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Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 4 July 2000. A Discussion was held in the Council Room of the following Reports:

The Report of the Council, dated 12 June 2000, on the financial position of the Chest, recommending allocations for 2000-01 (p. 782).


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this is one of those omnium gatherum Reports during the year where one could take the opportunity to comment on almost any facet of the University's life and work, with perfect legitimacy. I select a very few, for one would not wish to speak for too long or to be thought to stray from strict relevance.

In the Reporter of 1983-84, p. 870, you may read what the then Council did when it proposed a plan to give degrees to persons who had already died. A mere three speakers threw up their verbal hands in disapproval. The Council conceded that 'A proposal of this kind should be put forward only if it commands the general support of the University. As the present proposal evidently fails in this respect, the Council have agreed ... not to pursue the matter further'. The fifteen speakers of 13 June are five times more load-bearing, then. I hope that when the Council composes its reply to that historic sequence of speeches in the now colloquially titled 'Discussion on Discussions', it will bear in mind how many of its own members spoke in favour of retaining the status quo or even extending accountability.

The accuracy of our budgeting must be in question when (p. 787) an estimated deficit shown in the 1999 Allocations Report has become an estimated surplus of £4m. Admittedly, there are reasons for that, but there are always going to be reasons. With figures so unpredictable, we should not be too quick to charge top-up fees to our students on the grounds that we plainly need the money.

It is acknowledged that our 'growing estate' is going to cost us more to run. That makes it doubly important that we begin to keep a list of industrial and commercial users of our space in the great Wen in the Fen we are going to create if we expand along the lines proposed into North-West Cambridge. (And see 'we have a chance to become a real competitor to Silicon Valley' in the Cambridge Evening News of 27 June.)

(38) We are being unbelievably slow in bringing our accounting procedures up to the bare minimum level acceptable to the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The implementation of the CAPSA plan already has all the hallmarks of a Cambridge bungle. Expensive hours are being spent teaching our computer-experienced office and other staff to 'point' and 'click'.

In successive years of this Report, it will be recollected, we won at last by putting on the pressure the principle that the first call on the University's resources should be the proper reward of its staff - all its staff. We also won - by threatening to call a ballot again - the concession that all those who deserved it should be promoted. The first thing I did this year was to check that that concession had not disappeared. It is reassuringly still there at (37).

It is not, however, quite as secure as it might be. I want to take the opportunity to call for fair comparison between those with Chairs already and those in the queue which ought no longer to be a queue. That might ensure that (37) really means what it says. It is time it was understood that the question has changed. It is time for a real catch-up exercise.

There is a nice little system now running in which 'reasonable doubt' arises when any referee makes a qualifying remark. Referees' reports stay in a candidate's file year after year, so once out always out. Sacris Erudiri, 38 (1998-99), p. 214, carries comments on one of the Professors on this year's appeal committee which appear to give rise to such reasonable doubt: 'linguistic training ... superficial and inadequate ... erroneously cited throughout ... errors in case-endings are so frequent that it is not surprising that the meaning even of titles of Latin works, to say nothing of the works themselves, are misunderstood'. The name is McKitterick, while we can still name names, but you could find that out from looking up the page in question. But I want to be fair. So I turn to another 'reference'. In the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 48 (1997), 528-30, I find a reviewer saying: 'Blanks, slips and overlaps do creep in … but why so many? A special annoyance is the harvest of wrong names, dates, places and citations'. So is it just inaccuracy then? Another reviewer of the same book, the next I turn to, noting that McKitterick has claimed to be doing something new in her editing of the work of others, looks for the innovation in vain. He finds 'a troublesome lack of cohesion' and suggests that 'there are facets of the work about which any reviewer might carp'. I will not go on. Professor McKitterick, unlike the candidates she will be judging, can at least read these criticisms and explain herself. The candidates she will be judging can mount no defence because all the criticisms made of their work are made behind their backs. My point is simple. If this is the bench-mark for considering that there is no reasonable doubt, I think rather a lot of Chairs ought to be awarded this year under the provisions of (37).

The thought I would like to leave even more prominently in readers' minds concerns the new Personnel Division mentioned in this Report, and its Committee. This Committee has to be given a slot in the Statutes and Ordinances. Unless it can have responsibilities properly entrusted to it by Grace, and that urgently, we are not going to be able to get the reward and remuneration of staff and the whole business of promotion out of the clutches of the General Board. We need a new Grace about promotions procedures. Now. It is extremely important that we do. The hedgehogs have now had T-shirts printed, saying, 'Not me Guv' in Cambridge blue. So I come back to paragraph 37.

Black holes in the Green Book procedures are swallowing up the questions we keep putting about their shortcomings. Last June the University spent nearly £10,000 in the County Court arguing that the procedures could not be varied one jot. Almost every jot in the book was varied by my Faculty this year. A whole year's references were missing (and where are they then?). So carefully did they consider whether to put me forward that they did not ask where they were. But then they had no Chairman, for the Faculty Board had neglected to appoint one when it invented its new swollen committee and started the whole process again in the middle of February, in the presence of the Downing Professor of the Laws of England who, one feels, should have pointed out these minor procedural glitches as a matter of mere professional habit. I am not confident that this caring committee can have made a good job of choosing new referees this year, especially since no referee named by me as candidate was included. The Secretary, newly promoted herself to dizzy heights in the central administration, failed to put out an alert. So what happens next? Should the appeal committee, on which Professor McKitterick is sitting, uphold my appeal that there was a flaw in procedure (!) there is no provision in the Green Book for a situation like this. How can she and her fellows have the faintest idea whether I should be put forward to the General Board and anyway on what evidence could that be done? Of course, she has been on the General Board Committee considering my case before, and almost certainly been one of its rapporteurs on my case. And she may want to get her own back for the exercise in peer review I have just conducted. Such is the independence of our promotions decision-making

We have got to get these procedures put right. It is urgent. And it is part of the duty created by the wording of paragraph 37. Next year we may have to call another disruptive ballot if this is not done immediately, and I can guess how the Treasurer's staff would feel about that.

'With the support of the Vice-Chancellor an audit is being taken which will help determine the next stage of the agenda for equal opportunity' (12). I am not quite clear why this should be taken to be his baby, and why it was not brought to the Council for approval. He should not have a special corner in motherhood and apple pie. The audit will be taking racial and disability discrimination equally on to the agenda. The Nominations Committee earnestly ensure that we have the odd woman here and there (frequently the same odd woman, for there are so few to choose from) on the Boards of Electors to the Established Chairs but do not look beyond that to the need of ethnic minority or disabled candidates to have a notional 'spokesman'. It is time we did that, and also rethought the assumption that women speak up for women, and so on. That is not my experience, and, to be fair, nor should it be. There should not be 'constituencies' like that. The questionnaire came today. It does not seem to me to go very deep into our problems.

This Report is about allocating our funds, including those we receive from the public purse. You may have received the transparency review documentation which is to affect future allocations.

You will note that you have a PIN number. 'This PIN is provided to prevent false or multiple entries'. That will allow them to get back to you not only if you fail to fill this thing in, but also if, when they have studied your activities, they do not like the pattern. I would be keener on that if I believed it would be used to arrive at some statistical or otherwise objectively validated justification for the award of those secret top-up payments to Professors, or even for the award of Chairs in the first place.

The data are to be processed anonymously. But what is linked to your name is not being processed anonymously. There is a cheery assurance that if you are hamfisted with web browsers, 'you may give someone else your PIN and [ungrammatically] ask them to enter your data for you'. My PIN is going to remain 'located in the box below'. One would be unwise to take it out. I have learned, in the continuing and still uncompleted process of trying to get access to the materials the University has on me as a data subject, that the Library has records going back into the indefinite past of which books you took out when. I hope you haven't been reading anything you shouldn't. For they can read anything they like about you in the Old Schools. Did you know that? They cannot show me any rules or procedures to protect you from idle curiosity. 'Need to know' could be construed pretty broadly if there is no definition of need. I do not suggest that rights of access are routinely being abused; in fact I am sure that most of our senior administrators are above reproach. But there have been some worrying episodes. Frankly, I object to administrators being free to read about me without my even knowing, especially those I regard as my friends. It is embarrassing. Those missing references, for example? We are still being denied access to manual records so we cannot correct errors or require things to be deleted as the Data Protection Act intends we should be able to do.

In this transparency review, there is no definition or even estimate of the length of a working week here. (That would frighten the horses.) On the other hand, it clearly has a length because apparently we have our 'own time', for we are to exclude 'private work (e.g. consultancy) carried out in' it. Its length is that of a 'notional average working week' but there is no guidance as to what notion we are to work with. This all has direct relevance to several topics of the Allocations Report with their bland assurances about good intentions and safe pairs of hands.

Me, I just get up in the morning, make a cup of coffee, and switch on my computer. I then spend twelve hours at least, with half an hour for lunch, on activities in fulfilment of the University's purposes of fostering education, religion, learning, and research. It doesn't do me much good by way of reward and recognition. But I continue to have some faith in the ultimate benefit to my thankless employer.


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I fear that I am picking up on just a tiny little corner of this Report. In paragraph 69 the Regent House is warned that an additional £20m will need to be found over the next five or so years to cover infrastructure costs at West Cambridge, in particular, common services, such as aspects of the East Forum. This is the first official mention of the East Forum since March last year.

Given that an increasing number of members of the Regent House have a vested interest in West Cambridge and given that, as paragraph 54 reminds us, £20m is sufficient to construct and furbish a substantial 10,000 square metre building, would the Council be so kind as to indicate when they will be able to give us more detail on precisely what they intend for the East Forum.

The Report of the Council, dated 12 June 2000, on the establishment of a Gates Cambridge Scholarship Trust to provide scholarships for students from overseas (p. 894).

Sir AARON KLUG (read by Mrs S. BOWRING):

Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, as a former 1851 Exhibition Overseas Fellow from South Africa to Cambridge, I know from personal experience how much a student can gain by being able to continue to study at a centre of excellence.

The advancement of science and the humanities is an endeavour which cuts across frontiers. It is a matter of great satisfaction to me that Cambridge, which has always recognized the importance of keeping its doors open to talent from the world over, has been chosen by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for this imaginative and philanthropic initiative. As President of the Royal Society, I warmly welcome it.

I look forward to a steady flow of talented young people from overseas who will come to Cambridge under the aegis of the Gates Cambridge Trust. Many will return to their countries and all of them will help sustain a network of academic endeavour and co-operation. This will be good for the world, good for the United States and the United Kingdom, and, incidentally, good for Cambridge. We owe the Gates Foundation a warm debt of gratitude.

Professor Lord LEWIS (read by Mrs S. BOWRING):

Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, for many years I have been associated with Cambridge's vigorous efforts to attract outstandingly able students from overseas and to help as many of them as our resources permit to take up their offer of places. These students are the very lifeblood of a University committed to remaining a world-class centre of excellence.

The proposed benefaction from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is precisely what Cambridge needs - a scheme of great prestige at a University which has proven its commitment to keeping its doors open to talent from all over the world.

I was also pleased to see from the Report of the Council that the Trustees of the Gates Cambridge Scholarship Trust are likely to utilize the secure foundations already laid by the Cambridge Commonwealth and Overseas Trusts for such an important enterprise; the benefaction will provide the University and the country with a major asset for future interactions at the world level.

The visionary generosity of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will, I am sure, be seen as one of the most significant benefactions in Cambridge's long history and will be welcomed throughout the world as giving opportunities to a wide range of able students to avail themselves of the facilities of this University. All of us should be both delighted and flattered that we have been chosen to be the instrument for an initiative which will do such enormous good.

Lord RUNCIMAN (read by Mrs S. BOWRING):

Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I particularly welcome the assurance that this munificent scheme, which is of great potential significance both for able students throughout the world and also for the University of Cambridge, will be open to all disciplines, without restriction of subject. The world of science and scholarship is being increasingly regarded, and rightly so, as one, not two, cultures.

The enlightened philanthropy of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will do much to promote this message. Both personally and as a member of the social science community in Britain, I wish to join in expressing my appreciation to the Foundation for an initiative of historic importance.

Dr G. P. WINTER (read by Mrs S. BOWRING):

Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, no country or place has a monopoly in the field of scientific endeavour, but Cambridge has a record of excellence throughout the last century based on fundamental discoveries. A key feature has been the contribution of scientists from overseas; year upon year Cambridge has welcomed creative scientists from throughout the world at many levels, and provided them with training and resources for their work. In return they have made or contributed to fundamental discoveries. It is tremendous that Cambridge can start the new millennium with a massive contribution towards securing the life blood of talent from abroad on which our future as an international centre of research excellence so depends.

In my own field of the biological sciences, the contribution of the Gates Foundation is particularly welcome. We have in our hands most of the sequence of the human genome. Much of this knowledge was secured in Cambridge and through extensive international collaborations with Cambridge at the centre. We now have to try to understand what it all means. This will be a project on an even larger scale, relying on development of new approaches and technologies, and diverse skills and collaborations. It can be expected to lead to breakthroughs in the understanding of human biology as well as to the development of new medicines. The contribution from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which will do so much for so many disciplines, could not have come at a better time. I would like to join in expressing our warmest appreciation to the Foundation for this signal contribution in giving able students opportunities for all time to study at Cambridge.

Professor Sir Tony WRIGLEY (read by Mrs S. BOWRING):

Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Report published in the Reporter of 21 June 2000 on the establishment of a Gates Cambridge Scholarship Trust represents a milestone in the history of this University. The scale of the benefaction of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is most remarkable. It is perhaps best understood when expressed as a percentage contribution to the support of graduate study in Cambridge. When the scheme is in full operation about one in eight of all the graduate students from overseas in Cambridge will be present because of the generosity of the Foundation. Any university which has pretensions to inclusion within the ranks of the world's best must attract outstanding graduate students from countries throughout the world. This has been true of Cambridge in the past. The benefaction of the Gates Foundation will go far towards ensuring that this remains true into the indefinite future. Cambridge provides and will, I trust, always continue to provide an intellectual environment in which young scholars can discover the excitement and reward which work at the frontiers of human knowledge brings, as many men and women who have come here from other countries in the past can testify. I salute the breadth of vision and generosity of spirit which lies behind this initiative. We are greatly indebted to all those who have worked together to bring it about.

Professor T. D. LAMB:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, it seems that the Council have selected a very appropriate date for discussion of the Report on this major benefaction.

Paragraph 6 proposes that a Trust be established 'under similar arrangements to the Cambridge Commonwealth and Overseas Trusts'. For each of those Trusts, the Council published the proposed Trust Deed along with their Report (Reporter, 1981-82, p. 537, and 1987-88, p. 283). In view of those precedents, and the changes in circumstances that have occurred over two decades, it seems only reasonable that the University should be given the equivalent information on this occasion. I therefore ask that Recommendation II be withdrawn until such time as the Trust Deed is published in the Reporter.

From the brief 'Outline' in the 'Proposal summary', it appears that financial support will be provided to Colleges at the level of roughly £2,500 per annum per Scholar (calculated as 1/12th of a point well up the Lecturer scale). I have several questions to the Council. Is this financial support in addition to, or instead of, the College fee? And what financial support will be provided to the University Department in which a Scholar studies? Or are the Council suggesting that Departments are expected to accommodate additional graduate students without financial support, whereas Colleges will receive hefty financial support?

I also wish to ask whether the same procedure will apply as set out by the Council in paragraph 3 of their Report dated 26 April 1999 (Reporter, 1998-99, p. 544). Thus, can the Council confirm that the audited accounts of the new Trust will be made available to members of the Regent House on request to the Registrary?

Finally, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I have a query in relation to the statement in the Annex that 'in the short-term' it is expected that the Trustees will use the existing administrative structures. May the University be assured that in the longer term this will truly be an independent scheme, with an independent management structure?


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the outgoing President of the Students Union spoke here a month ago about the impossibility of his trying to do a Ph.D. here because of what it would cost. I could wish that, in making this generous gesture, Bill Gates had agreed to set this scheme up so that it could help UK students too. The scheme will 'provide new opportunities for students from all countries and all subjects to participate in higher education at Cambridge'. 'The rest of the world's' 225 might usefully include not only EU students but British ones too. I understand that it will not. Please could our benefactor rethink that possibility?

My other quibble is potentially as large. Why are we going to look for the conjunction of 'the highest intellectual ability' with 'leadership capacity'? There are leaders and followers and natural team-members, but there are also able people who can be creative all by themselves. Indeed, some of those most notable in literature and the arts have been the kind of eccentric the ancient universities used to welcome with benevolence. The man with his pockets full of ancient pieces of toast; the one who used to conduct supervisions from his bicycle; the one indistinguishable from a tramp in his dress; some of these have been memorable to their students for a lifetime, not for their eccentricities, but for the intellectual fire which led to their not even noticing that it is not usual to carry toast about one's person. I do not want to walk through the library and find it full of well-coiffed and well-dressed 'leaders' reading up on management. I want to continue to find it full of scruffy individuals having animated arguments in the Tea-Room about Anglo-Norman orthography and the influence of Jerome's De viris illustribus, quite oblivious of whom they are impressing, jabbing one another with excited fingers over lapses in Latinity such as I spoke of earlier. Will Bill's scheme be choosing some of these? If not, it will not be bringing us the blood of future scholarship. If everyone we teach (train?) is to go out go-getting in the big wide world Cambridge will die. Not all good things come in teams. Nor are all the most able and valuable scientists.

Finally, this appointment at a senior academic level to oversee the scheme. A Chair in Gates administration? Surely nothing less? What will be the academic qualifications needed? Will Bill be on the Board of Electors?

I hope the Council will satisfy itself about these detailed terms with more care than it has been in the habit of exercising.

I therefore strongly support Professor Lamb's request about Recommendation II.


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, as a former Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Scholar, I know how much I valued the funding provided by my Scholarship, without which I would not have been able to attend this ancient institution. I am delighted with this proposal and I look forward to seeing some small proportion of these Studentships being taken up in the Computer Laboratory itself. I hope that a British benefactor will be encouraged to do for British students what the Gates Scholarships will do for American and other overseas students.

The Report of the Council, dated 12 June 2000, on the construction of a Marconi Building at West Cambridge (p. 804).

Professor I. M. LESLIE:

Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, there are, in my view, two aspects to this Report. The first is about collaboration with industry. Many Departments, including the Computer Laboratory, have a history of successful collaboration with industry which has brought benefits to both parties. Our current experience with what might be called 'proximate' rather than 'embedded' laboratories is that proximity, through informal interaction, gives rise to collaboration only when it is of mutual benefit rather than collaboration for collaboration's sake which can arise from distant, formal interactions.

Many may not be aware of the transformation of the conglomerate which was GEC (washing machines to high speed trains) into Marconi, a company focused on communications and information systems. As a result of this transformation Marconi are both in need of contact with basic research in communications, and receptive to new ideas.

Co-operation with industry always raises issues of control and ownership of intellectual property. We must continually pay attention to these issues, and the principle that University officers do not get involved in particular research activities unless they want to, puts us in a strong position. In the end, research is about individuals and they are the ones that reach agreements.

The second aspect raised in the Report is that of West Cambridge as a whole. It is proposed to site the Marconi Building in Plot C, along with the new Computer Laboratory and the Microsoft Research Centre. In the narrow self-interest of the Computer Laboratory the sooner Plot C is complete the better. However, for all in West Cambridge this building will increase the need for shared facilities and infrastructure. I sincerely hope this will be used as an opportunity to speed up provision of these. This building will also increase the pressure for better access to West Cambridge and resolution of parking issues. Failure to address these now will cause problems for many years to come, not least when the next phase of building is at the planning stage.


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, in 1998 the proposals for the new Computer Laboratory indicated a three-phase development. A new Computer Laboratory building, to be constructed immediately; a Microsoft building to follow in about five years; and a Phase-three building in ten years. Less than two years later, the first two phases are underway and we are met to discuss approval of the third. This is a rapid acceleration of the building programme and those responsible can be justifiably proud of achieving so much, so quickly.

However, this also means that West Cambridge will shortly see a much larger than expected influx of new staff. At the most basic level, and at the risk of repeating myself, we have to ask questions like 'where are they all going to buy lunch?'.

I suggest to the Council that these three new buildings form a critical mass which makes it necessary to also accelerate the development of the site infrastructure and particularly the common facilities on the East Forum.

The Joint Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 12 June and 24 May 2000, on the review of examination results for students other than Graduate Students (p. 806).


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I withheld my name when this Report came before Council for signature and I take this opportunity to explain why. I welcome most of the Report; although there may not be many students who will ask for a review of their examination results on substantive grounds, the opportunity to do so ought to be available to them; but the revised provisions for candidates who are unable to complete their examination are inequitable. While the Report proposes a little too much for a very few of them, it leaves all the others with no change at all.

Suppose two students cycling to nine o'clock examinations are in collision; there is a motor vehicle involved as well and both students are in a state of shock. One student has already completed three out of four papers and can afford to go back home. Her case will come before the Applications Committee, and under the new proposals she will be classed II.1. But the other student involved in the accident has completed only two papers and must struggle on. Although he obtains first class marks on those two, when his case comes before the Applications Committee he can expect nothing more than 'Declared to have deserved honours'. The inequity is obvious, so much so that when, two years hence, these provisions come to review, the phrase 'a relatively small part of the examination' will be rewritten to read 'not more than half of the examination'. But, even so, that will provide no succour to the candidate who falls ill after completing only one paper. We can, and should, be more equitable than the present revision allows.

If a candidate is judged by the Applications Committee to have suffered serious disadvantage for medical or compassionate reasons, he or she should be entitled to a more detailed statement on the transcript of examination performance. Against those parts of the examination which the candidate is judged to have completed without handicap the transcript might say 'equivalent to II.1', with an accompanying note explaining the meaning of 'equivalent to', that a candidate presenting that quality of work throughout the entire examination would be classed II.1. The transcript might well go on to state that the candidate was absent from the remainder of the examination or sat that remainder under serious handicap (no need to say which) by reason of illness or other grave cause (no need to elaborate). A prospective employer is thereby provided with all the relevant details of the candidate's examination performance and can make his or her own mind up about the student's abilities. This is something that can be done for all candidates who fail to complete their examinations. If, as happens in many cases, a student is unable to sit any papers at all, but is nevertheless allowed the examination, then the basis on which that allowance is made (existing reports from supervisors) can equally be summarized in a suitable formal phrase on the transcript.

The particular recommendation in this Report reflects, I am told, a historic policy of publishing nothing more than the class of honours awarded; and that policy, again so I am told, is in place because the marking of examinations is deemed insufficiently precise to justify the publication of any greater detail. But there is today a trend towards greater transparency in the reporting of examination results. I, personally, take the view that we should attend quite explicitly to the reliability of our examiners' work, and that a transcript of examination performance should report that performance in whatever detail the reliability of the examination can support. Moreover, in the special case of candidates who have sat their examinations under handicap, I think we can afford to, and should, be more detailed irrespective of whether the reliability of the examination is good enough to support that detail or not. I think we should do this in the interest of equity to all such candidates.

There seems to have been a failure on the part of the administrative bodies to think clearly about this matter, notwithstanding that the process of review has been two years in coming to Report. Paragraph 15 of the Report says: 'The Council and the General Board are firmly of the view that any decision on the assignment of a candidate to a particular class must rest with the Examiners and not with the Council through the Applications Committee' (Reporter, p. 808), and on that basis there follows some proposals how great a part of the Board of Examiners has to be consulted before a candidate who has missed part of the examination can be classed. There is serious confusion here about what constitutes an 'academic judgement'. Assigning a mark to a candidate's work is an academic judgement; only the appointed examiners must be allowed to do that. But, given the examiners' marks, drawing up the class list is not an academic judgement. It is an administrative act, since it is already laid down which ranges of marks correspond to which classes. By the time such a case comes before the Applications Committee, the examiners will have already marked the candidate's work, so there is no reason why the Applications Committee should not look at the examiners' marks (they already do this when it is relevant to the case at hand), disregard those which are judged on medical or compassionate grounds to be unrepresentative of the candidate's ability, and perform whatever administrative action is prescribed on the basis of the remainder. That is not to make an academic judgement; it is to borrow the academic judgements already made by the examiners.

There is another reason besides why this confusion needs to be cleared up. 'The Council and the General Board firmly support the arrangement whereby Examiners at this University assess the work which is presented to them without regard to other factors' (Reporter, p. 808); and the corollary of that stance is that no one, not even the Council through its Applications Committee, leans on the examiners to change their assessment once it is made. But that is, in fact, what is proposed. I agree entirely with the idea that examiners should 'assess the work which is presented to them without regard to other factors'; I do not agree that they ever be asked to alter that assessment, not even by the Applications Committee. The Applications Committee has before it both the medical evidence and the examiners' academic judgements and is quite competent to undertake that (administrative) action itself.

To sum up, Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I do not think the provisions now proposed for candidates who are hindered in preparing for, or in taking, their examinations have been adequately considered. We have a culture of widespread consultation. While the purpose of that consultation might appear to be an intention to take everybody's views into account, I suggest that it is frequently an exercise in borrowing ideas when the Council, or its sub-committee, has no useful idea of its own. What is wrong with that borrowing of ideas is that everyone does it, the bodies that are consulted do it as well. That is to say the Council and the General Board are, maybe unwittingly, in the business of borrowing ideas from other bodies who, in turn, and unbeknown to the Council and the General Board, are also borrowing ideas - and no one does any constructive thinking. Of course, that is to put in simple black and white a matter that is really all shades of grey. But in this instance and, I believe, in others as well, no one has done any constructive thinking. That should concern us all.


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this is a staging-post on the way to a full complaints and appeals procedure for students, which we are still, unbelievably slowly, only beginning to create. It is a good beginning. It is just a pity the preliminary work was done so secretively.

We must ensure that the conduct of appeals under this procedure does not fall into the pattern of extended delay which sometimes characterizes those appeals going forward under the existing appeals procedure for Graduate Students. No one should have to wait a year or more to get an appeal concluded.

One or two aspects (which I know to be of particular importance to students) need further work, notably the provisions for dealing with the situation of candidates who are ill and do not complete the full set of papers. Dr Laming is absolutely right about the inequity.

We also have to provide some means of saving students from the consequences of incompetence on the part of those whose duty it is to report illness or difficulties with supervision. Messages of immense importance to a student do not always get delivered.

I saw some hair-raising exchanges this year over the provision for examination allowances for dyslexia. We now have a specialist to co-ordinate this provision. She will no doubt explain that dyslexia takes many forms and needs a variety of types of allowance.

On the related theme of our plans for student complaints procedures, students' enquiries reveal some confusion about procedures inside Colleges, or lack of them. Our Colleges have reason to be proud of their tradition of 'pastoral' support for students. But not in every respect. It is time for University and Colleges to work together and not defend territory.

It is also time that we overhauled the rules of procedure on p. 197 ff. of Statutes and Ordinances, to see how they will mesh with our new procedures for student complaints and appeals, and whether they comply with the requirements of Article 6 under the Human Rights Act, which comes into force in October, and the new Data Protection Act. University Advocate, please note.


Madame Deputy Vice Chancellor, I speak as outgoing sabbatical officer of Cambridge University Students Union. Of all the things I, indeed the Student Union, have done over the past year, it is our involvement in the discussion of the future of the examination system with which we should take particular pride.

Our report, 'Appeals in Cambridge' is available on the CUSU website, and was unanimously endorsed by CUSU Council, the democratic forum of the student body, with representatives from all JCRs and MCRs. 'Appeals in Cambridge' was one of the more substantial responses to the report of the O'Neill working party. I am pleased to see that a number of points we made have been incorporated into the Report we are discussing today.

We welcome the establishment of Examinations Review Committees. We shall have to see how well this fulfils the needs of those who have grounds to appeal for reasons of procedural error, but there is hope. We are especially pleased to see a guarantee of an external element in every committee - something we pushed for in the CUSU report (4.5a). What a pity there is no facility for student representation on the committee as recommended by us in 4.9c.

Another significant step was the transition to allowing students to appeal directly. As we said in our report: 'We recognize the usual benefits of using the tutorial system, however … it should not be assumed that all tutors are equally well-informed or equally accessible. Although candidates should be encouraged to contact their tutor, they should also be able to initiate queries themselves'.

However there appears no change in the regulations so as to state that evidence regarding illness or other grave cause (i.e. extenuating circumstances) can also be supplied via the candidate rather than just the candidate's tutor. Can this please be clarified?

Our chief concern remains those students who receive an unjust classification, not because of procedural error, but extenuating circumstances, i.e. bereavement or ill health. There is a shift, which has to be welcomed, of awarding a class to a candidate who has performed, unhindered in the greater part of the examination. At first I thought, and still think, this was a mild and uncontroversial proposal, but I went on to witness neurosis in University committees of people paranoid about abuse of this. The reality of the fundamental flaw in these proposals is because of the unwillingness to seriously address the question of those who suffer extenuating circumstances at other times. Someone who falls ill at the very end can receive a fair class. Someone who falls ill before their exams can degrade. But for someone who falls ill during the middle or at the beginning can only hope for DDH ('Declared to have deserved honours'). It is this massive and inherent unfairness that should cause concern - and has already been demonstrated by both Dr Laming and Dr Evans today. To follow on from earlier remarks, the CUSU report recommends the introduction of 'Deemed to have deserved a particular class', as one possible solution.

The O'Neill Working Group was right to point out that wider use of double-marking would result in fewer appeals than would otherwise be the case. The National Union of Students believes all scripts should be double-marked. It would do the University enormous credit to follow this advice. In addition, in order to improve clarity and confidence in the system, where justice is seen to be done, we urge the University to also endorse the CUSU report, where we ask for students to be given exam scripts back on request. The merits of an appeal could then be discussed with a Director of Studies. In addition, why not give back exam scripts to Prelim. students automatically; otherwise what is the point of doing them?

A lot of issues are unresolved. There is the issue of how these procedures will complement the work of the Complaints Working Party. Whilst it is important to understand the distinction between a complaint and an appeal, we must also recognize that there are circumstances where a candidate has a complicated case, in which the procedures for both complaints and appeals will need to correspond. How will these procedures fit in to the University's approach to other areas of complaints and appeals? Should the review of these procedures before us today be brought forward on those grounds?

I hope lessons will be learnt from the O'Neill Working Party in terms of consultation. Appendix I makes no reference to consultation with the student body. There was some consultation with the CUSU Academic Affairs Officer, but it was largely seen as one individual's view, not taken seriously or structurally, as the represented voice of the student body. It is true that CUSU sat on the working party, but so did representatives of the Tutors and the General Board - but that did not stop wider consultation there. Why not consult every JCR? Instead, CUSU officers were informed the discussions were very confidential. Why? What is wrong with an open review? Discussions in some Faculty Boards were noted as reserved business, when student representatives are asked to leave. That must never be allowed to happen again in a discussion of such obvious, significant, and immediate concern to students. Attempts at consultation with students during the review were not good, and lessons should be learned.

Finally, a word about DDH. Can the University please admit defeat? It is an anachronism that should be consigned to history. A fair examinations system needs something better, as the CUSU petition, signed by hundreds of students says. DDH is an entirely inadequate outcome of one's time in Cambridge, and an unsuitable qualification for the real world. A first-class University should be able to provide a better examination system. Considering no other university in the country has such anachronistic awards, CUSU wishes to see the University abolish DDH at the earliest opportunity and the use the experience of other universities to devise a fairer system for people who suffer extenuating circumstances during examinations.

The old system for examination appeals and complaints is in serious need of reform, and we welcome the changes on offer, and are pleased to see there is a requirement of further review in three years' time. By then, it will no doubt become clear that CUSU, and may I add Dr Evans, was right to argue for more fundamental change. History may judge us ahead of our time. It is a position the Students Union should be proud to hold, and we are.

The Report of the General Board, dated 24 May 2000, on the establishment of a Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies (p. 820).


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the joke about the CARET and the donkey was pretty thin the first time anyone made it. This is quite an expensive new Centre, but of a type we should welcome, that is, taking the form of a 'research and development group' (2). It is to provide core facilities for the use of people from all over the University wihout taking anyone over or interfering with what anyone is doing. Good.

Not so good is the risk that we shall tumble without proper policy-formulation into huge implications. On the underlying questions about our way forward with e-technology, I point members of the Regent House to my article in the Oxford Magazine a few weeks ago for the uncut version of concerns I now put more briefly here.

The report, 'The Business of Borderless Education: UK perspectives',1 was commissioned jointly by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and 'launched' on 28 March 2000. It explores the possibility that web-based learning may supplement or replace the provision of courses by existing universities. The title conjoins the idea that a university is a 'business' with the notion that it is possible for this business-university to exist without borders. This represents the frankest admission to date of a politically-driven agenda, now some years in the maturing, which, if it succeeds, will result in the pulling-down of the protective walls of the conventional university. Their autonomy has been both a good and a bad thing. It has allowed universities to get away with sometimes appallingly bad administration. On the other hand, it protects the independence of the higher intellectual endeavour of higher education.

The new report, despite bearing the imprimatur of a statutory funding body for higher education and the CVCP, contains no definition of a university. It simply assumes it to be a business, moving briskly into the language of business studies: 'strategic', 'markets', 'managerial', 'poorly positioned in competitive terms', 'market opportunities' (HEFCE/CVCP, 2000: 1.1ff.). It takes universities to be 'higher education providers' (HEFCE/CVCP, 2000: 1.8). There is a marginal quotation from Sir Graham Hills which captures the essence of this approach: 'Higher education is now a no-value commodity unrelated to real costs and no basis whatsoever for an effective and efficient business ... the future is always best left in the hands of discerning customers close to the marketplace' (Hills, 1999).

Only with a single unidentified marginal quotation from John Masefield do I glimpse for an instant the world in which I really work: 'for century after century the university will continue, and the stream of life will pass through it, and the thinker and the seeker will be bound together in the undying cause of bringing thought into the world' (HEFCE/CVCP, 2000: p. 13).

Because they beg this crucial preliminary question, it does not occur to the compilers of the report to discuss that happens when the boundary between university and business disappears. They come to the question from the other end, defining the purposes of the University in terms of the usefulness of its teaching to the employees of a business. The prime 'target' of borderless higher education becomes 'the life-long learning needs of staff in multi-national organisations' (HEFCE/CVCP, 2000: 1.2), and this seems to include conventional universities not only the 'corporate universities' sometimes set up directly by big business, such as British Aerospace University. Thus we read of 'the need for consistent delivery through a customer-focused approach to education and training' (HEFCE/CVCP, 2000: 4.2). Indeed there is a frank acknowledgement of the intended 'dissolution of the boundaries between public and private, education and training' (HEFCE/CVCP, 2000: 4.2).

In meeting the need for such 'corporate' educational provision there may be large 'customer' numbers (the students), but the 'education and training' they can be offered becomes narrower in scope. Thus the report speaks of a 'widening of educational values to include company certification, learning outcomes relevant to the workplace, personal development and flexibility' (HEFCE/CVCP, 2000: 4.2), in terms which really reflect a considerable narrowing of the 'educational values' of a traditional university.

One of the great strengths of the traditional university has been that within its borders is entertained a universe of knowledge. The new plan is to break up this spread of coverage within an autonomous institution and to create 'new systems of operation which disaggregate function, increase specialisation and where outsourcing is a strong feature. It follows that universities need to give priority to identifying their core business, niche opportunities, and specialist functions' (HEFCE/CVCP 2000: 4.2). There is to be 'specialisation and a narrow subject spread as new providers concentrate in specific areas, thus potentially leaving university portfolios unbalanced or precarious' (HEFCE/CVCP 2000: 4.2).

The replacement of the institution with the brand seems to be what is envisaged. Borderless education speaks of the 'increased use of branding in order to exploit reputational assets' (HEFCE/CVCP 2000: 4.2) and 'powerful branded providers' (HEFCE/CVCP 2000: 12.6.). But there is an unexamined slip of logic here. The reputation which makes the 'Cambridge' brand (as it is already being called) saleable derives from the established achievement of the ancient and traditional university. If that university did not continue as an entity, its identity would gradually be lost and the 'brand' would become mere nostalgia. It would no longer reflect a current reality. Ironically, for sales purposes, the brand may not survive the loss of the identity of the institution.

The UK Government has, in connection with this project, been seeking to foster 'globalization' of university teaching by putting courses on the internet (in its e-university project). This is where we came in.

Borderless Education (HEFCE/CVCP, 2000: 5.4) suggests that 'collaborative partnerships' between universities and between universities and 'private sector organisations' will be necessary in 'a highly competitive market (particularly in relation to virtual programmes operated internationally)'. There is reference to: 'The need for collaboration to compete successfully in borderless higher education' (HEFCE/CVCP, 2000: 4.2). It is unclear why e-provision should be more expensive to mount, and even more unclear why it should be necessary for it to involve formal collaborative structures between universities. This again looks suspiciously like the destruction of the old boundaries as an end in itself, ostensibly designed to 'free things up', but also carrying the seeds of the destruction of the traditional university.

The great danger of the present tendencies to break down the borders of universities is that they are being driven by vested interest. These new 'interests' want universities to be profitable. They need to create compliant workforces with limited knowledge of other worlds and other ways of thinking about things. So let us be careful to preserve what is good in this idea about CARET and watch out for what might be bad.

1 Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and Higher Education Funding Council for England (2000), 'The Business of Borderless Education: UK perspectives'.

The Report of the General Board, dated 24 May 2000, on the establishment of a Marconi Professorship of Communications Systems (p. 822).

Professor I. M. LESLIE:

Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, on behalf of the Computer Science Syndicate, I would like both to welcome this Report and to express our gratitude to Marconi for this benefaction. The endowment of this Chair is part of a broad co-operation between the University and Marconi which stems from Marconi's view that commercial innovation in their business relies on fundamental research developments and on a supply of independently-minded people with relevant, but broad knowledge. We should therefore take satisfaction from the fact that Marconi has chosen this University as the first place to look for these research developments and independently-minded people on such a scale.

The Report of the General Board, dated 24 May 2000, on the establishment of a GKN Professorship of Manufacturing Engineering (p. 823).


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, it is a great pity that this Discussion is taking place outside term-time, because if it had taken place at another time, this room may well have been swamped with very angry students. Cambridge University Students Union voted overwhelmingly at CUSU Council - that is the representative body of all JCRs and MCRs - to 'support and organize non-violent direct action in protest against the proposed GKN-funded Chair'.

The University should not underestimate the possibility for significant protest amongst the student body next term. Anyone who witnessed the student protests at the careers presentations of Nestlé and British Aerospace will have some understanding of the ethical principles of a large number of students.

GKN is a highly unethical arms manufacturer. GKN has been cited in a Campaign Against the Arms Trade report, called 'Arms Exports to Indonesia', as supplying anti-submarine helicopters and water cannon. The Campaign Against the Arms Trade is in the process of writing a report on GKN. The following information is taken from them. GKN have got three basic activities - metal goods (17%), automative components (some of which are used in armoured vehicles: 52%), military (i.e. helicopter and aircraft components: 31% - making up £1,439 million in total). GKN also used to own GKN Defense, which made armoured vehicles. This was transferred to Alvis plc in 1998 but in return GKN now has a 30% stake in Alvis plc. Alvis made Tactica armoured vehicles, which were used to suppress student protests - student protests - in Indonesia. GKN Westland Helicopters is a wholly-owned subsidiary of GKN. One of their products is Lynx helicopters, which have been sold to Malaysia, South Korea, and Brazil.

GKN is a company of very dubious moral standing, and one that the University must not be legitimizing. Those who have drawn up this Report, and all those who endorse it, must accept their complicity in murder and genocide. Shame on them, and shame on this University.


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, is the Regent House content to see a representative from the sponsor of this Chair, who is not an academic, sitting on the Board of Electors? Is this a practice we wish to see go on unchallenged? Should we perhaps have Margaret Thatcher's son on the Board of Electors to the Margaret Thatcher Chair then?

I share the concern about the ethical questions which have just been raised. In-house membership of Boards of Electors will tend to make it the harder for an eye to be kept on such matters, not only with reference to this benefaction, but more widely. It is time we could point to some ethical guidelines for our acceptance of benefactions. I understand the Executive Committee of the Council, to which the Council has delegated responsibility for considering these matters, has not yet been able to formulate any. They have certainly not been furnished to the Council if it has.

Professor M. J. GREGORY:

Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am pleased to have this opportunity to commend the generous benefaction offered by GKN plc to the support of a new Chair of Manufacturing Engineering in the Manufacturing and Management Division of the Engineering Department. The Division has grown substantially over recent years and has developed a significant presence in teaching and research related to the manufacturing industries. Work in the field of manufacturing automation and control is at the leading edge of international developments and the Centre for Technology Management, for example, is a national focus for work in that field. The formation of the Institute for Manufacturing within the Engineering Department in 1998, was a reflection of the increasing maturity of this rather young subject but we have been anxious to improve our understanding of the material and process technologies associated with manufacturing. The new Chair will greatly enhance our teaching and research capabilities in this area, and indeed, further our fundamental understanding of manufacturing.

Efficient manufacturing, far from being outdated as some would have us believe, is central to our ability to create a sustainable environment. The craft foundations of manufacturing, particularly in the UK, have meant that manufacturing in the modern integrated sense of the word does not have a long history of academic study. We are fortunate that thirty years ago in Cambridge the foundations of a strong manufacturing community within the Engineering Department were laid - particularly as at that time manufacturing was more associated with the heavy industries of the Midlands and North of England. Nowadays, of course, manufacturing is increasingly pursued by networks of smaller sites with high technology skills and international reach characteristics with which we are not unfamiliar around Cambridge! It is an understanding of manufacturing which provides intellectual as well as practical bridges between new ideas and the goods which people and society demand - at minimum cost in resources.

I have presented this detailed introduction to explain the importance we attach to this Chair, as adding significant support to a flourishing activity which is strongly encouraged within the Department of Engineering.

GKN are an appropriate benefactor for this first new Chair associated with the Institute for Manufacturing. GKN traces its roots back to the earliest days of modern mechanical engineering. Famous originally for steel-making, then for nuts and bolts, it is now arguably the UK's leading mechanical engineering company. It holds global positions in many key mechanical and production technologies. For example, 40% of the world's constant velocity joints - those crucial high technology components which connect engine to wheels in front wheel drive cars - are produced by GKN. Support for the Chair comes from the company's millennium fund rather than from a particular business unit and there are no 'strings attached' to their benefaction. We look forward to continuing links with this leading company and express our warmest thanks to them for their support.

Some concerns have been raised about GKN's involvement in arms exports following recent press reports. I have explored this issue and am assured by the company that 'No GKN subsidiary (including the Westland companies) has any outstanding contract with Indonesia and none are being sought.' It may be helpful to note that the Church of England is a significant investor in the company. It regularly reviews its investments on ethical grounds and is satisfied with the company's position.

No remarks were made on the following Reports:

The Report of the Council, dated 12 June 2000, on development matters (p. 803).

The Report of the Faculty Board of Divinity, dated 4 May 2000, on the regulations for the Theological and Religious Studies Tripos (p. 824).

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Cambridge University Reporter, 12 July 2000
Copyright © 2000 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.