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Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 10 October 2006. A Discussion was held in the Council Room. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Cliff was presiding, with the Senior Proctor, the Junior Proctor, two Pro-Proctors, the Registrary, and nineteen other persons present.

The following Reports were discussed:

Report of the Council, dated 24 July 2006, on Statutes K, 5 (review) and K, 9 (delegation) (Reporter, 2005-06, p. 881).

Professor G. R. EVANS (read by Dr D. R. de LACEY):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, it is argued that Statute K, 2 should remain as it is, since it provides 'a useful mechanism for resolving an identified ambiguity or other problem where resolution was urgently required and the alternative route of making or amending the Statute would lead to undue delay'.

This seems confused. Of course there must be a mechanism for determining the meaning of a Statute. The relevant section of the Oxford and Cambridge Act 1877, s.52, applied for the purposes of the Oxford and Cambridge Act 1923, and requiring us to use the Chancellor, was repealed by the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1998 Sch. 1(III) paragraph 1.

The question remains whether it is sensible to continue referring the matter to the Chancellor when we have a Commissary. The Commissary is a senior legally qualified individual more than capable of arriving at a ruling himself. About the independence of that ruling there could be no uncertainty at all. The Chancellor would have to refer the question to his lawyers for advice. So what would the University get? A legal opinion bought and paid for and presented as the Chancellor's decision. Legal opinions are usually written so as to weigh up the chances of success in an adversarial process, of the party seeking the advice. How independently is the no doubt very senior and expensive barrister hired to do this, going to be allowed the form his opinion? Let us assume that the question of interpretation has been raised initially in a Discussion such as this. Will the Old Schools Secretariat undertake not to communicate to the Chancellor's solicitors its wishes about the way the ruling should go. That this is a real possibility I have the documents to show.

The proposals about Statute K, 5 in this present Report seem in the main an improvement. Two queries, though.

1. The provision about what is to happen if an apparent breach does not come to light within 30 days seems dangerously vague. If the matter is taken to the Commissary for a ruling he would surely have subsequently to recuse himself from considering an appeal against a decision of the Vice-Chancellor. Where would the appellant then go? And the process of deciding whether the application is out of time would itself take some time, thus militating against the desired speediness of resolution of what might be an important question about due compliance with the Statutes and Ordinances.

2. The University will continue to have a gap in provision for dealing with putative cock-ups. If we were to put it all into a Venn diagram, the grievance (staff) and complaints (students) procedures, and the provisions of Statute K, 5 would leave tracts of the circle labelled 'mismanagement and maladministration' without any procedural cover. Could I invite the Council to give some thought to the desirability of thinking this through rather further?

Finally to Statute K, 9. 'Amendment of Statute K, 9(b) is therefore proposed to confirm that University bodies may delegate functions, subject to appropriate safeguards, to individual University officers as well as to committees'. The Board of Scrutiny has supported the proposal, but the experience of Oxford, which made this an important feature of the North reforms, is a warning Cambridge should now heed.

Oxford has allowed delegation of authority to make Regulations (which are the equivalent of Ordinances) to individuals. Congregation does not make them itself as the Regent House creates Cambridge's Orders and Ordinances by Grace. It can object, but although in theory all Regulations are published in the Gazette to make sure Congregation gets that opportunity, sets of rules headed 'regulations' are framed and circulated under delegated powers without any clarity about their authority or their place in the legislative hierarchy of the University. An example is the so-called 'Regulations' for hiring out parts of the Old Library (Bodleian) complex of buildings for dinners, which are not Regulations at all and would allow any determined animal rights bomber easy access. And it does not stop with 'Regulations'. The basic rules that delegated powers may not be delegated by the delegatee and that the delegating person or body is not relieved of responsibility by delegating the powers, are frequently not understood as powers slide down the waterfall of delegation. Individuals can easily act as though they had personal powers and are not accountable.

Do you really want to risk allowing powers of the Regent House to be delegated 'to any officer' in the loose manner proposed? Notice that the phrase is to come after 'so appointed' thus leaving out the requirement that the work to be done must be found by the delegating body to be 'better regulated or managed' by a committee which it appoints for the purpose. This change would allow powers to be delegated to officers within the UAS with no real control over what happens next. Wouldn't it? Are we all happy with that?

But in any case, I am not at all sure it can be done. We are coming full circle to Statute 2. Is this proposed change not incompatible with another of our Statutes?

Statute A, III ,4: 'Whenever it is provided that an act or thing shall or may be done or determined by the University, it shall be done or determined by Grace of the Regent House … provided that the Regent House may delegate to the Council or to another body authority to act on its behalf in such matters as it may from time to time determine'.

A person is not a body, I think. So we shall need to get Statute A, III, 4 interpreted, for K, 9 surely stands under this one, and, I suspect, a new Report with a Grace to change that, or the Privy Council may have to send this new Statute K, 9 back to us. Or we might just take a careful look at what has happened in Oxford and think again.

Dr D. R. de LACEY:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I assume that the obvious correction will be made before the recommendation is Graced, and that the title 'Statute K, 5' will be replaced by 'Statute K'.

The Report on K, 9 includes the phrase 'subject to appropriate safeguards'; yet the proposed revision allows for the following reading: '(b) The body … may delegate … to any University officer … without restrictions or conditions, the exercise of any functions proper to the body, provided

(i) such delegation shall not relieve the delegating body of responsibility for the matter delegated;

(ii) members of the delegating body shall have the right of access to all papers considered by such committees'.

I suspect whoever drafted this Report failed to note that provision (ii) needs some modification here to refer to individuals; but neither these nor the other provisions I have not quoted - (iii) and (iv) - are in any reasonable sense 'safeguards'. So where, please are these safeguards?

It is however, good to be reminded of provision (ii). Since ultimately all such bodies are delegates of the Regent House, can we have official confirmation that all papers considered by all our committees (and by those individual University officers) will be made available to all Regents - those elusive administrative staff numbers, for instance, which the Board of Scrutiny failed to elicit?

Professor A. W. F. EDWARDS:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, though I have been disenfranchised as a member of the Regent House by the Wass changes on the grounds of age alone, I would like to continue to contribute to the debate on Statute K, 5. I am unable to non-placet any proposal or to propose any amendments, but I beg the Council to think again. I am grateful to them for responding to some of the points I made at the Discussion on 29 May 2001, but on reading those remarks again after an interval of more than five years they do seem rather persuasive in respect of the role of the Vice-Chancellor.

I notice that on 24 July, three Council Reports were signed by 21 members but this Report by only seventeen, four seemingly being unable to sign it. I hope that when the Council passed it they had before them copies of my earlier remarks to which it refers. If not, then some members of the present Council may not have been familiar with them.

The Council do have a somewhat rose-tinted view of what actually happens. In paragraph 2, they think that Statute K, 2 as it stands, 'could represent a useful mechanism for resolving an identified ambiguity'. Really? As my 2001 remarks relate, the Council will only use it if they think they can win a dispute about interpretation; if they think they might lose they simply propose a change of statute to condone their misdemeanour.

In paragraph 4(b), the Council say that they think the Vice-Chancellor is the right officer to judge a 'K, 5' case 'if Statute K, 5 is to be regarded as a relatively swift administrative means of correcting breaches of the Statutes or Ordinances (which is believed to be an appropriate summary of the reason for its existence)'. Not by me it isn't. It is one of the few weapons in the Regent House's poor armoury available to stop the Council or other central body abusing the constitution.

I can speak with some confidence as one who has successfully used it. Of course my constitutional victory was Pyrrhic: the de facto appointment of full Cambridge Professors by wholly external bodies continues unabated, and where it can get away with it the system avoids committing anything new to a Statute or an Ordinance anyway. There's nothing about promotions in Statute D (The University Officers) or the new University-College fee arrangements in Statute G, II (Financial relations between the University and Colleges).

The example of the impossible position of the Vice-Chancellor in respect of K, 5 that I gave in 2001 seems unanswerable. Let me bring the argument into focus again with a hypothetical case. I don't know if it is still true, but for a while the General Board was breaching its statutory obligation to hold fortnightly meetings during Full Term. This was well-known, and I recall the Board of Scrutiny commenting adversely on it.

Suppose someone had represented this breach to the Vice-Chancellor under the provision of K, 5. What on earth would she have been supposed to do? She would have been the condoning chairman of the offending body. Could she have denied the contravention? No. Could she have declared that it had had no effect? Hardly, since the point of the change was presumably to make one. In my view the Vice-Chancellorship should be protected from such situations. Nor is it sufficient to attempt to keep it at arms-length through delegation, for surely K, 5 expects a Vice-Chancellor to make the ruling himself, whatever sources of advice he has used. Nor can the possibility of the Commissary slapping down an errant Vice-Chancellor on appeal be viewed with equanimity.

So please may the Council think again.

Mr J. P. SKITTRALL:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I shall confine my remarks to the sections of the Report pertaining to Statute K, 5.

I speak as somebody who has made a number of representations under Statute K, 5, and who has referred the handling of those representations to the Commissary. Whilst it is not my intention to give a blow-by-blow account of the case in pursuit of which I made those representations and referral (indeed, the matter became so overcomplicated that I stand no chance of delivering such an account in my permitted time), inevitably my views on the proposals in front of us today are shaped by that experience, and I shall draw on that experience where relevant.

On balance, I believe the proposals regarding Statute K, 5 represent an improvement on the current situation. The mention of Orders and the consideration of the possibility of omissions as well as acts are significant and to be welcomed, as is the alteration of the appeal mechanism to remove the somewhat remarkable requirement that an appeal against a ruling can only be made via 50 members of a governing body that has probably not been informed about the ruling in the first place.

The Report does, however, raise a number of questions.

Firstly, there is the proposal without remark that the ability to make a representation should be restricted to a member of the University (currently it is not so restricted). I see very little advantage to this and significant disadvantage. As far as the advantage is concerned, making that restriction is neater in terms of the permitted mechanism of appeal: Statute D, V, 7 only allows the Commissary to consider questions referred to his decision by a member of the University. I shall return to Statute D, V, 7 later. If that is the reason for the proposed change, then I should compliment the draftsman for noticing the issue, although maybe the credit should go to the 2001 draftsman in this case. However, there is an obvious disadvantage contained in such a change: a person wronged as a result of a failure to act in accordance with a Statute, Ordinance, or Order but who is not a member of the University would seem to be left with no recourse short of an application to the High Court for judicial review. Causing this to happen in a case that could have been dealt with quickly internally would seem to be a substantial waste of time and money.

Connected with this question is the proposed requirement that an appeal to the Commissary must be made by the person who made the original representation to the Vice-Chancellor. This requirement does not take into account the possibility that it may be more straightforward in the event of multiple similar representations for one representative appeal to go forward (in my case, another person had made a similar representation under Statute K, 5, and indeed the Commissary turned down his application to be joined as a party in my referral on the grounds that it would serve no useful purpose).

Neither does the requirement take into account the possibility that the matter may be one of general concern (my case was certainly not a personal grievance against a particular officer: as far as I was concerned, the officer in question simply happened to be the senior person whose name was on the relevant Ordinance, and I was acting regarding a matter of public concern), in which case another party may wish to take up the matter even if the original party has decided not to appeal.

Next, I wish to consider a somewhat technical matter, namely the interaction of the proposed revised Statute K, 5 with Statute D, V, 7. Statute K, 5 may allow representations related to matters that are excluded from the Commissary's jurisdiction under Statute D, V, 7. Would the Commissary then be able to consider such questions as a result of an appeal of a decision made by the Vice-Chancellor under Statute K, 5? Surely the answer would have to be 'yes', and I believe this is what should happen. (Note that such a setup would not render useless the exclusions in Statute D, V, 7, since they would still apply in matters that could not be considered under Statute K, 5.) I believe, however, that it would be easier to avoid later dispute if this were more explicit.

In order to resolve the issues I have mentioned so far, I propose that the words 'by a member of the University' be omitted from the proposed changes to Statute K, 5, that the words 'the person making the representation' at the beginning of paragraph (b) be replaced by 'anybody', and that a new paragraph be added to Statute D, V before paragraph 7, to read 'The Commissary shall have full power to adjudicate any matter referred to him under Statute K, 5'.

There are two matters that I consider to be somewhat more fundamental, namely the proposed change in timings and the identity of the officers acting in a judicial capacity within this process.

Firstly, the proposed change in timings. It is instructive to compare the rationales in the 2001 Report and in the current Report for proposing that instead of ten days, the Vice-Chancellor be given three months to investigate a matter. In 2001, the Report said 'It is impracticable for the Vice-Chancellor, the officer with whom the responsibility for the correction of such mistakes naturally rests, to deal with all cases within ten days'.1 The current Report says 'Provision is made for a longer time frame … for the Vice-Chancellor to make a decision … experience having shown that complicated applications require more time for consideration than the present Statute permits'. This alteration of wording is somewhat informed by my own experience, where the Vice-Chancellor's investigation consisted of seeking the advice of the Administrative Secretary on the matter. I believe the Council can no longer therefore rely upon the argument that the timing must be lengthened in order to give a busy Vice-Chancellor time to investigate in person, since there is evidence of the resources of the Secretariat being called upon to assist in such an investigation.

Moreover, the Council seems quite happy to propose the retention of a 30-day period in which a single, individual member of the University with cause for complaint must prepare a full representation to the Vice-Chancellor - a full representation, not just prima facie evidence - yet the Council is telling the Regent House that the Vice-Chancellor - supported by the full resources of the Secretariat - needs more than three times as long to prepare a response as the single person potentially working alone needs originally. I suggest that the Council needs to decide which of these positions it wishes to hold. In my opinion, three months hardly makes Statute K, 5 'a relatively swift administrative means of correcting breaches of the Statutes or Ordinances' (those are the Council's words). (However, I do acknowledge that the sting in those words is in the word 'relatively', especially when the reference is to the velocity of action within some parts of the Old Schools.)

The second matter is the matter of who acts as judge when deciding representations of invalid proceedings. Professor Edwards five years ago quite eloquently summarized why the Vice-Chancellor is seldom the correct officer to act as a judge,2 and has expanded on that summary a few minutes ago. I have only my own experience to add to this.

When I first made a representation under Statute K, 5, it was about an action (nominally) by the Registrary that I contended constituted a breach of Ordinance. (I should be clear that I had no particularly strong grievance about the Registrary's personal conduct.) The Vice-Chancellor's consequent actions were to seek advice from the Administrative Secretary on the matter and to turn that advice into a ruling. In her words, 'I asked the Administrative Secretary of the University to look into your representation and I enclose a copy of his advice to me'. That is, it appears the bulk of the 'investigation' into my representation was carried out by the Administrative Secretary, an officer who falls 'under the overall responsibility of the Registrary'.3

Even if the Council believes that assigning the responsibility for acting as a judge in these matters to the Vice-Chancellor strikes the correct balance between distance from the University's administration for impartiality, and proximity to the University for speed, I put it to the Regent House that the practice is rather less balanced. (Perhaps it would not be out of order to remind the Regent House who nominally chairs Discussions?)

I am afraid that I believe the Council's reasons for not wishing to assign to the Commissary the first-instance judicial powers are somewhat tenuous.

It would be a simple matter to make the Commissary the relevant officer exercising judicial capacity in a redrafted Statute K, 5, and to make clear in Statute D, V that representations under Statute K, 5 dealt with by the Commissary cannot be appealed to the Commissary.

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, in summary on balance I welcome the proposals in this Report inasmuch as they affect Statute K, 5; however, I believe the proposals regarding changes in allowed timings and the response to the suggestion that an officer other than the Vice-Chancellor act as judge may result less in service to the interests of justice and fairness, and more in service to the interests of administrators in the Old Schools who might prefer not to be challenged over questionable actions.

1 Reporter, 2000-01, p. 699

2 Reporter, 2000-01, pp. 775-6

3 Statutes and Ordinances, 2006, p. 651

Dr J. S. MYERS:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I should like to thank the Council for responding to the remarks made at the Discussion of 29 May 2001, although it is a pity that it has taken five years to make this response. The Council has clearly paid attention to the remarks made, and as a result the present proposals regarding Statute K, 5 are an improvement on those made in 2001. I shall confine my remarks to the matter of Statute K, 5, and not address the proposals regarding Statute K, 9.

The Report suggests that a would-be applicant, discovering a contravention after more than 30 days, might then apply to the Commissary in the first instance. This would seem to defeat the objective of having a 'relatively swift administrative means of correcting breaches' if the full procedure for referrals to the Commissary must be made in such cases; perhaps there should be a simpler procedure for the Commissary to grant leave to make a representation under Statute K, 5 out of time? Furthermore, just as Vice-Chancellors have found a period of ten days to reply can be too short in complicated cases, so the period of 30 days to make a representation may also be too short in complicated cases.

The extension to cover omissions to act, while commendable, introduces some ambiguity regarding what can be considered 'the date specified for the performance of that act' that starts the 30-day timer. Many duties are expressed in general terms without a specific date, or have an ongoing effect. If there is an ongoing duty to do something without a defined date on which it should have been done, is it never possible to refer the omission to the Vice-Chancellor under Statute K, 5, or is it possible to do so with no time limit? The issue of finality does not so clearly arise in this case; (c) does not make omissions valid, only acts, and it is hardly clear what it would mean to make an omission valid. I submit that in the case of an ongoing duty to act there should be no time limit and that representations under Statute K, 5 should be considered as long as the omission can still meaningfully be remedied, even if the act omitted could have been done much more than 30 days ago.

One change the present proposals would make to Statute K, 5 is to restrict the right to make representations to members of the University. It is true, of course, that only members of the University can make referrals to the Commissary, and it might be seen as somewhat of an anomaly for others to use Statute K, 5. At present, however, any natural or legal person might make such a representation. Would, for example, a College count as a member of the University under the new wording, or would a College no longer be able to make a representation in its corporate capacity?

The proposal limits the right of appeal to the Commissary to the person making the original representation to the Vice-Chancellor, whereas otherwise any concerned member of the University would be entitled to appeal the Vice-Chancellor's decision to the Commissary. This would prevent a representative appeal of a group of K, 5 decisions relating to the same matter from being carried forward by a single person, instead requiring all persons concerned about a contravention to appeal. If some persons concerned about a matter appealed and others did not, then you could have some decisions unappealed and so final, with other substantively identical decisions appealed and overruled. At least, there should be an express power for the Commissary to bring into consideration at an appeal, and potentially overrule, any other related decisions under Statute K, 5.

More generally, there is the question of whether a representation under Statute K, 5 is a private dispute or a matter of public concern regarding the proper execution of the University's internal laws. In some cases the contraventions of Statutes, Ordinances, and Orders and their correction should be considered of public concern, and so consideration should be given to the publication of occasional summaries of decisions made, just like those of decisions made by the Commissary.

Report of the Council, dated 24 July 2006, on the refurbishment of the Pfizer Building to house the Cambridge Centre for Imaging and the Laboratory for Stem Cell Medicine (Reporter, 2005-06, p. 883).

No comments were made on this Report.

First-stage Report of the Council, dated 24 July 2006, on the construction of a new building for the study of plant diversity and development (Reporter, 2005-06, p. 885).

No comments were made on this Report.

Second-stage Report of the Council, dated 24 July 2006, on the construction of a new building for a Centre for the Physics of Medicine in the Department of Physics at West Cambridge (Reporter, 2005-06, p. 887).

Professor P. B. LITTLEWOOD (read by Mr D. H. PEET):

Mr Deputy Vice Chancellor, as Head of the Cavendish Laboratory, I am delighted that the scheme to construct the new building for the Physics of Medicine has reached this advanced stage. The Department is very grateful to all those within the wider University who have contributed to the success of the project so far, including our collaborators in the Schools of Clinical Medicine, Biological Sciences, and Technology.

The building will provide an excellent centre for new research and for new ways of doing research in a rapidly developing field. The co-location of research activities and facilities will provide a clear focus for the scientific effort, which is also being enhanced by the appointment of two new lecturers to the Department of Physics. Plans for the appointment of the Director of the Centre and of further academic staff are at an advanced stage.

We very much hope that the full scheme, including Phase 2, will become a reality in the near future, allowing greater integration of experimental and theoretical work. The full scheme also fulfils a key element of the strategy of the School of the Physical Sciences to consolidate activity on the West Cambridge site.

We warmly commend this Report to the University.

Eleventh Report of the Board of Scrutiny, dated 13 July 2006 (Reporter, 2005-06, p. 888).

Dr N. J. HOLMES:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am here today to make a few prefatory remarks on behalf of the Board of Scrutiny to introduce its Eleventh Report for discussion.

As in previous years the Board is grateful to many persons throughout the University who have assisted the Board with its enquiries. As Chairman last year, I was present at all the meetings which are recorded in paragraph 3 of our Report and read through all the replies to our many written enquiries. I am delighted to be able to record that my colleagues and I received nothing but willing co-operation and generous assistance from everyone involved, even when our obtuseness necessitated more than one explanation.

It was with pleasure that we noted the significant improvements to the University's financial position and forecasts which have occurred in the past year. As an example, I refer you to figures, quoted in paragraph 11, which predict that the University will be £28.6m better off in June 2007 than was expected only two years ago. A good deal of the praise for this improvement deserves to be directed to the efforts of the University at large, but in particular the Schools, to reduce costs. This effort owes much to the success of the twin pressures and incentives of the RAM devolved budgeting process and its management by the Planning and Resources Committee under PVC Tony Minson.

The Board has, however, had to temper its optimism about the University's future finances with a good deal of caution. Medium- to long-term financial forecasting has never been easy and pension liabilities and uncertainties over HEFCE funding changes represent significant risks.

Perhaps more exciting, though equally challenging, will be the management of the University's estate over the next 20 years. As is discussed in paragraphs 33-37, the University is about to embark on a huge new development at North-West Cambridge. Further moves in the process have occurred since the Report was published. Indeed, today sees the second of a series of exhibitions which form part of the public consultation process undertaken by the planning authorities. The details of the consultation, including a display of possible zoning options, can be seen at the Guildhall until 6 November; alternatively the information may be obtained from the City Council's website. Nevertheless, the Report notes, in paragraphs 27 and 28, that the University's operational estate must be contained within sustainable limits. The Estate Plan, available on the University's website and whose study the Board recommends to all members of the Regent House, draws attention to the need to redevelop the central sites. As the Board noted in its Ninth Report, this will require a programme of demolition and replacement of some buildings. Funding and managing this process of renewing much of our central estate will be a major challenge for the next decade and more; all the same the Board believes that it is important in order to retain a geographical balance in the distribution of University activities. Unless we renew our buildings in the city centre, to make them fit for future purpose, the University's activities will inevitably polarize to the new peripheral sites in West and North West Cambridge and at Addenbrooke's.

In paragraphs 21 and 22, the Board also draws the attention of the Regent House to proposals for an expansion and reorganization of the UAS. Here too, developments have occurred since the Report was compiled. Over the summer the Council approved, in principle, the proposals for expansion and reorganization and these plans have been seen by the Board. Some of the proposals will require changes to Ordinances and the Board continues to believe that the established procedures for considering such changes should be followed. Management action should follow proper strategic consideration rather than lead it.

Dr S. J. COWLEY:

I wish to comment briefly on the Board's recommendation that 'Any reorganization of non-School institutions should focus only on areas where expectation of an improvement in performance and value-for-money can be reasonably demonstrated'.

Sometimes the Board of Scrutiny's Report has to be read carefully since there are subjects that it cannot comment on directly prior to publication by the Council. There may be a case in point here, since the Board's Report was probably drafted well before the publication of the University Newsletter of July/August.1 In the Newsletter there was an announcement of 'a series of proposals to enhance the services delivered by the University's central administration (Unified Administrative Service or UAS)'. Readers in the middle of the Long Vacation, or, as we are now meant to call it, the Research Period, were asked to e-mail in for the Registrary's proposals.

Anyone familiar with the working of some parts of this University will no doubt be aware of the care by which some proposals are announced in the middle of the Long Vacation, and then as unobtrusively as possible (e.g. by omitting them from the Reporter). This seems to be another case in point.

These proposals may include some reorganization of the UAS, but they are in fact wide-ranging and un-costed proposals for the reform of the governance of the University. For instance there are proposals for a 'Provost' and 'Deans' (as well as the merger of the UCS into the UAS). There is even a timetable by which the Regent House will be informed of them in the Reporter in April, and the proposals will be Graced in May (presumably on the basis that there will be no call for a vote).

There was a big rumpus a few years ago, with plenty of unwelcome publicity, when there was an attempt to bounce through wide-ranging governance reforms. As evidenced by events, Oxford did not learn the lesson of our folly. It appears that we have not either.

I would hope that Council would examine these proposals in great detail and ensure that any reorganization of non-School institutions should deliver improvement in performance and value-for-money. I would hope that the externals on Council would take a particular interest in this matter. The devil is in the detail. We do not want a repeat of what has happened in the NHS whereby GP and consultants were awarded new contracts which were meant to improve performance and value-for-money, but have instead primarily been a bonanza for the aforementioned. Maybe John Reid, who was then Secretary of State for Health, took his officials on trust.

Finally, I would like to make two further points.

First, there is a section in the Registrary's paper on 'Improving relationships with the academic community'. The suggestions there might help. However, in the light of earlier remarks in this Discussion, I suggest that rewriting Statutes, Ordinances, Regulations, rules, etc. in the interests of the academic community rather than the administrators might be a good way forward.

Second, I know of at least one member of the UAS who obtained her/his copy of the 'Development of the UAS' indirectly, since s/he did not want to be seen asking for it. That is a shame, and may be something the externals, or indeed the whole of Council, ought to be worried about. If anyone wants a copy I am happy to forward it to them.

1 See http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/univ/newsletter/2006/2006newsletter_july_august.pdf

Dr T. J. MEAD (Registrary):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, no doubt the Council will want to respond more fully to what Dr Cowley has just said, I just wish to respond to the very final comment. I have made it abundantly plain to all my colleagues in the administration that my report is freely available to them all. I have circulated it throughout all divisions of the UAS. Nobody has anything to fear by asking for a copy; indeed, I am encouraging all my colleagues to read it and to comment on it.

Professor G. R. EVANS (read by Dr D. R. de LACEY):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor,

'42. The Board has been following the progress of the introduction of the single spine with interest, but feels it would not be appropriate to make any comment until the process is complete. We intend to return to this matter next year.'

I hope the Board will do so. Those who follow the duplicated postings on the ever-lively newsgroup ucam.governance, or the AUT newsgroup, will be aware that a number of glitches are apparent in the implementation of this process. Could Personnel please ensure, perhaps by way of assisting the Council with a Notice in reply to this Discussion, that the Regent House is given an account of the problems and the way they are being addressed? It was, after all, on the authority of the Regent House that the process was proceeded with and courtesy would seem to require some detailed explanations at this stage.

Paragraph 42 ought to be read in conjunction with two others.

First, paragraph 13 enquires about the pattern of senior academic promotions for the future. Cambridge has had something of a catch-up on what was acknowledged to be a backlog. A number of Readers may not be able to make it to Chairs if the recent reversion from 'does the candidate deserve it' to 'can-we-afford-it' is to continue to be the policy. I would have thought it might be appropriate to do some stock-taking in the interests of fairness in the matter of career prospects.

Then there is paragraph 20. I find it disturbing that when it comes to the 'rapid growth in administrative staff numbers', 'precise total figures have been impossible to obtain'. The Board has a right to see all documentation. It has clearly asked around pretty assiduously. So where in the University's record of its goings-on are these figures being kept? Surely Pensions knows, if not Personnel? What is Cambridge reporting to HEFCE on this point? The disappearance of these 'figures' surely makes meaningless any talk of necessary constraints on the remuneration, promotion, or upgrading of other categories of staff, and when it is combined with the continuing secrecy about special deals done with unnamed individuals for 'recruitment' and 'incentive' purposes it must make it hard for the Board of Scrutiny to make sense of any policy the Council may claim to have devised on behalf of the University.

The Board's call for a 'a solid and documented evidence base, which should be available for inspection', indeed the whole of its paragraph 22, should be getting a hearty cheer in this House.

The Registrary appears to agree. In his important discussion document on the reform of the Unified Administrative Service (May 2006, referred to in the August Newsletter, copies on request to aef30@admin.cam.ac.uk), he comments: 'Formal accountability is necessary for the University ultimately to be assured that it has in place the Administration it needs and asks for, and that resources are properly applied and managed. However good accountability should involve open, constructive dialogue in which both the Council (for the University) and the UAS learn and benefit. It also needs to embrace less formal mechanisms by which users can make their views known and be responded to'. There is a handy list of proposed methods. We look forward to a Report and Discussion very soon.

There is a great deal that might be said on the Estates matters touched on in this Report, but for brevity's sake, regular speakers might form a chorus and intone, 'we told you so'. So did the Board of Scrutiny.

'The Board drew attention in its Ninth Report to the then current Estate Plan, which concluded that the University's estate had expanded to a size which was not sustainable in the medium term', and 'there have been a number of projects completed in the past twelve months which have incurred significant cost over-runs'.

This is of importance for several reasons of which one is constitutional. 'The total increase in expenditure over and above what was approved by Grace of the relevant Reports is in the order of £10m, not including any future settlements of outstanding disputes'. Should there not be a mechanism for taking an Estates question back to the Regent House when its grant of permission leads to unfortunate consequences? (rather as I am suggesting might be valuable with the Pay and Grading exercise?). Not to do so is analogous with the old pattern of delegating powers to the Treasurer to accept tenders on which I have frequently commented in Discussions in the past. 'Go-ahead' says the Regent House, and its supervisory powers and duties end there. Paragraph 37 is polite. I hope it is firm enough in the circumstances.

Dr D. R. de LACEY:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Board seems surprisingly enthusiastic about the University's finances. True, it comments 'Notwithstanding the success achieved to date, the Board urges caution on reading the financial forecasts for two reasons: (i) Even if a surplus of £16.3m could be achieved, it represents only 2% of revenues; and (ii) There remain considerable uncertainties that could reduce the surpluses as discussed below' (paragraph 10). Might I remind the Board that there is a third reason, the fact that the Quinquennial Equalization Fund is in fact a massive deficit (of £26m), which any proper accounting system would surely simply include in our overall figures rather than hiding away in a fund for which there is no provision of overdraft facilities?

The Board is also surprisingly upbeat about Full Economic Costing. I wonder how the fEC of, say, the research which led to CAMPATH should have been calculated? Should not part of the Board's remit be to challenge those policies, whether developed inside the University or imposed upon it, which are likely to be detrimental to our primary purposes?

The Board is to be heartily congratulated on its words about the University's estate. As I speak, there is an exhibition in the pavilion of the University sports ground on Wilberforce Road, part of which is a presentation of the University's plans for North-West Cambridge. I was most surprised to see them. When the University - that is, the Regents - last discussed the North-West Cambridge development,1 there was nothing to suggest fundamental changes were proposed to the plan presented in the First Report.2 In that Report the plan made it clear that the land outside the City boundary would be subject only to 'strategic landscaping'. Perhaps the Board would like to investigate how the plans currently being displayed, which show a great deal of proposed building in this area, can be presented as those of the University? Is this perchance the result of a proleptic 'delegation to individual University officers' of what is properly the function of the Regents?

1 Reporter, 2004-05, p. 565

2 Reporter, 1999-00, p. 724

Professor A. W. F. EDWARDS:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I refer to paragraph 45, the last one in the Report.

To me it is axiomatic that the designation 'Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust' (the Board inadvertently omitted the word 'Foundation' in their Report) is not acceptable. The University does not own, and is not responsible for, any hospitals. Cambridge University Press, yes; Cambridge University Library, yes; Cambridge University Gliding Trust Ltd, yes; but Cambridge University Hospitals, no.

My purpose in speaking is to enquire how this title managed to get approved by all the relevant bodies, especially the University, and to request that it be changed. I speak as one of the original University representatives on the old Cambridge Health Authority then responsible for Addenbrooke's, and as a founder-member of, and former Professor in, the Clinical School.

I imagine the starting-point was someone in the government's Department of Health deciding that all hospitals with medical schools that belonged to universities could call themselves 'University Hospitals'. This in itself is not misleading.

Then the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 authorized the creation of NHS Foundation Trusts. The existing Addenbrooke's NHS Trust was one of the first to aspire to the new status.

The Act received the Royal Assent on 20 November 2003. Even before it became law the Secretary of State for Health had, in May, given Addenbrooke's NHS Trust permission to apply for Foundation Trust status conditional on the legislation being passed and Addenbrooke's arranging a public consultation of their proposals. In August, Addenbrooke's published 'Our NHS Foundation Trust application - consultation document' and invited comments on it from 1 September to 24 November. The document did not suggest a change of name for the new Trust.

In the middle of this period of public consultation, and as part of it, the University received a letter from Addenbrooke's dated 15 October asking for approval of the title 'Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust'. The Council took the letter under 'Business not for discussion' at its meeting of 17 November and approved the title, the Vice-Chancellor informing the Chief Executive of Addenbrooke's of this on 25 November.

On 21 January 2004, Addenbrooke's NHS Trust issued a document reporting on the responses it had received to the consultation, in which it continued to envisage no change of name. The University was listed among the organizations that had responded. But if the new name was agreed as part of this consultation why was it not mentioned? There was also a consultation meeting listed under 'Old Schools, Cambridge', but I have been unable to glean any information about it. Then on 11 June the Trust published its 'final' constitution incorporating without comment the name 'Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust'.

We see from this that the intended title was not included in the public consultation process, and that the University's permission for the use of its name was not reported by the Trust when it published the results of the consultation. There had been no possibility for a member of the public to object even if he knew about the consultation, nor had any notice of the consultation been placed in the Reporter for the benefit of members of the University.

Now, the Council is under an obligation to bring controversial questions of policy to the attention of the Regent House.1 The use of the University's name to describe NHS hospitals is not only self-evidently a controversial policy but it has previously generated controversy to which the Council's attention should have been drawn.

A while ago Addenbrooke's NHS Trust started using the subtitle 'Cambridge University Teaching Hospitals Trust' on its notices and documents. As a member of the Clinical School, I found myself in the firing line over this, and wrote to the Registrary, Dr Fleet, asking who had authorized it. I also consulted the relevant Statutory Instrument and found that Addenbrooke's NHS Trust was established under that name alone. I have since destroyed the correspondence, but I recall learning that no permission had yet been given. Copies of the correspondence should be available in the Old Schools.

The first time I heard the name of the new NHS Foundation Trust was when I, and everyone else locally, received a letter from the Chief Executive informing me that on 1 July 2004 the Independent Regulator had approved Addenbrooke's application to become Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and inviting me to become a 'member' of this Trust. I replied, on 4 August, asking for more information and 'whether the University has given permission for its name to be used and which was the government authority that chose the name'. I did not receive a reply.

The Independent Regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts, one of whose duties is to approve the constitution of each Trust, was set up by the 2003 Act. It approved the constitution of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which stated (Section 2.1) 'The name of this Trust is to be the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust'. The Independent Regulator had itself acquired the extraordinary name 'Monitor', and I reminded Monitor that the Act required them 'to give authorization if it is satisfied that the constitution will be in accordance with Schedule 1 and will otherwise be appropriate'. Schedule 1 required the constitution to name the corporation (i.e. the Trust).

I represented that the name Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was inappropriate and misleading on the grounds that Cambridge University did not have any hospitals. The reply was remarkable: 'We are not responsible for approving names … Kind regards, Vicky'.

I must not dwell long on what happened next because it is not University business. Suffice it to say that I worked my way wearily through the ranks of Monitor up to the Head of Legal Services, who told me 'Monitor was satisfied upon determining to authorize Cambridge University Hospitals as an NHS Foundation Trust that the name to be used upon that change of status was appropriate'. So, unlike Vicky, she admitted Monitor's responsibility. I observed to her that this reply begged the question since it erroneously assumed the existence of Cambridge University Hospitals in the first place.

At that point I sailed for New Zealand on the QE2, marvelling at how the first responsibility of all bureaucracies is to defend themselves, even the quangoes created to supervise others. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

In Oxford at least it seems to have been obvious that one cannot simply stick the name of a place on the front of 'University Hospital' if the result is the name of a university. 'Cambridge University Hospitals' is not at all the same thing as 'Cambridge's University Hospitals'. They have 'Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust', omitting 'university' altogether. In East Anglia there is the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Trust, but the University is the University of East Anglia. There are many similar examples. London, of course, with its famous teaching hospitals, has long used names perpetuating historical origins.

On 11 April this year, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust was fined £100,000 for failing properly to supervise two doctors. The judge must have wondered whether it was the NHS or the University that was liable. And what will our response be if Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust starts using the arms of the University?

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, you will have noticed that I cited Cambridge University Gliding Trust Ltd as one of my examples of acceptable usage. There is a reason for this. For many years I was the Secretary and then the President of this Trust, which was responsible for the Cambridge University Gliding Club, of which I was also for eight years the Chairman. This Trust was established in 1952 by a group of senior members. The Council gave permission for the use of the University's name by minute 619 of 13 January 1949. Under the Articles of Association the Treasurer was the named University representative until Dr Halstead declined to attend and was replaced by the Registrary, Dr Fleet.

As time went by, the Club expanded to provide gliding facilities for increasing numbers of the general public, first at Marshall's, then at Duxford, and finally at Gransden Lodge aerodrome. The Trust was content to support this, for without an extensive non-University membership the Club could not have survived. The time eventually came, however, when it was clear that the Trust had performed so admirably that it had fathered one of Britain's biggest and best gliding clubs open to the public, a wonderful example of town-gown co-operation.

At this point, under my Presidency and with the active support of Dr Fleet (who never missed a meeting) the Trust elected to wind itself up and give birth to the Cambridge Gliding Club Limited, with a student section which inherited the name (rather famous in the gliding world as a matter of fact) 'Cambridge University Gliding Club'.

This was surely the correct thing to do, and explains part of my sensitivity over the wider issue. As a matter of fact the Clinical School bears to Addenbrooke's Hospital much the same relationship as CUGC bears to the Cambridge Gliding Club, and just as the latter's name no longer gives the impression of it being the responsibility of the University, so should the name of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust be changed to avoid giving a similar impression.

Best and most honorable would be a return to the distinguished name under which the consultation was conducted: Addenbrooke's NHS Trust. Alternatively, I suggest incorporating a title in use some years ago to form 'United Cambridge Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust'. The University might then be asked to authorize the use of its name in an accompanying subtitle, which should however not be worded so as to create the false impression of an alternative official name for the Trust as it did on the earlier occasion.

1 Council Statement of Intention, Statutes and Ordinances, 2006, p. 113

Mr D. J. GOODE:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, paragraph 36 of the Report highlights the almost total failure of the University to provide affordable housing to staff. I didn't know about the shared equity scheme, and I don't imagine many others do, too, so the Board is right to say that part of the scheme's problem is lack of promotion and the rest is its unattractiveness.

I think it is probably fair to say that house prices in Cambridge have never been what could be described as cheap. And we all know for a fact that stipends in the University could never be described as anything but woefully inadequate, and as I have pointed out before have been acknowledged as such by the Vice-Chancellor, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further, and Higher Education, and others.1

As the Report points out, since its inception in 2002, the University has attracted a whole four people into its shared equity scheme. I wonder how many high-calibre staff the University has lost in the same period, either because they have left or because they never came here in the first place as the cost of housing is so absurdly high?

It is naïve in the extreme, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, to imagine that the problems of recruitment and retention of staff will ever be solved without the University taking very seriously the problems facing staff, especially young staff at the outset of their careers, as they struggle to live in an expensive city like Cambridge while being paid well below the level at which they should be.

More needs to be done and it is very disappointing to read the Board's report of progress so far. May we push this issue to the forefront, and will the Council commit to working on the problem of affordable housing for staff as a matter of urgency?

1 Reporter, 1 February 2006

Report of the General Board, dated 10 May 2006, on the establishment of a Winton Professorship of the Public Understanding of Risk (Reporter, 2005-06, p. 968).

Professor G. GRIMMETT:

Deputy-Vice-Chancellor, as a member of the Statistical Laboratory and as Head of the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, I welcome this Report.

It is, I believe, now accepted that the remit of Cambridge University does not stop at the M11. On the one hand, we work through projects such as the Millennium Mathematics Project to prepare excellent students for admission to higher education, and on the other our expert advice is frequently sought and acted upon outside the University.

Outreach enriches this University. It is no longer to be regarded as an optional extra. The Winton Professor will be deeply involved in outreach through the development of a programme in the public understanding of risk.

The Winton Charitable Foundation has made a most generous donation to endow this University Professorship and an associated Fellowship at Churchill College. On behalf of the University, thank you!

A practical point. The University Development Office has played an important part in this venture, with special help from Patrick Hawke-Smith. It is vital for success in such projects that the Old Schools be in timely co-ordination with the Development Office.

Report of the General Board, dated 12 July 2006, on the re-establishment of the Professorship of Financial Policy (Reporter, 2005-06, p. 970).

No comments were made on this Report.


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Cambridge University Reporter 18 October 2006
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