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Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 20 January 1998. A Discussion was held in the Senate-House of the following Reports, etc.:

 The Annual Reports of the Council and the General Board (Special No. 9).


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, one of our Pro-Vice-Chancellors accused me in a letter to the Chancellor of playing 'hardball'; or perhaps that was a compliment. Hardball is what I must play now. The other said disparagingly in a similar letter that I seemed to think it my duty to be a watchdog for the Regent House. I believe that to be indeed the duty the Statutes lay upon me - and upon him while he is a member of the Council.

 The Report of the Council gives bland reassurance that all is well in the running of the University. You will not be surprised that I am here to tell you that it is not. I have been shocked again and again as a new member of the Council by the way things of huge importance can be wrapped up in a moment without adequate discussion and decisions taken by committees, or texts drafted by administrative officers, rubber-stamped with impatient dismissal of queries raised upon them. Another of the letters to the Chancellor about me said (again in defiance of the Statutes) that I should not be questioning what committees in principle answerable to the Council had decided. I shall continue to do so.

 'The Council continued to work closely with the General Board'. As a member of the Council I have not the faintest idea what the General Board are doing. We do not see their agenda or their minutes.

 'The Executive Committee, originally intended as a body dealing with more routine Council matters, is now available for specific tasks, including the preparation of business for the Council.' I have been trying unsuccessfully to penetrate the workings of the Committee on Committees and get the answer to the question how people get into positions of power within the University so that the same names appear repeatedly on the crucial committees, including the Finance Committee, the Resources Committee, the Planning Committee, listed in the Report. I can quite see that no-one will want me upon a committee because with me comes trouble. But every committee needs its asker of awkward questions if its activities are to be kept within bounds. And I cannot see how it can be good for a University constitutionally a democracy to be run by oligarchy.

 'This slight amelioration allowed the Council and the General Board to prepare a budget and forward forecast.' What do you think actually happens? We see a fait accompli. Any query of the policy underlying the figures is likely to be voted down; any attempt to take the proposals back to the drawing-board is loudly resisted. These decisions are taken behind the scenes and de facto not by the Council and the General Board at all but by committees.

 We constructed a strategic plan. That is to say, we saw a text and made some comments and a few revisions were conceded and the plan went off to HEFCE.

 The harassment code is mentioned. You just try invoking it. I was not offered the promised advice and support. But the University Solicitor wrote off to my colleagues to gather evidence against me, the comp-lainant. Those whose behaviour I complained of got free legal help.

 Watch out for HERA. This is no goddess but a scheme to break down what we do into listed 'competencies'. We read in the General Board's Report that, when this process has gone a little further, 'the Board will resume their review of the structure of pay and academic-related offices, and they will decide how they wish to grade University offices'. It will be sensible of members of the Regent House to keep an eye on developments.

 The outcome of the RAE is celebrated in the Report. But the triumphant figures are kept well separated in the Report from the rewarding of academic staff, who generated those figures, by promotions and salaries to match.

 I must come back to a matter on which I and others have several times raised concerns: the machinery for administering the scheme for awards to Professors. The Board of Scrutiny recommended that a small committee should be established to administer this scheme. That has been done. But the mode of appointment to that committee remains unclear. And the committee is to be advisory in character and the decisions on the making of awards will continue to rest with the Vice-Chancellor. That means that there remains no constraint upon the exercise of what is by definition thus a personal patronage. This, while the rank and file struggle helplessly for the tiny number of fresh promotions, and we continue to be told (though less convincingly since the Notice on the outcome of the consultation exercise proposed to fund the promotion of 40 per cent of us to Senior Lectureships) that the University cannot afford to give us the titles we deserve.

 The appeal procedure for students needs to be looked at, together with the whole system of student discipline and the way we run the University courts. That affects staff, too, for a student appeal or a student complaint may well involve criticism of a member of staff. The Council's working party needs to take the wider remit on board. It has kept me off that working party, although few could have brought more practical experience or commitment to it.

 'Refocusing of activities has continued with a move towards a market-related strategy to complement project-specific fund raising.' Could we have that in plain English and the rest in the form of a more honest reflection of the muddled, if generally well-meaning, processes by which the Council scrapes through its business?

 I turn now to the General Board's Report. I have several concerns. The first is our 'weddings' with our funders. In the General Board's Report (paragraph 3) we find the following breathtaking statement: 'Cambridge scholars do not work in isolation from each other or the academic community throughout the world. Their many and growing links with industry, commerce, and the wider community shape the academic programme.'

 In the Council's Report there is more on 'forging useful links with industry' and 'commitment to the creation of an environment that promotes industrial collaboration'. 'One manifestation of this is the growing number of embedded-company units or laboratories.' These 'involve company personnel working within University Departmental space. In such cases the potential industrial partner is seeking a long-term special working relationship and is prepared to pay a premium in recognition of the quality of Departmental research.' The Council's Report lists the 'benefits to the University' as 'funding of infrastructure, a closeness to future industrial direction, and the increased potential of fully-funded collaborative research (with negotiated property and revenue-sharing arrangements).' There is a list of companies with which Cambridge has recently entered into such marriages: Hitachi, Toshiba, Rolls Royce, Glaxo-Wellcome, and Microsoft.

 But nothing is said about the disadvantages to the University and to scholarship. The creation of such a relationship makes the University more dependent upon its industrial partner than its partner is upon the University, for the partner can walk off with the money at any time, and can almost certainly take with it those researchers employed by the University who do not want their work abruptly terminated and who will welcome the offer of its continuance in the employ of the industrial partner. Who gets custody of the children is a question which refers to the intellectual property in these enterprises as well.

 Moreover - and this is showing up in multi-funder situations involving not only a university and industry, but statutory funding bodies and charitable funding bodies as co-funders - there are serious problems about the ways these hybrid enterprises are to be run. They may contain within them a mixture of individuals who are employees of the University and others who are employees of the funding body itself, or of the charity or of the industrial partner. One of our Pro-Vice-Chancellors retains his high and influential office while he heads up the new Microsoft enterprise as its employee. I have told him frankly that this does not seem to me to be 'on'.

 Boards set up to oversee the whole may in principle be designed to have a role confined to that of making academic judgements about the quality and direction, and priorities of the research. But to that end they may wish to seek managerial control. Or the managerial level may try to take over the framing of the policy which ought to be an academic judgement. And indeed, can it be a purely academic judgement, when (for example) a pharmaceutical company funds research into a new drug, does not like the results obtained by the academic research, and causes them to be suppressed? It happens. It is far from uncommon for a researcher in one of these mixed-bag enterprises to have to hold his hand on publication and refuse to answer questions from fellow-scholars until a patent is through. Scientists will recognize all these symptoms of infection by commercial priorities and failure to keep squarely in frame an awareness of the links between funding and control.

 My second concern over the General Board's Report is with the markers put down on the vexed promotions questions. There is talk of 'professional, committed members of staff who are appropriately trained, respected, and rewarded'. That is presumably intended to refer to those of us who are already here. I do not think I need to underline the irony of the remarks about respect and reward.

 But there is also talk of buying-in for the next RAE: the need for 'additional staff for the full duration of a future exercise'. 'The Board have also reviewed the value of the measures taken to optimize the University's 1996 submission, especially proleptic appointments, new offices, and additional personal promotions. They have agreed that additional funding must be carefully targeted in future, primarily to support institutions whose ratings might be improved.' So your chances of promotion will be greater if your department made a poor showing in the RAE. Is it mischievous to suggest that Education should do well? And funds will be found to buy us more active researchers while those already here continue to go unrewarded.

 An aside: in January and March 1997 'meetings took place of Cambridge officers who had been members of the 1996 assessment panels. These were chaired by the Vice-Chancellor and allowed the Cambridge members an opportunity, within confidentiality guidelines set by the Funding Councils, to express their views on the national operation of the exercise and on any conclusions which might be drawn locally.' Is this not taking unfair advantage of our having such members? Is this something we want the media to notice? If it is not something we can be very proud of, ought we to be doing it at all?

 Paragraph 55 looks at the justification for making special payments to attract applicants who are 'leaders of the academic profession to Professorships and Headships of Departments'. Should we not look closer to home?

 'Temporary upgradings, i.e. the establishment of a senior office for a named individual to provide for the promotion of the latter', need a very close look. Special- offer Chairs and Readerships coupled with specially preferred incumbents are a road down which patronage and favouritism can cavort merrily.

 'It is…intended to extend the planning process to allow the views of academic institutions to influence more directly the content of the 1998 Allocations Report.' May we have the Regent House in on this, please, not just Faculty Boards and the Councils of the Schools?

 I will refrain from speaking my mind fully on the University's Opportunity 2000 record. It is frequently said that the University is short of senior women. It has a number whose seniority it is not willing to recognize. The Springboard 2000 event last year was instructive. The television crew, interviewing me the day before, told me it would be able to talk to a woman Professor at that event. They were struck that they could not interview me at it because I was not invited to be there (although I was already a member of the Council). I offered to talk to the various groups attending the new courses designed to encourage women throughout the University to feel that they can take an active part in affairs here, and become full working members of the community. My offer was refused. I said that there could scarcely be a better 'role-model' or a more publicly visible one. That got me nowhere. So the Opportunity 2000 policy in reality is to make regretful noises about the treatment of women here while seeking to hide away one woman who has become conspicuously active in speaking out not only, or even primarily, for women but for reform and accountability across the board in the University and outside it.

 Finally: the points made by Mr Justice Sedley in his judgment have not been 'addressed by the Board' in any form of which candidates have been told, though 'legislation affecting our interests' is flowing out of the Old Schools to committees. It should be borne in mind that I can ask for the stay to be lifted at any time before eternity.

Promotions to senior academic offices (p. 246).


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I rise solely to protest at the abuse of the procedures of the Regent House by the General Board and at the complicity of the Council in permitting it. This is no Notice but a fully fledged Report containing proposals, and by the conventions of the House it should therefore have been a signed Report. Moreover, by Grace 1(b) of 4 December 1996, as amended, the Regent House required the General Board to report to it by the end of the Michaelmas Term 1997 (Reporter, 1996-97, p. 485). When the wording of the amendment to that Grace appeared on the Senate-House notice-board I dropped a line to Professor Newland, one of the promoters, warning him only half in jest that the administrators would probably try to take advantage of the fact that he had spelt 'report' with a small 'r'. On the face of it that is what has now happened. Were this not Cambridge, such deviousness would be unbelievable. The right of the General Board to report to the University is granted by Statute A, VI, 2; the duty to do so on this occasion was imposed by Grace 1(b). In the Statutes the word 'report' is spelt with a capital when it is a noun but not when it is a verb. In Grace 1(b) the word was a verb and means exactly the same as the verb in Statute A, VI, 2. When the General Board does report to the University the Report opens with the words, 'The General Board beg leave to report to the University', 'report' being spelt with a small 'r'. The central bodies are in breach of an Order (Statute A, II, 1) of the governing body (Statute A, III, 1 and 3).

 At the Discussion on 15 October 1996 I commented adversely on the fact that the policy (as opposed to the procedure) which has been adopted on so-called promo-tions with such disastrous results for the University had never received the sanction even of the members of the General Board through the normal procedure of signed Reports, let alone that of the Regent House as governing body. I reject with contempt the Board's defence contained in the Council's reply of 25 November 1996; it is intolerable to be told that by failing to oppose Professorships and Readerships for named individuals one has implicitly approved the policy.

 It remains for me to explain why this insidious practice of proposing a policy by Notice, unknown to earlier generations, is sufficiently sinister for me to take the trouble to inveigh against it. The only possible reason for a Notice which is to be discussed not being in the form of a Report is to prevent the names of the members of the Board who agree with it from being known; and the only possible reason for that is to suppress the names of those who do not agree with it. Without a knowledge of those members who support the policy in the Notice it will be reasonable to speculate that some do not, even that a majority do not.

 Administrators do not like to allow minorities the opportunity of dissent. I learnt this during the many years I spent on the Council and the General Board. One of the injustices I succeeded in eradicating was the Council's practice of including in Notices replying to remarks made in Discussion modified proposals which were not agreed by the whole Council and which a minority might have wished to oppose publicly. It was therefore decided that wherever a Notice contained such modifications it had to be signed by the members who agreed with it. Putting forward new proposals in an unsigned Notice has the same unacceptable feature but to a much greater degree.

 For the record, I will give the names of the shrinking violets who have collectively approved this Notice. The Council must now ascertain which of them has done so severally and whether any of them avails himself of the time-honoured right of a note of dissent. They must publish their findings in their reply. I do not include the name of the Vice-Chancellor because by custom he signs every Council or General Board Report. The other members of the Board at the time were Dr A. D. B. Poole, Professor Mackintosh, Dr Pretty, Professor Weiss, Professor Carroll, Professor Mellor, Professor Minson, Dr Good, Dr Leake, Professor G. Brown, and Professor Pepper.


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak with some reluctance in this Discussion for two reasons: one is that I have been a candidate for promotion; the other is that it has not been customary for members of the Council to speak in Discussions on General Board matters. However, in this case the General Board have indicated that they wish all views to be expressed in this Discussion.

 I have three main comments to make. The first is that I think it has not been sufficiently recognized that underlying this whole question is the matter of pay, and in particular the consequences of a relentless depression in university teachers' salaries. I do not believe that the anxieties felt in the University about promotions could be settled by a change of title alone, and I was glad to see that the evidence from questions 4-6 seemed to show that I was not alone. A former Secretary General once said to me that he felt that we should all be called Professor - I often am so called overseas, and even in other universities - but it would leave the basic issue of remuneration untouched. Once again this year we are being told that the public sector must set an example to the rest of the economy; we have been doing that for nearly twenty years with very little effect, except upon ourselves. There was a time when the maximum of the University Lecturer's scale was a reasonable career salary; nowadays many of us could not even afford to buy our own homes, if we were newly appointed. The consequence of this has been to intensify both the pressure on the promotions procedure and the feelings of disappointment, frustration, or anger on the part of the unsuccessful. The realization that other universities have been using promotion to Senior Lecturer, even at a late stage in a university teacher's career, as a way of improving that person's pension entitlement, has significantly changed the internal perception of the advantages of the Cambridge system. For this reason I welcome the proposals set out in paragraphs 22-27 of the Notice.

 The second comment relates to the relative assessment of the significance to be attached to College teaching. This is a complex matter and it comes at a delicate moment. Although there is an agreed scale of payments for supervision, there are various ways in which Colleges can offer additional inducements either to their own Fellows or to selected other persons, which means that there are considerable variations in the rewards attaching to Fellowships in different Colleges. The opportunities for College teaching vary according to one's subject and one's specialism. There is also a difference between the extent to which University Officers undertake College teaching in Arts subjects and in Science subjects. These factors distort the needs of Colleges for Fellows in particular subjects and the willingness of University Officers to accept election at particular Colleges. Since the relaxation of restrictions on the amount of College teaching that Readers and Professors may undertake some years ago, the distinction between research and teaching expectations of those in such positions has been eroded. For this reason I am not convinced by the Board's argument in paragraph 20; and I would abolish the restrictions on College teaching for Professors and Readers. This would recognize the fundamental reality, that the amount of teaching such persons do is determined by Faculty staffing levels in the subject area concerned and their own availability. It is interesting that the Yes responses to question 2 of Part C of the Questionnaire on excluding College teaching from the assessment were outnumbered by the Noes and No Replies taken together. Nevertheless supervisions remain an essential feature of the Cambridge system. Moreover, for the sake of presenting a consistent picture to the outside world of how and why we value what we do, it seems to me important that the significance of College teaching should be acknowledged in our promotion procedures.

 My primary reason for believing this, however, is the third point I wish to make. I believe that the greatest sense of the injustice of the present system does not come primarily from a sense of personal dis-appointment, and it has not really been captured by the questions the General Board have asked in their review. It comes from the feeling that the best way to be sure of securing promotion is to avoid taking Faculty or College responsibilities other than the minimum teaching stint, either by manifesting or feigning incompetence at tasks like being a member or officer of a Faculty Board or Degree Committee, or by declining to direct studies or be a College Tutor. Even the supervision of Graduate Students is not always popular, which surely must count in assessment of contribution to research in its broadest sense. The avoidance of such tasks provides the time to do the research and publish it, which wins promotion and also improves the Research Assessment rating. In recent years this has been tending to intensify the burden on those University Officers who are willing to undertake Faculty administrative duties and College teaching. If the new promotions procedure continues to provide a disincentive for such activities - for example, by the stipend differential between Readers and Senior Lecturers proposed in paragraph 19 - then it will not be too long before our much-prized College teaching system will collapse: and it will deserve to do so.


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the proposal to introduce Senior Lectureships has the potential to be very beneficial to the University, allowing as it would promotion to those who have made a significant contribution to teaching, administration, and research within the University, rather than reserving promotion for only those who have made an outstanding contribution to research. As Professor Ted Wragg pointed out in the Times Higher Education Supplement, the expansion of numbers in Higher Education, without significant loss in the quality of provision, was only possible because universities have been able to draw on a large number of experienced and dedicated staff. It is, therefore, fitting that this University should consider how such staff should be rewarded. However, if its scheme is to work successfully careful thought needs to be given both to the principles that underpin the scheme and how the scheme is to be implemented.

 Dealing first of all with the principles. If the scheme is to work successfully I believe its main principle must be that the grade of Senior Lecturer is one that all individuals should expect to achieve, if they do their job well.

 This does not mean that it should not be a significant promotion - it should be - but achieving it should rely on meeting the criteria laid down for promotion rather than competing with others for a small number of promotions. Individuals who fail to meet the criteria should be given clear advice on how to improve their work so that they can meet the criteria. All individuals who reach the top of the Lecturer scale should be automatically considered for promotion, which would involve a thorough appraisal of their work, and, if they meet the criteria, they should be promoted to Senior Lecturer.

 I firmly believe that if a more 'competitive' approach is adopted, as is implied by the Report, where only some will win promotion and many others lose, then all the scheme will have done is create yet more discontent within the University. If individuals who have been doing their jobs well are denied advancement to Senior Lecturer simply because somebody else may have been doing the job marginally better, then the scheme is likely to achieve only the demoralization of individuals with the resulting lack of motivation and commitment.

 Turning now to implementation. The Report suggests that the scheme currently in operation for discretionary payments should be adopted for determining Senior Lectureships. It seems to me that little thought can have been given to this because many of the features of the discretionary payments scheme are clearly inappropriate.

 For example it is suggested that only the previous three years' work should be taken into account. This is clearly nonsense. Many of the tasks which count in the promotion procedure - Chairs of Examiners, membership of central committees, involvement in developing new courses, or new degrees, etc., are not activities that individuals do all the time. It is absurd that somebody who is currently, for example, a Chair of a Board of Examiners should be deemed more worthy of promotion than somebody who was a Chair of Examiners five years ago. Clearly the whole contribution made by the individual over their career in Cambridge has to be taken into account if we are to have a fair system.

 Another aspect of the proposed scheme that puzzles me is what is meant by innovation in teaching, and why innovative teaching (whatever it is) should be valued above non-innovative teaching (whatever that might be) even if it is excellent. Surely the point is that we should value good teaching however it is delivered.

 But by far the most serious objection to simply using the scheme devised for discretionary payments is that it has discriminated against women.

 The figures published in the Reporter under the Opportunity 2000 scheme show that, in proportion to those eligible for such awards, women gain far fewer of them than would be expected from their numbers and men far more. In my capacity as President of CAUT I wrote to the Secretary-General expressing concern about the situation. The matter has, I believe been discussed by the General Board but as far as I am aware there has been no systematic investigation of why the scheme discriminates against women.

 This does raise serious questions. The statistics also show that women are appointed to academic posts, in all areas within the University, in the proportion in which they apply, or in a slightly greater proportion. One assumes, therefore, that they are the best candidates. Why then do women not get discretionary awards in proportion to those who are eligible?

 It seems to me that there are two possible explanations for this, though there may be others. First of all, women find it less easy to work successfully in the academic environment than men, such that over the years they do become less well qualified than men, and therefore fail to meet the criteria needed for the award of a discretionary payment. It is possible that some women, particularly if they have taken maternity leave, may have published less than their male colleagues; discretionary payments, however, are primarily about teaching and administration. Is it really the case that women fail to meet the criteria in teaching and administration in greater numbers than men? Or is it the case, as rumour has it, that, in giving discretionary awards, publications and research count far more than teaching and administration, and that women do more of these tasks than do men?

 Secondly, women are systematically discriminated against when it comes to the award of discretionary payments. I do not mean to say that this is done deliberately, or even consciously. Research has shown that unconscious discrimination is much more widespread and much more difficult to recognize. Because we have no really clear 'objective' criteria for judging performance in teaching and administration the individual has, in making their case for a discretionary payment, to blow their own trumpet. Doing this is considered to be very unfeminine; real women are modest, even self-deprecating, about their ach-ievements, they just don't go around saying they are good at things. It is, however, more acceptable for men to say they are good at things. We expect men to make the most of themselves by being 'up front' about their achievements and presenting their strengths in the most favourable light.

 These attitudes could permeate the process in two ways. In making their applications for discretionary payments women do not make as strong a case for themselves as they should, because they do not want to appear to be boasting. On the other hand women who do make a strong application, listing their achievements and saying they are good at teaching and administration, may be regarded negatively by committee members because they are behaving inappropriately for women, whereas an identical application from a man would be regarded as quite normal. Thus women can be caught in a Catch 22 situation.

 These ideas are not merely flights of fancy on my part. Research has shown that females consistently underestimate their likely success at tasks, when asked to state publicly how well they are going to do, while males consistently overestimate their likely success. Research has also shown that the same academic article is judged to be less good when the author is identified as a woman than when the author is identifieda as a man.

 Other research has shown that men and women tend to have different attitudes to work and success. One researcher, for example, found that one group of managers, exclusively male, saw success in terms of status, titles, level of salary, and being seen to move up the promotion ladder. Another group, predominantly female but including a small number of males, saw success as doing the job well and being appreciated for so doing. The former group tended to believe that you only achieve promotion by aggressively pursuing it, the second group tended to believe that if they did the job well then they would gain promotion. Obviously these are generalizations and there will be both men and women who do not fit this pattern. Nevertheless, I believe it is important that our promotion procedures do not favour aggressive pushy men over others, mainly women, who do a good job without being noisy about it. This is one of the reasons that I am opposed to individuals being able to apply for promotion to Senior Lecturer before they reach the top of the Lecturer scale; it tends to favour the former group over the latter.

 In conclusion I believe that a great deal more work needs to be done before the promotion to Senior Lecturer can be introduced. It needs to be recognized that there are problems with the way the discretionary payment scheme operates and that these problems need to be addressed in any new scheme. Care needs to be taken not just in defining the criteria but in looking at how they are implemented. Clearly some of these problems I have drawn attention to could be avoided, or at least minimized, by adopting the principle that I outlined at the beginning of my speech.


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I believe that the General Board's proposals for the establishment of Senior Lectureships are in general to be welcomed. However, before proceeding I should perhaps, in these days of greater public accountability, declare a vested interest in that at some point I may benefit from them.

 For nearly twenty years, academic salaries have done little more than keep up with inflation, while over the same period average graduate incomes have increased by approximately 40 per cent above inflation. Most other universities have partially tackled this problem by allowing more than one increment on the salary scale per annum, and by an explosion in the number of promotions to senior positions. In contrast, in Cambridge the possibility of negotiating a higher position on the salary scale occurs only at appointment, any discretionary payment has to be reapplied for after five years (unlike an increment on the salary scale), and there has been only a relatively modest increase in the number of promotions to Reader and Professor. Moreover, the much touted higher Lecturer's maximum is less than the top of the national Lecturer's scale if discretionary points are included, and even with the fixed-term discretionary payment included it only exceeds the national maximum by £344. As a result the majority of staff in Cambridge are significantly worse off than at other UK universities.

 It might be argued that for the good of the UK academic community as a whole, there needs to be an incentive for some of us to move institution. The salary difference provides a counter-balance to our conditions of service that are on the whole better than elsewhere. (In the light of paragraph 21, it might be worth noting that this argument applies as much to Professors, and perhaps even Vice-Chancellors, as to Lecturers.) It might also be argued that when many of us accepted posts here we should have realized that Lecturer was the career grade, and that we were less likely to be promoted to Reader or Professor than elsewhere. In fact, I have a certain sympathy with both arguments in that I have chosen my own bed of nails. If I want a larger salary I should move elsewhere, and the University should only salary match if it wants to keep me. Indeed, given that at the age of 40+ my options are limited, the University seems to have me by the goolies, so why in the name of market forces should it let go (except possibly to curtail Discussions at the Senate House)!

 I conclude that much as I am in favour of both extra money and the Senior Lectureship scheme if this is the best way forward (although I must admit that I have never been very keen on the idea of Senior Lectureships per se), I do not believe that the failure of Cambridge salaries to keep up with those of other academics is necessarily the crux of the matter. The problem is the failure of our salaries to remain competitive with other graduates. If the University and other higher education institutions do not tackle this issue, then the future reputation of higher education in the UK is bleak. Even with the proposed Senior Lectureships, which presumably will become the career grade in Cambridge, the maximum the average academic can expect to earn is £33,202 - the projected salary at age 25 of a mathematician who graduated last summer with a low IIi and who has a standard accountancy job. What perks will the academic have? Free health care for his or her family (increasingly important given the demolition of the welfare state)? A company car? A pension of two-thirds rather than half annual salary?

 Last week I was asked, by a Professor recruiting lecturers at a Russell Group institution, where the talent was (indeed looking at certain promotions in such institutions one is tempted to ask the same question). The talent certainly does not appear to be coming through the universities in sufficient numbers for the impending retirements. Further, I recall an article in which Professor Sanger noted that all the talented scientists of his generation took up the opportunity of research if offered, but that is no longer the case. If you pay peanuts you tend to get monkeys. Mathematics teaching in schools has not collapsed just because of trendy teaching methods. Our lack of international competitiveness in the classroom might have something to do with low teachers' salaries; indeed only 30 per cent or so of mathematics teachers took that subject as a first degree (and many of them did not do especially well).

 So, in summary, yes, I believe that Senior Lectureships are a good thing. Although, as an aside, I do not understand why Senior Lectureships should have a three point scale when Readers do not, or why there should be only one internal reference for promotion/appointment to a Senior Lectureship when we would normally expect three references (including externals) for appointment to a Lectureship. However, while welcome, the introduction of Senior Lectureships is not enough. If we are to attract the cream of students into academia then the University, possibly together with other HE institutions, needs to press for higher salaries overall, possibly via an independent pay review body. This is a tall order, but there may soon be evidence that sustained lobbying can pay off. Failing that, maybe, is there a case for charging top-up fees to boost our salaries? But enough of this monkey's deliberations.

Professor D. N. DUMVILLE:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I should like to welcome the proposal in the General Board's Notice of 3 December last to establish in this University an office of Senior Lecturer. I welcome too that Board's decision (conveyed in its Annual Report, §56) that 'The sum of £1m has been set aside for general restructuring of stipends from the top of the University Lecturer scale upwards', although that does not seem to sit comfortably with the first sentence of §26 of the Notice. Many colleagues frustrated by our present anomalous arrangements will now have some hope of career-development. But they must be aware, again, that finance will be the final determinant (Notice, §§22, 26): meeting the academic criteria will not be enough.

 As always, however, the devil is in the detail. First, there is the question of the Faculty Committees which will deal with the applications. The proposal (§§15-16) that this matter be dealt with by the Faculty Appointments Committees (rather than the Faculty Promotions Committees) is welcome. The package of materials to be submitted (§12) is horrendous, but no doubt necessary. However, the evaluative criteria (§11) are confused, and will cause as much difficulty in this matter as in the work of the Promotions Committees this year: nos (2) and (3) need a radical rethink, as does the sequence of the four criteria.

 What will be crucial in integrating this change into the University's structures for career development is clarity about the relationship of Senior Lectureships to Readerships. It is important that, in as much as the two offices will be awarded with emphasis on different achievements, they should not be placed in a single linear sequence of promotion. In other words, while Senior Lecturers should certainly be allowed to apply for personal Readerships and Professorships (§6), being a Senior Lecturer should most certainly not be expected or required of a candidate for a Readership or Professorship ad hominem.

 The Board has raised the question (§23) whether some offices of Senior Lecturer might be established and advertised externally. I see no objection of principle to this, any more than to the establishment of Readerships, given the availability of suitable funds. What is important, however, is that the funding should be separate from that earmarked for promotions.

 These proposals represent a welcome first step towards comprehensive, sensible, and equitable reform of the promotions system. The General Board has indicated that it is keeping the question of reform under review, not least because of legal challenges. When I last spoke here on these matters I hoped (but did not expect) that over time the more egregious unsatisfactorinesses of the promotions system would be eliminated as a result of the reforms undertaken in time for the '1998' exercise. I returned from a year's leave, working abroad, in time to participate in this year's process. Now that the Faculties' part in it has been concluded, it is possible to consider the differences from previous years.

 We have a representative of the General Board on each committee, higher quorum requirements, and a series of guidelines regarding declaration of interest. All these are in principle developments tending to increase fairness. But I wonder how vigorously the last has been policed. We also have a great quantity of bureaucracy which has spread cancerously through the channels of internal communication: vast mounds of paperwork, muddled criteria, and yet an excessively short timescale for the tasks necessary. All the administrative officers involved must have been placed under appalling pressure. The General Board's extension of the process to 1 January rather than 1 October (Annual Report, §59) is unlikely to solve this problem. To what extent has this spread of bureaucracy ensured fairness? Has it in fact merely provided cover beneath which the reality is business as before? What is certain is that the regional barons and the local interest-groups have not gone away. They are still part of the process of judgement. Patronage and prejudice remain the twin evils which constitute the greater part of the problem for those who wish the system to deliver a fair result. To what extent will the central committee seek or be able to correct biases which have affected the procedures at Faculty level?

 All the new paperwork and bureaucratic procedures will have to constitute a bulwark against legal challenge. We have already had a foretaste of how precarious the University's defences may prove to be. We all know that the old promotions system, which ended last year, produced some very odd results. I can find little evidence that the new system is sufficiently different that comparable problems will be avoided. The signs which I see are that more University Teaching Officers will take their employer to court when the current round is completed. Two years ago in this place I warned about such a possibility. What will the University do if, say, five Lecturers and a Reader decide to go individually to court and/or to tribunals? What if they discover, like Dr Gillian Evans, that they have transferable skills which enable them to achieve world-class performances in litigation and public relations? It may be too much to imagine six more extraordinary Evanses, but how much money and energy does the Administration intend to expend, to the detriment of other activities and without benefit to the University's reputation, before the courts force it to offer a radical alteration of our promotions system?

 The Faculty Promotions Committees need to be swept away. The University is in danger of being impaled at law by the General Board's timidity two years ago. What is required is a process directed from the centre with clear lines of accountability and with manifestly independent elements. The solution might be a separate administrative department run by a senior officer, a Pro-Vice-Chancellor perhaps, but elected by the Regent House. A University Teaching Officer seeking promotion would make application to that department, naming a large number of senior scholars in that Officer's discipline(s), a list which would form the basis for the Promotions Office to seek references. Subject-panels of scholars external to the University, their paid members being replaced every three years according to a rolling programme, would constitute the first level of assessment. Their results would then be sent to a committee of the General Board for final selection of successful candidates on the basis of publicly declared criteria and procedures.

 There will always be candidates for promotion who have unrealistic views of their own scholarly worth. A charge against the old system was that such people sometimes managed to gain promotion. A fairly constituted procedure would be proof against a litigious egotist. Let us see, rather than merely hear, that the General Board is committed to fairness throughout the promotions process, and that it will follow up the generally praiseworthy proposals in its Notice of 3 December with significant reform of the remainder of the system.


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as a junior member, and as the Academic Affairs Officer of the Cambridge University Students Union, and for a Students Union that doesn't have full representation on the General Board, nor adequate or full representation on the Education Committee of the General Board, and as a result I have decided to voice some concerns here. I would like to draw your attention to paragraphs 12 and 13 about the promotion criteria for the proposed University Lecturer/Senior Lecturer. The Students Union obviously welcomes the recognition of teaching and teaching skills amongst senior members. Our concern however is that the documentary evidence and the criteria for promotion do not adequately allow feedback from students, either undergraduate or postgraduate, into the deliberations as it were. Our concerns have been raised in Council by the junior members there, and the Council agreed that student opinion must be taken into account in these promotions. But they did also query, as the General Board have done, the appropriateness of questionnaires from lectures being used in this process. I would also draw your attention to the fact that the questionnaires that were returned from individuals did actually want student feedback, whereas Faculty Boards seemed to overrule this, and that the General Board seemed to follow the Faculty Boards' suit as it were. What I would just like to say is that obviously from our point of view it is important, and I hope that senior members also feel that it is important, to get students' feedback about teaching and teaching skills: that student feedback should be from both undergraduates and postgraduates, and that, if questionnaires aren't appropriate as they stand at the moment, then perhaps we should find other ways of getting that student feedback, getting that student opinion, and making sure that everybody's opinions and voices are heard.


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Those of you who have been told that I am doing nothing but fight this promotions battle and am indeed obsessed may like to reflect on the need for vigilance and tenacity demonstrated by what I am about to say. As to what else I am doing, I shall not indulge myself with the mediaeval modesty topos. You may like to ask how many other University Teaching Officers, including those occupying Chairs, have had one book published since last year, three other serious academic books reach the point of development where they have been accepted for publication during the next twelve months, and another commissioned by the Oxford University Press. I am also fighting numerous cases here and elsewhere on behalf of the Council for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards, as those I am helping will attest. Nor have my students been neglected. I have been neither idle, nor preoccupied with promotions to the exclusion of everything else.

 Members of the Regent House, you were swayed by the flysheets into conscientiously not voting for more money for promotions. But the General Board has shot itself in the foot over that. 'They' will not be able to tell us, when the Allocations from the Chest are made this year, that we cannot afford more promotions. There appears to be no difficulty about finding enough money to make forty per cent of us Senior Lecturers on a salary close to that of a Reader. But there are still to be only thirty Readers and ten (not twelve) new Professors. In some Faculties - including mine - there are as many who deserve Chairs in one subject alone.

 The consultation process had serious constitutional flaws. First, the Discussion of 10 July was not replied to. The Council had a duty to reply. It never discussed those speeches at all. Secondly, a supplementary questionnaire was sent round to Faculty Boards and 'similar authorities' (sic) behind the backs of the Regent House and even of the Council, in the middle of the period when the voting on the ballot was afoot, with a preliminary summary of results from the general consultation. That was not published in the Reporter, though when I got wind of it by accident I asked that it should be. Not all members of the Regent House saw this. Not everyone even knew of it. Many of the bodies to which this supplementary questionnaire was sent were alert to the constitutional implications of thus going behind the back of the Regent House, and refused to respond on the grounds that the Regent House had already been asked its views.

 You know now that in the consultation exercise you were sold a pup. I did warn you. The consultation exercise was set up to achieve this outcome of giving the impression that there is huge support in the University for making a Senior Lectureship our career expectation.

 I have nothing against Senior Lectureships. But they are not for many of us the right reward. There is a radical incoherence in the thinking of the Notice. If Senior Lectureships are a different kind of thing from Readerships and Chairs, as it is intended they shall be, they cannot be a consolation prize for everyone, so that they 'offer a good prospect of promotion to University Lecturers in the course of their university career' (p. 247).

 So we are all to be Senior Lecturers - and yet not all. There has been no exploration of the question, how many of us are deserving of Senior Lecturerships, as underpinning for this generous forty per cent. We do, on the other hand, know that more deserve Readerships and Chairs than that thirty and ten allowed for, because that was admitted in the Notice of 25 June 1997 (Reporter, 1996-97, p. 881), which admits that 'the number of possible annual promotions is inadequate, given the outstanding quality of many members of the academic staff'.

 I ask formally for the overall figure for those who applied for Chairs and Readerships, and for those now put forward by their Faculties.

 Paragraph 18 says that the Senior Lectureships should 'clearly be regarded as a promotion'. Beware: that promotion will lose you your tenure under the provisions of the 1988 Education Reform Act, and there has been sinister talk of late of losing fifty posts on the lips of the central bodies, and published in the Reporter, too. It might be worth being evicted from the University to get a Readership or a Chair. I am not sure it would be worth the risk for a Senior Lectureship.

 The Notice (which should be a Report as Dr Edwards says; that was what the Grace required), speaks of the 'appropriate steady state' of promoted numbers. Not for the first time, there is a failure to take into account the present distortion of the age-scales which crowds so many of us together in our unrewarded fifties and sixties.

 It is shameful that the General Board is so keen to give out promotions carrying no real elevation of status while restricting the numbers of those who will become real players in the University's power-games if they become Professors or Readers. One of the many things which have shocked me since I became a member of the Council is the realization just how much there is a divide between senior and junior in the perception of admissibility to membership of committees, Boards of Electors to Chairs and so on, arising out of elevation to such positions.

 Much is to be learned by going and looking at the papers in the box in the General Board office about the consultation.

I. From the statistics:

 University Lecturers and Readers are strongly in favour of promoting all those who deserve it: those who are already Professors much less so (pulling the drawbridge up after them).

 The 'models' we were offered were muddled. I said so in advance. A high proportion of those who responded did not express a preference.

 Discretionary payments are hated. Prizes for teaching are not liked.

 Academic staff have no faith in the staff development officers as a breed competent to evaluate their work (nothing personal, but please note).

II. From the comments and letters from the Faculty Boards and Councils of the Schools:

 One Faculty said of the Senior Lectureship, 'it was wondered who would wish to apply for such a post'. Another: 'It was unanimously agreed that there were too few promotions'. Another: 'Any promotions exercise must be seen to be equitable. My colleagues in this Department do not, with good reason, view the present arrangements as satisfying this criterion.' Another: 'The University needs to give urgent consideration to funding a significant increase in the annual number of promotions'. Another: 'We need to have more real Professorships to reflect the real career achievements of the people concerned and to do something about very real and justified dissatisfaction and disillusionment'. Another comment: 'Many feel their services are not fully appreciated - or rather, that there is no way their success can be acknowledged.' Another: 'Cambridge staff are extremely undervalued. The outside world are unaware and tend to value professors most highly, regardless of university. As much as possible should be done to remedy the situation here.' Another: 'The evidence suggests that many Cambridge academics would be worth the title Professor elsewhere'. Another: 'There is an enormous need to give more recognition to our staff'. Another: 'Most academics above the age of 35 would probably be able to hold Chairs in any other university in the world. At present Cambridge University does not seem to recognize this fact.' Another: 'In North America 'the title 'lecturer'…is viewed as one step up from a teaching assistant - this problem with my title continues in my interactions with US colleagues and makes it very difficult for us to hire the best people coming out of US schools.' Another: 'The University needs more …Professors to bring it in line with other academic institutions in the world.' Another: 'Why do the senior officers of the University have to match commercial levels of remuneration while the rank and file staff…? The effects on staff morale are disastrous.' Another: 'There is an enormous log-jam of lecturers at the top of the scale. The priority is to free it.' Another: 'I regard the current situation as clearly unjust…These invidious competitions are proving corrosive'. Another: 'We are junior to every professor at every university and every lecturer promoted…recently in Oxford. I would ask the University administration to consider if this is reasonable'. Another speaks of: 'The disquiet felt by many UTOs about the promotions procedure in this University'. Another: 'The problem in Cambridge is that too few promotions mean that…there is effectively no career structure for those in permanent posts'. Another: 'The key issue…is inadequate recognition by reference to normal UK university standards…of Cambridge University UTOs in terms of promotion to Readerships and Professorships. Senior Lectureships for other achievements are irrelevant to this…One possibility…is a sharply increased priority in funding for promotions, with perhaps reduced salary scales for Readers and Professors in order to maximize numbers of promotions.' Another: 'The University should make sure that it creates a proper career structure for Cambridge academics'. Another: 'more money should…be found to meet the costs of all outstanding cases, and future budgeting should be based on an expectation of a significantly larger number of promotions to Readerships and Professorships.'

 There were bright ideas: 'I would favour a simple announcement to the effect that there is no barrier preventing the use of the prefix Professor, especially in external dealings.'

 Those of us who have higher doctorates are already senior to Professors (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 185). We have had 'to give proof of distinction by some original contribution to the advancement of science or of learning' (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 493). Perhaps we can simply adopt the Professorial title as we walk ahead of Professors, who are not acknowledged by the University to be our equals in scholarship, in University processions.

 There was gritty realism in the responses about the shortcomings of our reformed procedures and the proposed new ones for Senior Lectureships.

 'A central Committee cannot be competent to decide the relative merits of people from all the different Faculties and Departments.' I argued that in the High Court last year.

 'Under present procedures…factors other than academic too often stand in the way of advancement of individuals who do not fit…whereas others who do fit the appearance but are useless in teaching, admin and not particularly outstanding as researchers, succeed if they move in the mighty high table crowds.'

 'I am unenthusiastic about the level of bureaucracy'.

 'This is a real 'jobs for the boys' suggestion; who will monitor and assess these assessors?'

 'Approval of the Head of Department…effectively gives this single individual a veto.'

 'I would have no faith in the objectivity of Heads of Department or Faculty (Promotion) Committees. I suspect many other University officers feel similarly (based on conversations)'.

 There was one refreshingly honest man: 'As Head of Department I find it rather difficult to write references for my colleagues' applications…I cannot see, in my case, how one can easily distinguish among them as they all deserve promotion.'

 Almost one hundred per cent of respondents to the questionnaire were in favour of feedback and appeal. We shall not be told face to face why we have failed at the final stage this year, but only through officers in our Faculties. We shall still not be able to appeal. Yet there are things we ought to have a right to appeal about.

 There is reference in the Notice to 'the overriding importance of academic judgement being exercised collectively in order to reach decisions' (p. 248). Did all Faculty Committees collate the marks of individual members when rating candidates this year? Did each member give his reasons for his rating? Did they use a consistent method for forming their aggregate view? Have you asked? I am told that Faculty Committees were given instructions which meant that they failed to take into account relevant considerations. The lawyers among us will see at once the implications of that in a High Court hearing for judicial review. I do advise you all to ask for feedback in order to get a sense of the mechanics of the procedure used in your own case.

 It would be advisable to do so even if your Faculty put you forward. Mine has proposed me for a Chair. My 'peers' have had fun with the evaluations. They did not obtain evaluations from the Divinity Committee, although my work is more than half theological. They made up their own, without giving reasons severally or collectively for each or all of the ratings. They gave me a 3 for teaching, although none of them has any evidence of any kind about the quality of my teaching. The Chairman of my Faculty Committee has sent me in his comments an object-lesson in the kind of thing we have all suspected by way of 'fixing' all these years.

 The purpose of feedback and appeal ought to be to open up this kind of thing to scrutiny and insist that the job is done properly and in full view of the candidate, with the candidate treated with respect and allowed to answer any criticism face to face with his judges. While referees can hide behind secrecy and committees can pull what they choose out of their comments unmonitored, nothing will change.

 I offer what is happening to me as a worked example of the way in which the old exercise of patronage and fixing can go on within the new system. It is, I think, pretty obvious to everyone that there is a powerful vested interest on the University's part in ensuring that I am not promoted this year, for if I were it would become apparent that there has been substance in my complaints about the injustice done to me and others under the old procedures. The media will be interested in my success or failure, and the University has it in its hands to humiliate me very publicly. It will not do so without its own conduct of matters being made public step by step. I know for sure that I am not the only candidate who is being 'stitched-up' in this way, but I have the advantage that I have absolutely nothing to lose and a degree of exposure which allows me to expose the behaviour of others without fear; for I can expect no favour.

Dr G. JOHNSON (read by Mr H. J. EASTERLING):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am reluctant to speak on a topic which appears to have been given careful consideration by the General Board and to have been the subject of wide consultation; but I do not believe that the matter has been properly thought through, and I think that we are headed off in the wrong direction if we wish to maintain a collegiate university of international calibre which combines teaching and research, which reckons to educate undergraduates as well as undertaking original research, and which sees those two activities as inextricably entwined.

 Recent years have seen a decline in the pay and conditions of service of academic staff. Not only are we paid much less relative to other professions than was once the case, but new and extraordinary demands for assessment and accountability imposed from the outside on universities have been pressed on us by our own university managements. The elusive benefits of a civilized style of life, so often offered up as compensation for lower pay, have been eroded and there has been an internal collapse of manners and collegiality. All this gives great concern for the future and for our ability to attract the right sort of dedicated scholars into the academic profession.

 So far in Cambridge we have responded to some of our difficulties by taking easy ameliorative routes: if money is short to pay everyone properly for doing a proper job, then let us devise (or have devised for us) ways of paying a few a little more. Pressure to introduce discretionary payments came from outside the University, but pressure to have more internal promotions, first for Readers and Professors and now for Lecturers, is the product of frustrations within.

 It is not so long ago that the University Lecturer grade was complete as a career structure in itself: there were, quite properly, a number of established chairs and there were a few, very few, personal appointments that recognized an exceptional competence in research. This was rewarded by the creation of Readerships and Professorships for particular individuals, but it also restricted them in other work they could do. We have now slipped unwittingly into a situation where the Lecturer grade is no longer thought to provide a complete and satisfying career, where greater emphasis in scholarly activity is put on research to the detriment of teaching, and where the once very specific roles of Professors and Readers have been blurred at the edges so that some of them serve, in fact, as if they were just a species of Senior Lecturer. Not unnaturally we now feel inadequate if we do not receive promotion to these previously rather peculiar offices, and this is beginning to have a bad effect on staff morale. More seriously, it is bringing into question the whole idea of a republic of letters populated with scholars, active in both teaching and research, receiving appropriately similar remuneration, and being esteemed for their individual scholarly reputations rather than for their rank.

 I am not sympathetic to the view that because other fairly good universities have a hierarchy of employment Cambridge should follow suit. It is not self-evident that you get the best out of academics if you have an elaborate hierarchy of offices with appallingly cumbersome and divisive procedures for making appointments within the system. I think we should be working towards a system which abandons discretionary payments, pulls back on the numbers of ad hominem promotions, and seeks to reward all those whose individual effort creates the collective excellence of Cambridge as a whole.

 We need to take a more radical approach to the emerging problems of academic appointments than that suggested by the General Board in their crude survey of opinion and in their weak opting for what seems to be a consensus emerging from that flawed poll. I hope that, rather than take forward the proposals sketched in the General Board's Notice, the Board and the Council will consider proposing to the Regent House the establishment of a Syndicate to consider in greater depth an appropriate career structure for academics at Cambridge. I believe we must think more broadly about the future of our profession; that we should consider the re-establishment of a single main career grade in which teaching and research are given proper equality of payment and esteem; that we should review the present contentious policy for the establish-ment of personal Professorships and Readerships and not extend further the bad effects of that policy; that informed research should be undertaken into the University's needs for academic staff, and employment policies put in place to meet them; that flexible schemes for early or partial retirement should be investigated; and that ways should be found to bring into healthy relationships with each other University and College academic appointments. It is only by means of such a comprehensive review that we can begin to turn aside our current discontents and maintain our scholarly excellence into the future.

No remarks were made on the following:

 The Abstract of Accounts for the year ended 31 July 1997 (Special No. 10).

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Cambridge University Reporter 5726, 28th January 1998
Copyright © 1998 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.