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Report of the General Board on the merger of the Departments of Anatomy and Physiology into a single Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience

The GENERAL BOARD beg leave to report to the University as follows:


1. In this report the General Board propose the establishment of a single Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience, through the merger of the existing separate Departments of Anatomy and of Physiology. The proposal follows extensive discussions and consultation, involving the Council of the School of the Biological Sciences, the Faculty Board of Clinical Medicine, the Faculty Board of Biology, and the staff of the two Departments.

2. The Departments already share common areas of research interests; one of the principal aims of the merger is to redress weaknesses in physiological research and create a Department with significant critical mass and a modernized infrastructure, that would be well-placed to attract increased grant funding and develop an international reputation at the cutting edge of bioscience research.

3. Both the existing Departments make a major contribution to the preclinical teaching of medical and veterinary students. In recent years the teaching required has increased as a result of increased student numbers, the implementation of requirements of the professional bodies (namely the General Medical Council and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) and the proliferation of courses and practical sessions to meet those demands. The creation of a new Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience would provide scope for restructuring teaching, which would also reduce the burden on research-active University Teaching Officers. In addition, the creation of one integrated Department should facilitate increased collaboration with the Clinical School in both preclinical and clinical teaching.


4. The proposed merger would create a distinctive and much larger Department which, by building on and integrating each of the current Departments' strengths, would maintain and enhance educational provision at both undergraduate and graduate level. The structure of the merged Department would consist of four informal divisions: Developmental, Neuroscience, Systems, and Cellular, reflecting the integrative nature of the Department's research. The four divisions would form focal points with which future amalgamations could evolve through links with scientists in other Departments in the School and in the Clinical and Veterinary Schools. There would also be a teaching division in the merged Department. Movement and interactions between all these areas of the Department will be encouraged. The Head of the Department would be appointed, in accordance with Regulation 2 for Departments and Heads of Departments (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 548), by the General Board, on the recommendation of the Faculty Board of Biology. The Head of the Department would be supported by two Deputy Heads and would work through committees responsible for major operational areas within the Department such as Personnel, Safety, Undergraduate and Graduate Education, Research, Space, and Services, and be advised by a Departmental Management Committee, representative of the ranges of interests within it.


5. The consolidation of existing research groups across the two institutions would provide greater critical mass in specific research areas and thereby create an improved environment for enhanced recruitment of research fellows, postdoctoral workers, and graduate students, and excellence in research. There are already considerable research strengths in developmental and cellular work. At the systems level, whilst there is a strong presence in neuroscience, the systems area of integrative biology needs to be strengthened to achieve critical mass on a par with the other subdivisions. It is in this area that the new institution would particularly seek to enhance its research capabilities, through the establishment of a biomedical research unit, centred around an appointment to a proposed new Professorship, for which an endowment has been received through the Will of Dr Herchel Smith and which is the subject of a separate Report (Reporter, p. 67). It is anticipated that with an enhanced international reputation for bioscience research, the Department would attract greater funding through both improved Research Assessment Exercise performance and external research grants. It is envisaged that a recruitment strategy for the filling of current and prospective vacant offices, to recruit established researchers, would also bring additional strengths to the research groupings. The General Board note that the release of those posts is a matter for the Council of the School of the Biological Sciences, taking account of the development of their five-year plan for the School.


6. The existing Departments are, together, responsible for approximately two-thirds of the first-year teaching of the Medical and Veterinary Science Tripos, and half of the second-year teaching. The establishment of the new Department would enable teaching to be restructured, in order to reduce the burden on research-active University Teaching Officers, without compromising its quality.

7. It is expected that the merger would also make possible the integration of courses currently taught separately to medical and veterinary students and natural science students. The new Department would need to give careful consideration to the development and delivery of core modules and Part II courses. At postgraduate level, the larger Department would enable the development of a more structured training programme to meet the expectations of the Research Councils and the students. Through the subdivisions and the larger grouping of University Teaching Officers, it would be possible to offer a range of more attractive research environments, thereby increasing research student numbers.


8. Proposals for the future assignment of existing Professorships and Readerships to the new Department are set out in Recommendation II. Subject to the approval of this Report, the General Board would reassign other offices, with the concurrence of the present holders, to the new Department. The reassignment of such offices, and their current holders, has been discussed with the individuals concerned and agreed in principle. All other staff would become members of the new Department. Staff and unions have been consulted about plans for a merger and kept informed of progress. There will be no compulsory job losses as a direct consequence of this merger. Discussions with staff whose duties or location would change are continuing and, once the merger is approved, relevant staff will be involved in the detailed planning stage.

Infrastructure and financial matters

9. Buildings: The first phase of a refurbishment of the research facilities of the Physiology building has already begun with the support of SRIF-2 funding. The needs of the merged Department would be given a high priority for funding through further infrastructure initiatives. The merger would create significant economies of space and greater efficiency in the use of core facilities with, for example, a single library.

10. Funding: A larger, merged institution would also provide opportunities for more cost-effective financial management policies and savings in recurrent costs, through the restructuring of staffing arrangements and the increased scope, through research grant funding, to cover support post costs currently met from general University funds (see also paragraph 8).

Other consequential changes

11. Trust Funds: The Departments of Anatomy and of Physiology have certain trusts and prizes attached to the two Departments, or for which the Head of Department is responsible. The General Board propose consequential amendments that the regulations should instead refer to the Head of the newly constituted Department or to the merged Department as appropriate.

12. The General Board consider that the establishment of a new Department would facilitate significant developments in research, maintain excellence in teaching quality, and enhance the national and international standing of the existing Departments. The General Board have, accordingly, accepted the proposal for merger, as submitted by the Council of the School of the Biological Sciences.


The General Board recommend:

I. That a Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience be established within the School of the Biological Sciences, with effect from 1 January 2006, and that the Department of Anatomy and the Department of Physiology be suppressed.

II. That, with effect from the same date, the following Professorships and Readerships be reassigned to the Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience:

The Professorship of Anatomy

The Professorship of Cell Physiology

The Professorship of Developmental Neuroscience

The Professorship of Molecular Biology

The Professorship of Neurophysiology

The Professorship of Neuroscience

The Professorship of Perinatal Physiology

The Professorship of Physiology

The Mary Marshall and Arthur Walton Professorship of Physiology of Reproduction

The Professorship of Reproductive Biology

The Professorship of Reproductive Sciences

The Readership in Cell Biophysics

The Readership in Cellular Neuroscience

The Readership in Developmental Biology (1998)

The Readership in Developmental Biology (1999)

The Readership in Developmental Cardiovascular Physiology and Medicine

The Readership in Developmental Genetics

The Readership in Human Reproduction

The Readership in Molecular Physiology

The Readership in Neurobiology

The Readership in Oculomotor Physiology

The Readership in Primate Biology and Conservation

The Readership in Sensorimotor Neuroscience

The Readership in Sensory Physiology

III. That certain regulations be amended with effect from the same date as follows:

1. The regulations for Departments and Heads of Departments (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 548):

Regulation 3.

By suppressing the entries for the separate Departments of Anatomy and of Physiology and creating a new entry so as to read:

Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience

A person appointed in accordance with Regulation 2.

2. The regulations for the Department of Anatomy (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 553):

By replacing references to the Department of Anatomy by references to the Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience.

3. The regulations for payments additional to stipend (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 645):

By replacing in Schedule 2 the separate entries for Anatomy and Physiology a single entry for the Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience.

4. The regulations for Part II of the Natural Sciences Tripos (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 358):

Regulation 32.

Anatomy, Physiology, and Physiology and Psychology

By replacing in each case references to the individual Departments by references to the Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience.

5. The regulations for the following funds, etc.:

The Broodbank Fund (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 716)

The Ford Physiology Fund (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 750)

The Foster Prize Fund (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 751)

The Michael Foster Studentship (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 751)

The Marmaduke Sheild Scholarship (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 846)

By replacing references to the Departments of either Anatomy or Physiology by references to the Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience.


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Cambridge University Reporter 19 October 2005
Copyright © 2005 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.