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report of discussion

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

A Discussion was held in the Newton Room of the Pitt Building. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Mr Duncan Robinson was presiding, with the Senior Proctor, the Junior Proctor, two Pro-Proctors, the Registrary's deputy, and eight other persons present.

The following Reports were discussed:

Joint Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 6 August and 11 July 2007, on the introduction of a degree of Master of Finance (M.Fin.) (Reporter, 2006-07, p. 964).

Professor I. H. WHITE:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this proposal has long been planned as a central plank of the Judge Business School's academic development. It formed part of the Plan adopted by the Business School, the School of Technology, and the General Board in 2005, following an intensive review of the School's academic priorities. These highlighted the importance of the Judge Business School engaging both in joint teaching and research activities with other Departments within the University, and in continuing to develop new learning opportunities within its core disciplines including finance.

This proposal has been carefully scrutinized and welcomed by the Faculty Board, the Council of the School of Technology, the Board of Graduate Studies, and the Education Committee both for its academic integrity and for its financial viability. The Council of the School of Technology, on whose behalf I am speaking today, is strongly supportive of this innovative and imaginative degree, aware that it is likely to be of much benefit to those who have previously taken primary degrees across a wide range of disciplines.

The Vice-Chancellor and I attended a meeting where the proposed programme was presented to a group of leading financiers and industrialists. The programme was also very enthusiastically received here, and seen as drawing on Cambridge's academic strengths to make a distinctive contribution to the practice of finance.

I strongly commend this proposal to you therefore.

Professor A. DE MEYER:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, finance and financial management are core disciplines in any management and business administration research group. All top business schools invest heavily in the area of finance and financial management. The Master of Finance is one of a set of initiatives designed to increase the contribution of Judge Business School to the University's research effort and profile in finance. It will also increase the School's contribution to the practice of finance, and is carried out in collaboration with Cambridge Finance.

It is designed to be a course of which the University will be especially proud. The content is academically very rigorous and challenging for the brightest graduate students. Our admission standards will be very high. The Judge Business School sister programme in Finance, the M.Phil. in Finance, is open only to applicants with a first class degree, and attracts currently more than sixteen applicants per place.

We know that the fee is higher than for most Cambridge courses. But this is necessary because of the high cost of this programme. Teaching is very intensive. Substantial project work is required, and this is expensive to administer and supervise.

However, in the short term the fees generated by the course will not meet the costs: therefore benefactors have contributed over £2m to support the programme through this start-up phase. In the long term the programme will break even; but, crucially, it will also allow us to create new posts of faculty contributing at the highest level to research in finance.

Funds are currently being raised from donors, and set aside by the School, for a substantial scheme of scholarships and bursaries, to ensure that access for the most able students can be guaranteed. I would like, in the name of the Judge Business School, to recommend this programme to the University.

Professor G. R. EVANS:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the two previous speakers have concentrated on claims to excellence. My remarks concern two matters of a more fundamental kind. I asked the outgoing Registrary to explain the role of EQUIS in the proposals in this Report. He enquired, I think, at the Judge. There are several questions here, and the way the note he passed back to me is framed suggests that they are a little muddled themselves. They say they need to use EQUIS because, when it comes to overseas applicants, 'many will never have heard of HEFCE or the ESRC, whose quality assurance procedures JBS also routinely satisfies'. HEFCE does not have 'quality assurance procedures' of this sort. The Quality Assurance Agency is 'an independent body'. The research councils have nothing to do with the exercise of degree-awarding powers.

Apparently, however, EQUIS is a world brand name and its approval is important. Now, professional accreditation is a separate matter from the quality assurance of courses and the award of degrees. Each professional body has its own requirements before granting a licence to practise. Each university wishing to have its courses approved for professional qualification purposes must satisfy those requirements. In the case of law and medicine and suchlike, national arrangements about recognition of qualifications obtained in other countries can raise quite complex questions. There have been trends towards replacing academic-followed-by-professional sequences with mixed courses, as in medicine, in which parts of the professional qualification are included in the undergraduate academic course. That is why we had to have a Report on fitness to practice requirements for Cambridge's medical students some time ago. In such cases, professional requirements change at the instigation of the professional bodies.

However, business management is not a profession in the same way. Licence to practise is not at issue. The Judge is merely looking for a means to 'attract the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK' by linking itself to a 'brand'. That is a quite different matter from professional accreditation. My concern is that the Report seems to suggest that it is appropriate for EQUIS to second-guess the academic quality of Cambridge provision. EQUIS is thus to intrude into the area where the University is rightly sovereign.

I am aware that EQUIS 'accreditation' is probably a practical necessity in the M.B.A. world, but I would like the Regent House to be clear why it is allowing it and what this means. It will merely be allowing the adoption of a 'brand' conferred by a peer review system of audit developed by European business schools, possibly one of the more respected brands of its kind, but that is all it is.

The note passed on to me says that this has already happened for existing courses at the Judge:

EQUIS accreditation is not peculiar to the Master of Finance. JBS chose long ago to gain EQUIS accreditation for the whole School, and has just had the accreditation renewed for a further five years. EQUIS covers all the School's programmes, and the Master of Finance would automatically be reviewed. The School has found the review process rigorous and fair; and accreditation does help attract the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK.

There is a second important question. This is a proposal to add an entirely new category of degree to the Cambridge list. This will apparently be a hybrid between a research degree and what would be a professional qualification if management were really a profession like medicine or law. This takes us into the realm of a current consultation about the future parameters of research degrees, which is currently focusing on doctorates, among them the advent of 'professional doctorates', doctorates that focus on embedding research into professional practice.1 This new Judge venture is, we read, expected to run at a loss and with costs requiring fees as gigantic as those proposed, any loss will soon mount alarmingly. So it might be worth thinking hard about the cost as well as the policy implications before launching into this new type of degree.

I would just like the Regent House to be aware of this background and to be assured by the Council that all this has been properly thought through in the light of current trends and their implications for the University's future exercise of its degree awarding powers.

1 www.qaa.ac.uk/academicinfrastructure/doctoralProg/consultationPaper.asp.

Professor G. MEEKS:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I will respond to the second issue which Professor Evans raised and my colleague Professor De Meyer will come back to the EQUIS point. The second point was in relation to the programme running, in Professor Evans' words, at a loss (I think she said at a great loss). Can I just reassure the Regent House that this will not happen and that the costings for the course are very rigorous and that the course will neither put a drain on University finances nor make a significant profit. In the short term, as the Report makes clear, while student numbers build up (we don't wish to dilute admissions standards) fee income would not cover costs, but we have already provided for that deficit with the help of outside donors.

Professor De Meyer took to the lectern to respond to Professor Evans' remarks, but Professor Evans objected on the grounds that Discussants are not normally allowed to respond to remarks in the same Discussion. She argued that, if this 'departure from precedent' was to be allowed, she should be permitted to respond in turn. She also asked that the record show that this was the first time in twenty-five years, to her knowledge, that this had been allowed. Professor De Meyer agreed not to respond. Professor Meeks asked instead if he could continue with his remarks. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor agreed, as long as nobody in the house objected. Professor Evans said that she did not object, but requested that she be allowed to respond in turn.

Professor G. MEEKS:

I respond to Professor Evans' questions in relation to EQUIS - I would have preferred that Professor De Meyer could have answered because Professor De Meyer is himself a senior member of the EQUIS organization and has very close knowledge of its operations. My understanding of EQUIS' role is that it is a peer review system of the quality of our teaching and our teaching documentation. It is very similar to the systems of review which we have internally and are nationally imposed by the British government; but it has the support of the leading business schools throughout Europe, and that does add to its standing outside Britain.

Professor G. R. EVANS:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, if I may add one sentence. I hope it will be understood that my comments were not about the quality of the work that EQUIS does, but simply an attempt to clarify, for the interest of the Regent House, that this is a different exercise from either the accreditation by professional bodies or any other form of quality assurance with which we are routinely engaged. It is something new for the University in that respect; that was the sole point I was anxious for the Regent House to be aware of.

Report of the Council, dated 24 September 2007, on the stipends of Pro-Vice-Chancellors (p. 22).

Professor G. R. EVANS:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, at the Discussion of the Board of Scrutiny Report two weeks ago remarks were made on that portion of the Report which expressed disquiet about the way the Pay and Grading process was working out, with reference to the HERA experiences of a number of staff much further down the points scale than Pro-Vice-Chancellors. I wonder whether it is worth just reminding members of the Regent House of the steps by which we arrived at a place where a Report in these present terms seems appropriate to set before them.

Time was when the vertebrae of the salary spine were all visible. Then it was proposed that those who were willing to take on administrative responsibilities such as that of Head of Department ought to be remunerated. That was visible too, but it undermined the expectation of willing service to the community. Then it was proposed that special extra payments should be made to some of the professoriate. Those remain secret (which is the fault of the Regent House for unaccountably agreeing that they should be). Then 'market supplements' and other extra deals for recruitment came in, with HEFCE's ill-conceived and expensive requirement that the capricious queen of the gods should reign in the University (ironically in the interests of ensuring equal opportunities). Those are secret too.

Now, it seems, Pro-Vice-Chancellors cannot be expected to offer themselves for these career-enhancing positions (quite a good starter for your K surely?) unless they can be confident both that their time will be paid for at a six-figure salary, and that if they are fortunate enough to enjoy any of the secret top-ups in connection with their underlying University offices, they will get those in full as well. I do not quite see how one's 'contribution' in that other office can continue to be what it was if one is actually serving as Pro-Vice-Chancellor, nor how clinical responsibility payments can be appropriate if one is carrying no or less clinical responsibility for the time being. But then the assumption appears to be that people are to be motivated entirely by money, or the University will be: 'creating a disincentive to persons with a contribution payment, payment for clinical responsibility, or market supplement by their suffering a reduction of those elements on taking up a Pro-Vice-Chancellorship.'

Report of the General Board, dated 11 July 2007, on the establishment of a Trophoblast Research Fund (p. 53).

Professor G. R. EVANS:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Oxford University Act 1863 s.3 allows Oxford to suppress old Professorships 'of political economy, chemistry, geology or mineralogy' and use the professor's salary 'in promoting or assisting, by the purchase of materials or apparatus, by the support of assistant teachers, or by such other means as the University may by statute determine, the study and cultivation in the University of the science which forms the subject-matter of the suppressed professorship'.

Some flexibility is allowed in transferring the mineralogy income 'to the study of geology or any branch thereof' and vice versa.

The 1877 Act reached energetically into the affairs of both Oxford and Cambridge to permit interference with the way they set up the arrangements for academic use of moneys which came their way. Things have certainly not got less invasive since. I just hope due care has been taken to ensure that this unusual way of using such a benefaction (as a rule, we are Discussing the setting up of a specialist Chair in such circumstances) is as legally watertight as possible and those outside 'bodies' with which there is to be exchange and liaison will not turn out to be Sainsbury's pets. I trust all members of the Regent House have read the Sainsbury Review of Government's Science and Innovation Policies which has just appeared.2

2 http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviews/sainsbury_review/sainsbury_index.cfm.

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Cambridge University Reporter 31 October 2007
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