< Previous page ^ Table of Contents Next page >

report of discussion

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

A Discussion was held in the Senate-House. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Jeremy Sanders was presiding, with two Proctors, two Pro-Proctors, the Registrary, and thirty-six other persons present.

The following Reports were discussed:

The Annual Report of the Council for the academical year 2007-08, dated 24 November 2008 (Reporter, p. 223).

Professor A. D. YATES:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, there are a lot of initiatives mentioned in this Annual Report for which it is probably wise for the Board of Scrutiny either to suspend judgement for this year or to give fuller consideration in its fourteenth Report to the Regent House, which it will be issuing later in the year. However, it is worth noting that the enlargement of the external membership of the Council, which the Board supported in its twelfth Report, has now taken place and the Board was pleased to note that while issues of University governance are being kept under review by the Council, that no early proposals for major changes in governance are anticipated save in respect of the need to review the present age limit on membership of the Regent House.

Less welcome is the reference to an 'eventual' full revision of the Ordinances and Statutes, which the Board has been suggesting should be treated with a greater degree of urgency by the Council than appears to be encapsulated in their use of the word 'eventual'.

Several matters referred to in the Council's Report are not yet at a stage where the Board feels it could offer useful comment to the Regent House. These will include the North West Cambridge Development, the new measures being taken to widen access, and the rationalization of accommodation for the University's administration. Matters that will undoubtedly feature more prominently in the Board's fourteenth Report, but upon which it would not be appropriate to comment now, are the possible development of a Staff and Student Services Centre and the proposed revisions to Statute U.


Deputy Vice-Chancellor, as a member of Council I felt unable to sign this Report and I now wish to give a brief explanation of my reasons. My concerns are related to paragraph 3.5 which concerns the process for the review and reforms of Statute U, the Statute which governs processes for the redundancy, discipline, dismissal, and removal from office of University Officers. As a member of the executive committee of the Cambridge branch of the University and College Union I obviously take a keen interest in such important proposals relating to changes in employment rights. My objections are not only related to the highly divisive proposals themselves, which can be read in the Thursday, 4 December 2008 issue of the University Reporter (number 6132), but also in the manner in which Council was manoeuvred into publishing these proposals.

Council was given very little opportunity to make strategic decisions about the nature of the proposals which came forward to us from the Human Resources Committee. Council did have an opportunity to discuss the details of the proposal shortly before publication, but by then the key strategic decisions underlying the proposals had already been taken. It seems to me that the strategic decisions that ought to have been asked of Council were decisions such as, in trying to arrive at proposals which level out differences between treatment of different staff groups, should we seek a levelling up to best practice, or a levelling down to the lowest common denominator? Also, should the process be spelt out in Statutes, which require greater consultation and approval to change, in Ordinances, which require approval of Regent House, or in Codes of Practice, which can easily be changed without seeking approval from Regent House? Of course if you read the proposals you will see that what is proposed is a levelling down of process, and also, adherence to codes of practice which can be changed in future without further consultation of Regent House.

As a member of Council I do not think that I was given ample opportunity to discuss these important strategic issues and also I believe that we were given misleading assurances about the participation of members of the drafting committee by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Human Resources when the draft white paper was presented to us for approval. Looking at the proposals themselves it seems to me that the key elements are that it would in future make it much easier for those in positions of authority, in particular Heads of Institutions and Chairs of Schools, to contrive alternative reasons to discipline, or to remove staff from office, and thus undermine any promise of an intention to protect academic freedoms. Coming in our 800th celebratory year I see this as a monumental step backwards in our standards for protection of academic freedoms. Thus I felt that as a member of Council I could not put my signature to the Annual Report.

Professor G. R. EVANS:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, 'It is too early to assess whether the global economic problems will affect the progress of the Campaign going forward.' Who allowed this Poppleton University phrasing into a Report? Laurie Taylor must be chortling.

In view of the introduction of two more external members to the Council, could we please be brought up to date on the present membership and functioning of the Consultative Committee of the Council? It is still there under Statute A, V, 1, and 6 with its six external members. The Wass Syndicate's view was this was a better way of introducing external advice than having externals on the Council. But if there are still six externals on that Committee we actually have ten individuals now privy to the University's business who have not arrived in their influential positions by a quasi-democratic process of nomination or by a truly democratic vote of the Regent House. If we no longer need a Consultative Committee should it not be removed from the Statute?

I raise this because the present Report describes a tendency to allow much of the 'policy related work of the Council' to be 'undertaken through' various committees. Statute A, XIV, 1(a) makes the Council the 'principal executive and policy-making body of the University' and gives it various powers and responsibilities. One of the things it is hard for members of the Regent House not directly involved to see is exactly how this works in practice, and how far the delegations reach, especially now that delegation to a person is allowed.

Paragraph 9.1 offers a small but uncertain reassurance. 'The Council has held a strategic meeting in March and September 2008, and plans to continue the programme of strategic meetings in April 2009, and in September 2009.' But is this not exactly what has happened in other universities run according to the guidelines of the Committee of University Chairmen? The governors hover in a stratosphere 'gazing at horizons' and 'having visions' and generally 'going forward', while the real task of running the university devolves into the hands of the apparatchiks who may report only what they choose to report to the nominal decision-makers. Dr Clark has just given us a useful instance.

I am pleased to see that there is at least some movement on the revision of the Statutes and Ordinances. But it should not be forgotten what a formidable task this is, so the sooner it is properly taken in hand the better. Cardinal Wolsey announced to Congregation on a visit to Oxford in 1518 that he was planning to endow six University 'lectureships'. At Wolsey's request the University foolishly 'invited' him to reform the Statutes for the Arts Faculty, although Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the University's Chancellor, warned them that it would be dangerous to their future academic independence to allow state interference in their academic affairs. Warham's anxious letter to the University of May 1518 says:

For since almost all the University's statutes concern correct usage in literature and scholarly studies, either directly or indirectly, if all authority with respect to the statutes is transferred to externals - that is away from the Chancellor and the Congregation of academic teachers and [the Convocation of] Masters - I do not see what authority will remain with them, and the 'authority' of the university will be a meaningless term.1

But Wolsey found that the drafting of statutes to govern academic activities is not an easy task and by 1524 he had to invite assistance from the University itself.2 He wrote a testy letter asking for two suitably qualified men from the University to assist him in drafting the statutes for 'his' lectures and he undertook to rely on their help and consider the good of the University in the drafting, as long as he found that their views accorded with his own.3 He fell from power at the end of the decade before he had got the job finished.

How long will it take Cambridge to overhaul its entire corpus? Remember that this is not like the Oxford rewrite by Derek Wood a few years ago. He was drafting statutes for a new constitution. Cambridge faces the more complicated task of tidying up its accretions and reducing them to order.

Consolidating Orders is a useful beginning, though it is puzzling that here, as in the White Paper on Statute U, the word 'regulations' has been used instead of Ordinances. Orders are defined as 'individual Graces of the Regent House with continuing effect which are not in the form of regulations'. So when is an Order not an Ordinance? That has always been an interesting question. Clarity on that point is going to be essential 'going forward'. And what exactly is a 'regulation' in Cambridge?

There will be opportunity to discuss Statute U in its own Discussion but it is perhaps worth asking here how many layers of domestic legislation it is helpful to have. Oxford tried to reduce to two, with adverse consequences of which I have spoken here before. The problem with more than two is that the control of the Regent House extends only as far as Statutes and Ordinances. Quasi-legislation below that can have many floors and one can envisage sackings being carried out on the basis of rules made far down in the legislative basement by a local Head of Department.

'Going forward' towards the merger with Poppleton, Personnel is being reconfigured into a Human Resources Empire. 'The broader Human Resources Division' may well work better as described, but should this proposed huge change in the UAS not be put before the Regent House? It is an irony that the old triumvirate of the Registrary, Secretary General, and Treasurer has only comparatively recently been demolished in favour of monarchical government by the Registrary, only for Director posts with potentially gigantic powers to begin to emerge with a new round of empire building.

One must couple with this development the plan to 'rationalize' 'administrative accommodation'. 'The Old Schools would, increasingly, be a building used principally by the Vice-Chancellor and close colleagues.' So the hub of power in the University is going to close in on itself. What can 'the Vice-Chancellor and close colleagues' be but an oligarchy in the making?

Could I take the opportunity to request that the Commissary's rulings on representations made to him be published in a timely and regular manner? It is surely time the Regent House had a picture of the way these still relatively new powers are working. I am aware of at least one instance in which publication has been promised but the promise has not yet been fulfilled.

Finally, is the HEFCE Assurance Report going to be made available in the Reporter the moment it is signed off? It is good to know that 'the Council expects the conclusions of the visit to be positive and constructive'. But we are told that HEFCE has had some questions for Cambridge. I trust these are not the eight questions Oxford has been wrestling with for well over a year. But if they are, the Regent House certainly needs to know.

1 Nam cum fere omnia statuta unversitatis aut in seipsis aut respective concernant usum bonum litterarum studiique scolastici, si omnis auctoritas quoad talia statuta transferatur in alium ab universitate - hoc est a cancellario congregationeque regentium et non regentium - non video quid auctoritatis restabit apud eosdem, eritque universitatis auctoritas inane nomen.

2 Letter, 64, Epistolae Academicae, 1508-96, ed. W. T. Mitchell, Oxford Historical Society, NS xxvi (1980), pp. 74-7.

3 Sic nobiscum decrevimus ut quod diu nostro inhesit animo. Letter, 130, Epistolae Academicae, 1508-96, ed. W. T. Mitchell, Oxford Historical Society, NS xxvi (1980), p. 75.

The Annual Report of the General Board to the Council for the academical year 2007-08, dated 12 November 2008 (Reporter, p. 226).

Professor A. D. YATES:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Board of Scrutiny welcomes the Report of the General Board. It has clearly been a year of hard work for the members of the Board, who deserve the thanks of members of the Regent House for their efforts. Of particular note are the excellent outcomes of the QAA's Institutional Audit and the various scrutinies undertaken of the University's academic programmes by external professional validation bodies. It was also commendable that, whatever one may think of the value, or the lack thereof, of the results of the National Student Survey (and there are undoubtedly some members of the Regent House that share CUSU's earlier concerns as to its value), it is nevertheless important that the University features in this survey and the Board was therefore gratified to note that the response rate from Cambridge final-year undergraduates exceeded the threshold needed in order to include Cambridge's data in the survey results.

There are several ongoing matters mentioned in the Report upon which the Board may wish to make comment in its fourteenth Report when it has had a greater opportunity to consider what is being proposed in more detail. These include the Report on Teaching and Learning Support Services and the proposals to 'refocus the agenda of the Board of Graduate Studies', to use the words of the General Board's Report.


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I should like to speak briefly on the arrangements for the election of student members to the Councils of the Schools (mentioned in paragraph 1.3 of the General Board's Report). The first elections are now taking place,1 and I am presently standing for election to the Council of the School of the Physical Sciences, so I have experience of the workings of the process.

In my School, there were five undergraduates eligible to stand, vote, and nominate others for election for one position on the Council of the School. In order to stand for election, I had to get two of the other undergraduate representatives on Faculty Boards in my School to nominate me. The problem with this was that I didn't know any of them at all (except the other undergraduate representative on my Faculty Board, whom I had only met once or twice). I thought the idea of nominating someone is that you know them and think they'd make a decent job and I found myself unable to say that about any of the other people eligible to stand, and I'm certain none of them could honestly have said that about me.

In our School, there are only ever going to be five undergraduates eligible for the undergraduate position, and three graduates for the graduate position (I understand that this is a problem in the School of Technology also). If one of the graduates were to stand, the situation would be even sillier, as he would have to get the other two graduates to nominate him (which means that they presumably wouldn't stand). The 'two-people-to-nominate' scheme worked fine for the Faculty Board elections, where there are a few hundred students who can vote, but I think that it is inappropriate for these small elections.

When the arrangements for student representation on the Councils of the Schools came in,2 the regulations for these elections were lifted from those of the student elections for the Faculty Board members and other bodies.3 It seems to me that had these proposals have come forward for a Report for Discussion at the time, rather than being submitted as a Grace straightway, with a short footnote and not even a Notice, these difficulties might well have been foreseen and the legislation altered so as to eliminate them, which I hope will now happen in time for next year's elections. Students would also have been given the chance to show their support of the inclusion of students on the Councils of the Schools at the Discussion. I for one welcome the change, and am excited that students will have representation on the Councils of the Schools for the first time this year.

1 Reporter, 2008-09, p. 388

2 Grace 6 of 11 June 2008 (Reporter, 2007-08, p. 863)

3 Statutes and Ordinances, p. 559

Professor G. R. EVANS:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this Report contains a striking suggestion about the reconfiguration of the University's provision for 'Teaching and Learning Support', which would involve major structural changes. I am pleased to hear that the Board of Scrutiny is going to look at all this thoroughly. In outline this amounts to:

developing the role of the University Librarian as Director of Library Services, responsible for all Library provision in the University … 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; 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 the role of the University Computing Service in pedagogy to be the subject of future review.

All we are told is that 'The [General] 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'.1 It did not, however, report to the Regent House. There will of course eventually have to be a Report with a capital 'R', but apparently only at a stage where there are 'substantive recommendations, where the University's approval is required'.

Yet the implications of this development would be enormous, and not only for library provision. It may seem a good idea on the face of it to ensure that there is joined-up thinking about the funding and priority balance to be struck between books and electronic resources, but this will engage many groups with a strong legitimate interest. Research resources are going to be affected and the question of Cambridge University Library's future as an international research library arises too. Surely all this needs proper consideration throughout the University and open Discussion at this stage, and not a mere putting of the General Board's proposals as a would-be fait accompli later on?

It is possible to track progress from a distance through the Minutes of the General Board for 9 July and 8 October 2008 but not to see what is actually happening; exchanges on the 'governance' newsgroup would suggest that there has as yet been no consultation with a number of constituencies.2 This is a peculiarly sensitive time in this area of the desirability of shifting resources from paper to electronic, rearranging library space to make it more 'social' and altogether less off-puttingly 'bookish'. It would surely be a mistake to combine the taking of possibly irrevocable decisions about what to keep and how to allocate shelf-space, with an ambitious plan to roll up Faculty libraries with the UL and even try to persuade the College libraries to hand over their autonomy. Oxford's experiences in this direction since it merged the Bodleian Library into the Oxford University Library Services have been far from happy, for readers or staff. Service standards have fallen with the loss of small specialist libraries and an 'establishment review' aiming to reduce the proportion of staff of the traditional academic librarian sort; management fall-out has been huge, with a mass exodus and a rapid turnover of appointees at every level; senior library management has become increasingly remote from the reading rooms, and their actual readers, and increasingly unaccountable. But I see no sign in the report (small 'r') to the General Board that anyone involved in compiling it got to grips with the consequences of trying the same thing in the other place. Lessons should not have to be learned twice. Do we want the new University Librarian in Cambridge to be sucked into the proposed vortex of demands, surely impossible for any individual, however well-meaning, to meet?

To other matters. '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'. May the Regent House see these please? One of the powers of the General Board under Statute C is to make Ordinances of its own motion and I am not sure it is always clear when it has done that. This power needs close scrutiny and rethinking in the forthcoming revision of the Statutes and Ordinances.

The outcome of the QAA Audit was not wholly 'satisfactory' as claimed, surely? There were quite a few points of substantive criticism.3 We have already had a Report on one of these, with the plan to 'develop a framework for conversion of the credit-bearing certificates and diplomas currently awarded by the Institute of Continuing Education into University awards', because the QAA expressed concern about the quality of some of those courses. It is good to see that 'the Board have commissioned a Strategic Review of the Institute of Continuing Education to report by January 2009.' But the General Board Report does not mention the inclusion of other hitherto fringe activities such as the Cambridge Programme for Industry in the University's mainstream awarding activity. Surely all this should have come before the proposal to confuse the exercise of the University's degree-awarding powers?

Professional Body approval or accreditation is vital where it is relevant to the career prospects of Cambridge graduates. I have expressed concern before about the notion of including 'management studies' in the hamper as though 'professional accreditation' of M.B.A.s was the equivalent of the licensing of legal practitioners and medical practitioners. Might the Regent House have a Report on the issues at present arising in this general area of professional accreditation please?

Another QAA criticism is obliquely admitted to at 3.2:

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.

On the same theme of 'telling it like it is' rather than offering the Regent House only the 'good news', when things launched in the past have turned out to be a bad idea, this should be admitted frankly not buried in the small print. Lessons may not be learned unless there is frank admission of mistakes. '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.' What has become of the fear expressed in the period of wind-down of the CMI Ltd project that its M.Phils. were going to be expensive to maintain?

'The Steering Committee has also established a group to review the procedures for dealing with student examination appeals and complaints'. Is this group liaising with the NUS, which is working on the need for such reviews? Is Cambridge making a submission to the Pathfinder Review of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator? Closing date end of this month.

It is easy to get into a mess over international collaborations. Memoranda of Understanding can be a minefield. 'Such proposals require careful consideration of both the opportunities for, and reputation risks to, the University.' Indeed they do, so surely the Regent House should be seeing a Report proposing any alliance, particularly where it may affect research freedom or the exercise of the University's degree-awarding powers. Funding arrangements are noted at 7.2. Should these be revisited in a time of global recession when student mobility patterns are going to change and Cambridge may be saddled with obligations which have ceased to be appropriate? 'The Board expect to give further consideration to International Strategy in the coming year'. Then will it be using its Statute C powers or allowing the Regent House the opportunity to decide whether to create the appropriate Ordinances?

'Reports were received about the Research Council UK (RCUK) visit'. Is Cambridge looking at its misconduct in research code in the light of last summer's work by RCUK in this area? '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.' Looks promising but is this going to cover the problem of misconduct?

1 http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/cam-only/committee/isss/meetings/agendas/20081009.pdf

2 http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/cam-only/committee/gb/minutes/20080709.pdf


3 http://www.qaa.ac.uk/reviews/reports/instIndex.asp.

Reports and Financial Statements for the year ending 31 July 2008 (Reporter, p. 230).

Professor A. D. YATES:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Board of Scrutiny does not customarily comment on the reports at this stage in the year since it has not had the opportunity as yet to discuss these financial statements as a Board in the light of the even more recently published Financial Management Information for the year. However, it is clear that there are issues flagged in these financial statements to which the Board may wish to return in its fourteenth Report. These will include various elements of staff costs, the apparent lack of clarity on the difference between fixed assets and investment and endowment assets (notes 15 and 16), and the apparent slow-burning fuse under the various pension liabilities. There is no suggestion that in this regard the University is doing anything but complying with the relevant accounting standard but there does, at the least, appear to be an unfunded liability of some £158m, most of which is in the University's 'subsidiary companies'. The expected return on asset classes has been raised by half a per cent per annum across the board which appears, possibly coincidentally, to match the 0.55 per cent increase in the inflation assumption. The Board has noticed that minor changes to reclassify specific donations as endowments and to account for donations of, and for the purchase of, heritage assets as income have resulted in the University's consolidated surplus (added to general reserves) producing a higher figure than the difference between income and expenditure. The reasons for this quirk of the SORP are adequately explained in Professor Minson's Financial Review Memorandum.

These are, in a sense, 'first blush' points of impression and it may be that, after the Board has had an opportunity for further discussion and investigation, these issues are of no significance. Alternatively, the Board may find that it would wish to return to these and other points later in the year. There is little doubt, however, despite the above issues, that the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Planning and Resources), Professor Minson and the Director of Finance, Mr Andrew Reid have, yet again, produced a set of accounts and notes that are largely clear, complete, and in conformity with the relevant SORP.

Dr N. J. GAY (read by Professor G. R. EVANS):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am grateful to my friend the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Planning and Resources) for his illuminating and succinct summary of the University's financial position. It is indeed pleasing to find that in its 800th year the University's finances are in such good health. Key figures presented to us in the Report are that the University made an operating profit of £19m and had a total surplus of £42m. Of note Research Council income rose by 4 per cent, reflecting both the introduction of full economic costing and the success of our academic staff when competing for grant funding.

In view of the substantial surpluses revealed by this Report I started to wonder why the University continues to impose rigid financial limits on the operation of the Senior Academic Promotions exercise, something that has led to very serious problems not to say illegality.1 To help address this question I have asked the Director of Finance to answer the following questions:

1. How has expenditure on academic salaries (i.e. those eligible to apply to the Academic Promotions exercise SAP) increased over the past five years in real terms (i.e. after taking account of wage inflation and the adding of posts to the establishment)?

2. How is the budget for the SAP exercise set, when, and by what committee?

3. Does the budget allocated and the cost published in the General Board's Report on SAPs take account of retirements where professorial posts are replaced at UL level or is it simply an aggregation of the additional increments and associated costs of those promoted?

4. Which year did the General Board decide to cap the budget available for SAPs?

To date I have not received even outline responses to these enquiries. It is to be regretted that the burgeoning administration of Cambridge University, which after all relies for its existence on the activities of the academic staff, is apparently unwilling to inform Discussions of the Regent House unless the Freedom of Information Act is deployed against them. It is to be hoped that responses are forthcoming by the time that the Council responds to this Discussion. Despite this reticence on the part of the finance office it is possible to provide partial answers to some of these questions, although the budget setting process itself remains as shrouded in mystery as the election of a pope.

With regard to the cost of the SAP exercise, we can conclude from the General Board's second Report on the 2008 exercise, published in the Reporter last week, that this is simply an aggregation of the increments awarded to the successful applicants. (I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Professor Carpenter on winning his appeal - he has achieved something nearly as unlikely as winning the national lottery.) In any case we now know that the figure given in the General Board's Report takes no account of the fact that every year many posts are vacated and are reappointed at a much more junior level. It used to be the case that retirements, resignations, etc. were recorded in a Michaelmas edition of the Reporter but without explanation this practice has been discontinued. Perhaps the Editor of the Reporter would like to explain why this has happened and if, for example, it is a consequence of data protection issues why a summary table cannot be presented instead.

Nevertheless, the information from 2005 is informative. In this year (possibly before the introduction of budgetary constraints) there were 45 promotions to Professorships but there were 29 retirements. The stated cost of £745,000 was thus a gross exaggeration. In subsequent years the numbers promoted have reduced and in 2008 only 22 personal Professorships were created. Thus in recent years the real cost to the University of the SAP exercise is likely to have been negligible.

Since I spoke out publicly about the shortcomings of the SAP procedure last term, I have been in contact with a significant number of colleagues who have fulfilled all of the criteria demanded by the procedure but were denied promotion. Without exception these individuals feel cheated, demotivated, and demoralized. I estimate that it would have cost the University an additional £300,000 to promote all of those who were assessed to fulfil the criteria last year, a drop in the ocean compared to the £42m profit we see in this Report. Set against this it is impossible to quantify the damage that this maladministration has caused. For example a significant factor in the assessment of funding applications is the standing of the applicants. It is without doubt that many grants have been unsuccessful because Cambridge University refuses to accord appropriate esteem to its academic staff. It is very much to be hoped that in the 2009 SAP exercise promotion will once again be awarded on the basis of academic merit alone, not least to ensure the procedure operates within the law.

1 See http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2008-09/weekly/6125/15.html.

Professor G. R. EVANS:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, 'Under the Statutes, the Governing Body of the University is the Regent House which comprises the resident senior members of the University and the Colleges, together with the Chancellor, the High Steward, the Deputy High Steward, and the Commissary.' This is not correct. Resident Senior Members are not necessarily members of the Regent House. 'The University is an exempt charity. The members of the University Council are the charity trustees and are responsible for ensuring compliance with charity law.' It is not certain that this is correct either. The members of the Regent House may be the trustees, and it is quite an important HEFCE-related question whether they are or not. It is disturbing to see this kind of thing in a Report.

While we wait to know what HEFCE has said after its Assurance visit it is perhaps worth reading out this paragraph from the accounts just to get into the historical record its radical challenge:

The University is a self-governing community whose members act in accordance with the seven principles of public life (see paragraph 2 above) and in pursuit of the objectives and purposes of the University as set out in its Statutes. The University complies with most but not all of the voluntary Governance Code of Practice published in November 2004 by the Committee of University Chairmen. In particular the Vice-Chancellor is chair of the Council, which does not have a majority of external members, and the Council is subject to the statutory authority of the Regent House. The University has no immediate plans to change these arrangements, which have proved reliable over many years in enabling the University to achieve its academic objectives.

Joint Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 8 December and 12 November 2008, on the establishment of a degree of Master of Mathematics and a degree of Master of Advanced Study (Reporter, p. 338).

Professor J. M. RALLISON (read by Mrs S. BOWRING):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, but I must declare an interest both as a member of the Mathematics Faculty and a potential recipient of the retrospective M.Math. Degree.

This Report has two parts. The proposals relating to Part III of the Mathematical Tripos were developed in part in response to government funding changes for students taking Equivalent or Lower Qualifications. Cambridge graduates will in future be eligible for government funding for Part III only if the course is formally designated as a Master's qualification analogous to the fourth year of the Engineering and Natural Sciences Triposes. This will lead to the new M.Math. Degree available only to those who take the Mathematical Tripos as a four-year integrated Master's course. A second group of students who have graduated outside Cambridge are admitted each year to take Mathematics Part III as a one-year course. It is clear that these students too should receive a Master's qualification if they successfully complete the course. But under Quality Assurance Agency rules designed to try to ensure greater clarity in the use of titles, different titles are to be used for degrees having different qualification periods or modes of study. This second group of students are then to receive a Master of Advanced Studies Degree in Mathematics (replacing the Certificate of Advanced Studies in Mathematics that is currently awarded). Analogous one-year courses for Part III Natural Sciences may be introduced in future, and then the same M.A.St. Degree title will be used.

The second part of the Report proposes a Statute change that would permit the University, subject to Regent House approval on each occasion, to introduce new degree titles without seeking the approval of the Privy Council. This proposal arose from the review of graduate education two years ago. Its purpose is to simplify the procedure, and to reduce by six months or so the period required, to enact new legislation that introduces a new degree. Concern has been expressed by some colleagues that the University should not introduce new degrees, and should instead reduce the number of such titles already in use. But Faculties are understandably reluctant to alter the name of a degree whose title confers 'brand recognition'. And funding agencies, or government, frequently modify their policy in relation to the courses that they are willing to support. These policy changes drive correspondingly frequent changes in Cambridge's educational provision. The Bologna process, itself a moving target, is likely to lead to further changes. Particularly at Master's level, funding rules are often discipline-specific. New names are needed for new courses; an all-purpose M.Phil. title is no longer adequate. In these circumstances, a flexible means of changing regulations and associated degree titles is needed.


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, members of the Regent House could perhaps be forgiven, when reading the title of this Report, for not noticing the paragraph entitled 'Amendment to Statute B'. There is no mention of this significant change to the University's degree-awarding regulations in the Report's title, which suggests at first glance that the Report pertains to mathematics degrees only. In my view, the proposed amendments to Statute B ought properly to be the subject of a separate Report in themselves, and not just appended to a fairly long Report on a much less substantial matter. They certainly ought to have been flagged up in the Report's title, and I hope will form a separate Grace, if they get that far, allowing the Regent House to choose separately on two entirely separate issues.

The introduction of the Master of Mathematics Degree seems to be a good idea, bringing Cambridge into line with other UK universities, and making the qualification comprehensible for students, other higher education institutions, funding bodies, and employers. Whilst a new degree of Master of Mathematics is sensible, the proposed Master of Advanced Study Degree just adds to the present degree-title mess. It is unnecessary to have two names for the same thing - this goes against the pursuit of a clear and simple system - and it is total madness to any right-thinking person. Presently, all students are given a Certificate of Advanced Study in Mathematics, regardless of whether they have previously been undergraduates here or not. The Report itself says that we need a transparent and consistent use of qualification titles, and that in the UK mathematics community 'Master of Mathematics' is the de facto standard. 'Master of Advanced Study' is not. Under the proposed new regulations, one third of the students on this course will be awarded a nationally recognized degree which makes clear what work they have done, and the other two thirds will be awarded a non-standard and idiosyncratic degree for the same level of attainment instead. Surely it is unfair to divide students into sheep and goats in this way based on whether or not they were undergraduates at Cambridge.

Why not award all students with an M.Math. (Cantab), which would presumably not be achievable without a suitable level of previous study, and would therefore indicate a level of learning equivalent to four years' worth of study? Students who had been Cambridge undergraduates would be admitted to a Cambridge B.A. as well, which would surely be differentiation enough (no pun intended).

There is also a conflict with the Master of Studies Degree. An outsider would presume a Master of Advanced Study (M.A.St.) to be a higher qualification than just a Master of Studies (M.St.), whereas in fact the former would be an undergraduate degree which would not require a thesis, and the latter is a postgraduate degree requiring a thesis. This will become a bizarre eccentricity of the Cambridge degree system, with the proposed Master of Advanced Study Degree making it less comprehensible to an outsider, if it is introduced. We risk bewildering prospective students (and indeed ourselves). How will a prospective student graduate, for example, choose between applying to read for a Master of Advanced Studies Degree, an 'attractive option for students considering a research degree'; a Master of Philosophy, 'awarded for advanced study'; a Master of Research, 'for training in research'; a Master of Studies, 'awarded for postgraduate study'; or a Master of Science or of Letters, or a Doctor of Philosophy, for 'a significant contribution to scholarship'?

I suggest that careful thought is needed by the central bodies to create a clear and consistent structure of degrees and nomenclature (Bachelor, Master, Doctor is traditional), rather than just creating new degrees willy-nilly as they seem to be needed by the Faculties. For this reason, there seems to me to be no need to remove the list of specific degree titles from Statute B, and put them into a Schedule instead.

This will have the effect of allowing changes to Cambridge degrees, and (as admitted in the Report being discussed), the University would be able to 'establish new degrees', without consulting Her Majesty the Queen in Council. If we can put thought into creating a flexible, simple, and clear degree structure - the present Tripos system for undergraduates, with the amazingly flexible subject choice, and award of a simple B.A., is world-beating - there would very seldom be need to change the degree titles, and so no need to be able to add or remove degrees entirely autonomously. It is fitting that, having been granted the right to admit its members to degrees, the University should allow the monarch to retain a say in the actual degrees awarded. Although it may take a little longer, the present system functions perfectly adequately, and I do not see a strong case to change it, as there simply ought not to be circumstances in which the University needs to change its degree titles particularly quickly or often.

The University of Cambridge needs to make an important strategic decision: shall we try to adhere as closely as possible to the practice of other higher education institutions, and that recommended by external bodies, or shall we form the best degree system we can, according to our lights, here at Cambridge? I feel that it is time that this University did some joined-up thinking about its degrees and their titles, instead of struggling to keep up with trends and changes, this time in the form of a change to LEAs' regulations - LEAs will not normally fund a second undergraduate-level degree, and the special dispensation for Part IIIs has been removed, so once again this University's hand is forced into rushing to react and respond to outside pressure.

If we do wish to strive for conformity, we shall need to make sure that our qualifications adhere to the whims of HEFCE and the QAA, and conform to the Bologna process.

If we go down that route, we probably should take the degree titles out of Statute B, as it seems likely that they will have to change every couple of years as we try to keep up with the latest edict from the external policy makers who will really control the degrees we award. We should certainly need to stop allowing graduates to proceed to the degree of M.A., and I feel that we should be letting some of the flavour of this great, distinctive, and world-class University slip away in the process.

The other option is to be bold and make our own system, a balance which includes being guided by other universities' practices where appropriate, but without slavishly adhering to those guides if we have good reason to think that there is wisdom and merit in our own approach. 'Cambridge has the most comprehensive system of academical dress of any university in the world',1 and because of this it is copied worldwide as a basis for the systems of gowns in other universities. There is no reason that our system of degrees cannot with good planning also be definitive and world-leading. The Cambridge M.A. Degree grants membership of the Senate House to those upon whom it is conferred, and our degrees are conferred by Grace of the Regent House, with the consent of the sovereign. Cambridge is distinctive in many ways, and we ought to confer degrees in an elegant rather than a haphazard fashion. Let us leave Statute B alone until we have a consolidated Report before us which clears up the present mess of degree titles and puts in place a clear, simple, and distinctive system, which will stand the test of time.

1 Academical Dress of British and Irish Universities, G. W. Shaw, 1995.

Professor G. R. EVANS:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, 'The University shall have power to add or remove a degree to or from the list of those specified in Schedule L and shall specify in the schedule which degrees are primary degrees.'

I wonder whether this proposed Amendment to Statute B is wise or safe. This would downgrade an important aspect of the exercise of the University's degree-awarding powers from Statute to Ordinance. But would it end there? How long is it going to be before the proposal is put before the Regent House that it should delegate this power to the General Board under Statute C which allows it to make its own Ordinances; and the General Board, being a bit busy that term, hands it down to an administrative officer acting under the revised Statute K, 9? This could mean that those Continuing Education and Executive Education courses could move into the mainstream with worrying consequences and the Regent House would lose the opportunity for this important routine check:

The organization of the M.Math. and the M.A.St. Degree as proposed above should ensure that students remain fundable, even if additional student numbers do not lead to additional funding under HEFCE's funding model for teaching.

I doubt if it is wise or safe either to make decisions with long-term implications trusting that the goal-posts won't be moved. The ELQ (Equivalent and Lower Qualifications) débacle is surely a warning that certainties about the basis of funding and the categorization of students or courses for purposes of eligibility can change at any time at ministerial whim.

Professor T. W. KÖRNER:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as a prospective Chairman of the Faculty Board of Mathematics. Like most of the other mathematicians speaking today, I would not recognize a Statute B if it stung me on the nose and my remarks will be concerned only with those parts of the Report which directly concern mathematics. Again, like most of the other mathematicians speaking today, I took Part III after 1962 and would therefore benefit under the retrospectivity proposals. In order to speed things up, I hope that the Regent House will accept my declaration of interest as covering those other speakers.

Mathematics has been taught in Cambridge since the time when Medieval Studies were Current Affairs. Cambridge mathematicians have been resisting change for eight hundred years and, when they do ask for changes, the Regent House can be assured that those changes are requested not because they are desired but because they are necessary.

In 1769 the Smith Prize Examination was instituted in order to encourage the study of subjects more advanced than those in the standard undergraduate course. As part of the 1883 reforms, its position was taken by an exam called Part III and the Smith essay prize instituted. In 1886, Part III was renamed Part II (with the degree result determined by Part I) and, as part of the ever to be remembered 1909 reforms, this became Part II, Schedule B. Finally, in 1934, Part II, Schedule B became Part III again. Throughout all these name changes and various changes of regulations, the exam has retained its original purpose of providing the best students with an experience taking them well beyond normal undergraduate study.

The main changes since 1934 occurred during the early 1960s as part of a major round of reforms to all parts of the Mathematical Tripos. A rather curious arrangement by which students from outside could access Part III by taking the exams for Part II and Part III in the same term was removed so that such students need only take the Part III exams (but got no degree). At much the same time omnibus papers were replaced by separate examinations for each component. A further change was made in the 1970s when an essay option was introduced to replace one paper.

Only a small handful of students took the Smith's prize examination in the nineteenth century. When Karl Pearson took the examination in 1879, the examiners were Stokes, Maxwell, Cayley, and Todhunter and the examinees went on each occasion to the examiner's house, did a morning paper, had lunch there, and continued their work on the paper in the afternoon.

Since then, like the vegetable love of which the poet sings, the Mathematics Part III has grown very slowly but for a very long time. Today Part III attracts well over 200 students a year of whom about a third come from Cambridge and about a half come from outside the UK (this year from over 50 different universities). The Faculty provides over 1,500 hours of lectures covering mathematics from soup to nuts. (The membership of the Faculty ensures a particularly generous portion of nuts.)

As far as can be judged from internal and external indications, the slow increase in numbers has not been accompanied by any decline in standards. As evidence of this we may take comments of the external examiners, the steady stream of candidates from universities like Princeton, MIT, and Harvard or the survey of Part III students from 1990. Presumably the students who replied to the survey represent a biased sample, but it is cheering to observe that, of the 60 who replied, 24 occupied university posts, 4 other research posts, and a further 27 posts with a high mathematical component. Only fourteen did not complete a Ph.D.

In an ideal mathematics department, all the students would be cleverer than all the lecturers. In Part III, quite a few of the students are cleverer than quite a few of the lecturers. Carathéodory described Göttingen during the days of its glory as the 'seat of an international mathematical congress permanently in session'. With Part III, Cambridge has become the seat of an international mathematical kindergarten permanently in session.

It is related that a student who had begun to study with Euclid asked him 'But what shall I get from learning these things' at which Euclid told his slave to give the student a penny 'since he must make a gain out of everything he learns'. We must assume that both the Faculty and its students agree with Euclid since, for many years, success at Part III Mathematics entitled the examinee to nothing but glory. Unfortunately, local authorities required more than glory and, about thirty years ago, the 'Certificate of Advanced Study in Mathematics' was introduced to satisfy them. Since then several other British universities have introduced schemes along the lines of Part III entitling students after four years to a joint B.A. with M.Math. (I refer you to a source that, at least for our students, represents ultimate authority - the great Wikipedia itself.)

Times move on and a mere certificate will no longer satisfy civic pride. To satisfy funding authorities, both at home and abroad, it is proposed to give those students taking Part III in their fourth year at Cambridge a combined B.A. and M.Math. and those who join them for one year a Master of Advanced Study. As far as possible, nothing else about Part III Mathematics will be changed. The combined B.A. and M.Math. conforms to a standard pattern and title both in Cambridge and the UK. That standard pattern demands that (like certain objects in physics) the M.Math. should not exist as a separate entity but only in a bound state with a B.A., the combined degree representing the result of a four-year course.

The Master of Advanced Study, which represents the result of a nine-month course is a novelty, but one which several other major Cambridge departments intend to adopt.

These proposals have been widely canvassed within the two Mathematics Departments, among Directors of Studies, and among Senior Tutors. The absence of objections indicates this is the right thing to do. (Of course, it may turn out to have been the wrong thing to have done, in which case the Mathematics Faculty will try and learn from its mistakes and do something else.)

We also need to consider the position of those who took Part III before the proposed changes. It might generate some resentment among recent students if we did nothing and it will certainly generate some good will if we follow the precedent of the LL.M. The proposals follow the simplest course and declare that anyone placed on the list for Part III since 1962 (when the present arrangements for external candidates were introduced), 'not for honours' should have the right to proceed to a Master of Advanced Studies and anyone placed on the list 'for honours' since 1962 should have the right to proceed to a M.Math. If the University and the Privy Council expedite matters, the appropriate ceremony might form a high spot of the 800 celebrations.

This being Cambridge, we may be asked about the deep educational, intellectual, and administrative principles which underlie these proposals. Our educational principles are to support Part III, our intellectual principles are to support Part III, and our administrative principles are to support Part III. If (and it would only mildly surprise us) those who fund Part III students were to insist that, at the beginning of each year, the Chairman of the Faculty Board stood in a bucket of water and recited the Hunting of the Snark, then this task would be instantly added to my duties.

The new titles are required to protect the Mathematics Part III examination. The examination has to be protected in order to protect the course and the Part III course must be protected for the benefit of mathematics in Cambridge, the UK, and Europe. They represent just one more change to add to 250 years of changes. Those, both within the University and outside, who worship at the tidy but bleak shrine of consistency, will remain deeply unhappy that a course so different from any other should be allowed to continue along its distinguished but anomalous path, but I urge the Regent House to ignore these prim pedants and help retain one of the brightest jewels in the University's crown.

Miss V. R. NEALE:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am a mathematics student who came up through the Cambridge system. I am now doing a Ph.D. I have been in Cambridge for long enough to realize that the Faculty Board of Mathematics is not infallible and that Part III is not perfect. However, Part III is worth a ferocious defence and the proposals presented here seem the right way to defend it. I would like to make two specific points.

The 200 students doing Part III this year will follow your discussions with some interest but they are less important than the students in Cambridge and elsewhere who are in the middle of deciding whether to do Part III next year. I hope that the Regent House will bear in mind the need for urgency and clarity in its decisions.

One of the most valuable lessons that internal candidates learn from Part III is that the outside world contains young mathematicians who are cleverer and better informed than they are. I think that Cambridge students would be most unhappy if their achievements were celebrated in the Senate House and those of their colleagues from elsewhere were ignored. I urge you to support both the M.Math. and the M.A.St.


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I must first declare an interest regarding the proposed retrospectivity for the M.Math. Degree.

This Report is very different from other Reports proposing the establishment of new degrees. I shall not comment on the proposed changes to how new degrees may be established in future, but there are several elements missing from this Report that might normally be expected when a new degree is proposed.

What is the seniority of holders of the new degrees to be? The Report does not say; no amendment to the Order of Seniority of Graduates (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 187) is proposed. Will holders of the new degrees thereby qualify for membership of the Senate? Statute A, I, 6(c) specifically excludes the degrees of Master of Engineering and Master of Natural Sciences from providing this qualification. Parity with the other courses mentioned in paragraph 2 of the Report would dictate that the new degrees should not qualify their holders for membership of the Senate, but no amendment to Statute A, I, 6(c) is proposed, nor is it proposed to allow such exclusions to be specified in future without Privy Council consent.

What is the academical dress of the new degrees to be? This matter has received comment in past Discussions of new degrees; the present Report is silent, proposing no amendments to the Regulations for Academical Dress (Statutes and Ordinances, pp. 188-190). Reports proposing new degrees should also propose amendments to the Regulations for Admission to Degrees (Statutes and Ordinances, pp. 181-187), to specify various wording for each degree, and in the present case generally to treat the M.Math. Degree similarly to M.Eng. and M.Sci.; no such amendments are proposed, although paragraph 7 promises a separate Grace regarding retrospectivity.


First a declaration of interest. I passed Part III Mathematics in the academical year 1977-78, and hence I stand to be eligible for a M.Math. if this Report is approved.

As well as having taken Part III, I have taught Part III courses for nearly twenty years, and I also been Course Director. Possibly the biggest gripe of Part III students is that, although Part III is at the upper end of difficulty for a Master's course, students do not get a Master's Degree. Indeed prior to 1978-79 students did not get anything, now at least they get a Certificate of Advanced Study in Mathematics. The special nature of this Certificate is recognized in Cambridge by including it in Statutes and Ordinances in the chapter on 'Preliminary Examinations and Tripos Examinations' (rather than in the Chapter dealing with other Certificates i.e. the chapter on 'Degrees, Diplomas, and Other Qualifications'). However under the national Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme, 'Certificate' has other meanings. A Certificate of Higher Education is the equivalent of the first year of an undergraduate degree, while a Postgraduate Certificate is about a third of a Master's Degree, neither of which are anywhere close to the standard of difficulty of Part III (indeed one might argue that some of the other Certificates awarded by Cambridge are somewhat less challenging than Part III). This all leads to potential confusion, especially when writing references for Part III students. Part III is at the level of a Master's course, so it would seem fitting to award a Master's Degree.

It was for these reasons that I signed the Report as a member of Council. However, since publication of the Report a useful discussion on the newsgroup ucam.change.governance has identified at least one slight infelicity in the Report (in the light of Gill Evans's earlier remarks maybe I ought make this a frank admission of total failure). As Joseph Myers has just pointed out, according to Statute A, I, 6(c), all persons who hold any Doctor's Degree and any Master's Degree other than the degree of Master of Engineering or Master of Natural Sciences shall be members of the Senate. Given that in some sense the Master of Mathematics would be similar to the Master of Engineering or the Master of Natural Sciences an initial reaction might be to add Master of Mathematics to the list of excluded Master's. However, then you would be left with the inconsistency of Cambridge undergraduates who took Part III would not qualify for membership of the Senate, but students from elsewhere who took an identical course in one year would qualify. On the other hand, adding the Master of Advanced Study to the excluded list would also seem inconsistent given that the award of other postgraduate Masters results in membership of the Senate. I hope the Council will consider amending Statute A, I, 6(c) to no longer exclude Master's of Engineering or Master's of Natural Sciences from membership of the Senate.

Finally, can I pick up one of the earlier criticisms concerning the proliferation of names, and that criticism I think is possibly based on an incorrect premise: it is not clear to me that funding agencies are either sensible or right-thinking.


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, firstly concerning Professor Körner's earlier comments I feel I should at least declare myself to fit the working definition of mathematician.

I do not have strong views regarding whether those satisfying the examiners in Part III of the Mathematical Tripos should thereby be entitled to supplicate for an additional degree. I do, however, have a few comments on related proposals or comments in the Report, and a few observations of technicalities.

It seems to me that a few of the proposals of the Report do not quite get correct implementation in the amendments to Statutes and Ordinances.

Paragraph 7 of the Report states the intention to 'make it possible for those students who have attained the honours standard in Part III of the Mathematical Tripos from 1962 onwards to supplicate for one of the new degrees'. However, the proposed regulations do not contain a dated cut-off - and indeed, neither do the actual regulations for any of the other degrees mentioned as precedents, whatever the reality of eligibility may be - so it may in fact prove perfectly satisfactory to leave this part of the draft as it is.

It seems to me that there is a disparity of retrospective treatment in these proposals between those who were candidates for honours and those who were not candidates for honours in Part III of the Mathematical Tripos. Is there any particular reason for not allowing those who were not candidates for honours but who have satisfied the examiners in the past to be permitted to supplicate for the proposed Master of Advanced Study Degree? I do not see how this is affected by the legislative part of the proposals. This could be affected by a provision in Statute T, similar to the LL.M. arrangements.

No consequential amendment is required to the regulations for Presentation and Admissions of Candidates for Degrees in order to give effect to the last part of paragraph 7 of the Report, proposing not allowing candidates for the Master of Mathematics Degree to supplicate for the degree at General Admission. However, this will have the effect of preventing those who wish to supplicate for the Bachelor of Arts and Master of Mathematics Degrees simultaneously from doing so at General Admission, which is inconsistent with the situation for those wishing to supplicate simultaneously for the Bachelor of Arts and Master of Engineering Degrees, for example. It would be relatively easy to add to Regulation 14 a provision that nobody may supplicate solely for the Master of Mathematics Degree at General Admission to resolve the issue of retrospective degrees, whilst simultaneously adding the Master of Mathematics Degree to parts (a) and (b) of Regulation 14.

As already mentioned, there need to be consequential amendments to the order of seniority of graduates and to the academical dress regulations.

Regarding the comments in paragraph 5 of the Report on the nomenclature of the degrees and the Master of Philosophy Degree, I would observe that the regulations for the Master of Philosophy Degree allow a number of other routes to the degree not involving research. It would seem to me that the Council and the General Board are by their argument effectively proposing the abolition of such routes to the degree. If so, have the appropriate Faculty Boards been approached for comment on such an argument?

It would also seem to me that, even if one accepts the argument that the Master of Philosophy Degree should follow a primarily research-based endeavour, this does not explain the need for separately constituted taught Masters' Degrees. Indeed, I think the Council and General Board have conceded the point that such separate degrees are not necessary by allowing multiple routes to the Master of Advanced Study Degree. Why could the aims of this Report not be accomplished whilst addressing 'concerns expressed by certain members of the Regent House about increasing numbers of Masters' Degrees', by instead creating something akin to the Master of Advanced Study Degree but for those proceeding via an honours route, and suppressing the separate degrees of Master of Natural Sciences and Master of Engineering (and not implementing the proposal for a separate Master of Mathematics Degree)? Such a course of action would implement all the aims of the Report, whilst still preserving the situation in Oxford and Cambridge whereby a degree is a grade of membership of an institution, not merely a qualification (which is why I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree following successful examination in mathematics, and why shortly I shall supplicate for a Master of Arts Degree having taken no further specific qualifying examination). This would still fit the QAA's Framework for Higher Education Qualifications, but would also respect the spirit of the structure of the Cambridge degree system.

Finally, to paragraph 10 of the Report. This is only peripherally related to the main thrust of the Report, but is sufficiently important that perhaps it could have featured more prominently in the Report's title. My view is that amending degrees is so complicated in terms of consequential amendments (as evinced by my list of problems with the current proposal, which took me only a few hours to obtain), that it would be unwise to have enabling legislation on this matter, as it might encourage those using it to make less than ideal subordinate legislation in order to avoid having to go to the Privy Council with better proposals. A part of me wonders whether this paragraph is the result of frustration at not being able to get through quickly a proposal to deal with the current matter in front of us in order to resolve a funding issue. That would be a bad reason to make such a regulation, and would be a little self-defeating if inadequate scrutiny resulted in a serious problem with the degree structure of the University.

Given the number of amendments that may be required to the proposals of this Report in order to make them consistent with our current degree system, might I suggest that any revised proposal not go to Grace immediately, but to be subject to some extra scrutiny with the aim of avoiding a costly ballot should an amendment be required? Ideally this scrutiny would be in the form of another discussed Report, but at the very least the Council and General Board could check with speakers at this Discussion that any revised proposals deal with the technical concerns they have raised (if not other concerns).

Dr N. DATTA (read by Professor M. HYLAND):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Committee of the Director of Studies in Mathematics, of which I am the Chairman, strongly endorses the proposals for the Master of Mathematics and Master of Advanced Study Degrees and hopes that they will be implemented quickly and fully.

Professor M. HYLAND:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, there has been very wide consultation about these proposals. There can't have been anyone who has any interest in this matter who has not known that these things have been considered for some time.

At least some of the comments that I have heard today arise from misunderstandings about the material realities of mathematics as taught within this University or of the proposal itself. I can only suppose that those misunderstandings will be met in response to this Discussion.

I should like for myself to pay tribute to the Education Section which has developed these proposals for the Faculty. They have given us every support and have represented the University at its very best.

Report of the General Board, dated 3 December 2008, on the establishment of a Professorship of Molecular Pathology (Reporter, p. 343).

No remarks were made on this Report.

Report of the Council, dated 15 December 2008, on Homerton College (Reporter, p. 357).


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as Chairman of the Trustees of Homerton College to welcome the Council's Report and to express our great pleasure at this mark of confidence in the College. The Trustees for their part are fully confident that they can now hand over the governance of the College to its Principal and Fellows.

I spoke in this place in October 1976 in support of the proposal that Homerton should be recognized as an Approved Society of the University. The acceptance of that proposal by the University had much to do with the leadership of the then Principal, the late Alison Shrubsole. Today we have a further step under the present Principal, Kate Pretty. Homerton has been particularly well served over the years by the leadership of its Heads of House.

Change and development have been very evident at Homerton over the last 30 years, but I still find parts of the University where Homerton is not well known. A few of those perhaps whose memories go back 40 years or more, and possibly those whose journeys up Hills Road might now be by ambulance, continue to refer to Homerton as a Teacher Training College. A good one they say, because it is in Cambridge.

Homerton's history can be traced back to 1730 in London. It has been known as Homerton since 1824 and the College moved to Cambridge in 1894 into premises vacated by the closure of Cavendish College. It has therefore been a collegiate institution in Cambridge for longer than ten existing Colleges who were granted their Royal Charters some years ago. Over the last decade, Homerton has successfully built up its undergraduate admissions across the range of Tripos subjects; has developed a lively graduate community; has elected Junior Research Fellows by annual competition; and has formed a Fellowship which now stands at 50. It is the largest College in Cambridge in terms of its junior membership of 1,050; standing second to Trinity in its number of undergraduates, and second to Darwin in its number of postgraduates.1

Altogether, Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Homerton is a College of stature able to pull its weight within the University. I commend this Report to the Regent House.

1 Reporter Special No. 4 - Student Numbers 2007-08 (9 October 2008)

Professor G. R. EVANS (read by Mrs S. BOWRING):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, two main considerations matter when Cambridge has to decide whether to recognize a new College. Both bear on the welfare of its future students. One is whether it can offer them an education to a Cambridge standard ('educational provision'); the other is whether it will survive to the ends of their courses.

The problem with Homerton is its size. That does not come cheap, and there is a worrying note about possible future need for bailing out by other Colleges.

The Council has noted that currently, Homerton College's financial resources fall somewhat short of the minimum endowment for a College of its size and composition as defined by the Colleges Fund Committee. This is owing to recent sharp changes in market valuations of investments since the last published accounts of the College, when the College's endowment was sufficient to meet the Colleges Fund Committee's requirement. The College is clearly well-managed and appears unlikely to need support from the Colleges Fund.

Reliance is placed on 'the potential value of some land suitable for development, the planning status (and therefore exact valuation) of which is subject to the outcome of continuing planning procedures'. This does not seem a good time to rely on property development for one's financial security.

The other warning note one would want to sound is about the potential unbalancing effect of a giant College in the University's collegiate life.

Professor D. M. THOMPSON:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am happy to urge members of the Regent House to support the Council's recommendation that Homerton College be granted full collegiate status within the University. As Vice-Chairman of the Trustees of Homerton College I have an interest in this proposal; but I speak as a Trustee nominated by the United Reformed Church, rather than the University - a position I have held since 1981. The four Trustees nominated by the Church whole-heartedly support the proposal and welcome it as the natural fulfillment of Homerton's development since 1976.

The College brings to the University a significant tradition in its own right. Tracing its origin directly to a decision of the Board of Education of the Congregational Union in England and Wales to establish a training college for teachers in 1850, the Trust is successor to one of the old Dissenting Academies in this country, founded (as Sir David has said) in 1730, which in 1850 became part of New College, London - alas, now closed. When the College moved to Cambridge in 1894 - the first nonconformist institution to be set up in Cambridge - it was mixed, and only after its move to Cambridge did it become, for some eighty years, a college for women only. Homerton also brings to the University an additional body of support across the country: I was myself taught in my first year at junior school by a teacher who had trained at Homerton, and she first made me aware of Cambridge University!

The College has changed profoundly since its formal convergence with the University in 2001, when the College came together with the Faculty and Institute of Education. I still find that some of my colleagues are not aware of the fact that Homerton now admits students to read for most Triposes. The performance of its students in securing first-class honours and University prizes is steadily improving. As a Director of Studies at Homerton as well, I can testify to the enthusiasm and quality of its current undergraduates. Homerton's assets in land and buildings, run with great professionalism, together with a fine Principal and body of Fellows, make its future secure - for which reasons I reject the remarks just made by Professor Evans. This further step in the University's 800th year will be a fitting climax to more than a century's work in tertiary education.


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as Principal of Homerton College to welcome the Council's Report on behalf of the Fellowship. The Chairman of Trustees, Sir David Harrison, has given a brief description of the College's history, followed up by that of Professor Thompson. I should like to add a little detail about my experience of Homerton since I took up office in 1991.

At that time, Homerton was regarded as the pre-eminent teacher-training college in England. Its distinguished staff were highly regarded nationally for their expertise in teacher training and education but the College had no research rating, although as an Higher Education Institution, independently funded by HEFCE, it was eligible for research funding. In 1992, 28 per cent of the Homerton staff were returned in the RAE gaining a grade that put them about halfway up the research rankings for all HEIs, despite the College's small size. By 1996, the number of research active staff had risen to 84 per cent, the highest rise across the sector between those two RAE exercises, and by 2001, the year of convergence, when the University took over the contract for teacher training and most of the Homerton staff, both the College and the School of Education shared a rating of 5. During the whole of this period of research intensification, when Homerton staff were recruited to chairs in London and Bristol, the College remained top of the Ofsted league tables for teacher-training - a remarkable achievement over ten years and a tribute to the staff, many of whom become Homerton's first Fellows. Thus, at the point of convergence in 2001, Homerton was able to substantially strengthen the University's School of Education, which has gone on to become one of the most significant of the University's Social Science Departments.

Thus in 2001, the College set itself the goal of moving from being a monotechnic Approved Society, governed by a Board of Trustees, to a full Cambridge College, admitting undergraduates to most Triposes and building a body of graduate students to enable progression for its own undergraduates and to enhance diversification. The Fellowship has grown appropriately to support these students and the College has benefited hugely from the strength of its JRF programme.

Homerton students too deserve commendation. Between 2001 and 2007, there was no year in which there was not a pioneering cohort experiencing new degrees or new triposes, without the benefit of an older peer group to mentor and advise. They have established a remarkable sense of community - characterized in a national competition as the 'friendliest' Oxbridge College - with a strong sense of public service and collegiality. This phase of development has taken seven years, and is built on the strong foundations of the previous decade.

In 1991, Homerton's buildings were in a poor condition with an estimated £11m of expenditure needed for their repair. Not all undergraduates could live in. Since then the whole of the College has been re-roofed and refurbished, all undergraduates can be housed, many in new accommodation with ensuite rooms, and there is a day-conference centre and a new Library and teaching rooms, some leased to the University's Faculty of Education, which shares the Homerton site. Moreover, the College is not in debt and has substantial reserves. In comment upon Professor Evans's assertions about giant status may I say it is news to much of the University that we are not already a full College. I do not believe that the University will notice the ingestion of Homerton in any way other than to give us a self-governing community.

Finally, the 25-acre site contains some of the most beautiful trees and gardens in Cambridge and is a green oasis beyond the stony suburbs of the Hills Road railway bridge. It is a College to be proud of, which is why both the staff and the students welcome the Council's Report on our application to become the University's newest College.

Report of the Council, dated 24 December 2008, on the construction of a new building for the Genetics Field Station (Reporter, p. 377).

No remarks were made on this Report.

Report of the General Board, dated 24 December 2008, on the establishment of a Professorship of Clinical Microbiology (Reporter, p. 378).

No remarks were made on this Report.

Report of the General Board, dated 24 December 2008, on the establishment of a Readership in the Department of Chemistry (Reporter, p. 379).

No remarks were made on this Report.

< Previous page ^ Table of Contents Next page >

Cambridge University Reporter 28 January 2009
Copyright © 2011 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.