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Annual Report of the General Board to the Council for the academical year 2007-08

1. Introduction

1.1. The General Board present this Annual Report to the Council summarizing their activities during the academical year 2007-08. Major tasks of great importance to the University completed in the course of the year include:

1.2. Turning to the institutions under the Board's supervision, the Board proposed the establishment of the HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies, supported by a most generous gift of £8m from His Royal Highness (Reporter, 2007-08, p. 568). The amalgamation of the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Institute of Biotechnology, forming a unified Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, was approved (Reporter, 2007-08, p. 440). The Cambridge Programme for Industry was incorporated as an institute with the School of Technology (Reporter, 2007-08, p. 957).

1.3. During the course of the year the Board approved the adoption of Standing Orders; arrangements for Visiting Committees across the University; student representation on the Councils of the Schools; and guidelines for the appointment of Heads of Schools.

2. Internal and national arrangements for quality assurance and enhancement

2.1. The University's educational provision was subject to a QAA Institutional Audit in February 2008. The QAA judged that 'confidence can reasonably be placed in the soundness of the University's current and likely future management of the academic standards of its awards and the management of the quality of the learning opportunities available to students'. The audit report highlighted the following areas of good practice:

In the light of the report's recommendations the Board's Education Committee is developing a framework for conversion of the credit-bearing certificates and diplomas currently awarded by the Institute of Continuing Education into University awards, with a view to the Board reporting to the Regent House in the Michaelmas Term 2008. The Report will also encompass awards offered by other University institutions. The Board, through their Education Committee, will be looking at ways to develop quality statements to gather qualitative evidence and good practice from local reviews of courses. The Board have agreed that all postgraduates who teach should receive appropriate training. The full audit report is available at the QAA website (http://www.qaa.ac.uk/reviews/reports/instIndex.asp).

2.2. A number of the University's teaching programmes are subject to scrutiny by professional statutory and regulatory bodies. During the year the Board were pleased to note the positive reports on aspects of the University's provision from: the General Medical Council, the Engineering Accreditation Board, European Quality Improvement Systems (Judge Business School), the British Computer Society, and the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

2.3. The Board's Learning and Teaching Reviews are now an established part of the University's quality assurance arrangements, and were commended by the QAA as 'comprehensive in scope and fit for purpose'. The following institutions were reviewed in 2007-08: the Departments of Architecture, History of Art, and Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience, the Faculties of Classics, Economics, and Archaeology and Anthropology, and Judge Business School. Reports of the reviews of the following institutions were considered and the recommendations arising from them taken forward: the Departments of Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering, Geography, Zoology, and the Scott Polar Research Institute, the Institute of Continuing Education, and the Faculties of Divinity, Education, and Social and Political Sciences. The Board have commissioned a Strategic Review of the Institute of Continuing Education to report by January 2009.

2.4. Part of the publicly available data about universities is the National Student Survey (NSS). The Board recognize the importance accorded to the Survey by Government and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in allowing potential applicants to make comparisons between institutions via the Unistats website, as well as being used in league tables. Following extensive discussions, Cambridge University Students Union (CUSU) altered their stance on the Survey and, for the first time since its inception in 2004, the response rate from Cambridge final-year undergraduates exceeded the threshold (50%) for publication of university-wide data. The results of the 2008 survey were published on the Unistats website (www.hero.ac.uk/uk/inside_he/education_quality_and_standards/unistats.cfm) in September. The Education Committee has access to a more detailed analysis of the data which will be reviewed in the Michaelmas Term 2008.

3. Teaching, learning, and assessment

3.1. The Board set up a Review Committee in October 2007 (Reporter, 2007-08, p. 526) to look at Teaching and Learning Support Services, which reported in July 2008. The scope of the review principally concerned activities currently supported by the University Library (UL), University Computing Service (UCS), Language Centre, and Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies (CARET). The principal recommendations of the report concerned:

(i) developing the role of the University Librarian as Director of Library Services, responsible for all Library provision in the University;
(ii) accelerating the process of centralizing journal subscriptions, to become the responsibility of the University Librarian, working in consultation with the Journals Coordination Steering Committee;
(iii) bringing the management arrangements for CARET and the Language Centre within the remit of the Librarian, and the abolition of the separate formally constituted management Committees;
(iv) the formation of a new body, 'the Teaching and Learning Services Steering Group (TLSSG)', responsible for pedagogic support, reporting to the Education Committee (for policy) and the Information Strategy and Services Syndicate (in relation to IT strategy); and
(v) the role of the University Computing Service in pedagogy to be the subject of future review.

The Board will consider comments on the proposals and make substantive recommendations, where the University's approval is required, in the course of 2008-09.

3.2. During 2007, the Education Committee consulted Faculty Boards and other authorities on a number of issues relating to the structure of the undergraduate Tripos. As a result, a draft consultative Report is being prepared for publication in 2009, proposing that the award of the B.A. Honours Degree should require candidates to have passed a Part II examination. This move was endorsed by the QAA in its audit report, as necessary to ensure that the Cambridge B.A. is consistent with the Qualifications Framework for Higher Education.

4. Degrees, courses, and examinations

4.1. The Board approved numerous proposals for the revision of teaching programmes. Amongst the most significant changes were the creation of a new Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Tripos to replace the Oriental Studies Tripos for new students in October 2008; the introduction of a full three-year Linguistics Tripos to commence in October 2010; and the introduction of an Executive M.B.A. course from October 2009.

4.2. The Social and Political Sciences Tripos was re-named Politics, Psychology, and Sociology for candidates entering in October 2008, to clarify the range of disciplines offered in the Tripos particularly for undergraduate applicants. New papers were created in the Modern and Medieval Languages Tripos to introduce students to Modern Greek and to Ukrainian. A new undergraduate student exchange scheme was established between Engineering and the Ecole Centrale Paris.

4.3. The Board approved the withdrawal of the Diploma in Computer Science and Part II (General) of the Computer Science Tripos, and the indefinite suspension of the Double Maîtrise option in the Law Tripos from 2009.

4.4. New M.Phil. courses were approved in Environmental Science, Modern South Asian Studies, and Advanced Computer Science. In addition, the Board approved the conversion of the M.St. in Latin American Studies to the first part-time M.Phil. course.

5. Undergraduate admissions

5.1. In addition to the Undergraduate Admissions Committee's ongoing role in liaising with the Colleges in monitoring admissions numbers, and reviewing admissions targets, procedure, and practice, it has given particular attention to several areas.

5.2. On the recommendation of the Committee, in October 2007, the Board endorsed a proposal that the general examination requirements for matriculation be replaced with subject-specific requirements; the Grace was approved on 23 April 2008.

5.3. The Committee also endorsed a refocused Widening Participation Strategy for 2007-10, and a formal protocol was drawn up to assist with closer monitoring of admissions numbers.

5.4. In March 2008, a proposal to establish a new post within the Unified Administrative Service (UAS), of Director of Undergraduate Recruitment, was approved. One of the Director's first tasks, in liaison with the Director of Admissions for the Colleges, will be the effective deployment of a most welcome £4m benefaction from Mr Harvey McGrath to support the University's recruitment and schools liaison activities. The increase in the proportion of students admitted from the state education sector to 59% from the start of the 2008-09 academical year reflects much hard work and commitment throughout the collegiate University to recruitment and widening participation activities.

6. Graduate education

6.1. The Steering Committee, established by the Board to implement the Action Plan arising from the Board's Review of Graduate Education and chaired by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), has taken forward those recommendations which commanded sufficient support across the University and amongst the intercollegiate bodies. It is overseeing two pilot projects (in the Department of Physics and the Graduate School of Life Sciences) testing the advantages (or otherwise) of devolution of admissions and other aspects of graduate student administration. The Steering Committee has also established a group to review the procedures for dealing with student examination appeals and complaints, as well as a group on graduate student funding arrangements. Good progress has been made in refocusing the agenda of the Board of Graduate Studies, to enable it to concentrate on strategic matters, with all Schools now represented on that Board.

7. International matters

7.1. The Board considered proposals for numerous international collaborations, among them schemes for research capacity development with the National University of Singapore and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). They noted and endorsed the memoranda of understanding and research collaborations in India which underpinned the Vice-Chancellor's visit to India in January and advised on possible similar activity in the Gulf. Such proposals require careful consideration of both the opportunities for, and reputation risks to, the University.

7.2. Through the work of the International Office they approved new funding from the Banco Santander both for students from the Iberian Peninsula and Latin-America and for students studying those areas. Similarly they noted the increase in activity under the Erasmus Scheme and the International Summer Programmes through the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) as part of increased student mobility. The Board expect to give further consideration to International Strategy in the coming year.

8. University finance and planning

8.1. The Board, through the Planning and Resources Committee, were closely engaged in the consideration of the annual budget and the financial planning process. The next planning round will reinforce the devolution of budgets to Schools, with clear - slightly enhanced - potential expenditure envelopes, within which Schools (and others) will be expected to manage pay costs. With the anticipated level of pay increase due in October 2008 under the most recent national pay agreement that may be difficult but is expected to be achievable.

8.2. The financial representation of School Plans is rooted in plans developed by Schools and other bodies. The Board take the opportunity annually to review the School Plans, this year based on summaries developed by Schools within a common format.

9. Capital programme

9.1. The Board are engaged in discussions about a strategy to optimize the use of the capital funds made available by HEFCE for the period 2008-11 in relation to both academic needs and the revisions of the University's estate plan.

10. Establishment of Professorships

10.1. As a result of generous benefactions raised through the 800th Campaign, or other external funds, the Board proposed the establishment of the following Professorships:

10.2. The following Professorships were established with the support of prestigious competitive awards from the Wellcome Trust and the Royal Society:

10.3. In addition, the following Professorships were established supported on general University funds by the reallocation of recurrent funding within the Schools concerned:

11. Research policy and the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE)

11.1. The University's 2008 RAE return was submitted successfully three weeks after the HEFCE census date of 31 October 2007 and one week before the official deadline. The return comprised 47 submissions from 59 Departments covering the research outputs and achievements of 2,289 staff assessed by Faculty and Departmental RAE Committees as fulfilling both HEFCE and their own academic criteria. The Board's RAE team handled centrally as much of the work as possible, but Faculty and Departmental staff with designated RAE responsibilities also faced a very heavy burden. The Board are grateful to these staff for their invaluable support. The ensuing audit by HEFCE has concentrated mainly on eligibility for inclusion with particular reference to non-University staff included on the basis of their close affiliation with a Faculty or Department. Across the whole University submission only four University staff have been judged by Panels as too junior for inclusion. This excellent outcome has justified the Board's approach of including as many as possible of our academic staff at an early stage in their academic career. The results of the Exercise will be released in mid-December 2008.

11.2. The Board are concerned, however, that for most STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and medicine), the results of the RAE 2008 will only fully inform the HEFCE block grant for two financial years. This follows HEFCE's announcement in May 2008 that the RAE will be replaced by a metrics-based Research Excellence Framework (REF) involving the use of citation indicators, wherever these are readily available, to inform assessments. Within the proposed REF programme, HEFCE are to hold a bibliometrics assessment exercise in STEM subjects in 2010; the results will influence funding allocations in these areas from 2011-12. The 2010 exercise is to be followed by a full assessment exercise for all subjects in 2012-13 in which quantitative indicators will play a major role but with light-touch peer review incorporated for those subjects where citation analysis is not appropriate.

11.3. HEFCE have identified their broad approach to constructing REF citation indicators but many details are unresolved. The University is one of twenty-two Higher Education Institutions participating in a pilot to support the development of the new arrangements. Although the pilot is an unwelcome burden in a very restricted timescale the experience gained should be of considerable benefit to the University in its planning for the 2010 and subsequent exercises.

11.4. The Board are advised on policy issues arising from the funding and conduct of research within the University by their Research Policy Committee. As well as reviewing the preparations for and execution of the RAE in 2008 and monitoring developments for the REF, the Committee received reports on the progress on strategic initiatives (such as Neuroscience, Conservation, Infectious Disease, Energy). The Committee also took the opportunity to review the Service Plan and Goals of the Research Services Division overall and in particular the operation of the Partnership Group.

11.5. Standing items for the Committee include reviewing reports and analysis on research applications, awards, and expenditure, the impact of Full Economic Costing (fEC), and the progress of specific interdisciplinary projects and major bids. Cambridge Enterprise reported on its progress and presented its business plan. Members who are associated with funding bodies were invited to update the Committee on their funding body's programme. Reports were received about the Research Council UK (RCUK) visit and the delegation who visited the University from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

11.6. During 2007-08 a small working group met to identify the scope of pricing and costing issues related to industrial research. This work continues and the group will report in 2008-09. The Committee also considered the process by which limited number calls for proposal were put forward by the University.

11.7. Following a recommendation from the Research Policy Committee, the Board have consulted Councils of Schools on the need for a University Research Ethics Committee which would be responsible for codifying a common University research ethics policy and for maintaining and overseeing the work of established local committees. This proposal has received unanimous support and the Board will establish this Committee in the near future.

12. Human Resources (HR)

12.1. The Personnel Committee, a Joint Committee of the Council and the Board, was renamed the Human Resources Committee. Members of the Board were closely involved in consultations which had led to a major restructuring of the Human Resources Division to ensure the strengthening of the HR service, through the provision of a dedicated HR team to each School and the UAS/Non School Institutions (7 in total), thus allowing greater accessibility to HR expertise. In addition the review has also resulted in the approval of a consolidated HR Business Service Unit and dedicated strategic support and policy development area.

12.2. Policies on Disability Equality and Gender Equality were approved by the University (Reporter, 2007-08, pp. 211 and 243 respectively). The Equality and Diversity area remained focused on developing the University's equality schemes and promoting best practice in all areas, in particular through compliance and the use of impact assessments to assess recruitment of staff and students. The staff development function was renamed the Centre for Personal and Professional Development (CPPD) and continues to provide training programmes (both practical and academic) across the University.

12.3. Training and development opportunities for academic and research staff and for graduate students have continued to grow, often in partnership, with a variety of contributors drawn from across the Collegiate University. 2007-08 saw the successful pilots of programmes for new and aspiring Principal Investigators and a 'Teaching Associates Programme', accredited by the Higher Education Academy and providing a nationally recognized qualification in teaching and learning in higher education for graduate students and early-career post-doctoral researchers. The Graduate Development Programme exemplifies strengthening relations with the Schools, Faculties, and Departments.

12.4. Governance and oversight arrangements were reviewed during the year and an Equality and Diversity Committee established which held its inaugural meeting in July 2008. The objectives of the Committee included recommending and overseeing the strategic direction and implementation of equality and diversity policies and practices within the University.

12.5. The University's policy on the retention of staff after retirement was reviewed in the light of the experience of two cycles of operation and a revised document approved by the Board. Work on the revision of Statute U, following a consultation exercise in 2007-08, will be carried forward in the coming year.

13. Health and safety

13.1. The University continued to attract attention from the enforcement authorities and regulators due to its prominence in the higher education field. A measure of how successfully safety issues were managed by the University with the support of the Health and Safety Division (the 'Safety Office') is the continued low level of intervention by all of the statutory enforcement agencies compared to a relatively high level of inspection. This continues to be achieved through the comprehensive provision of guidance and policy documents (including web-based support), accredited training, internal auditing, professional advice, and ongoing support by Safety Office staff. The ongoing re-structuring of the Safety Office will involve greater de-centralization of safety management, providing more 'risk-focused' support at School and Department/Institution level to enable the University to maintain legislative baselines and robust systems for health and safety management as part of the overall risk management process.

14. Libraries

14.1. The Board's Committee on Libraries has noted the continuing progress of the scheme for the co-ordinations of journals, which now encompasses all Schools except the School of Arts and Humanities, and that discussions are proceeding about the duplication of journals between the Colleges and between the Colleges and the University. It has however registered its concern that funding for the scheme has not increased at a rate sufficient to permit new acquisitions.

14.2. Other areas of advancement over the past year include the establishment of the Librarians' Development Day as an annual event and the increasing importance of the eBooks project.

14.3. The Committee has maintained its rolling programme of visits to Faculty and Departmental libraries in the University, and is pleased to report continuing evidence that a good service is being provided.

12 November 2008 ALISON RICHARD, Vice-Chancellor TOM BLUNDELL RICHARD HUNTER
 A. P. BAGSHAW W. BORTRICK D. W. B. MACDONALD
 NICK BAMPOS WILLIAM BROWN J. RALLISON
 GRAEME BARKER PHILIP FORD PATRICK SISSONS
 JOHN BELL RICHARD FRIEND I. H. WHITE

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Cambridge University Reporter 01 December 2008
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