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Annual Report of the General Board to the Council 2001-02


1. The GENERAL BOARD submit this Annual Report to the Council. The following paragraphs summarize significant activities of the Board's main areas of responsibility, both internally and in response to the accountability requirements of external bodies. Of particular interest, and concern, were:

(a) the announcement of the University's generally outstanding performance in the national 2001 Research Assessment Exercise, but not matched by a corresponding increase in HEFCE funding to the University;
(b) the news, in January 2002, of a bequest, expected to exceed £45m, in the Will of Dr Herchel Smith, for the support of science, mathematics, and medicine;
(c) the amendment of the Board's constitution to provide for student representation on the Board; and
(d) the announcement by the Quality Assurance Agency that an institutional audit of the University will take place in April 2003.

Academic Standards, Quality, and Reviews

National and internal arrangements for quality assurance

2. During the year the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) announced details of its new system of quality assurance, indicating the end of universal Subject Review and an emphasis instead on the audit of quality assurance procedures at university level. Although Faculties and Departments have received generally outstanding results for the quality of their teaching and learning during Subject Review (the last three Faculties to be reviewed, Philosophy, Social and Political Sciences, and Divinity, achieving scores of 24, 23, and 23, respectively), it was widely acknowledged that the immense burden of review which fell on the Faculty or Department concerned did not justify such benefits as it produced. Although the new regime of institutional audit will bring a lesser involvement with external review for Faculties and Departments, it is unlikely to do so for the University as a whole. Extra burdens, in particular that of producing large amounts of information about quality and standards, much of which is to be published, will fall on committees of the central bodies, the Colleges, and the Academic Division. Planning is underway to prepare the University for its institutional audit visit by a QAA team of auditors which will take place in April 2003.

3. The Board, through their Education Committee, have responded positively to the changes in the external regime by reviewing their own University-wide quality assurance procedures with a view to making them fit primarily for the University's own purposes, rather than those imposed by outside bodies. Much of the revised quality assurance infrastructure has been in place for some time: the procedure for considering External Examiners' reports, central procedures for making changes to courses and Triposes, and the Board's internal departmental review procedure. To these has been added a requirement for each Faculty and Department to produce an annual statement of their own quality assurance procedures. This statement will provide: more complete information about local arrangements; better dialogue between the Education Committee and Faculties and Departments; and improved ways of identifying and disseminating examples of good practice. The revised procedures have also stimulated changes in the relationship between the Education Committee and other central units. Closer links with the Careers Service, CMI, and the Staff Development Section for example, have been made, and the establishment, with the Council, of a new Joint Committee on Disability is aimed at establishing a coherent approach to issues of quality assurance of relevance to students with disabilities.

Teaching, learning, and assessment

4. The Education Committee has contributed to the Strategic Plan, being prepared by the Planning and Resources Committee, through proposing aims and objectives covering Teaching, Learning, and Quality Assurance. The third year of the funding provided by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) for the period 1999-2002, following its approval of the University's Learning and Teaching Strategy, has been allocated to the various bodies with responsibility for activities relating to each of the Strategy's targets. It is anticipated that further HEFCE funds, amounting to c. £803,000 for the period 2002-05, will shortly become available through the HEFCE Teaching Quality Enhancement Fund. The Education Committee has continued its interest in identifying, and disseminating through its web-site, Faculty and departmental examples of good and innovative practice in teaching, learning, and assessment. The Committee has also worked with the Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technology (CARET) and other parties to develop an interactive web-based resource for undergraduate students for the development of transferable skills. The site was launched in September 2002. Work on a comparable resource for graduate students is underway.

5. In the area of examinations and assessment, the Education Committee has paid particular attention to two issues.

(a) The responses received to a general consultation on issues relating to marking and classing. Whilst classing is still perceived as critically important, the consultation revealed widespread support for the introduction of formal University transcripts and the Education Committee, in collaboration with the Senior Tutors' Committee, is now investigating ways to produce such transcripts. A further outcome of the consultation was to clarify the relationship between Boards of Examiners and Faculty Boards and other authorities, in terms of deciding and acting on marking and classing criteria;
(b) The Board's Code of Practice on examination issues, developed in the context of the Data Protection Act 1998, was revised in the light of feedback from Examiners, Faculty Boards, and others involved in the examination process.

Departmental and other reviews

6. As part of the Board's rolling programme of departmental reviews, the Departments of Architecture, Engineering, Experimental Psychology, History of Art, and Plant Sciences, and the Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics were reviewed during 2001-02. In May 2002 the Board received the report of the Review Committee established to consider the M.Phil. provision across the University. The report contained a wide range of recommendations, about which the Education Committee is consulting Faculty Boards, Degree Committees, the Colleges, and a number of other bodies. The responses to this consultation exercise are due by the end of the Michaelmas Term 2002, after which the Education Committee will consider how best to advise the Board to take each recommendation forward. The new external quality assurance arrangement will have implications for the Board's procedures for internal reviews, in that the QAA now expects such reviews to include, as a matter of course, an external member on each review committee and an explicit focus on each institution's arrangements for teaching, learning, and assessment, and the quality assurance of those arrangements, together with a publicly available summary of each review's findings in these aspects of the institution's provision.

Degrees, courses, and examinations

7. New courses and examinations for the M.Phil. Degree (one-year course) were approved, as follows: Early Modern History; Modern European History; Environment Engineering and Sustainable Development; Technology Policy; and Bioscience Enterprise. The introduction of a University Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Painting, a Postgraduate Certificate in Theological and Pastoral Studies, and an M.St. course in Public Health were also approved. Numerous changes to the regulations for Tripos examinations were approved, of which the most significant were those relating to the Classical Tripos (to provide a first additional year for candidates with little or no proficiency in Latin), the Natural Sciences Tripos (the introduction of an M.Sci. course in Astrophysics and changes to the assessment of students in Part III Chemistry), the Engineering Tripos, and the English Tripos.

Academic performance

8. In 2001-02 the Joint Committee on Academic Performance continued to explore the factors which affect the academic performance of students in the University and has focused particularly on two areas:

(a) The research project on 'Predictors of Academic Performance', funded by the Board, was completed during the year. The report arising from it combines statistical analyses of students' academic performance with a qualitative study of the views of a group of volunteers from amongst the 1997 undergraduate intake. The Education Committee is addressing the findings of the project, including discussion with the Faculties and Departments selected for detailed analysis. A summary of the report is to be published in the Lent Term 2003.
(b) The Joint Committee has initiated a study to investigate the admission and academic performance of graduate students, with a particular focus on relative demands amongst male and female graduates to pursue a research degree. The project, supported through the HEFCE Teaching Quality Enhancement Fund, is based in the Faculty of Education and is being overseen by the Joint Committee. It is anticipated that it will be completed in October 2003.

Planning and resources

University financial position

9. The Board are conscious of the considerable difficulties caused, especially for Faculties and Departments, as a result of the measures taken in the 2002 Allocations Report to limit the size of the University's recurrent deficit. The freeze on the filling of vacant offices and the very heavy reductions in the funds available for equipment and the refurbishment and upgrading of accommodation, are not sustainable even in the short term. However, the recommendations of the Working Party established by the Planning and Resources Committee, to address the financial position, will prompt a very serious consideration of options which will be necessary in order to restore financial balance. Central to that consideration will be the development of the Resource Allocation Model, described in paragraph 15, which is but one element of the need to develop a better understanding, across the University, of both the various income streams, and the true costs of activities that will enable not only the Board, but Schools and Heads of Institutions to make informed decisions consistent with maintaining the academic vitality of the University.

Resarch Assessment: successful outcome of the 2001 Exercise

10. In December 2001 the results were announced of the HEFCE 2001 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), the national procedure for evaluating the quality of university research, the first such exercise since 1996 and the fourth in the series. The research of 2,651 staff in 51 Departments had been submitted earlier in the year. Forty-eight Departments were graded 5 of which 30 were graded 5*. No Department was graded less than 4. Feedback on the evaluation for each Unit was received and made available to the institution and School concerned.

11. Cambridge's result was outstanding. On all measures the University was acknowledged as ranking first of the 173 institutions in the UK which submitted research for assessment. The outcome of successive RAEs is a continuing demonstration of the international excellence across the huge range of the University's research, and is a valuable and independent demonstration of the University's strengths. The outcome is, and will continue to be, a major factor in forging partnerships with industry and charities, funding bodies and other potential donors, and in attracting staff and students of the very highest international calibre. The Board take this opportunity to acknowledge the enormous contribution made by all concerned, both in Faculties and Departments and the central offices, to ensuring this highly successful outcome.

12. The assessment itself is valuable, but the HEFCE uses the outcome primarily in its formula for the distribution of the block grant for research (QR). Over £60m of the University's income depends on the results; the income funds basic research and underpins the infrastructure necessary to support research funded by external sponsors.

13. The Board had hoped that the University's results in the 2001 RAE would be reflected in the HEFCE's funding allocations for 2002-03 announced in March 2002. Despite an increase in the University's number of 5* ratings, the University's share of the England QR total fell from 17% in the 1996 RAE to 12%, because of the general rise in quality across the sector. The HEFCE announced that it would maintain in real terms the total funding for research for the academic year 2002-03 and maintain the unit of resource for 5* Departments in order to protect research at international level. Funding the increased number of 5* Departments meant a 12% reduction in the unit of funding for Departments rated 5, and nearly 30% for Departments rated 4. Taking all factors into account, including an increase of 10% in 'volume' of research active staff used in the funding formula, total HEFCE research funding for the University rose by 4.6% against a real terms increase of 2.5%. Indications from the Comprehensive Spending Review announcement are that extra money for research will be forthcoming, but details of how it will be distributed are not yet available.

14. On the assumption that there will be another RAE, following a review by the HEFCE, the University must strive to maintain its pre-eminence and aim for not less than the top rating in every Department. Accordingly, reviews were instituted by the Board of those few Departments which failed to meet the exacting target in 2001 of achieving at least a 5 or retaining their 5* awarded in 1996. The Board will consider the outcome of those reviews in the Michaelmas Term 2002.

Resource Allocation Model

15. The Board, together with the Council, have continued to give high priority to the development of a Resource Allocation Model to inform the allocation of resources to academic, academic-related, and service institutions within the University. Following consultation in the Lent Term 2002 with the Councils of the Schools, with institutions outside the Schools, and with the Colleges Committee, a working group, under the Chairmanship of Professor Malcolm Grant and comprising the Chairmen of the Councils of the Schools and Chairman of the Faculty Board of Clinical Medicine, together with senior officers, was convened to develop revised and more detailed proposals. It is expected that a further consultation will take place during the Michaelmas Term 2002.

Time Allocation Survey

16. In January 2002 the University was required to make its second annual report to the HEFCE concerning the breakdown of its costs between five categories: publicly-funded teaching, non-publicly-funded teaching, publicly-funded research, non-publicly-funded research, and all other activities. The data returned were derived in large part from a pilot Time Allocation Survey which the Board conducted in 1999-2000.

17. In their last Annual Report the Board indicated that they would undertake a second Time Allocation Survey in 2001-02, during which staff would be asked to complete two surveys, covering between them four notional average weeks, and for which a response rate of 70% would be required. This would enable the University to meet the standards of transparency required by the HEFCE and by the University's internal auditors. Both halves of the survey have now been completed and the target response rate met. The Board are grateful to all staff who took part in the survey for their co-operation.

New academic developments

18. Despite the severe financial constraints, as a result mainly of the availability of external funding the Board were able to propose the establishment of the following new Professorships in 2001-02:

(i) A Merck Company Foundation Professorship of Experimental Neurology, established for one tenure from 1 January 2002 in the Department of Medicine, supported by a generous benefaction from the Merck Company Foundation.
(ii) A Professorship of Photonics of Molecular Materials, established from 1 March 2002 in the Department of Engineering, supported by a generous donation from Dow Corning Limited for ten years and the suppression of a University Lectureship.
(iii) A Professorship of Learning Disability Psychiatry, established from 1 June 2002 for one tenure in the Department of Psychiatry for Dr A. J. Holland, funded by the PPP Foundation for fifteen years, with any additional funds required being met from sources available to the Faculty Board of Clinical Medicine.
(iv) A Professorship of Community Psychiatry, established for one tenure from 1 January 2002 in the Department of Psychiatry, to be supported by the North West Anglian Healthcare Trust in conjunction with the Cambridgeshire Health Authority.

A generous benefaction of £2m was received from Dr Lisbet Rausing for the support of History and Philosophy of Science, in recognition of which the Professorship of History and Philosophy of Science was renamed the Hans Rausing Professorship.

The Professorship of International Macroeconomics was re-established for a single tenure from 1 January 2002 in the Faculty of Economics and Politics, funded by the holding in abeyance of two Assistant Directorships of Research. A Professorship of Environmental Systems Analysis was established from 1 October 2003 in the Department of Geography and will be funded from the suppression of an Assistant Directorship of Research and funds available to the Department. A Professorship of Accounting was established from 1 January 2002 in the Judge Institute of Management Studies, to be funded partly from the University Education Fund and partly from the Institute's M.B.A. fee.

The very major bequest to the University in the Will of Dr Herchel Smith will provide endowments for five Professorships in the biological and physical sciences, as well as significant supplementation and further support for the Professorships which he endowed in the University during his lifetime. The Board expect to report to the University in 2002-03, setting out detailed proposals for the use of the bequest.

19. In 1999 the University and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, which now forms part of Cancer Research UK (CRUK) agreed an ambitious proposal for the development of a major new cancer research centre to house an integrated programme of research that will be funded substantially by CRUK. The broad aim of the project is to create a cancer research facility on a scale matched by only a few other centres in Europe in terms of true research excellence. The proposed development will maximize the potential of the University's existing resources for cancer research which have already substantially benefited from significant CRUK support as well as, more recently, by the development, in partnership with an MRC Unit, of the Hutchison/MRC Centre for Cancer Research. In addition to external funding raised to support three professorial appointments to lead research groups in the Centre, the University has succeeded in obtaining very substantial funding for the building. The Board, through the Planning and Resources Committee, work in close co-operation with the Development Director in setting the key priorities for external fund-raising, on which the University's excellence increasingly depends.

Infrastructure and buildings

20. In August 2001 the HEFCE announced the Project Capital Round 2 funding programme for 2002-04, comprising £158m as Learning & Teaching Capital and £56m as Disability Capital. Allocations to Higher Education Institutions were determined formulaically and the University was awarded:

(i) £2,409,014 under the learning and teaching funding stream;
(ii) £760,064 under the disability capital funding stream.

The University selected four projects for support from the learning and teaching stream. In order to benefit from the disability capital allocation, the HEFCE required all institutions to have conducted a disability access audit. The University carried out an audit, excluding the Colleges, which identified projects costing £33.6m that are considered necessary to meet Government disabled access criteria. The University submitted five projects for support under this arrangement.

In January 2002 the Royal Society and the Wolfson Foundation announced a Laboratory Refurbishment Scheme to encourage the refurbishment of laboratories for the purpose of nanotechnology research. The value of each grant was limited to a maximum of £250,000. The University submitted two bids.

21. The Minor Works Fund received a reduced allocation of £2m in 2001-02. The Building Upgrading Procedure 2000-01 identified twelve projects for support in 2001-02 at a cost of £2.24m. These have all been implemented. Under the Building Upgrading Procedure 2001-02, for implementation in 2002-03, budgetary constraints resulted in the authorization of only six projects. Of these, the major projects approved include the relocation of the Language Centre to the Old Music School, in line with the recommendations of an earlier review by the Board. Nevertheless, requests for minor works continue to arise for numerous reasons, including health and safety, the arrival of new staff (especially Professors), facilitation of successful bids to Research Council initiatives, and opportunities to make more effective use of existing accommodation. As in previous years, the Board have required significant contributions towards the cost of schemes from discretionary funds in Faculties and Departments and will have to look increasingly at such sources of funds, given the overall funding position of the University.

Research policy

22. The Research Policy Committee met five times during the year and is now well established, as a forum for a broad-ranging discussion on matters of research policy and strategy and to oversee the work of the Research Services Division and the Corporate Liaison Office. The principal issues addressed included a lengthy and detailed discussion, over several meetings, of policy on the ownership of Intellectual Property Rights and the preparation of a University-wide research strategy, in consultation with the Councils of the Schools. The Committee also devised detailed proposals, for consideration by the central bodies, for the establishment of a University register of outside interests and continued to develop a policy on 'embedded companies' in Faculties and Departments.


23. An important element in the University Human Resources Strategy is the reform of the procedures for promotion to University Senior Lectureships and to personal Professorships and Readerships, and of the academic career structure. At the beginning of the Michaelmas Term 2001, the Board launched a consultation exercise on these matters. In the light of that consultation a single promotions scheme to replace the two existing schemes has been developed through the Personnel Committee. The Board has approved a Report, which will be considered by the University in the Michaelmas Term 2002. Proposals for changes to the career structure of academic staff, including probationary arrangements, will be brought forward in due course.

24. Another matter to which the Board would like to draw attention is the ever-increasing weight of employment-related legislation. The central bodies have published a Report for the approval of the Regent House on the extensive changes required to the Statutes and Ordinances in order to ensure compliance with the regulations giving effect to the European Directive on Fixed-Term Working. The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 has required the formulation of a Race Equality Policy and Action Plan and the introduction of arrangements to collect and monitor data on the ethnicity on both applicants and staff. A wide range of regulations will be introduced by the Employment Act 2002 in the coming year.

25. Other matters which will also have an impact on the Statutes include the introduction of a Revised Model Statute, which is currently with the Privy Council for approval, and the implementation of the recommendations of the Follett Committee on appraisal, disciplinary, and reporting arrangements for clinical academic staff.

Health and safety

26. The Board receives and considers regular reports from the Health and Safety Executive Committee which has overseen the growth of expertise in the Health and Safety Division and a number of important initiatives:

(a) The safety education programme has undergone major review and now offers an extensive timetable of events ranging from practical courses for technical staff to executive briefings for senior staff. 'Customized' sessions are also now provided for particular sectors of the University, allowing more focussed training tailored to specific needs. Core training has been introduced for some topics, such as all new users of ionizing radiation. Positive demand for such training suggests a successful approach, whilst good feedback confirms the appropriateness of the material.
(b) Progress has been made in initiating the safety audit programme, due to start at departmental level later in 2002. Safety Office staff training, pilot audits, and briefings to several staff groups on procedures have been undertaken in order to prepare the University for the introduction of safety auditing.
(c) Much of the existing safety policy and guidance has received attention, and is undergoing extensive revision, including new policy documents on the Management of Work with Ionizing Radiation, and draft guidance documents on Laser Safety, Risk Assessment, and Safe Laboratory Practice.

27. However, the University continues to receive close attention from the Enforcement Agencies, predominantly in response to accidents and incidents, although occasionally to follow up complaints, undertake pre-planned inspections, or to attend training events by invitation. Although the outcomes of these visits have largely been favourable, in that no enforcement actions were taken, the Board are concerned that the considerable efforts needed by Safety Office staff in preparing for visits expected from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and to respond to increasing compliance requirements detract from the time available to embed the necessary safety culture at all levels of the University.

Academic services


28. The Board, through the Library Syndicate and the Committee on Libraries, were kept fully briefed about all key aspects of the process of the installation of the new Endeavor Voyager integrated library management system ('Newton') which serves all the libraries in the University. The complex production schedule, involving almost 200 system-modules in over 80 libraries, began in May 2002 with the University Library's database of manuscripts and theses, and ended on 1 August when the circulation database for the last group of Faculty and Departmental libraries went live. Endeavor had experience of implementing their system in very large libraries but the complexities of the devolved Cambridge library structure presented them with an unexpected range of problems. It is a tribute to the immense amount of time and hard work by members of the Cambridge Project Team that the new system was successfully introduced.

29. The Board's Committee on Libraries has also addressed many general policy issues including the escalating costs of scientific journals and the resulting difficulties of ensuring that available University funds can be used optimally. The devolved nature of the Cambridge library system is creating increasing difficulties for dealing with the new pricing models being introduced by publishers, especially for electronic journals, where site licences, often based on existing print subscriptions, are becoming the norm. Together with the Library Syndicate and its Science Libraries Sub-syndicate, the Committee has been considering alternative approaches to the funding of scientific journals and will be making proposals to the relevant bodies during the next academical year. The Committee also supported a workshop for scientists on 'The Future of the Scientific Journal' organized in April by the University Library.

30. The Committee has also been giving thought to improving professional development, training, and mentoring for librarians, and is exploring options with the Staff Development Section of the Personnel Division. A member of the Committee serves on the CUFS User Group; this is helping to ensure that the concerns of librarians are kept in view as financial system policy is developed and implemented.

31. The Committee collects statistics annually from Faculty and Departmental libraries. The format of the return has recently been altered to bring the figures into line with those collected nationally from academic libraries, but the Committee is considering further ways of improving the accuracy and usefulness of the data. The Committee has continued its rolling programme of visits to Faculty and Departmental libraries in the University, and has been pleased to report continuing evidence that a very good service is being provided to members of the University. New procedures have been approved for the disposal of material from Faculty and Departmental libraries.

Language Centre

32. Following the recommendations of their 1999 review committee on the future of the Language Centre, the Board have now completed arrangements to ensure the permanent establishment of staff members providing core infrastructural support for the work of the Centre. The Board have also recognized the Centre's need for improved accommodation and work has begun to refurbish accommodation in the Old Music School in Downing Place to provide the Centre with a central, unified facility. The Board hope that these developments will support the Centre in taking forward their commitment to provide language learning opportunities to all members of the University whilst maintaining excellence. The Board are confident that the Centre's future plans, for both course-work and enhanced developments in on-line support, such as 'Language at your Fingertips', will enable it to fulfil its mission to provide as varied, fully supportive, and rich a learning environment as possible.


33. During the year, the approval of the Privy Council was received for the statutory amendments to provide for student membership of the Board. Ms K. Childs and Ms S. Leaton Gray were elected in the Easter Term to serve in that capacity. Following the recommendations of a review of the School of Clinical Medicine, the Board put forward proposals (Reporter, 2001-02, p. 1274) for the formal constitution of a School of Clinical Medicine as the sixth full School in the University, and for related amendments to the constitution of the Board.


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Cambridge University Reporter, 18 December 2002
Copyright © 2002 The Chancellor, Masters and Sch