finance Committee and the Planning and Resources Committee, and the establishment of the Buildings Committee, and expect to report further about the implementation of these proposals with amendments of the Statutes and Ordinances.

7. Such amendments would conveniently also refer to the present formal functions of the two offices under consideration and the Council believe that there should be a single Report on amendments to the Statutes and Ordinances. The present Report therefore sets out the Council's intentions as to the two offices, and legislation will follow in a single legislative Report. The present Report is submitted for consultation and provisional approval (subject to legislation).

The office of Secretary General and its administrative functions

8. The office of Secretary General of the Faculties was established in 1934. The Secretary General is the secretary and principal officer of the General Board. Previously, the General Board, created by the 1926 Statutes, was served by the First Assistant Registrary.

9. Currently the administrative support for the General Board is provided by the Academic Secretary and the Academic Division, and by other officers in the central administration, especially the Personnel Division and the Research Services Division, and their respective Directors.

10. The Council propose that the formal designation of the Secretary General as Secretary of the General Board should be replaced by provision that the Registrary or a University officer designated by the Council, after consultation with the General Board, shall act as Secretary of the General Board. In the present configuration of administrative posts the Council would expect to designate the Academic Secretary in this role.

11. The other administrative functions formally allocated by the Statutes and Ordinances to the Secretary General are relatively minor and the Council propose that they should be transferred to the Vice-Chancellor or a duly authorized deputy, or to the Registrary or a University officer designated by the Registrary according to their nature.

12. If these changes were made there would be no remaining formal functions for the office of Secretary General and the Council therefore propose that the Statutes should be amended to discontinue the office.

The office of Treasurer and its administrative functions

13. The office of Treasurer was created by the 1926 Statutes. It replaced the post of Secretary of the Financial Board.

14. The present Statutes and Ordinances assign various responsibilities to the Treasurer, especially in the areas of financial management and administration. The Treasurer is designated as the Secretary of the Council's Finance Committee. There are also various administrative functions specified in the Statutes and Ordinances (e.g. in relation to the administration of Trust Funds). These formal duties are at present delegated by the Acting Treasurer principally to the Director of Finance or the Director of the Estate Management and Building Service. In addition the Treasurer is formally designated as the responsible officer for the Directors of the University Farm and the Corporate Liaison Office, and the Telecommunications Manager.

15. The Council propose that the principal decision-making functions of the Treasurer (e.g. the approval of tenders for building projects) should be discharged by the Vice-Chancellor (who chairs the Finance Committee) or a duly appointed deputy. The Vice-Chancellor would expect to delegate such responsibility to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Planning and Resources.

16. The Council propose that the other administrative functions of the Treasurer, so far as they are identified in the Statutes and Ordinances, should be allocated as follows:

(a) The secretaryship of the Finance Committee would be formally assigned to the Registrary as Secretary of the Council, with the detailed responsibility undertaken by the Administrative Secretary; the Director of Finance would take the lead in presenting financial business to the Committee.
(b) The various administrative roles (e.g. receiving College accounts, also in relation to University funds) would be transferred as appropriate to the Registrary or the Director of Finance; some of these functions no longer require specification in the Statutes and Ordinances and if so the Council would propose simplification of the Statutes and Ordinances concerned.

17. Supervision of the Directors of the University Farm and the Corporate Liaison Office, and the Telecommunications Manager, is currently delegated to the Registrary. These arrangements are individually under review and may be varied. In making proposals about the Corporate Liaison Office, the Council will have regard to the recommendations of the present Review of the Research Services Division of the University Offices, when received.

18. The Treasurer is also an ex officio member of several University bodies (especially the Press Syndicate, the Local Examinations Syndicate, and various - but not all - managerial boards and syndicates). The purpose of this membership can be summarized as providing (1) a link to and from the Council and the Finance Committee, (2) advice on finance, business, and management matters, (3) responsibility for assuring the University's financial interests, and (4) general contribution to the work of the body concerned.

19. The Council believe that these functions should variously be discharged by Pro-Vice-Chancellors and members appointed by the Council, including members appointed by the Council on the recommendation of the Finance Committee in the case of bodies with major 'business' responsibilities; attendance by appropriate Directors or other officers of the central administration and for appropriate parts of the meetings; good liaison between the principal officers of the institutions concerned and the central administration; proper oversight by the University, through the Finance Committee, the Risk Steering Committee, and the Audit Committee, of the University's responsibilities in these areas. The Council therefore propose that the ex officio membership of the Treasurer of such bodies should be replaced accordingly.

20. If these changes are made, the formal administrative duties of the office of Treasurer under Statutes and Ordinances would be otherwise discharged and the Council therefore propose that the Statutes should be amended to discontinue the office.


21. The Council therefore recommend as follows:

I. That general approval be given to the proposals in this Report, in particular that statutory provision for the offices of Secretary General and Treasurer be repealed.

II. That detailed legislation on the lines set out in this Report be submitted for later approval.


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Cambridge University Reporter 26 May 2004
Copyright © 2011 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.