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Request for a Discussion on the reform of the governance of the University

12 February 2003

The Council have received from the Board of Scrutiny a request for a Discussion on matters related to governance (see below) and have agreed that this Discussion should take place at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 11 March 2003.

Statement by the Board of Scrutiny

In response to the Regent House's rejection of the Graces to give effect to parts of the Council's proposals on governance, the Board of Scrutiny has used its power under Statute A, Chapter VII, 6(d) to request the Council to call a Discussion on the reform of the governance of the University.

On the rejection of some of the current proposals to amend the constitution of the University, the Board of Scrutiny has few regrets. However, like the Council, the Board firmly believes that governance of the University is in need of reform, and that the need is a pressing one.

At this stage, the Board believes that what is needed is not a further attempt to refine the detail of the proposals that the Regent House has rejected, but principled reflection on the scope and objects of governance reform, and the process by which it is to be carried out.

As to process, the Board believes that if the constitution of the University is to be reformed, the right way is to set up a high-level review body that is independent of the Council. An occasional Syndicate established by Grace under Statute A, IV might be an appropriate vehicle for this review. It agrees with Professor A. W. F. Edwards, who in the Discussion on 8 October 2002 referred to 'the constitutional principle that a body should not initiate proposals affecting its own constitution'. The Board also believes that the timetable should enable the views of the incoming Vice-Chancellor to be taken into account.

As to objects, the Board believes that any reform of the constitution of the University, or to the way it operates, should be directed first and foremost to rectifying matters that are demonstrably wrong within the present arrangements. Changes should be made with a proper recognition of what has gone amiss with the management of the University in recent years, and with the aim of preventing its repetition. They should be designed to equip the University to face the major strategic issues with which it is currently faced.

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Cambridge University Reporter, 19 February 2003
Copyright © 2002 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.