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Annual Report of the Council for the academical year 2001-02

The COUNCIL beg leave to report to the University as follows:

1. The sustained successes of the University in education and research, and our strong programme of new developments, are remarkable, and a tribute to the staff and students in the University and Colleges, and to benefactors and other supporters, whose enthusiasm and commitment have made them possible.

The Council see as key to the development and continuing success of the University:

(i) our staff and consequently employment issues
(ii) our financial health, both the proper management of existing assets and the development of new income streams
(iii) the effective running of the University
(iv) widening Access
(v) effective interaction internationally, in the UK, in the region, and in the local community

The Vice-Chancellorship

2. With the advice of their advisory committee chaired by Professor Tony Badger the Council have instituted the process of appointing the next Vice-Chancellor, to hold office from 1 October 2003 on the retirement of Professor Sir Alec Broers. The Council have now announced their nomination, for approval by Grace.


3. The University Council is declared by Statute the principal executive and policy-making body of the University and much of this Annual Report is concerned with the Council's work in that role. But the Council also have, under the Statutes and Ordinances, a pivotal role in the legislative business which is an important element of the University's self-government. This legislative work is reported week by week in the Reporter. Since January 2002 the Council have discharged much of this legislative business through their new Business Committee, chaired by the Master of St John's College, and served by the Administrative Secretary and the University Draftsman. Careful protocols ensure that all members of the Council are aware of, and can comment on, business referred to the Committee. The Committee meets weekly during term as necessary, and its existence has enabled members of the Council to exercise better scrutiny of legislative business by avoiding the need to deal with it at full meetings, which are more appropriately concerned with strategic and policy-related matters. It has also speeded up the progress of legislative business within the University. The Council will be considering whether further categories of routine business should be referred to the Committee, subject to the same protocols to ensure involvement by members of the Council generally.

4. The Council initiated a process of consultation about University Governance, including publication of a consultation paper and a series of consultative meetings. The results of the consultation were fully taken into account in preparation of the Council's recent Report to the University, which has been the subject of two Discussions, the second on 8 October. The Council are grateful to those who contributed to the consultation, and the Discussions, for their careful attention to the possibilities before the University. The proposals are now before the Regent House.

5. The Council propose a fuller definition of the role of the Vice-Chancellor, to be supported by a larger team of Pro-Vice-Chancellors, and the election of three external members of the Council, one of whom would chair the Council itself and another the Audit Committee. The pool of members of the Regent House who would be eligible to sit on the Council would be increased as a consequence of the proposed broadening of the membership of the Regent House to include more academic staff. Two members elected by University staff who are not members of the Regent House would also serve on the Council. A Pro-Vice-Chancellor would serve ex officio. In response to the consultation, and having particular regard to the vital role of the Colleges, the Council decided not to propose a reduction in the number of Heads of Colleges on the Council. The Council also decided not to proceed with the suggestion that the Chairs of the Council of the Schools should serve on the Council itself, as well as on the General Board.

6. The Audit Committee has been restructured to include more external members.

7. The University has made statutory provision for a new review jurisdiction to be discharged by the Commissary. The Statute has now been approved and it will come into force from 1 January 2003. The new Commissary, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, has charge of this important development. The Council wish to pay tribute to the wise counsel of the outgoing Commissary, Lord Oliver of Aylmerton, now Emeritus Commissary, on the development of this new system of review.

Finance, planning, and resources

8. The University of Cambridge undertakes teaching and research of the highest quality and originality attainable. But it does so with severely limited resources. Activities of such high quality, complexity, and diversity, undertaken with restricted resources, generate problems and challenges, as well as opportunities and benefits, and it is these problems and challenges which now represent a principal focus of the work of the Council. In dealing with them the Council are assisted and advised by the Planning and Resources Committee, a joint committee with the General Board, which includes in its membership members of the Council, the Chairs of the Councils of the Schools, and, reflecting Cambridge's collegiate commitment, representatives of the Colleges. It is one of the ironies of the position of Cambridge and other research intensive universities in the UK that, although both teaching and research are systematically underfunded by the Government, the University has nevertheless achieved, up to now, excellence in both. The present position is, however, financially highly problematic. To some extent, the Government has come to recognize this problem but, despite progress in the 2002 Spending Review announcements, especially for science, the Government has not yet set out a full scheme, which would enable Cambridge and similar universities to safeguard their medium-term future, let alone the long-term. Finding a solution to this problem, which Cambridge cannot do alone, and which requires the active co-operation, indeed initiative, of the Government, is the most formidable challenge facing the University and therefore the Council.

9. The University's own financial position, set out in the Council's 2002 Allocations Report, reflects the general situation affecting research intensive universities. It is serious. The Council anticipate a significant recurrent deficit on Chest income and expenditure in 2002-03 and, unless corrective action is taken both on income and expenditure, rising deficits thereafter. The University is fortunate in the scale of its endowments and reserves. But it would be wrong to rely on these except in the short term. Significant change in the financial strategy of the University may be necessary, and the Council have invited a Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Malcolm Grant, to chair a small working party to consider the position and to make proposals which the Council hope to consider in the Lent Term 2003, to inform the preparation of the 2003 Allocations Report, and to assist in the preparation of a full University-wide budget, covering Chest and non-Chest income and expenditure for the financial year 2003-04.

10. The Council stress that in this process they wish to avoid a knee-jerk short-term reaction to financial difficulties, involving arbitrary and damaging cuts, although regrettably a general freeze on the filling of academic vacancies has had to be introduced. Rather, the Council are seeking to develop solutions which will provide a sound financial basis for the continued successful development of the University and the Colleges together, providing education to students of high ability and potential, and undertaking research, and scholarship, of the highest international standard across a broad range of disciplines.

11. In addition to the working party, the Council through the Planning and Resources Committee are also preparing a new strategic plan for the University. This work is currently at an early stage of consultation and discussion, after detailed examination by the Councils of the Schools of the future lines of academic development. The Council hope that the main elements of the plan can be the subject of further consultation in 2002-03.

Development and fund raising

12. The new Development Director, Mr Peter Agar, previously British Consul-General in Toronto and Deputy Director General of the CBI, took up his post in January 2002. Mr John Hanselman, formerly of the Harvard Development Office, joined Cambridge in America as Executive Director in March 2002.

13. Mr William H. Gates III visited the University in December 2001 and met the first contingent of 151 Gates Scholars funded from the endowment provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

14. A number of buildings funded by philanthropy opened during the year including: the new home for the Computer Laboratory, the William Gates Building; the Hutchison/Medical Research Council (MRC) Research Centre dedicated to cancer research (jointly funded by Mr Li Ka-Shing and the MRC); the Dill Faulkes Institute for Geometry; and the Betty and Gordon Moore Library.

15. Other fundraising priority projects made significant progress: construction of the Centre for Music and Science neared completion, work started on the extension to the Fitzwilliam Museum, and work also began on new buildings for the Faculty of English, the Institute of Criminology, the Nanoscience Centre, and the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Institute of Cancer and Developmental Biology. The refurbishment of the Department of Chemistry continued apace, as did the final phases of construction for the Centre for Mathematical Sciences.

16. The Cambridge Foundation received £18.5m in gifts during 2001-02 (excluding the first payments from the Herchel Smith legacy described below). Of this total £8.7m was received from Cambridge in America (made up of £3.4m for the University and £5.3m for the Colleges). Faculties and Departments also received philanthropic gifts directly.

17. The year was dominated by the legacy from Dr Herchel Smith, estimated to be at least £40m. This is in addition to his already very generous support of the University and his College in his lifetime. Legacies exceeding £1m were also received from Dr Mark Kaplanoff for the purchase of materials for the University Library to support the study of American History, and from Marie Vergottis to endow a scholarship fund for Greek citizens to study at Cambridge. In addition, Dr Lisbet Rausing gave £2m to the Department of History and Philosophy of Science in honour of her father Professor Hans Rausing; Gianni and Joan Montezemolo gave £1m to endow a Visiting Professor of Marketing, Strategy, and Innovation at the Judge Institute of Management Studies; and Clay Brendish pledged £1m towards the Judge Institute's Library appeal.

18. During the year Mr Nicholas Baring, Lord Browne of Madingley, Mr Sam Mendes, and Mr Adair Turner were appointed as Cambridge Foundation Trustees. Mr Peter Beckwith, Mr Mike Brearley, and Dr David Li all retired as trustees. The Council record their thanks for their sterling service.

19. The Development Offices in Cambridge and New York are currently exploring, with the Colleges, the opportunity for a major fundraising campaign to mark the 800th anniversary of the University in 2009.

Buildings and estates

20. The major building programme of the University continues at an unprecedented rate, with projects in design or build currently valued in excess of £500m. In 2001-02 over £80m worth of projects were completed. Quality has been good (and has received national recognition). Overall the building construction programme was delivered below budget despite construction cost inflation running well ahead of RPI. Highlights have included the design of the major Cancer Research UK building at the Addenbrooke's Hospital Site, and the further development of the humanities and arts site at Sidgwick Avenue where new buildings for the Institute of Criminology and the Faculty of English were started in the summer of 2002. Additionally, the new scientific and technological campus at West Cambridge continued at an impressive rate with the completion of the Computer Laboratory's William Gates Building as well as the Microsoft Research Building. The £50m Centre for Mathematical Sciences complex continued apace and is programmed to be completed at the end of the 2002 calendar year. The University's interdisciplinary collaborative research was strengthened further with the start of the Centre for Nanoscience, funded largely through the Scientific Research Infrastructure Fund (SRIF). Progress was made on facilities for the University and the wider community with the grant of planning permission for the University Sports Centre, to be built when funds have been generated through a development process led by Sir Geoffrey Cass.

21. Managing the building programme is a major task, for which the Council are grateful to the Building Sub-Committee of the Finance Committee, chaired by Dr Derek Nicholls, and served by officers of the Estate Management and Building Service (EMBS). Much effort was spent during the year on devising a new capital procurement process that will take effect from the start of the present academical year, the objective being that the University comprehends the financial impact of increasing the estate, through the provision of full business plans covering recurrent and whole life costs. At present there is considerable strain on recurrent budgeting as the estate expands faster than income to maintain and support it. The Council are concerned that the limited funds available for allocation to maintenance increase the risk that future maintenance liability will rise, with additional costs, and delays in improving working conditions in parts of the estate.

22. Looking to the future, and the need to ensure that our successors have enough options, major efforts went into a draft Structure Plan, in particular the case for allocating sufficient land so that the University has the option of continued expansion in the medium term. The University's land in North West Cambridge, in the area bounded by Madingley Road, Huntingdon Road, and the M11, which was the subject of a preliminary Report in May 2000 (Reporter, 1999-2000, p. 724) and an exhibition in the Senate-House in March 2001, has now been identified in the deposit draft Structure Plan for University-related development, subject to confirmation after the Examination in Public in the Michaelmas Term 2002. The Council expect to report to the Regent House about development of this area later in the academical year 2002-03.

Public procurement

23. In 1996, the University was granted leave for judicial review against the Treasury Solicitor in respect of the application to the University of the Public Procurement Regulations derived from European legislation in this area. By agreement, the case was transferred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to determine certain fundamental questions of interpretation. After a hearing before the ECJ in February 1999, that Court's decision was announced in May 2000. The High Court in London finally heard the University's application against the Treasury Solicitor in February 2001.

24. The essence of the University's action was to seek to establish that it was outside the Public Procurement Regulations on the grounds that it was not wholly or mainly publicly funded. It was and remains the Council's intention that the University should follow good procurement practice and principles of procurement embodied in the Regulations. However, there are practical advantages to the University in being able to operate outside the Regulations, not least in that they are very complex and time consuming to administer and that inadvertent failure to comply with their detailed provisions could, as recent history involving other institutions has shown, expose the University to significant risk of legal challenge and consequential cost. While, on a procedural point, the High Court dismissed the University's application with costs awarded to the Treasury Solicitor, as a result of the legal action and the clarification by the Courts of what constitutes both public funding and a definition of 'wholly or mainly' for the purposes of these Regulations, it is clear that the Council would be able to declare the University outside the scope of the Public Procurement Regulations. The Council have asked the Finance Committee for further detailed advice before taking such a step.

Education and research

25. The General Board's Annual Report to the Council is published with this Report. Under Statute C, I the General Board oversee the teaching and research work undertaken by the Schools, Faculties, Departments, and other institutions and ensures, in respect of those institutions, among other things, that appropriate courses, study, and instruction are provided, that the teaching given is of the highest standard, and that research of the highest quality is conducted. The General Board are accountable by Statute to the Council for their management of the University's academic and educational affairs and are required to make an annual report to the Council on the discharge of their duties under Statute C, I, 1. The General Board have recently been strengthened by the election of the first student members, one undergraduate and one graduate, who hold office for one year from July 2002.

26. Among significant developments during the year to which the Council wish to draw attention have been the excellent results achieved in the recent Research Assessment Exercise conducted by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The General Board are discussing with some Faculties and Departments how research performance reflected in a few relatively low scores in the recent exercise can be improved.

27. Good results have continued to be obtained in the old system of Teaching Quality Assessment conducted by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) for Higher Education. The Council hope that the new 'lighter touch' being adopted by QAA in the future will be beneficial. Planning is already taking place for the next QAA audit in late April 2003.

28. The integration of Homerton College's teaching and research in Education into a single University Department took effect on 1 August 2001. Good progress is being made on organizing the new integrated Department. Planning is well advanced for the construction of an additional University building for the School of Education on the Homerton College site, the development of which will release accommodation in central Cambridge.

29. The new Council for Lifelong Learning came into existence on 1 January 2002, chaired by Mrs Anne Lonsdale, with Dr Michael Richardson, Director of Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning, as its chief officer. The former Board of Continuing Education has been reorganized into two new University institutions, the Institute of Continuing Education and the Cambridge Programme for Industry. The role of the new Council for Lifelong Learning extends more widely than the work of the two institutions, and it will have an important future responsibility in developing the University's work in continuing education and lifelong learning within and outside Cambridge, at undergraduate and graduate level, and through traditional and new modes of learning.

30. Widening access to Cambridge is important to the University and the Colleges in fulfilling our aim of admitting undergraduate students of the highest potential irrespective of their financial or social background. Widening participation in UK higher education generally is a major concern of the UK Government. The two aims are connected, and consistent, and Cambridge, through activities co-ordinated by the new Joint Committee on Admissions, chaired by the Master of St John's College, is pursuing an extensive programme of activities, some, such as admissions conferences, in co-operation with the University of Oxford. Cambridge also co-operates with other higher education institutions in the East of England in activities directed to the local and regional community to widen participation in higher education. For Cambridge the principal focus of activity must be national and our main Access activities are so arranged. It is therefore a matter of concern that the Funding Council has decided to distribute relevant funds through regional routes, even when the activities previously supported have been nationally oriented. Representations have been made to the HEFCE about their proposals, which may have the unintended effect of making it more difficult for the University to pursue its programmes on the present scale. The instability which the HEFCE's decisions are introducing confirms the value of the financial and other commitment of the Colleges, and of the University's benefactors and supporters, in relation to what is probably the largest Access and student support programme of any European university.

University administration and management

31. The Council take seriously their responsibility for University management generally, and for the central administration. The reports of the CAPSA reviews have been an important element in the Council's work in this area during the year. The Director of Finance has led the process of developing the Cambridge University Financial System (CUFS), and a Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Malcolm Grant, has been asked by the Council to co-ordinate the process of implementing the recommendations of the review reports. The Council have been informed that the recent technical upgrade of CUFS means that the University now has in operation a modern financial system, supported technically by the supplier. The Council are aware that some aspects of CUFS - in particular the Research Grants Module - remain unsatisfactory. The Financial Systems Management Committee have put in place a programme to review the configuration of the Research Grants Module. This review is expected to be completed in the Lent Term 2003.

32. Work is proceeding on the student information system, CamSIS, and appropriate management arrangements are in place.

33. During the year the University approved, on the proposal of the Council, a restructuring of the Divisions in the central administration. Since 1 January three new Divisions have replaced the former Registry and General Board Divisions, each headed by a Director who reports to the Registrary. These three Divisions are:

(i) The Secretariat, supporting the University Council senior officers and providing other services.
(ii) The Academic Division, supporting the General Board and dealing with educational business. This Division includes the Planning and Resource Allocation Office, which operates in support of the Planning and Resources Committee and the Resource Management Committee and is headed by the Deputy Registrary.
(iii) The Health and Safety Division.

The Council, through the Standing Appointments Committee, have appointed Mr Graham Allen and Dr Alan Clark as respectively heads of the Academic Division and the Secretariat, with the titles Academic and Administrative Secretaries, from 1 January 2002. The Director of the Health and Safety Division continues to be Mrs Sara Cooper.

34. The other five divisions of the UAS remain broadly as before: the Estate Management and Building Service, the Finance Division, the Management and Information Services Division, the Personnel Division, and the Research Services Division.

35. The Council proposed that the roles of the Secretary General and the Treasurer should be further defined, within their present general statutory responsibilities as advisers to the Council, and they would no longer be officers of the Unified Administrative Service. The detailed arrangements put forward for consideration have been rejected by the Regent House. The Council will make further recommendations during the academical year 2002-03.

Personnel and equal opportunities

36. The Council, and the General Board, deal with personnel matters on the advice of the Personnel Committee, which is a joint committee of these bodies. The Committee is engaged on an extensive programme of reviewing the University's personnel policies and in developing the necessary services and functions. This work is co-ordinated through the Human Resources Strategy submitted to the HEFCE to obtain additional funding for these purposes.

37. The central area of concern for the Council remains the ability to recruit and retain University staff. Although the University is taking steps to introduce improvements, the general level of salaries and stipends remains inadequate, and the resources made available to the University by the Government are insufficient to pay all staff sufficiently, given the heavy demands placed on many of them.

38. Equal opportunities in education and employment are an important current concern of the Council. Action is particularly important in the areas of disability and racial equality, where new approaches are being developed following recent legislation. Equal opportunities for men and women employed by the University remain an important concern. The Vice-Chancellor regularly meets a Senior Academic Women's Advisory Group, one of the proposals of which is that senior academic women should play a stronger role in University Committees and other bodies. The Council welcome this suggestion and the commitment of senior women academics to serve on such bodies.

39. The Personnel Committee in its present form has now existed for several years. It was recently strengthened by adding further members of the Council and the General Board. It has been suggested that more steps should be taken in this direction and the Council intend to review the composition of the Committee now that the Council elections have taken place.

Student matters

40. The Council, acting through the Student Matters Committee which is a joint committee with the General Board, have excellent relations with Cambridge University Students Union (CUSU) and the Graduate Union, and support the work for students undertaken by both unions. The Council are particularly grateful for the co-operation of the Graduate Union in facilitating a change of premises, moving to the Mill Lane area, to permit the Disability Resource Centre to move to the ground floor of Keynes House, Trumpington Street.

41. During the year the Regent House approved the recommendation of the Council about the introduction of a complaints procedure for students, which includes informal and formal stages. The approved procedure, which is the product of a Working Party chaired by Dr G. A. Reid, is now in place.

Fees and student funding

42. During 2001-02 the Student Matters Committee, and the Council, discussed the question of the appropriate arrangements for the payment of undergraduate tuition fees, partly prompted by speculation in the media about possible significant changes to national arrangements. At present, for home and EU undergraduate students there is a flat rate fee, in effect set by the Government, taken into account in the University's grant for teaching from the HEFCE. The present support arrangements for home students are widely considered to be unsatisfactory. They are perceived as having adverse effects on widening participation and Access, although Cambridge provides large bursary schemes and other financial support for students.

43. In discussing future possibilities two considerations are paramount:

(i) The financial system, and fee arrangements in particular, must not be such as to deter applications for, and acceptance of places by, students of the highest academic potential, nor must they militate against satisfactory completion of Cambridge courses.
(ii) They must provide a sound long-term financial basis for the support and development of education in Cambridge in its broadest sense.

44. The Council were expecting, at the time that this Report was being produced, that the conclusions of the Government's higher education review would now have been published. It is a matter of concern that these have now been delayed until some time early in 2003. The Council issued a statement setting out its concerns on 14 November 2002 (text available at http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/news/dp/20021114010).

The University in the region and the community

45. The University has always been strongly involved in the community, institutionally for more than a century through the Local Examinations and Lectures Syndicate, the Board of Extra-Mural Studies and their successors, and in many other ways.

46. The University has received support from the HEFCE's recently established 'Third Stream' funding and has applied this to the establishment of an Entrepreneurship Centre, a fund to support early-stage development of ideas that might prove to be commercializable, and a Corporate Liaison Office. The latter has attended primarily to development of the University's relationships with large companies, but has also paid attention to relationships with the region and in the city of Cambridge.

47. Some public funding is now also directed towards various aspects of regional co-operation among higher education institutions for the benefit of the regional and local community. The University is represented in discussions at the regional level in the Association of Universities of the East of England variously by the Vice-Chancellor, the Registrary, and the Administrative Secretary. The Association has been particularly active in developing the Business Plan for the Partnerships for Progression programme, financed by the HEFCE and the Learning and Skills Council, to widen participation in higher education in the region. The University leads a HEFCE-funded project including all the region's HEIs in a collaborative endeavour to promote economic development and to support innovation in the region.

48. Many parts of the University are strongly connected to the community and the Council have recently established a committee on community activities, to bring together these areas, especially in relation to new streams of HEFCE funding, including the Active Community Fund.

9 December 2002 ALEC N. BROERS, Vice-ChancellorS. LEATON GRAYG. A. REID

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Cambridge University Reporter, 13 December 2000
Copyright © 2000 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.