< Previous page ^ Table of Contents Next page >

Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 16 January 2001. A Discussion was held in the Senate-House of the following Reports:

The Report of the Council, dated 11 December 2000, on further development on the Sidgwick Avenue Site (p. 309).


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I welcome the Council's decision to revisit the Master Plan. With Law and Divinity recently installed on the site, and a lengthening queue of further eager possible developers, the timing is perfect. And I have no quibbles with the detailed accommodation needs identified in this Report for Criminology, East Asia, English, and Land Economy. My concerns relate instead chiefly to ways in which the new proposals would undermine the achievements of previous architects and designers on the site, reducing its amenity and efficiency. I want to ask how many of these deserving projects can sensibly be accommodated on this site rather than on another.

The Sidgwick Site has an importance to the University out of proportion to its size. Apart from accommodating towards 5,000 regular users, it plays host each year to larger numbers of other people who may influence our reputation and future performance: it hosts prestigious international conferences, open days for prospective applicants, the alumni reunion, and public concerts and lectures. The University Council have recognized and reinforced its showcase role: the list of architects they have secured for successive developments is dazzling; the quality of the earlier buildings has encouraged benefactors to help fund outstanding new ones; and, until recently, the Council have managed to resist the pressures to develop the site beyond the point where new buildings seriously reduce the value of older ones and the overall efficiency of the site.

There are chronic tendencies towards over-development of University sites, and they arise from generous motives. Members of the University feel uncomfortable, as I do now, taking issue with arguments for re-housing colleagues and friends whose work is hampered by inadequate accommodation - all the more when their need and merit have been recognized by outside donors willing to fund their developments and impatient to see results. The tendency towards excessive development is reinforced by our procedures, which mean that, in this case, would-be developers, well aware of the benefits, were intimately involved in the formative stages of the Master Plan, whereas existing site users, more conscious of the possible costs of further big development, were not consulted at those decisive stages. And the process continues to be loaded in favour of the developers: this final consultation is decidedly casual - the Report omits any discussion of the crucial location policy guiding the recommendations; and the 'drawings … of the Master Plan' which 'are displayed in the Schools Arcade' had not appeared several weeks after the Report was published.

We know what sad and perverse results the pressures for over-development can produce when combined with our imperfect decision-making procedures. The University's New Museums and Downing Sites are notorious among architects. Rawle's celebrated book comments on 'oversized structures sited too close together, forming a depressing and harsh environment. Bricks and mortar, concrete and tarmac, here predominate and overwhelm', while Booth and Taylor describe the development as a 'dark and sordid muddle'.

Until recently plans for the Sidgwick Site have been careful to avoid such results. Restraint on the part of past developers of the site has meant that reasonable gaps have generally been left between buildings - normally enough to sustain a tree or a patch of grass, and to avoid depriving adjacent offices or libraries of sunlight. Most recently, however, this restraint has lapsed and we are seeing a return to the shoe horn approach: an example is the grim concrete alley recently created between History and the new Divinity building. And the proposed Master Plan seems to take this as the model, with gaps to the north of proposed buildings C and D so narrow that the designers might almost as well brick up the windows of the adjacent rooms in Law and in Economics. I suggest that an appropriate test for whether buildings are too close together is whether grass and trees will flourish in the gap; if not, it should be back to the drawing board.

It is not just the immediate occupants of the buildings who lose out when buildings are cheek by jowl. St Paul's Cathedral is perhaps the most notorious case where greedy developers have so hemmed in a distinguished building that the original architect's effort has been in vain. In the Master Plan such a fate seems to be threatening some buildings. An example is Foster's dramatic north wall of the Law Building. I have noticed the impact of this façade recently while leading distinguished visitors around Cambridge. Without exception there are two vistas which stop them in their tracks: one, unsurprisingly, is the famous view of King's Chapel across the river; the other is that of Foster's glazed wall of the Law Building rising out of the grass. Yet the Master Plan proposes a virtual barricade along West Road, formed by buildings A and B, so that it would not be possible to see Foster's achievement from a distance whence it can be appreciated. This is particularly contrary because the Report recognizes elsewhere the need to establish 'clear relationships with … in particular, the University Library'. There is a splendid potential link between the University Library and Sidgwick: a walk down the vista to this stunning piece of architecture. No expenditure would be required - just the self-restraint to leave the way clear. It would be an exaggeration to liken the current proposal to block this vista with buildings A and B to a hypothetical proposal by King's to place their new student housing beside the west door of the Chapel, or by Trinity to 'infill' Great Court; but it is not a wild exaggeration.

Of course, self-restraint, in terms of maintaining a lower density of development, can be costly (the river Colleges have had to forgo many valuable developments in order to conserve the Backs). Departments' teaching and research programmes can be stifled by poor accommodation; and sometimes squeezing extra accommodation onto a site, even if it does lower the quality of existing accommodation and harm an environment which has been developed with great care and expense, can be justified if there is nowhere else for that development to go. But on the available evidence it is hard to believe we are in that uncomfortable position in this case. The westward exodus being led by Maths and Computer Science (which will continue for many years) is releasing huge areas on the central sites; and the extent of pressure on University sites even before that exodus started is illustrated by the fact that fairly recently the University sold off a major building on the Old Schools Site, while some central University buildings have been let commercially. It is not obvious to those of us outside the central bodies why all the Departments wanting space cannot readily be accommodated without over-developing the Sidgwick Site; and the Report does not address the issue.

The over-ambitious accommodation targets for this particular site mean that much of the existing greenery on the Sidgwick Site would inevitably be destroyed. But one area which Allies and Morrison, the consultants, propose to concrete over can be saved without forgoing floor space. This is the part of the Raised Faculty Court which, it is proposed, should be converted from a quad of lawn and trees to a 'meeting area'. The existing green quad, a delightful modern version of the traditional Oxbridge cloistered court, has proved a very success-ful quiet centrepiece for a group of four important libraries; the Estate Management and Building Service (EMBS) have conserved it very skilfully in the recent adaptation of the Raised Faculty Building, and it is much enjoyed. Its proposed destruction shows most clearly the consultants' disregard for previous design achievements and blindness to the value of green spaces between academic buildings.

Where the consultants might claim some 'green' credit is in proposing the reduction of car parking. The proposals would cut the parking spaces on the site while bringing more users onto the site. (Incidentally, what are the plans for the several dozen Sidgwick parking permits allocated to Departments on central sites close to public transport, principally EMBS?) Of course, parked cars are unsightly, and commuting cars are never welcome on city roads. But eliminating car parking without accompanying measures to fill the transport gap brings other problems, not addressed in the Report. Commuting time is becoming a significant factor in the recruitment and retention of staff. At least two trends are at work: congestion in Cambridge generally is increasing; and, at the same time, University staff are being forced further into the sticks as Cambridge house prices outpace University salaries. The difficulty is particularly severe for the Sidgwick Site because it is practically a 'no go' area for public transport. I have been asking staff what they will do if they lose their parking permits. One or two who are energetic cyclists will be willing to drive past Sidgwick out to the innovative Clerk Maxwell park and cycle scheme (adding a couple of hours to their weekly commuting time). For others, without, say, frequent direct bus services to Park and Ride sites, these yet further travel problems will tip the balance against their University jobs, and they will leave.


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, in a preview presentation of the Master Plan last year, one small feature was made rather a lot of. We were told, more than once, that a cycle path was to be provided 'for the convenience of cyclists'. As illustrated, the path appeared to consist of a very large number of right-angled bends connected by remarkably short straight stretches, the whole serving to banish cyclists to the periphery of the site. Anyone who actually uses a cycle can tell you that it would be hard to conceive a less convenient design.

It may be that the architects are not cyclists, and really believe what they say. I deem it more probable that this is a pis aller, forced upon us by other considerations, possibly that implied in Master Plan main point 3(b): 'greater separation of pedestrian and cycle access'. If so, I plead with the Council for honesty: if cyclists must needs have imposed upon them a tortuous, unpleasant, and uncomfortable pathway, it should be presented as such without the pretence that this is somehow a boon. What would be a boon would be full consultation with cyclists about their needs, if only to avoid another outcrop of Divine meathooks.


Madam Deputy Vice Chancellor, I am speaking this afternoon in my capacity as Chairman of the Sidgwick Site Committee. This Committee concerns itself with matters of safety, security, services, and other matters affecting the external conditions on the site. The Committee's membership includes administrators from all the Faculties and Departments on the Sidgwick Site together with members of the Estate Management and Building Service, the Health and Safety Office, and the Security Office of the University. Over the years the Committee has discussed subjects such as skateboarding, car parking, security, catering, construction work, and the general environment of the site. There is therefore considerable knowledge, understanding and experience about the site through this Committee's work.

The Committee welcomes a coherent approach to planning and development of the Sidgwick Site and understands that we are only at the beginning of a process of design and building which will take many years. During that time not only will individual buildings be important but also the way in which the whole site functions in the interests of the students, staff, and visitors. The Committee therefore looks forward to taking an active part and making a positive contribution to the consultation process and the exchange of views on those matters concerning the infrastructure of the site.

This first Report on the principles and key strategic proposals for the development of the Sidgwick Avenue Site is welcomed.

The Joint Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 11 December and 29 November 2000, on the establishment of a Management Board of the Cambridge Programme for Industry (p. 311).


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, 'We have to brand ourselves within organisations' (Mary Spillane, author of Branding Yourself, quoted in the Daily Telegraph Business section on 21 September 2000). 'We're working in multi-national, multi-cultural, multi-corporate teams and we need to really (sic) get a grip on what we want people to get from us. We need to create a personal brand that is unique, but synergistic with the corporate one we are working for'. What is our corporate 'brand', and how are we to make our personal 'brands' synergistic with it? Can anyone play? Can anyone buy into our 'brand'?

The Cambridge Programme for Industry says on its web page that it is already an 'integral' part of the University. In a sense that is true, and I am impressed by the dedication and enthusiasm of those I spoke to in doing my homework before standing up to speak on this Report. Yet it is proposed to bring the CPI into a new and closer relationship to the University. On a hostile construction, this could look like our bid to be like the British Aerospace University and provide courses for in-post businessmen seconded to us or prepared to pay. On a friendly construction, it looks like a sensible plan to meet a need and perhaps do a bit of good. Those 'clients', such as Monsanto and Wessex Water, also on the web page, could learn a thing or two from courses in which the ethical issues were responsibly aired, as I learn the CPI tries hard to make sure they are.

But it is important to keep the 'clients' and the 'partners' conceptually distinct, and at the moment they are run together in a rather worrying way on that website. If we are in 'partnership' with hundreds of businesses through the Cambridge Programme for Industry, and it is proposed to bring the CPI further inside our 'tent', those 'partnership' relationships need clarifying extremely sharply.

It is admitted that what is proposed requires consultation with the Regent House. It is accepted that important questions of policy arise. We are invited, not for the first time, to approve what are admitted to be interim proposals without proper consideration of these policy matters. That means, in reality, that any such consideration will almost certainly go by the board. It will never happen because the central bodies will begin to think the job is done once this goes through.

Not least among these policy questions is whether those who 'enrol' on the CPI's courses could become members of the University (when non-business students have to apply and compete to get in); whether they are, in the long term, to be given degrees or diplomas of the University of Cambridge as distinct from awards clearly under the umbrella of 'Continuing Education'; the status of the staff who are to 'transfer' from the Board of Continuing Education to the Cambridge Programme for Industry. (I knew Homerton was the thin end of a wedge but how big is this wedge going to get while others, such as the one thousand College lecturers who are members of the Regent House, remain outside the magic circle of University employment?) There is already a constitutional thicket. A University office cannot be assigned to an institution which is not constituted as a Faculty or Department, but it seems that the CPI is to 'become a University Institution independent of any Faculty or Department' and a University office of 'Director' is to be established in it.

This Report ought not to be going before the University yet. A much fuller and more carefully considered Report is needed. It looks suspiciously like another example of hastiness driven by commercial interest, where we later repent at leisure. Much is at stake beyond this present proposal. My impression is that the staff of the CPI have much to teach the University about what they do, that they should be represented on that working party on ethical guidelines for the acceptance of benefactions, in short, that we ought to bring them in and give them a proper chance to contribute to the debate and try for once to do the thing properly. Please can we wait long enough to do that and have another Report before we gallop to a Grace?

Dr A. MUNRO (read by Mrs S. BOWRING):

Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as Chairman of the Management Studies Syndicate, which has academic oversight of the development of management studies within the University.

The Syndicate has not had a chance to consider this Report as such since it was published after the end of the Michaelmas Term, and the Discussion coincides with the first Syndicate of the Lent Term (hence I have asked for this statement to be read on my behalf). We did however have a chance to discuss the Report of the working party on 'Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning', which is currently under consultation with Faculties and Departments, at our last meeting. The proposal to establish the CPI as an institution independent of any Faculty and Department is one of the recommendations of that working party. The Management Studies Syndicate felt that it was premature to take one part of these proposals ahead of the others. As Chairman of the Management Studies Syndicate I have a particular interest in these developments. The Report establishing independent status for the CPI notes that: 'CPI is a University organization that develops and delivers continuing professional education, at a high intellectual level, for people working in business, industry, and the professions. CPI collaborates with many academics, University Faculties and Departments, and external organizations to promote the broad professional development aspects of the University's interactions with industry'.

It is clear therefore that CPI will operate within the field of management and executive education which is obviously a central concern of the Judge Institute. However the Report is silent on the extent to which it is anticipated that the development of the work of the CPI under the new arrangements and of the Judge Institute will overlap or be co-ordinated. It is also silent on the broader issue of how the proposed independent status will best meet the strategic objectives of the University in the area of business and management education as a whole. These are important issues on which clarification is essential. It is moreover not clear why the change is being proposed now. As the Report itself notes: 'The Council and other central bodies are considering a report resulting from a review of the University's arrangements for continuing education and lifelong learning, and, if new institutional arrangements are proposed as a result of this review, the arrangements for CPI will be adjusted accordingly. The Council expect to report to the Regent House about this matter, if it is decided to proceed, later in the academical year'.

This would seem reason enough for taking a decision later when the full position is known and the responses of relevant University Faculties and Departments to the wider proposals are known. The good sense of deferring a decision is reinforced when it is borne in mind that there is a separate General Board Review of the Judge Institute in progress. This includes in its terms of reference the relationships of the Judge Institute with cognate bodies and the overall strategic development of the Institute within the University.

I know there has been correspondence on these matters and I would urge the General Board and the Council to consider them very carefully.

The Report of the General Board, dated 29 November 2000, on the establishment of a Robert Monks Professorship of Corporate Governance (p. 313).


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, before I begin, may I challenge readers of the Reporter to spot the split infinitive? The General Board is supposed to be in charge of our academic and educational activities. It ought to make an effort to be literate in its Reports to the University.

'Teaching and research in corporate governance, particularly with reference to corporate leadership and accountability'. That is the 'leadership' role of this proposed new Professorship, funded by the Tyco Corporation of the USA. This is to be a Chair of Corporate Governance in business corporations, I take it? Yet our most urgent need in this University is not for someone who can encourage 'links between Europe, the USA, and Asia' (p. 313). It is for someone who can organize courses and seminars to enable those who run the University to understand our system of governance, which has to be different from that of a business if we are to continue to be a real university.

A principal difference between the earlier part of this century and now, is that it is no longer true that the body of dons making up the Regent House is small enough for everyone to know everyone else. However, there is still, as there always was, only a small number who actively participate in the governance of the University. Some of these do so because they care about it and its future but the 'system' does its best to shut them out, although they may be some of the best-informed about the constitution. Others find their names appearing everywhere on committees. I do not suggest that they stand outside the class of those who care. But they should certainly not be allowed to stand outside the class of the best-informed. Passing an elementary test on the contents of the Statutes and Ordinances should not be beyond the members of the Governance Committee, for example.

Properly-qualified and properly appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellors may be needed to chair the academic committees to work with our new, professionally qualified Directors in the new Divisions which I hope are shortly going to replace that old lumbering monster, the untrained and overburdened General Board. More on that when we get to its Annual Report. I do not think the appointee to this Chair will be our man for such a post if he is going to be another management guru.

We have to begin to make a systematic attempt to get the best out of our privileges of democratic self-government, before some Government finds a way to take them away from us. University Commissioners have galloped across the horizon more than once in the last century and a half. Let us begin to do some really solid work in this area and be seen to pull our socks up in corporate governance, and let us do it quickly.

We must explain ourselves better to our own members, so that those involved in running the University and its Colleges have a clear understanding of the polity in which they are operating.

Another key difference from the era of the Microcosmographia academica is that we no longer have a small number of administrators. Newly appointed administrative staff are likely these days to come in without the background knowledge about the way the University is governed, which could once realistically have been expected. A sign of the bunker mentality which results is the fact that members of the Regent House may no longer enter the Old Schools, even when they are well-known faces or are carrying their University Cards and have a proper errand within. Go to reception. Before you is a glass screen through which you may not pass. You cannot drop in on anyone about anything. If you have a formal appointment, someone may come down to 'identify you' (even though the receptionist greeted you by name) and let you through that screen, but quite possibly not, and you will be left standing there humiliatingly with tourists and casual visitors, unable to communicate with the administration which is supposed to serve you. Such occasional, natural encounters, as used to be possible with our masters, can no longer take place. The reason for this is, of course, the need for security. But is it the presumption that all members of the Regent House may be thieves or vandals so none may enter? I find that insulting. Registrary, may we have a distinction please between the right of entry of persons on legitimate business who can identify themselves as members of the Regent House and those unfortunates who are a danger to the community. But then contact with the Regent House is dangerous to an administration in the trenches. Perhaps the Regent House should take a firm line on the admission of administrative staff who are not members of the Regent House to the facilities of our Combination Room, so convenient to the Old Schools. I thought we all agreed it was important to build bridges and try to get open exchange improved between administration and the Regent House.

Education in our constitution might begin to breed an awareness of moments when a Statute or Ordinance or fundamental constitutional principle is in peril, which I notice to be alarmingly absent in discussions round committee and Council tables. Some years ago I stopped a move to limit the number of Reports to the University on which one might speak in Discussions of the Senate by pointing out that those who were keen to restrict their colleagues' freedom of speech might find they had used up their own 'entitlement' just as a new Report to the University was published on which they found they badly wanted to speak. It would have been pointless to take my companions round that table back to the reasons why we have Discussion of Reports and the democratic responsibilities which attach to the privileges of membership of the Regent House. But they were struck at once by the thought that this proposed new restriction might adversely affect them personally. It might even have made it impossible to get in that speech on the scandalousness of having cherry silk facings for the proposed new doctoral gowns.

What that means, put bluntly, is that those who enjoy the inestimable privilege of the franchise can, in practice, best be stirred by the appeal to self-interest. I think, for that reason, that we need something more than a series of seminars designed to be challenging enough to get people to come and learn about the way the University works. We need a requirement that people get the appropriate training before they are allowed to take decisions on committees or anywhere else in the running of our University.

To suggest that is to be shouted down with cries of indignation. It is, after all, asking much of colleagues that they consent to serve on committees at all. Enough of their time is taken up in that way, without their having to learn the rudiments of the job as well. There are reasons why they must. One is that there is now likely to be a legal requirement that they perform to at least minimum professional standards when taking decisions affecting the futures of students and the professional or career prospects of employees of the University. The Quality Assurance Agency's guidelines require that those deciding students' fates should have had the appropriate training. Those on Finance Committees should surely be required to know enough to read a balance sheet intelligently? Those exercising discretions should surely understand the basic rules about acting ultra vires and be able to point to the fetters on the discretions they propose to exercise. Those hearing appeals should surely understand the rudiments of fairness and be able to identify the two rules of natural justice (a colleague who said indignantly that it was unreasonable to expect him to remember a great long list of antiquated rules was shortly afterwards invited to be a Head of House. I pity staff or students of that College who want to be confident that its leadership will give them a fair hearing). When a person is appointed to chair an internal disciplinary tribunal because he has a degree in law there should surely some requirement that he also has some legal practice qualification or at least brushes up on the relevant bits of his administrative law.

The training (if that word offends) could perfectly well be called 'education' (a word that surely cannot offend). After thirty years' experience of facing the task of getting students interested in some pretty abstruse matters in medieval intellectual history, I have great faith in the effect of the sudden perception that there is a familiar (and gripping) problem in the depths of the thicket. The same thing can happen in the arcane regions of the study of the Statutes. The question where advice ends and deciding begins is surely close enough to home. It arises all the time in the stately minuet of our administrators with the academic members of the committees they service.

There is a second urgent reason. Playing safe by playing the old Oxbridge games of minor territorial expansion, treaty, and protections of local interest; of delay in the hope that a problem will go away; the sometimes wilful failure of the supremely intelligent beings who people this city, to grasp the essentials of the matter in hand, is no longer going to be playing safe at all. Others with bigger agendas, particularly politicians, have been reconstructing the wider landscape. In a recent article1 David Bridges describes the wholesale deconstruction of the old structures and of the old ideas about what a university is, which has been going on around and even inside Oxford and Cambridge. This is the macrocosm. 'The expansion of public funding has not taken place on the basis of cultivating young minds for their own sake', comments a paper by the CVCP just before it became 'Universities UK'. 'Rather, it has taken place on the basis of promoting societal, and not individual values'.2 Those who serve on Oxford and Cambridge committees must, to put it colloquially, 'wise up'. They have to be sufficiently clear-headed to see what is happening; sufficiently focused to spot what to do; sufficiently purposeful to 'cut to the chase'. (The jargon is not only justified but necessary in this context.)

Otherwise we shall be 'rebranded' despite ourselves and when They have turned us into something quite different it will be comparatively easy for Them to move briskly ahead and take our rights to self-government out of our hands. (One leading figure in Cambridge said impatiently recently that 'some of us just want to get on with things'; from his previous remarks I am confident that the 'things' have very little to do with the University's ancient purposes; they certainly took no account of the requirements of our domestic legislation and constitution.)

Let me go back for a moment to 'Universities UK'. The now-defunct CVCP sent out a green, blue, and purple leaflet about its transformation. I expect you had one. I expect you threw it straight into the waste-paper basket. It says that 'the leading brand consultancy, Elmwood, have been chosen to create our new look'. Read on. We come to little chunks of the distinctive prose-patterns of the 'modern management' recruitment advertisement. 'Working closely with Elmwood, we've created a new positioning statement which forms the creative brief for the new identity and a roll-out programme that will communicate these changes at key stages to our staff, members and the wider world'; 'A dynamic, modern organisation, we …'; 'Outward-looking and the leading authority on higher education, we provide an essential service'. Fellow scholars, use your skills as writers and thinkers, not to play games on committees but to outwit the half-wits who can in all seriousness put forth this rubbish on behalf of the universities of the UK and expect it to impress. You should be ashamed to let them push you into a siding and perhaps derail you altogether for lack of a little effort in getting on top of your subject.

For when you are on a University committee, your subject is the business which that committee is entrusted with, and beyond that, the running of the University for its enduring good and perhaps now for its survival, and beyond that the survival of the freedom to do the work you entered this profession to do.

Will this new Professor be chosen from among those equipped to assist us in our present need?

1 David Bridges, 'Back to the future: the higher education curriculum in the 21st century', Cambridge Journal of Education, 30 (2000), 37-55.

2 Higher education in the 21st century: some possible futures (1999), 14.

The Report of the General Board, dated 29 November 2000, on the establishment of a Grosvenor Professorship of Real Estate Finance (p. 315).


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, there are two points of special interest in this Report. The Report proposes a structure much like that which obtains in Oxford. A University teaching office is to be conjoined with a specified College post. It is not clear how the salary of this Professor is to be made up but if two endowments are involved it appears that he is going to get a larger salary as a result of this conjoint appointment. That has been the effect of the use of this device in Oxford. Those in Oxford's joint appointments get much better salaries than those in Cambridge who hold University posts and College Fellowships. The fact that lecturers were already on salaries as good as those of professors meant that Oxford was able to give the appropriate titles to all those who deserved them (well, probably all) years before Cambridge made that decision a couple of years ago (when its arm was twisted with the horrid threat of another ballot over the Allocations Report).

Perhaps the new Council will give some thought to this mode of arranging remuneration as a policy matter?

The second point of interest, for quiet amusement, is the assertion that there is a need 'to complement research strengths in public policy and regulations' in the light of the shift 'to more sophisticated methods of financial analysis'. CAPSA? And what about that recent Judgment of Solomon of the European Court of Justice (C-380/98) which cost us an immense amount of money in legal fees (well into six figures over several years)? In brief, we sought to challenge the requirement that we comply with Public Procurement Directives. We tried to show that we are not a public body for those purposes. The Court found that in any year in which more than half our income comes from public funds, we are a public body, and in any year in which it does not, for those purposes we are not a public body. That means, O best beloved, that each year we shall have to make up our accounts in unprecedented detail and that if, for example, we do rather well out of the forthcoming Research Assessment Exercise and get lots of grants from the MRC, the BBSRC, the AHRB, and so on, we shall have to comply with the Public Procurement Directives. And if we don't we shan't. But either way, we shall have to do a great deal of expensive and time-consuming arithmetic every year. (Compare Oxford's sensible regulations, Oxford Gazette, 4 October 2000).

This is, of course, an academic post. But, as so often, one is struck by the University's failure to ensure that those among our huge number of distinguished experts are consulted when we need administrative help on technical matters or matters requiring professional expertise. This is an important point. The Grosvenor Professor of Real Estate Finance could be of immense help to the University. He could save us millions. We should be making intelligent use of in-house expertise.

I say that in the knowledge that an academic and a practitioner are not the same thing (especially where the law is concerned). Nevertheless, our committees badly need individuals on them who understand what they are dealing with to a reasonable professional level. Our central constitutional principle of a direct democracy where all can play their part does not require us to accept the present level of ignorance and incompetence and amateurishness in the decision-making of our committees. Someone round the table ought to be able to hold an informed exchange with the administrative officers, especially with our new professional Directors, who do have expertise.

Meanwhile, that 'Committee on Committees' goes on its way, handing out the plums. At the very least we should be spreading the responsibilities. Empire-building in the University? In 1990 a single person could be found upon thirty-four major University committees.1 Do check when the lists are published how many Committees have upon them or in the chair the name of the (untrained) Professor Schofield, member and Chairman of the Committee on Committees on 4 December when the present appointments were proposed. I flinch a little from his reaction to my mentioning this again. Last time he sent round a nasty little circular e-mail discouraging people from voting for me in the Council elections, which was forwarded to me by a well-wisher only after it had been passed from list to list more than once. I know there is disapproval when I am seen to make personal criticisms. But I do not do it in secretive multiple e-mails.

I was amused to see in the Times Higher Education Supplement of 22 December 2000 that 'Cambridge University is planning to force building contractors to submit staff training plans when they bid for University projects' because of a history of waste and incompetence and delay. Then they can be 'supervised' by our untrained committees. Will anyone ask the new Professor of Real Estate Finance to get involved?

Professor M. J. GRANT:

Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I should like to take advantage of the opportunity that Dr Evans has so generously given me in speaking to the Report on the Grosvenor Professorship of Real Estate Finance to do two things. The first is to record, on behalf of the Department of Land Economy, our deep gratitude to the Duke of Westminster, who has been personally involved in and hugely supportive of this initiative, and also to his Chief Executive, Jeremy Newsum, who has not only given very willingly of his time and support in helping us to fund this Professorship but also has joined our Strategic Advisory Group in developing within the Department our new Master's programme in Real Estate Finance. This Professorship is timely in advancing this vital new area of teaching and research in the Department.

It is also timely in addressing a point to which Dr Evans alluded which is the need to bring rigorous finance-based analysis to the study of Real Estate. This is a realization which has long been apparent in the United States but which is now spreading into the United Kingdom and into European markets, and we are ambitious in the Department that with this appointment and with others that we have made we should be able to provide must of the leading research in this area for the future.

I would also like to use this opportunity to welcome the election to the Professorship of Professor Jim Shilling, who is presently Professor of Real Estate Finance in the Business School in the University of Wisconsin.

Second, Dr Evans raised two points on the Report to which I would like briefly to respond.

The first relates to a quite unusual characteristic of this benefaction, which is that it is coupled with a benefaction to Pembroke College. I know how much the College welcome that benefaction and it is right that their gratitude should be recorded in the Senate-House this afternoon. But it is not correct to suggest, as Dr Evans has done, that this would result in a dual salary structure for the Professor. Throughout our discussions the assumption has been that the Professor will be paid through the normal University salary arrangements. The benefaction to Pembroke College enhances our capacity to attract candidates in future appointments. To potential candidates from around the world, the attraction of a post in Cambridge is not simply a matter any longer of the 'brand'. Remuneration and other incentives are also important. A Professorial Fellowship at Pembroke is a major advantage to the University in attracting high calibre candidates to a post such as this. It is unusual; it does not however create any departure from the normal rules of remuneration. It is understood that the benefaction received by the College will be applied to the support of the Professor in terms of providing the Professor with accommodation within the College and also, in due course, with support for IT and research.

The second matter to which Dr Evans alluded, and if I have misheard her I apologize, was a truncated reference from paragraph 1 of the General Board's Report in which she referred to 'sophisticated methods of financial analysis'. This was a selective quotation, and I do need to emphasize that this needs to be read in its context of Real Estate Finance. It is within the context of attracting a high quality candidate, to try to move from a traditional process of property valuation using hypothetical valuation methods to one using rigorous systems of financial appraisal that this Professorship is dedicated. It may be in conclusion, Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, that Professor Shilling can give the University the very insights and wisdom to which Dr Evans alludes, and I shall reflect with him in due course on his willingness to do so, but we do need to understand that to some people the pursuit of research is often a more attractive activity than preoccupation with the governance of the University.

1 Reporter, 1999-91, cited in Introduction to Francis Cornford's Microcosmographia academica, ed. Gordon Johnson (Cambridge 1994), p. 22.

The Annual Report of the Council for 1999-2000 (p. 243).


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Council's Annual Report is notably brief regarding the CAPSA project. Two short paragraphs, numbers 26 and 27, are all it has to say directly on the matter. Paragraph 26 says it was a disaster and paragraph 27 says it will continue to be a disaster.

These statements may well be true, but they do not address any of the specific issues raised in the Discussion on 10 October. Many questions were put to the Council in that meeting and the Council has still shown no sign of answering them.

Paragraph 26 addresses the past but shows no sign of repentance for CAPSA. The Annual Report was an ideal opportunity for a public apology and it has been missed. This suggests that the Council still does not understand the depth of feeling in the University. A paragraph addressing the past could have answered the questions raised at the Discussion regarding the specifics of what went wrong, but it didn't: another missed opportunity.

Paragraph 27 addresses the future and makes a vague attempt at thanks to the people who have tried to get CAPSA working. It gives no impression that the Council understands the magnitude of the efforts being expended. One might have thought that the need for an ex gratia payment would have been exceptional enough to deserve a sentence or two. Perhaps it was just too embarrassing to mention. A paragraph addressing the future could have described the plans to implement the actions requested at the Discussion, but it didn't: a missed opportunity again.

The Council may have felt that the Annual Report was an inappropriate place to respond with specifics, but the only other response to the Discussion, a Notice in the Reporter on 22 November, was equally empty of any detail.

The Council must understand that the University wants these specific answers and actions and is not prepared to sit back and let this issue die away. It must explicitly answer the points raised in the Discussion on 10 October and it has not done so. When will it?


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this Report says that the Council have begun 'to focus their attention on the strategic direction of the University'. The University's proposed new 'mission statement' (paragraph 6, p. 243), came before us for a snatched moment at our last meeting in December as item (b) to an item on the agenda about the work of a committee. We had not previously discussed it in all the months since you sent in your thoughts. What lay before us (and I expect they will let you get a glimpse of it in the end, perhaps in another year or two) was the suggestion that our primary purpose is to service the needs of society. When I pointed out that we had not said which society and further down there was stuff about international excellence, I thought I detected a faint glazing of the eyes as it began to occur to people that we had not defined our terms.

But 'strategic direction' is not only a matter of defining the purposes of the University. It is also about running it. 'The strategy will also need to recognize need to prioritize efforts and to introduce change in a manageable fashion.' I see that a ballot has been called on a proposal to shift the basis on which the University Centre is to be managed. I hope this is a sign that something more has disturbed than the usual, relatively small matters, which get disproportionate amounts of reaction - principally, one sometimes suspects, because they are of a size to be readily grasped. For there are key questions here about the balance of power between line-management and collegiality (which in Cambridge works largely through our committees).

The Council had one promising special meeting in April at which we did nothing for an hour or so but think about the reconfiguration of the administrative service and its relation to the structure of the Council and the General Board. What is coded within the text at paragraph 50 (p. 247) about the 'balance between arrangements necessary to enable the University to meet the challenges facing it (including a greater delegation of authority for some aspects of personnel management) and due regard for the constitutional position that exists in the University'?

Those with the patience to read through my remarks on the Reports timetabled today will find more on this theme in several of them.

Calls for radical change and reappraisal should not distract from efforts to make the constitution we have work better. I have quite a lot to say on that front too. A simple device would be to put up a big wall-chart in the Old Schools and map on to it all the jobs in hand, and to get someone senior, efficient, and diplomatic to concentrate on keeping the urgent ones moving, ringing up chairmen and secretaries of committees, generally getting behind the system with a whip to ensure that we cure our bad habits of delay and confusion.

The Discussion on Discussions (paragraph 2, p. 243) made it plain that people want to have their say in the running of the University, in what after all are their own affairs. But there is a measure of apathy and ignorance about what is going on that means that comment is often prompted only when something comes close enough to home to make an individual nervous. That is partly an indictment of the lack of openness of the central bodies and their unwillingness to do their business in view of their masters, the members of the Regent House.

There have been recent calls for greater subsidiarity at Faculty and Departmental level, so as to get business out of 'central' hands. Yet that can lead to inequities (I first typed 'iniquities') and inconsistencies and to the formation of little kingdoms. The little kingdoms have subjects, and they rarely seem to see or hear much of the local barons' activities. How many of you were informed of the creation of the new Personnel Consultants and told who was assigned to your Department or Faculty? Do you know they are supposed to be at your service and not merely aides to the Head of Department in 'managing' you? Have you tried to get them to meet you, you as an individual in need of advice on how to deal with that Head of Department? Giving more power to the local 'management' erodes our direct democracy and undermines the key principle of the equality of all members of the Regent House. So I am not sure that is the way, either.

Statute K, 9 gives members of delegating bodies the right to see papers of the committees to which they delegate tasks. Why are individual members of the Regent House not pressing for the better access to information to which they probably have a right? You had better move fast. This is another of our constitutional protections which is now under threat because an attempt has been made to exercise this right. The Council intends to consider draft Standing Orders which will now of course be passed without my seeing them. Our unambiguous Statute may (I say only 'may') be hedged about with a requirement that an inquirer, even a member of the Council, though entitled under the Statute to see everything, will have to give a committee reasons satisfactory to that committee for wishing to see its papers; or that there are categories of papers which can be defined as mysteriously falling outside the Statute. Accountability? Transparency?

What possible hard currency can all those assurances in paragraph 8 (p. 243) have? 'The Council and General Board will ensure that the University has quality control procedures and intellectual property rights and copyright policies that are appropriate and which support these new developments'. We have no such things, and where work is patchily in hand we keep it stewing for months or years and then fail to ensure adequate publication of any resulting code of practice (these things need at least to be in the Reporter and on noticeboards). Look at the piece on Vodafone in the Newsletter for December/January and ask yourself what protections were in operation there.

Why do we not appoint another senior and efficient person, someone gifted as a writer of clear and cogent prose, to keep a watching brief over the drafting of reports, guidelines, and codes of practice so that they make speedy progress towards completion, and so that we eliminate those fictions, 'the Council have considered' and 'the General Board believe', in favour of honest statements. And let us get the names of working parties and their briefs published, with invitations to comment (cf Reporter, 23 February 2000, Professor Dumville's speech on these 'inappropriate administrative belief systems').

One additional point on Homerton, which it may be of wider use to make now than in the Discussion of the Report on the 'convergence' (paragraph 7, p. 243). If we can bring in the entire academic staff of a College and give them the status of University officers at will, why can we not do that for all our Colleges? It would transform the structure of the University and the relationship of University and Colleges. (See, further, the Annual Report of the Council paragraph 48, p. 247, and my speech on the Professorship of Real Estate Finance).

Other notes. Paragraph 18 (p. 244). Is this Land Use Working Group going to report back to the University or just to the Council about these enormous questions of the using up of our land-bank, irrevocable change to our local environment, the new built-up areas, and ruined vistas? Take it from me, on past showing, the Council will not find time to discuss this properly and whatever the Working Group says will go through largely unamended. That is a big risk to take, when we have no control over the appointment of members to this group.

Paragraph 19 (p. 244). What protection is there against our having to buy back this Microsoft Research Building at inflated cost?

Paragraph 20 (p. 244). What is our policy on the destruction of archaeological sites on our land (this one proved to be 'extraordinary and of regional significance') to enable us to build a Computer Laboratory or other such building of perhaps less enduring value in the world?

Paragraphs 26-7 (p. 245). I do not need to comment on what is said about CAPSA except to underline for those who still need convincing the gulf between what they tell us, the bland reassurances which appear in the Reporter, and what is often really going on. You think I exaggerate in my speeches just how bad the reality frequently is? What was the truth about the mess over research grants as recently as November? Is the split between the Chest and the Departments correct? What of overheads deducted twice? Are there inaccurate overspend figures when there is still really money left in the grant account? How will this affect our RAE submissions due in March?

Paragraphs 28-9 (p. 245). More honesty here too, please. We are not yet up to standard in our accounting practices. HEFCE was not enthusiastic. It gave us a bare pass. A scrape-through, really. It also said we ought to have more comprehensive declarations of interest requirements.

Paragraphs 33-9 (p. 246). Can we have an honest and full account of that collapse of a UCLES project (put to the University with all the usual reassurances), where the men in suits actually arrived to sign and it was only at the last instant that we pulled back from the brink? And may we have 'outwards-facing business streams', 'suites' of syllabuses, 'examination products' (all portions of what purports to be the Council's Report) written in clear, plain English please? If UCLES is to have 'a strong reputation for promoting the academic excellence of the University' it ought to be marking down that sort of rubbish in examination scripts, so why not in its own 'marketing prose'?

Paragraphs 44, 46 (pp. 246-7). The University Card and the creation of a computer record of our movements. I hope I am not alone in regarding with total lack of confidence the assurances about the protection of privacy and mechanisms for ensuring that lists of who was where and when are not made available to Heads of Departments and others who can then use them for any purpose they like. As for our implementation of the Data Protection Act 1998, the Working Party's excellent report is now dusty. You will not be allowed to see manual records until October 2001. You may find when you make requests under the Act that mysteriously much of what you want to see turns out to have been 'processed' under a heading which allows the University to deny you access. You will certainly at present be denied what you ask for on the grounds that the University is not 'ready' yet to comply with the requirements of the Act, or has not 'filed' the data in a way which does require it to show it to you at all, and thus you will be prevented from seeing what a good employer should have no reason to wish you not to see. I have tested the system, so I can assure you that that is what you will find. I have seen a letter, which went out well over a year ago, encouraging the holders of files of manual documents to prune their contents. Yet when I pointed out to the person in Personnel, who is supposed to be watching over our proper implementation of the Act, that this was an invitation to shred documents which people might need in evidence, she realized that nothing had been done to ensure that documents were not destroyed wholesale to prevent people seeing what had been written about them behind their backs. May we have a clear statement about what is going to happen and an assurance that someone is really doing something to protect our rights here?

Paragraphs 47-50 (p. 247). I am unimpressed by the Council's assurances about progress on the personnel front. I do not think this is the fault of the new Director of Personnel. Those dilatory and untrained committees and working parties, which began well by inviting comment, are not letting the University's employees meet them and make representations to them face to face about the needs of ordinary members of staff, administrative and academic alike. Much more urgent, it seems, is pushing ahead with proposals to make it financially worth their while for the big leading players to come here. When is the University going to realize that it is full of big leading players already and that if it does not give a proper priority to the career prospects of those it already has, young prospective academics will go elsewhere, as is already happening wholesale with our young scientists. And when is it going to set about valuing our support staff properly, both financially and personally?

Paragraph 49 (p. 247). That equal opportunity audit. The exact content of the report of Schneider-Ross, who did the consultation, is very slow in emerging. The Council saw some headings months ago. It is plain that these consultants were appalled at the lack of training for decision-makers in the University. We know that much from the end of the Vice-Chancellor's speech on 2 October (p. 60) when he unwisely put his head on the block by making a promise it proves increasingly difficult to get anyone to honour. I just want to put down a marker about this so that if the report proves bland, emasculated, reassuring that we are doing quite well really, no one will be fooled. The Human Rights Act, Article 14, opens up the discrimination front far beyond sex, race, and disability. We could be in for trouble.

Paragraphs 51-5 (p. 247). The QAA cannot be expected to wait forever for us to do the minimum necessary to satisfy basic requirements of fairness to our students. 'The important work of the Committee chaired by the Principal of Newnham' in producing a report on the arrangements for the review of examination results for undergraduates is acknowledged in paragraph 53. This is described as 'a major development', though it was conducted with very limited consultation with the students. The immense amount of extremely professional and dedicated work put in by the student sabbatical officers this year and last towards drafting of complaints procedures could have been available for that task, too. This is described as merely 'a review of student complaints arrangements' not a 'major development'. It is far more than that, and it has to be far more than that. When you read the appendix to the forthcoming Report, look at the sheer scale of what is needed. Dr Leake looks like getting the credit over the complaints procedures (paragraph 54). I am sure, nice man that he is, since he has not been involved in any way with the detailed work on the forthcoming Report, he will not mind ensuring that the students get the credit.

I do not see much about the Council's careful steering of the empty vessel of CMI Ltd under 'external relations'. I hope anyone at the Department of Trade and Industry reading this will be asking for some value for money details over that £68m. We are likely to suffer in our allocation in the next funding round because HEFCE will rightly consider we shall need £68m less than we might otherwise have had. And where is it all going? What is there going to be to show for it?

Professor J. R. SPENCER (read by Mrs S. BOWRING):

Madam Deputy Vice Chancellor, I speak with reference to paragraphs 26 and 27 of the Annual Report of the Council. These refer to the difficulties with CAPSA, and express doubts about whether it will ever do the job that was expected of it.

Last term, the difficulties with CAPSA were fully aired at the well-attended Discussion on 10 October.

On the positive side, the University's thanks are due to the Vice-Chancellor, for his prompt action with the Registrary in calling the meeting of Heads of Department and CAPSA-users just after the Discussion, which was constructive and useful. And thanks are also due to the Treasurer for the lead she has taken since the Discussion in the process of trying to get the system working better - which to some extent it is.

On the negative side, alas, serious problems with the system still remain. CAPSA still signally fails to deliver the benefits that were publicly promised as justifying the cost of buying it and the upheaval of introducing it. Although it is now possible once again for Departments to place orders and pay bills, CAPSA is still much more time-consuming than the manual system it replaced. This already costs the University dear in the loss of useful things that skilled and knowledgeable people are unable to do because, in addition to their other duties, they must now spend time wrestling with CAPSA. And in future, regrettably, it promises to cost us dearer still. (I understand the Council of the School of the Physical Sciences is now actively discussing a request to the University for one new CS5 post per Department, in order to cope with the extra work that buying an unsuitable computerized accounts system has generated.)

In the Discussion on 10 October I asked the following questions: does the system we have bought comply with the terms of the contract under which it was ordered and supplied? If it does not, will the University seek legal redress against the suppliers, and if so, when? If on the other hand it does comply with the contract, why did the University agree to a contract that is so disadvantageous? Who was responsible for this? And what does the University propose to do about him, her, it, or them?

These were not rhetorical questions, but ones to which answers were expected. As no answers have yet been forthcoming, I take this opportunity to repeat them.

At the Discussion on 10 October, a number of speakers called upon the Council to set up an independent enquiry into CAPSA. Has the Council considered this suggestion, and does it propose to act upon it?


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, may I welcome, in the publication of this Report, the honest assessment of the CAPSA project. The Council have publicly stated that the initial implementation was 'unsatisfactory in both performance and functionality'; it is 'by no means certain that it will deliver the planned returns for the University'.

The Council also state that 'every effort is being made to complete the implementation successfully'. Major efforts were indeed made by the Vice-Chancellor himself, in an announcement made on his behalf by the Registrary at the Discussion of 10 October 2000 and in a subsequent open meeting which he chaired. It is distressing that since then his initiatives appear to have ground to a halt. Let me touch on three examples.

At that open meeting the Vice-Chancellor and the CAPSA team agreed that important information should be made available to users. This was not a question of setting up new projects, but merely the publication of data already available: the response-times of the servers, the specification of the system as supplied. But nothing has happened.

The Vice-Chancellor also agreed to consider setting up an urgent external assessment of the project. He requested suggestions for a Chairman, and a name was suggested to him which drew wide support from the community of Computer Officers. But nothing has happened. It is surely ironic that the Notice in response to that CAPSA Discussion (Reporter, 22 November 2000) suggests that such a review will not be forthcoming, while neatly emphasizing its necessity. It states that 'effort and resource should be concentrated on achieving a stable operational system', whether or not stability entails necessary functionality; then reminds us that 'it is important that the Regent House and the academic community generally have confidence both in what is undertaken with those resources and in the effectiveness of those operations'. It is not difficult to gauge the level of that confidence: it is not high.

I discover, from comments colleagues have made about their pay-slips, that some payments have indeed been made both to officers and assistant staff in accordance with that announcement made at the start of the 10 October Discussion. Not having seen any other official statement about it I was initially surprised, though I suppose we should by now be accustomed to the fact that neurotic secrecy appears to be a hallmark of every aspect of the CAPSA project. Are we to be told how much this exercise will cost and from which budget the moneys derive? Of far greater importance, shall we learn of the criteria by which these payments are made? I ask because a number of anomalies have arisen, for instance large payments to staff who have refused to have anything to do with CAPSA, while colleagues in the same Department who have suffered its impositions have received nothing. Such a situation only exacerbates the issues which these payments should have alleviated: a general loss of confidence in the administration of this University, and the disappearance of what is left of that goodwill on the part of its employees upon which it is so heavily dependent.

The Abstract of Accounts for the year ended 31 July 2000 (Reporter, Special No. 8).


Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, when are our allocations each year going to come closer to the actualité of what subsequently happens?

Our auditors, KPMG, do not think there is anything wrong in our spending £2m on KPMG's 'consultancy' advice over CAPSA. The management letter from KPMG, our auditors, says (4.5) that 'the CAPSA project has been managed for the University by KPMG Consulting since September 1999'. We took them on board on the advice of KPMG of course. So we have KPMG with us in three capacities.

The same management letter (6.2.5) explains that 'in July 2001 the University will be required [by the Government] to report 1999-2000 costs in accordance with the requirements of the transparency review' and that it will have to allocate its total costs under five headings: teaching (public funds); teaching (non-public funds); research (public funds); research (non-public funds), and Other. 'Other' is going to be quite colourful in this CAPSA disaster year, when we have had to pay sweeteners to justifiably disaffected administrative staff whose lives had been made hideous by the cock-up; and take on more staff to assist them in the long term in making the system even partly workable; and when I am reliably informed that we lost some of our public research funding because we could not get responses back by deadlines.

The Vice-Chancellor is the accounting officer for the University (p. 5 (5)). He will, as KPMG note (6.2.5) 'be required to sign off these allocations as representing a fair and reasonable view of the actual costs incurred'. I become increasingly keen on personal responsibility here. Should he not get some of that training he said, on 2 October 2000, was going to be a 'requirement' in the future? After all, those who are directors of companies have personal responsibilities and he is a rather well-remunerated non-executive director of Vodafone, as we all know. Those who want to run the University as a business have to be prepared to be business-like themselves. And our total turnover is huge. Then there is the matter of proper supervision by the new Council in fulfilment of its statutory duties (Statute A) (p. 5 (6)).

Even if there were no legal requirements here, there are those Nolan principles which may also be read on p. 5, including accountability and openness. In practice, HEFCE can require to be satisfied to only a modest level and it has been very patient with our slow progress towards meeting minimum acceptable standards in our monitoring of our financial affairs.

In 1998 two invocations of Statute K, 5 raised the question who had authority to conduct legal proceedings on behalf of the University or to approve legal expenditure. On the face of it the statutory provision is straightforward. It is the Council's responsibility. But, by custom, all sorts of officers and non-officers had been running up legal bills on behalf of the University which the University then automatically paid. Both invocations were rejected, by two different deputies of the Vice Chancellor, both senior figures in our Law Faculty, Professors Gareth Jones and Bob Hepple. Professor Hepple's judgment may be read in the Reporter of 28 October 1998. He says that in his view the Vice-Chancellor and 'principal officers' have 'customary rights and duties in relation to legal proceedings'.

As Professor A.W.F. Edwards commented at the time (Reporter, 25 November 1998), 'the argument that senior administrative officers have routinely acted without the necessary authority is evidence only that they were unaware of the statutory provisions, and has no bearing on the interpretation of those provisions'. He cited Statute A, II, 7 as an example of an earlier revision which had been needed because the then Registrary and Treasurer 'were found to have affixed the seal without authority'.

Since then, things have in fact been tightened up in principle, although as I point out in other speeches today, ultra vires actions in the shifting secretariat to the General Board still seem only too 'customary'. Despite Professor Hepple's stalwart defence of 'custom', a sheet of rules was drawn up, under which all legal matters had to pass under the eye of the Registrary and any sums greater than £15,000 required the assent of the Executive Committee of the Council. (That is the way Statute K, 5 usually works - an indignant rebuttal and then a quiet concession, a caving-in behind the scenes.) I quote from the circular of 12 October 1998 to Heads of Council and General Board Institutions (Exercise of legal powers): 'The Registrary is required to report to the Council, through the Executive Committee, any matter which either in his judgment raises issues of which the Council should be aware or involves, or is likely to involve, expenditure greater than £15,000'.

I recollect no occasion during my time on the Council when any litigation matter was discussed by us properly in terms of value for money for projected expenditure. Usually it was I who insisted on asking about that sort of thing as we glanced hastily at a brief note of some litigation in progress, which the Executive Committee had (always I think) said we should go on with. ('Kill, kill, kill, and hang the expense and bad publicity' is the general spirit.)

Oxford's latest Blueprint (11 January 2000) identifies Oxford's five specialist in-house solicitors, who offer expert, informed advice to the University and its officers and committees, saving Oxford a fortune, as well as raising its procedures above our own level of rank amateurism. I thought we were going to appoint our equivalents? When? Is next year's legal bill going to hit £1m because we continue to delay?

In 1998 it was estimated that our legal expenses would normally be in the region of £90,000 (Reporter, 17 June 1998, Notice on the Allocations Report); Last year our published figure was £549,000, not the £294,000 to be found on p. 28 (actually rather more when I pressed for more detail). This year it says £423,000, so what is the real and the additional figure, please? Even if we got the figures we publish to stand still long enough to be relied on, I do not think this supervisory check can be said to be working very well. How did we get from the unit of £15,000 to a figure thirty times that? As a vigilant member of the Council, I cannot tell you. May we have a rethink and please may the new rules be published to the Regent House in the Reporter so that they are no longer merely in the form of a letter to Heads of Institutions which has probably long ago been filed by their secretaries in some folder where it will never be looked at again. In the Reporter of 25 November 1998, Dr. J. P. Dougherty called for 'an amendment to the Ordinances' to clarify the rules. Could we not go back to the suggestion that we make such an amendment now that the need for it is even more apparent?

What did the ECJ judgment on compliance with public procurement directives really cost us? I have been given some figures for recent years, but they do not go back to the beginning of the case.

To get value for money out of this litigation we need to be able, without additional research, to say which income is private and which public. Just look at the top of p. 35, for example. How easily could we break these figures down into public and private funding? Where is the money from industry and commerce identified? It will cost us a fortune in 'opportunity cost' terms and administrative staff time and audit fees to get the figures we shall need to convince a court each year that we are chiefly privately funded and therefore do not need to comply. And first we have to go back to the High Court clutching the ECJ judgement.

A final point: registers of interests. I am not clear that p. 5 (8) is an accurate statement of what we do and it is certainly not a statement of what HEFCE now requires us to begin to do. I hope all those employed by the University will now be rushing to render account for all their other activities by filling in the necessary forms, and then, at last, we may have a means of knowing how many pies the University has fingers in, either directly or through its big leading players and their entrepreneurial activities. I expect there will be a bit of a shock when we can really see it all. And of course we shall be able to do so, since registers of interests do have to be open to inspection.

The Annual Report of the General Board for 1999-2000 (p. 249).

The Editor regrets that the remarks made on this Report are not ready for publication.

No remarks were made on the following Report:

The Report of the General Board, dated 29 November 2000, on the establishment of a Professorship of English (p. 314).

< Previous page ^ Table of Contents Next page >

Cambridge University Reporter, 24 January 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.