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Tuesday, 27 May 2003. A Discussion was held in the Council Room of the following Reports:
Report of the Council, dated 12 May 2003, on governance (chairmanship of the Audit Committee and external membership of the Council) (p. 920).
Professor A. W. F. EDWARDS:
Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, at the Discussion on 11 March I mused that it might be the last occasion on which I spoke on constitutional issues 'unless the Council are so unwise as to attempt anything more than a tidying operation before October'. The Council now return with a part of the proposal which the Regent House rejected last January, and I wish to speak to it.
It is simply for two external members of the Council, one to chair the Audit Committee, neither to be members of the Regent House. The Council do not say why they have changed their mind on the last point, merely observing that 'The present Report does not make provision for the external members of the Council to become members of the Regent House as previously proposed'. So obviously we ask, Why not?
I think it would be very odd to have members of the Council who could not participate in the business of the Regent House and who carried no responsibility as members of the governing body. They could sign a Report, but not a flysheet, they could sign a note of dissent, but not a request for a ballot. They could vote for a Registrary but not for an Orator. As members of the Nomination Committee they could vote for a Chancellor, but not as members of the Regent House. They could march grandly in procession into a Congregation (if graduates) but take no part in it. They could even seek to have a Vice-Chancellor removed from office under Statute U, though they could not vote for a replacement. They could serve on the Finance Committee but not on the Executive Committee. Could they take the chair at the Council in the absence of the Vice-Chancellor? They would be the Senior Pooh-Bah and Junior Pooh-Bah of our constitution.
There would have to be very strong reasons for creating such a Gilbertian minefield. For many years we had external members in the Regent House by virtue of their membership of Boards of Electors (as long as they were members of the Senate), though Wass removed them. Their presence did not seem to cause any difficulty.
But in fact help may be at hand. By the approval of Grace 1 of 20 November 2002 (Acta, 31 January) the University added the following subsection to Statute A, III, 7 which specifies membership of the Regent House: '(f) any member of the Council in classes (d) and (e)'. By an error in the Council's drafting this was not made contingent on the approval of Grace 2, which sought to create new classes for the Council. In the event Grace 2 was not approved. Class (d) is currently for students and, after the approval of the present Report's recommendations, class (e) will be for the external members. So provided Her Majesty in Council approves the new subsection (f), both the students and the external members will be members of the Regent House. But subsection (f) has not been sealed and sent to Her Majesty. Why not? Did the Registrary and the Treasurer, or one of them, decline to unlock the Common Seal for the purpose?
Foreseeing the difficulties I wrote to the Registrary on 7 February suggesting how the Council might extricate the University from them. I am happy to say that the Council followed my advice almost to the letter except for one crucial point: they failed to include in Grace 5 of 26 February the rescission of Grace 1 of 20 November, needed to get rid of subsection (f).
All is not lost, however, because I also argued in my letter that the wording of the ballot on Graces 1, 2, 3, and 4 of 20 November implied that the approval of each was contingent on the approval of all. I had in fact put this point to the Draftsman as early as 16 January. It was why I recommended that Grace 4, on the Pro-Vice-Chancellors, be resubmitted, and the Council evidently agreed, for they resubmitted it as the second part of Grace 5 of 26 February.
Everything would now be straight except for the tiresome subsection (f). Unless my argument is accepted there is no doubt that it stands. But from their actions in not proposing its rescission and in agreeing to re-run the Pro-Vice-Chancellors' Grace the Council seem by implication to have accepted my reasoning, or perhaps at least the Registrary and the Treasurer have. All that is now necessary, therefore, is to record the fact in the Acta. A suitable Notice might be: 'It has been represented to the Council that the addition of a new subsection (f) to Statute A, III, 7 by the approval of Grace 1 of 20 November 2002 is null and void by virtue of the approval of that Grace having been contingent on the approval of all the Graces 1 to 4 of 20 November, two of which were not approved. The Council agree. This amendment of the Statutes has not been sealed and will not be submitted to Her Majesty in Council; the Acta (page reference) have been amended accordingly'.
Either the Council need to accept this position, or they will have to propose the rescission of subsection (f) as I had recommended. Unless, of course, they change their mind again and want the external members to be included in the Regent House after all. But then so would the students be. Some further adjustments would be needed, including the matter of compatibility with Statute A, III, 5 that I mentioned on 8 October last.
That settled, I should like to finish with some minor observations on the proposed wording of class (e). Perhaps 'employed by the University or a College' might be preferable to 'employees of the University or a College', because one would not like a temporarily-hired business consultant, for example, to be eligible. It also covers multiple employment better. Then there are the semi-external people who sit on our numerous Trusts and so forth. Should they be eligible? What about the class (c) members of the Consultative Committee, who are not members of the Regent House by Statute A, V, 6? Might it be best to exclude Honorary Graduates? And Honorary Professors and Readers? When it comes to considering the Colleges, what about Honorary Fellows, or indeed non-stipendiary Fellows?
Then there is the problem of members of the Regent House who are deprived of membership at the age of seventy. Should they be eligible? Statute A, IV, 8 says 'No person shall be elected a member of the Council after attaining the age of seventy years' but it doesn't say anything about persons who are appointed.
Dr D. R. DE LACEY:
Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, 'Complexity arises in particular where there are a number of alternatives, whether in the original Grace or through amendments. This is exacerbated when the alternatives must be expressed as draft Statutes or Ordinances'. So the Report. With respect, 'this is exacerbated' when the Council decides to present all the issues in a single set of complex options, rather than breaking them down into their natural components. As Dr Galletly has demonstrated in previous Discussions, STV is simply not an appropriate tool for multiple-choice questions. Almost certainly, if the issues in Graces 5 and 6 of 20 November 2002 had been separated into 'How many signatories?' and 'Is e-mail submission acceptable?' (if necessary allowing the one to be decided before the other was balloted) we would not have had the results we now have to live with. I encourage you to re-read Dr Galletly's contribution to the Discussion of 28 January (http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2002-03/weekly /5912/13.html). The only reason Grace 2 of 20 November returns, as the recommendation of this Report, to be battled over yet again is that the choices were unclear last time round.
'The Council intend to report further to the Regent House about arrangements for ballots which would seek to address these problems.' This is excellent news. May we hope that this will happen, and the new procedures will be approved, before any further ballots are conducted?
As to the nominating panel, is it not rather odd that the specification makes it quite possible for there to be no one on it competent to assess fitness for the post of Chairman of our Audit Committee? As a first step, should not the Council or the Audit Committee produce a detailed job description so that everyone is perfectly clear what precisely we are looking for? Would it not be appropriate for the Committee itself to be able to nominate at least one member to the panel?
Mr N. M. MACLAREN:
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am saddened that the Council is being so timorous. As the Report quite rightly points out, most objections to the previous proposals were not on the principle of external membership of the Council. I had hoped to see a proposal for a significant number of external members, nominated and elected by the Regent House. It is not too late to consider such a possibility.
Dr D. A. GALLETLY:
Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, point 3 of the Report of the Council on governance: 'Among the other points made in the course of the Discussion was that the recent voting on governance had been unduly complex.' This is true, and it can be argued (although I shall not do so) that any system where a voter has to express more than one preference is 'unduly complex'. It seems to me, casting an eye over the results of recent ballots and Council elections, that some of the electorate may not be aware of the ramifications of their choosing not to express more than one or two preferences. In the light of the promise of the Council to revisit the question of our ballot system, I would like to say a few words about how to fill in a ballot paper such that one's vote has the best chance of being effective, with half an eye to the forthcoming elections to the Board of Scrutiny.1
The first point that needs to be made in this context is that it is not necessary for the voter to understand in detail the procedure by which an STV election should be conducted as described in the Statutes and Ordinances. This is indeed fortunate, as the details are complex in the extreme, and serve only to confuse. The method of filling in a ballot paper so as accurately to express the voter's list of preferences is orthogonal to the method used to tally the results.
In fact, the only thing the voter needs to do is list in order his choices, from most acceptable to least acceptable. This may seem obvious, but over 20% of those who voted for an unsuccessful candidate as their first preference in the election to the Council in class (c) last December2 did not bother to express any further preference and so they were effectively disenfranchised when her votes were transferred. Surely she was not the only candidate they found even passably acceptable?
Ideally, the voter will list all the candidates in order of preference. Realistically, the voter may be unable to tell whether Dr X would be less bad than Professor Y; in which case, as long as the much-despised Dr Z is not also standing for election, it is fairly safe only to mark preferences for those candidates who are known to be on the side of Good.
On the other hand, if Dr Z is standing for election, it is necessary to mark preferences not only for one's favoured candidates, but also for those towards whom one is indifferent, or even somewhat negatively disposed, in order that Dr Z be the last preference. The vital question the voter should ask herself while filling in the ballot paper is: 'Would I rather that my vote not count, than that it be counted towards this candidate?' Considered self-disenfranchisement is one thing; accidental disenfranchisement due to lack of understanding of the voting procedures is quite another.
Returning to the Report: 'Complexity arises in particular where there are a number of alternatives, whether in the original Grace or through amendments. This is exacerbated when the alternatives must be expressed as draft Statutes or Ordinances'. This latter point is to some extent the case, although it is arguable that much of the complexity originated in the way in which the Graces,3 and the draft Statutes and Ordinances,4 were presented in the Reporter of 20 November 2002. Recently, I got around to doing what should have been done some months back and worked out which altered bits of Statutes and Ordinances belonged to which Grace. I have sorted them out into a Web page5 which I believe to be considerably clearer and more coherent than the piecemeal presentation in the Reporter. It should not have had to fall to me to do this; they should have been clearly presented in the first place.
The question of how best to choose between alternatives I have addressed in the past, and I see no need to repeat myself today, particularly given that 'The Council intend to report further to the Regent House about arrangements for ballots which would seek to address these problems'. This is indeed good to hear. I hope that the Council in their deliberations will consider the potential problems of the use of STV for such ballots. They might also care to look at the wording of the second sentence of p. 122 of Statutes and Ordinances: 'Under no circumstances can a later preference count against an earlier preference'. While this may on the level of an individual ballot paper be true, it lends an air of false reassurance to the voting process that I find unwise given the possibility of farcical results such as those I described in my speech of 11 March.6
One further matter that perhaps needs considering in any proposed overhaul of the voting system is how to determine the quota, particularly in the context of elections of candidates to, for example, the Council. The current system, one of the two variants of the Droop quota, is needlessly complex, in that it initially appears to allow more candidates to be elected than there are places available. Point 6 on p. 122 of Statutes and Ordinances describes how to solve this anomaly; but this anomaly need never arise were the other method of calculating the Droop quota to be employed instead. It might also be worth giving thought as to whether the Droop quota is the most appropriate quota to be used in any case, as it is sometimes argued that it tends to favour large factions at the expense of smaller ones; and surely the Council would wish to encourage as diverse a representation as possible on central bodies?
Dr S. J. COWLEY:
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am somewhat surprised that I seem to be one of the few people to welcome this proposal, but I believe that there are good reasons for the appointment of two external members of the Council, not least that both HEFCE and members of the Government would welcome such a development.
Whilst a direct analogy does not exist between the University's Council and the Board of a business, some of the principles concerning the effective functioning of non-executive directors on such a Board may apply to external members of the Council. Derek Higgs' 'Review of the role and effectiveness of non-executive directors' addresses the principles for non-executive directors.
Concerning recruitment and appointment Higgs observes favourably that in the public sector 'there is a clear requirement to appoint on merit set out in the Nolan Principles', 'recruiting or nominating committees are typically set up and draw up a comprehensive job or role description', 'best practice is that essential and desirable competencies are identified before candidates are approached', and 'advertising of roles is considered good practice, often alongside other forms of search'. The commitment of the Council to set up a nominating committee and to provide for the public advertisement of vacancies is thus to be welcomed. However, do the Council accept that the other public sector procedures listed above should also be followed?
Indeed, does the Council agree that the best practice espoused in the Higgs report, where applicable, should be followed so that the University will have informed and independent externals?
Professor G. R. EVANS:
Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Edwards has taken this proposal apart with a masterly hand. I will just add a few gloomy warnings about the politics, local and national.
'At present, they do not intend to proceed further with other proposals which did not command the support of the Regent House.' (2) But 'they' are intending to 'proceed further' with the proposals to put extemals on the Council, by this circuitious route. Is it desirable that the Council should refuse to take no for an answer? Is this a precedent to be desired? It means that if we hold a ballot and say 'no' they simply reconstruct the question and ask us again until we say 'yes'. And do not fail to note that 'at present'. I am prepared to bet that it will not be long before we open a Reporter and find ourselves invited to think again about whether when we said 'No' to the Chief Executive Vice-Chancellor, we really meant 'Yes'.
It does not seem to work the other way round. Those of us disquieted at the freedom those presiding at Discussions now have to silence speakers at whim, and at the near impossibility of ever getting the necessary twenty-five signatures in time to call for a ballot, cannot, I think, expect the pleasure of reading a Report which suggests that the Regent House might like to think again about those 'decisions'.
To these proposals. It is made out (1) that since 'several speakers in the Discussion of 11 March 2003' supported the introduction of external members of the Council', there is a will for this in the Regent House. Prominent among these was the Vice-Chancellor; the two who ran the road-show, Professor Malcolm Grant and Dr Gordon Johnson; Mr A. D. Yates, read by Dr Gordon Johnson; and Professor Sanders, so very much the coterie which put the idea before us in the first place and its friends. One is tempted to comment, 'Well they would say that, wouldn't they?'
On the other hand, the previous Registrary, and now master of Downing, Dr Fleet, took a very different view, speaking from his immense experience, 'The Council,as the cabinet, should have membership derived exclusively from the Regent House with appropriate representation from Colleges, the Professors, Readers, and other officers and staff, together with student representation as at present'.
Dr Clark signalled an important warning, 'During the course of discussions on the governance reforms and then also on the IPR issues (as I think these two issues are not completely separate - I think that they are related) it became clear that there is political intervention from central Government behind many of the proposals, and that essentially our Council and the Vice-Chancellor have not been completely open with us about the motivation behind their changes'. May we be told whether it is Government pressure again which has brought these rejected proposals before us in their new Spring fashions? If so, may we know what form that pressure has taken?
Those with an hour or two to spare to spend on leaden prose may like to read HEFCE's Strategic Plan, the Consultation Document (http://www.hefce.ac.uk/). Today is the last day for responses, which may be made by e-mail to email@example.com. (Cambridge's 'official' response has not of course been vouchsafed to the Regent House for approval. May I ask that it be published?)
I draw attention to one or two sentences. HEFCE's Risk Management Framework speaks of 'ensuring that we work closely with the Government, through our sponsor department, the Department for Education and Skills, to understand as fully as possible the implications of current and emerging national policies'. So HEFCE sees itself as an arm of Government and the old idea that the Funding Councils would form a buffer between universities and politicians has gone?
Then there is the section on 'Enhancing the Contribution of HE to the Economy and Society'. There we read of the intention to 'demonstrate the year on year improvement in the collaborative and individual interactions of all (my italics) Higher Education Institutions with business and the community, related to national social and economic benefit and evaluated from annual collection of robust data'. So externals on our Council are likely to be appointed in line with that objective, are they not?
Turn now to the section on governance, where 'the growing demands made by ... Government' are bowed to. The proposal is to join together the Value for Money initiative and the Fund for development of Good Management practice 'to create an enhanced leadership, governance and management fund'. Will Cambridge be getting any of this jam if we do not obediently equip ourselves with some business Chief-Executive-types to externalize our Council and stop it being (shock, horror) a wholly democratically elected body?
HEFCE identifies the 'risk' that unreformed governance will not 'have the capability or, capacity to ensure ... compliance with our Financial Memorandum'. For those who do not know, failure to comply with HEFCE's Financial Memorandum allows it to wield its Statutory Big Stick.
Dr Maclaren is right to separate externality of origin from non-membership of the Regent House in these proposals. These two are not to be members of the Regent House and will be quite difficult to rank in the Honorary Degrees procession (after the student members of Council?) So they will remain external to our democracy. Charles Clarke has said he does not like 'communities of scholars'. Such universities are not for the modern world.
Those desirous to become such externals, are to be 'invited to apply', by public advertisement (and perhaps by direct personal invitation from the Old Schools), but after that the choice will not be ours by election. It will go behind the scenes into the coils of another of those inbred Nominating Committees, and then we shall be asked to grace their choice at a point where it would seem extremely 'personal' to reject a particular individual. Only when the Council proposes another Grace does one of these members get replaced. No fixed term of service is proposed. The Council then gets to choose which of them chairs the Audit Committee. Do not be fooled by the notion of including four members of the Nomination Board on that Nominating Committee. The Council nominates to the Nominating Board and sits on it itself. No independent can arrive on either Board or Committee at the direct will of the Regent House.
Secretary of State for Education, it seems you may get your way. Why not apply yourself? School funding, easy. Cambridge Audit Committee next for your fresh external mind.
Mr W. P. KIRKMAN (read by Mrs S. BOWRING):
Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am the Secretary of the Cambridge Society. In the Discussion on 11 March I expressed surprise that no means of seeking nomination of candidates for external membership of the Council had been envisaged in the original governance proposals.
I am pleased to see that in the current proposals there is provision for public advertisement of vacancies. It is good to note also that the suggestions for a Nominating Committee provide for the inclusion in such a committee of members of the Nomination Board who are not members of the Regent House - in other words, non-resident members of the University.
The Cambridge Society, I know, will be keen to help in the process of finding suitable external members. The involvement of non-resident members of the University - though sadly, as currently proposed, only in a minority - in the process of choosing, and the possibility of putting forward names of candidates as a result of public advertisement, are to be welcomed, and will I know be welcomed by members of the Society, who wish fully to support the University.
Mr T. N. MILNER:
Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak today in a purely private capacity and I should like to begin with a question about a detail in these proposals and then proceed to make some more general remarks.
As it stands this Report proposes that class (i) of the Nominating Committee shall consist of 'The Chancellor, failing whom the High Steward, failing whom the Deputy High Steward, failing whom a deputy appointed by the Chancellor, in the Chair'. Does this mean that all the High Officers mentioned will be members ex officio and entitled to regular attendance, or will they become members only when they are chairing a particular meeting? I presume the latter.
In more general terms the notion of employing the Nomination Board, or in effect a miniature version of it, to propose external members of the Council, appears sound; assuming here that one rejects the notion of some form of open election. Nevertheless I would question whether this is the best version of this device for the purpose? Some contributors to the Governance Consultation expressed concerns about the independence of external members of the Council from the executive and were anxious to see that a genuinely fresh element was introduced to the Council's membership if the proposals went ahead.
To that end, is it desirable for any member of the Council, with the exception of the Chancellor, to be involved in the Nominating Committee? The analogy with the nomination of candidates for the Chancellorship or the Stewardship is not wholly appropriate here, since those are in effect nominations into a possible electoral contest. There are currently sixteen appointed members of the Nomination Board in addition to the members of the Council ex officio and I would suggest that it is this group which should form the Nominating Committee, under the chairmanship either of the Chancellor or a deputy appointed by the Chancellor from within the Committee.
The sixteen members concerned are appointed by the Senate on the nomination of the Council and one would hope, therefore, to find there a substantial reserve of experience and good sense. A Nominating Committee thus composed would be likely to present not only a range of age and view, but it would also bring some real and obvious assurance of external, but well-informed opinion generating the nominations. To re-enforce this, it might be possible to promote a minor change in the current regulations for the Nomination Board, so as to require that the sixteen members appointed by the Senate shall be members of the Senate who are not employed by the University or any College.
Two further points of detail. Firstly, the Report does not propose that the two external members shall be entitled to membership of the Regent House. In light of the very substantial increase in the membership of that body which has been proposed and which we are also considering today, this seems to me an unnecessary discourtesy if the proposal is otherwise sound. Secondly, there is a proposal for the potential removal of the external members by Grace. I cannot imagine anything more likely to undermine the independence and freedom of expression of the two external members of the Council than the knowledge that they, unlike all other members, may be removed before their normal term expires. The time for objection is surely the moment at which the appointment is subject to a confirmatory Grace? If the University approves the appointment, an external member should then serve out his or her term on the same basis as any other Council member.
First Report of the Council, dated 12 May 2003, on membership of the Regent House (p. 921).
Professor A. W. F. EDWARDS:
Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, what is the objection to making all the University employees listed in the draft regulation University officers under the provision of Statute D, I, 1(a) which was specifically introduced as long ago as 1934 for this purpose? When I last raised this question, in 1986 (Reporter, 1985-86, p. 517), the General Board gave policy reasons based on a 1977 Notice, but that was twenty-six years ago and surely it is time to reconsider.
At the Discussion of the University Governance Report on 8 October last (Reporter, 2002-03, p. 82) I spoke rather trenchantly, pleading with the Regent House to throw out the whole measure 'lock, stock, and barrel'. I did not entirely succeed. The barrel got through, and now there needs to be a regulation for filling it. Against the possibility that some such proposal would be approved I also asked for an amendment to Statute A, III, 7 to provide for membership of the Regent House to be no longer compulsory. 'No employee of the University', I said, 'should be obliged to participate in this Regent-House farrago'.
The Council ignored my request in their reply (Reporter, 2002-03, p. 306). I shall now repeat it in a watered-down form which I hope may be approved without dissent. I can see that it might be difficult to dispense University officers from an obligation to be members of the Regent House, but I no longer see why anybody else should be compulsorily included. In particular, I can see no reason whatsoever why, when I retire from my University office on September 30, I should be obliged to remain a member until I am seventy.
Before any new regulation under 7(e) is approved, will the Council therefore please propose an amendment to the Statutes to permit any of the persons listed to opt out of membership of the Regent House, and at the same time to afford me and others who are retiring the same freedom.
Mr M. VERNON (read by Dr D. R. DE LACEY):
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Council proposes to create two new categories of unestablished staff who would be eligible for membership of the Regent House. Staff in the junior category would be required to serve for two years first. The original discussion paper (Reporter, 6 February 2002) which is referred to in the Council's previous Report on governance (Reporter, 26 June 2002) to which this Report refers mentions 'reasonable provision for a qualifying period of service'. I assume (though no rationale is ever provided) that this is at least partly to ensure that such staff have some experience of the University and the manner in which it is run. Research Associates are one such class of staff; certainly in the sciences, these are often people who have recently completed a Ph.D. Degree. It seems to me to be a little strange to require such people to serve two years before becoming eligible for membership of the Regent House. Does being employed by the University give one a uniquely different perspective on its workings that studying here does not? Beyond on questions of Intellectual Property, of course
If I may be permitted to digress briefly to a more general point, the Council's thinking on the expansion of the Regent House seems a little confused to me; there is a laudable desire to enfranchise more of the junior academic and academic-related staff, but perhaps a lack of clarity of thought on precisely which staff, and why, and what purpose the qualifying period is meant to serve? Perhaps the Council should enlighten the Regent House as to its rationale?
It is, however, encouraging that these governance issues come to Discussion without the feeling of being a fait accompli, but as something to be discussed. For, as Erskine had it 'That which is called firmness in a king is called obstinacy in a donkey'.
Dr D. R. DE LACEY:
Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the old Statute A, III, 7(e) is clearly unsatisfactory. The Deputy Registrary has informed me that it does not mean what it clearly states. We must trust the Council when they say that the revision will not adversely affect those who come under its aegis, since it seems very unclear that anyone knows who they are.
It is not clear, however, that the replacement is wholly satisfactory. I see three potential pitfalls.
Consider three new graduates. One goes straight into a academic-related post, e.g., CA III. The other two start Ph.D.s. Three years later, one of the Ph.D.s becomes a CO II, the other a postdoc. Not an impossible, or even unlikely, scenario. Why is the pure academic the last into the Regent House, and the least academic the first? Should not the academic's Ph.D. Degree have counted towards his qualifying period?
Further, it is not unknown in this University for fixed-term, three-year appointments to be made, which may not necessarily begin at the start of the academical year. It would seem that such persons would be placed onto the Roll of the Regent House just as they are about to leave. However, the Roll is only revised once a year, so they would, presumably, remain absentee Regents, conceivably for significantly longer than they are resident Regents. Is this intended? Should not some qualification about their expected future employment by the University be included?
Finally, the revision clearly distinguishes between full-time and part-time post-holders in Colleges. I think I understand why, but are the Council entirely satisfied that there are no conceivable circumstances in which membership of the Regent House might affect the terms of employment, for instance in an ability to vote on a proposed payscale or promotion? If it could, this seems to be a clear breach of current European equality legislation.
Dr S. J. COWLEY:
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, may I first refer to one of Dr de Lacey's points. I believe that if unestablished members of the Regent House were required to live within 20 miles of Great St Mary's Church, as established members of the Regent House are, then the problem of the 'absent' member of the Regent House would be solved.
I would like to discuss the size of the Regent House, the nature of the University, and the participation of Regents in the activities of the House.
The size of the Regent House. The Report on governance of the 17 June 2002 dismissed concerns that an increase in the Regent House would result in a governing body that was less cohesive, less well-informed, less well-equipped to discharge its responsibilities, and less in touch with the University's core educational activity, rejected the opinion that such an increase would result in too much weight being given to a constituency without a long-term involvement in the work of the University, and disputed the suggestion that there would be an imbalance between academic disciplines. Indeed, the Council expressed the view that most of these apprehensions were exaggerated given that the increase in the Regent House would be 'between six and eight hundred, making up to 4,000 members altogether'.
The Report before us today 'adopts a wide definition of eligibility for membership' that will result in 'a significant number of colleagues' becoming members of the Regent House. The Allocations Report of 2002-03 (Reporter, 19 June 2002) lists 2,565 unestablished academic, academic-related, and research staff in 2001-02. I have no feel for how many such unestablished staff would qualify for membership of the Regent House, nor how the revisions to the categories of offices within Colleges would affect the membership of the Regent House. However, now that there are definite proposals please could the Council answer the following questions on the basis that the proposals under consideration were to be accepted?
What would be the increase in size in the Regent House, and what proportion of that increase would be respectively in arts, science, and academic-related members?
What would be the balance between arts, science, and academic-related members in the expanded Regent House?
The nature of the University. Today's Report refers to unestablished posts that are equivalent to a University Lectureship or more senior office. It proposes to determine equivalence by means of stipend. (As an aside might I mischievously suggest that a corollary of this, is that the seniority of a post is determined by stipend, with the result that a Director of Widgets appointed towards the top of the base scale for Directors and, say, with a top supplementary payment, is more senior than some rather famous prizewinners in my Faculty!)
The University faces a tough choice. If it accepts that a definition of equivalence is to be based on pay, then it should be consistent and make provision for membership of the Regent House for certain categories of assistant staff (e.g. for the managerial grade of technicians who have significant responsibilities and comparable salaries to University Lecturers, and for more senior secretaries). In the end we will resemble a workers' co-operative, and in a few years time I can envisage suggestions that the powers of the Regent House should be reduced since it is not well-informed, not well-equipped to discharge its responsibilities, and not in touch with the University's core educational activity.
However, I would argue that determining the equivalence of posts by stipend is ludicrous, especially given that even Tony Blair accepts that academics are underpaid by 40%. Instead, there is an alternative approach that is supported by Council's comment that it is 'fully committed to developing the academic self government of the University' (my emphasis, Reporter, 14 May 2003). This would be for the qualification for membership of the Regent House to be an academic one. For instance, qualification might depend on the prior publication of two pieces of research, as certified by the appropriate head of institution.1 Such a criterion would enfranchise most of the staff, such as post-doctoral workers, that were used as examples in the Council's Notice of 6 February 2002 and Report of 17 June 2002, and in the road-show seminars.
The participation of Regents in the activities of the House. However, if we are to continue to expand the membership of the Regent House away from academics, then I believe that mechanisms need to be put in place to guarantee that all Regents can participate in the functions of the House without fear or favour. Specifically, the Council should guarantee that Regents, including non-academic members of staff, are free to call and participate in Discussions, request ballots, propose amendments, and sign flysheets without affecting their career prospects, even if opposing Council's policy. If Council are not willing to provide such a guarantee, then membership of the Regent House for many non-academic staff would effectively be reduced to voting in ballots (and as such would make a mockery of the argument that the expansion in the Regent House justifies a 150% increase in the number required to call for a ballot or propose an amendment).
What might be the benefits of such a guarantee? Let me give two examples from the recent past.
1. CAPSA. Academic staff called for a Discussion of CAPSA post-go-live, but the impending disaster might have been averted if academic-related staff (many of whom were aware of the problems) had felt confident in calling for a Discussion prior to go-live.
2. The Deficit. It was only after disaster had struck that the Treasurer felt able to state that for 'a long time a number of officers have been pressing for a more rigorous business planning process to be undertaken before buildings are agreed' (Reporter, 17 July 2002). Might not the University now be in a healthier financial position if, having made little progress with the Council despite her best efforts, she and her colleagues had felt confident in bringing her concerns to the Regent House, as Governing Body, sooner?
Responsibilities come with the privilege of membership of the Regent House. If the Council wishes to pursue its current course, then the Council should provide an environment where those responsibilities can be fulfilled. If it is not willing to provide such an environment then it needs to return to the drawing board.
1 The same definition of 'publication' might be used as for the RAE.
Dr D. A. GALLETLY:
Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, at first sight it would appear churlish to be opposed to a Report that, on the surface at least, promotes greater inclusivity. But it seems to me that the motivation for this proposal is at best unclear; and that its main effect will merely be to transfer feelings of resentment from one excluded body of people to another.
One of the arguments given when the control over the making of decisions was transferred from the Senate to the Regent House in the 1920s was that the Senate was becoming unwieldily large. Another was that many of the members of the Senate were no longer living or working in Cambridge and had lost touch with the live issues of the day, and so were not in a good position to make well-informed decisions about how best the University should be run. Governance by the academics themselves, the Regent House, a much smaller and hopefully more focused body than the Senate, seemed to be the most reasonable way forward.
But creep has occurred. Over the last century the University has expanded significantly, and academic-related as well as academic staff are now members of the Regent House. But only certain categories; some categories of academic and academic-related staff are still disenfranchised. This Report has the laudable aim of seeking to regularize this situation. And indeed regularization is required, but this is not the way. More thought is needed.
The division between those 'senior' members of staff who would be permitted to join the Regent House straightaway, and those more 'junior' members who are presumably considered less loyal or less interested in the governance of the University, and are thus required to be employed by the University for two full years before being permitted to join the Regent House, is but the most obvious defect of this Report.
There are others; for instance, the Report says that 'The Council do not believe that any person at present qualified as a member of the Regent House under the existing Statute A, III, 7(e) would cease to be qualified'. This is hardly reassuring. I do hope that any Research Associates who are also members of a Faculty and have been employed for less than two years will read this when in due course it is printed in the Reporter, as currently they are permitted to be members of the Regent House, and this Report proposes to disenfranchise them. (Of course the current version of the Statute was drafted (per the Notice in the Reporter of 27 July 1994 p. 1011) in order to avoid just such a disenfranchisement of certain Research Associates. But since those past Research Associates whose membership of the Regent House the University was so anxious to protect possessed a Cambridge degree, perhaps they were considered more worthy of protection.)
Not so today. Worrying indeed it is to read that the underlying thought behind the Report appears to consider employment by the University to be the primary test of loyalty towards, and interest in, the future of the University. As Mr Vernon pointed out, this is not necessarily the case. Consider the member of the University who strove long years as an undergraduate, and then a graduate student, and is finally appointed to a Research Associateship only to have to wait two more years before being considered trustworthy enough to participate in the governance of the University. Meanwhile her colleague at the next desk, who did his undergraduate studies elsewhere and whose path through his Ph.D. Degree is accompanied by a Research Associateship paid for by a compassionate superior with a little spare money to hand, may become a member of the Regent House prior even to the submission of his Ph.D. dissertation.
Or consider, perhaps, the anomalous situation of Computer Officers and Computer Associates, which appears to be one of the areas that this Report is particularly attempting to rectify. The current situation is that Computer Officers become members of the Regent House, whilst Computer Associates (in effect) only become members if they are also members of a Faculty. This Report proposes that 'persons in unestablished posts equivalent to the offices of [...] Computer Officer in Grades I and II' and 'Computer Associates in Grades I and II' should be admitted to the Regent House immediately, whereas 'persons in unestablished posts equivalent to the offices of [...] Computer Officer in Grades III and IV' and 'Computer Associates in Grades III and IV' should be admitted only after two full years of employment. Again this senior/junior distinction, perhaps? But no, that cannot be it, for Computer Officers in Grades III and IV become members of the Regent House straight away, with no two-year wait required. Is it reasonable that someone appointed to a post which is 'equivalent to the office' of someone who is automatically a member of the Regent House should not himself become a member of the Regent House? How can he be both 'equivalent' and not 'equivalent' at the same time? Perhaps, if this senior/junior distinction is really intended, the fairer route would be to remove from the Roll of the Regent House the names of those Computer Officers in Grades III and IV who have not yet completed two full years of employment. I doubt, however, that this would be a popular proposal!
Some will no doubt argue that these are edge-cases, implausible situations, fanciful examples conjured up merely for the purpose of being obstructive. I would disagree with any such assertion. These, and no doubt other, ambiguities exist and need to be resolved. The devil is in the details, and given the potential (and indeed on occasion actual) confusion that has been engendered by the unclear wording of the current Statute A, III, 7(e) it would seem a dangerous folly not to resolve these anomalies.
In Grace 7 of 28 November 1979 (after much discussion, and following on from earlier Graces in 1953 and 1974) it was decided that employees who were entitled to membership of the Regent House should nevertheless be required to 'do time' for a whole three years of employment before they were to be deemed worthy of an M.A. Now in a grotesque hall-of-mirrors reflection of this, it is proposed to demand of Cambridge M.A.s that they serve out two full years of employment before being deemed worthy of membership of the Regent House.
Am I alone in thinking this absurd?
Professor G. R. EVANS:
Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the vote supported the enlargement of the membership of the Regent House on, I believe, the good liberal principle that we ought to allow more of those involved in the running of this huge ship to enjoy the franchise. It was to be anticipated that this would merely shift the sense of exclusion elsewhere. I fear that will be the consequence now that detailed proposals are before us. For example, I suspect that the distinction between the class of post which confers immediate membership of the Regent House and the class which requires two years' service first is going to cause some resentment.
It used to be quite clear from your office or College post whether the franchise included you. There were and are anomalies of classification and title for employees doing the same work, arising from inconsistencies in the setting up of posts through our 'devolvement' of power to the Schools, and our chaotic 'subsidiarity'. These caused, and cause, great and unnecessary pain to individuals, but they affected the rights of a numerically modest proportion of the electorate. A Report which contains expressions such as 'would include, for example', and 'equivalent to', and 'some grades of', and 'direct comparable', suggests to me that it is by no means clear, once one gets down to it, exactly what post is equivalent to which in our complex structure. New titles have sprung up among us of recent years, a number including the word 'Director'. A Director, like a Secretary, may be many different kinds of thing. Do we know? And that supplementary payment is going to have to be declared, is it not, Director of Widgets, if you are to claim seniority on the basis of it?
I would particularly like an indication of the numbers deemed likely to hold posts in the two proposed 'sub-categories' of unestablished posts. We must have some sense of the various sizes of Regent House we should end up with on these various reckonings before we approve any Grace. Could we have a published list of the numbers of staff at present employed in each of these classes, sub-categories and under each of these job-titles? And, as Dr Cowley has asked, of the proportion in arts and sciences? May we also have a preliminary account of the results of the work of the great goddess Hera (Higher Education Role Analysis)? Seems a bit rum to me to reconstruct the Regent House on the basis of uncompleted work in defining the remits of all our employee categories. It is proposed that the new extemal members of the Council should not be members. Little else is clear. Has anyone looked at Oxford's for comparison of their method of determining who should be members of Congregation?
Time was when you knew where you were with a University office. I am not sure that these proposals do not undermine the concept, and that is quite important while it remains the case that officers enter into office by signing the book under Statute D, I, 4 and other appointees take up their jobs on condition that they sign a contract. Who out of all the members of the new-style Regent House will have rights under Statute U? Those may be important, when it comes to raising a grievance about the career disadvantage suffered as a result of letting one's signature appear.
Is it mischievous to suggest that the vote should go only to those who can pass a short examination on our constitution set and marked by Professor Edwards? In addition to those two pieces of published research, of course, Directors of Widgets.
Dr N. HOLMES:
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I very much welcome the Council's invitation to comment of the present Report. When our debates on governance took place last year, the issue of the details of Regent House enlargement was a matter of considerable disagreement among respondents to the consultation paper and in Discussions on the subsequent Report. The Regent House approved enlargement in principle; it is now time to wrestle with the problems of detail. While I am content with the idea of bringing more academic and academic-related staff into the Regent House fold, I am not satisfied that Council have got the details right. The main problems are (1) defining how far down the ladder we should go and (2) making equivalent boundaries for very different categories of staff, i.e. research, computing, administrative. As far as research staff are concerned, I am on familiar ground. I think that the Council's proposals are appropriate; Senior Research Associates qualify immediately, Research Associates after two years. Where I am more doubtful is on the second problem of relating these research grades to other categories of staff. Here I am on less familiar ground, but I believe that the Council have made a mistake in apparently taking salary level as the key comparator between different categories of staff, though I understand the attractive simplicity of this measure. I think that if we looked at the qualifications required to achieve the relevant grade upon appointment, we might arrive at a rather different comparability.
Let us look first at comparability of research and other posts proposed to qualify after a waiting period. In my Department, the rule when appointing contract research staff is that appointees who have only a Bachelor's degree are appointed at Research Assistant grade. A postgraduate degree is required for appointment at Research Associate level. If that postgraduate degree is not a doctorate, additional relevant experience is required to obtain the grade. I am aware that practice may vary in other Faculties. I noted an advertisement in the Reporter of 19 February for a Research Assistant in the Faculty of Divinity, 'Applicants must have or be about to complete a Ph.D. Degree in a relevant discipline, have good knowledge of both modern and classical trends in Ayurveda and related key primary sources, and some expertise in Indian philosophy, religion, and the social sciences. Computer literacy and administrative experience are also required'. They clearly demand a lot in Divinity. So sometimes a Research Assistant might have a Ph.D. Degree in a relevant subject. I have heard that in some other Faculties a Research Associate might be a studying for a postdoctoral degree. I have to conclude that there could be greater consistency in appointment practice. However, the take-home message is that in most situations a Research Associate will have a doctorate or nearly so.
The recommendations in this Report put Research Associates in the same category as Computer Officers, Grades III and IV and Administrative Officers, Grades II and III. I have been unable to find any guidance on the personnel division website about what level of qualifications and experience are required for appointment to the computer or administrative staff. However, I know from personal experience that you can appoint to Computer Associate, Grade III someone without a postgraduate degree. Furthermore, one of my Department's Ph.D. students has just been appointed to a Computer Officer post in the Computing Service. He had not been approved for his Ph.D. Degree at the time of appointment but the Reporter tells me that he started at Computer Officer, Grade II. On the basis that he was awaiting examination of his thesis, he might, if he were lucky, have been appointed as a Research Associate if he had remained in a research post within the Department.
I should be most surprised to learn that a postgraduate qualification is required to be an Administrative Officer, Grade III. In fact I am not sure that you require a first degree. Some advertisements in the Reporter for Administrative Officer, Grade II posts suggest you don't need a degree for these either (see the Reporter of 29 January for instance).
Similar concerns raise their head in my mind when I consider those categories of staff who will qualify for Regent House membership on appointment. The Report says these will be equivalent to a University Lectureship. When it comes to contract research staff, this is borne out. Appointment to Senior Research Associate is a significant hurdle, in my Faculty requiring a Ph.D. Degree plus several, typically eight or so, years postdoctoral experience plus a suitable number of research publications and subject to appointment by the Faculty Appointments Committee. In administration this would seem akin to an Assistant Registrary as far as I can tell. I remain unconvinced that an Administrative Officer, Grade I or a Computer Officer, Grade II or Department Secretary, Grade C* or even B is really equivalent in terms of seniority and academic performance. There is certainly no possibility that our impending Ph.D. Degree graduate who has just become a Computer Officer, Grade II, could have been appointed at Senior Research Associate level.
I do not want to overemphasize this matter of qualifications as a comparator. I certainly accept that demonstrating performance and ability can be suitable criteria. I do think it necessary that members of Regent House be in a position to exercise individual judgement about the business of our governing body. Apart from the qualifications and experience required for a grade, another indicator might be our existing practice in awarding M.A.s under Statute B, III, 6. I have only conducted a brief trawl through recent Reporters but though Computer Officers, Grade II, feature reasonably often, I haven't spotted a Grade III. Clearly a Research Associate with a Ph.D. Degree from another university would be qualified for the recommendation of an M.A. I note in passing here that there is a circularity on this issue, as holding an appointment approved by the University for the purpose of Statute A, III, 7(e) (i.e. for qualifying for membership of Regent House) is one of the categories under which a person may be recommended for an M.A. by the Council. May I suggest that we do not make changes to the appointments approved for the purpose of Statute A, III, 7(e), unless we would also be happy for such persons to be granted 'admission to the complete degree of Master of Arts'.
So I believe a rethink is needed on the grades appropriate for qualification with and without a waiting period (the existence of these two categories is I think a sound idea). I agree that is appropriate for Senior Research Associates to be in category (a) and Research Associates in category (b). I think this should be a starting point, to fit other categories in by comparison. In my judgement, this means that Computer Officers/Associates, Grades II and III and Administrative Officers, Grade I should be in category (b). I suggest the other categories should also be adjusted by comparability. I think that Computer Officers/Associates, Grade IV and Administrative Officers, Grade III are more comparable to Research Assistants and therefore would not include them at all. However, following the earlier remarks of Dr Galletly, I might need to re-examine the Statutes to determine whether this will disenfrachise some current members.
On a quite separate issue, I would find it very helpful to know how many staff are affected by these proposals. I am sure that the University administration can pretty easily tell us how many staff there are in each of these grades, for example how many Senior Research Associates and Research Associates there are, how many Computer Officers/Associates and Administrative Officers in each grade. I accept it might be much more burdensome to count the number of those in category (b) who have the necessary qualifying period of service and if this is too difficult would be content with the totals for each category. Why does this matter? Well, it may affect our judgement about the appropriateness of inclusion of certain categories. I confess that I should be uneasy if administrators were to make up a substantial proportion of Regent House.
In summary, what are my conclusions? First, that we ought to make the means of comparison between different categories of staff one of 'academic' performance required to achieve the relevant grade rather than mere salary. This will be harder but fairer and more justifiable. Second, that before asking the Regent House to approve the Grace, the Council should provide us with numbers of staff that fall into each category, broken down by grade.
The Revd I. THOMPSON:
Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am Chaplain and Dean of Chapel of Selwyn College and, as a Fellow of the College, am currently a member of the Regent House.
When the Council published its Report on governance, in June 2002, it argued in favour of extending membership of the Regent House to include more unestablished academic and academic-related staff who are at present excluded from it. The Council did so on the basis that doing this would be in the spirit of the constitution of the University.
This Report is proposing that membership of the Regent House should be extended to Tutors, Assistant Tutors, Stewards, Bursars, Assistant Bursars, and College Lecturers who are not also Fellows. I note, however, that a significant College post is not included in this planned extension as the proposals before us make no reference to Chaplains.
There can surely be no denying that Chaplains are as much 'academic or academic-related' members of their college as the Steward or Bursar - if not more so. You will no doubt be aware, Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, that, in addition to their religious duties, Chaplains are frequently considered to be 'supernumerary' members of a College's team of Tutors, are often involved in both teaching and research and are key figures at the heart of collegiate life.
If the Council believes that members of Colleges who are not Fellows, but who hold significant College offices, should be granted membership of the Regent House then, I would contend, the Chaplain or Chaplains of a College should also be enfranchised - even if they are not Fellows. Honorary or Assistant Chaplains would not, however, have the same claim to inclusion. Failure to do this would not only be unjust per se, but it would allow an unfair anomaly to continue. Some Colleges elect a Chaplain to a Fellowship, while others do not. The Chaplains of King's, St John's, and Trinity Colleges, three very prominent chaplaincy appointments, are normally not Fellows, for example.
Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, there is no doubt that all those offices listed in this draft regulation are important, and it could be argued that extending membership of the Regent House to include them might well be commendable, but the omission of Chaplains is surely a mistake - and one which I hope will be rectified before the regulation is graced.
Mr T. N. MILNER:
Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak again in a purely private capacity.
Assuming that the proposal in this Report that the holders of certain College offices shall be entitled to membership of the Regent House is approved by the University, is it the intention of the Council to promote a consequential amendment to the regulations for the Roll of the Regent House?
I have in mind Regulation 1 in particular. This states that 'No person shall qualify for membership of the Regent House by virtue of holding a Fellowship of a College unless he or she is ordinarily resident within twenty miles of the University Church' (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 112). This restriction was proposed by the Statutes and Ordinances Revision Syndicate in their Third Report in 1993, with the expressed aim of ensuring parity of treatment between University Officers and College Fellows with respect to enrolment in the Regent House. It attracted criticism at the subsequent Discussion, on the grounds that although the regulations for the residence of University officers (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 659) allow the Council to grant exemptions from the normal requirements and all University officers remain entitled to enrolment in the Regent House while in office, no such provisions were made available for Fellows of Colleges.
It may be that the Council will seek to extend this restriction to cover the holders of qualifying College offices, but there are perhaps arguments for rescinding rather than extending the scope of this regulation. One suspects that it may be on the way to being a 'dead-letter' already and it seems hard to make a good case for disenfranchising a College Officer or Fellow who, in these times of ever-inflating property prices, wishes to live more than twenty miles from Great St Mary's Church.
An argument that has been raised in support of this regulation is that it constitutes a means of preventing non-resident Life and Emeritus Fellows from remaining on the Roll. Given that Fellows of Colleges, resident and non-resident, are now automatically disenfranchised when they reach the age of seventy, this justification is perhaps of lesser merit.
Joint Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 12 May 2003 and 30 April 2003, on a policy for race equality (p. 923).
Professor M. SCHOFIELD (read by Mrs S. BOWRING):
Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as a member of the Council and of the General Board, whose Joint Report on a policy for race equality is intended to meet the requirements placed on the University under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, which came into effect in May last year. The legislation is to be welcomed because it spells out the ways in which 'public institutions' should ensure that both the letter and the spirit of the 1976 Race Relations Act are fulfilled. The policy statement is therefore short and to the point, committing the University to promoting race equality, seeking to eliminate race discrimination, and promoting good relations between people of different racial groups. The RR(A)A prescribes the way this is to be done - by assessing the impact of policies on ethnic minority students and staff, monitoring the recruitment and progress of ethnic minority students and staff, and publishing the result of the impact assessments and monitoring. The Action Plan laid out in the Annex works out in detail the way the central bodies envisage that the University will best carry this agenda forward.
The Policy and the Action Plan have to fulfil two purposes. They have to make clear the University's commitment to its obligations under the legislation, indicating how it will meet those obligations. They also have to demonstrate that commitment to external agencies in a way that those agencies will understand. The fact that the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which has the task of monitoring the race equality schemes of HEIs, on behalf of the Commission for Racial Equality, considered the proposed race equality Policy and Action Plan to be an exemplar of good practice is an indication that the University has, thus far, been able to demonstrate its good intentions in relation to the RR(A)A. The next steps will be to demonstrate our ability to deliver on the Action Plan. In doing so we should wish to go beyond mere compliance with complex legislation and seek to ensure best practice in all we do in relation to both students and staff.
I am optimistic that we will rise to the challenge, since in my experience the culture of mutual respect between persons of different ethnic backgrounds is deeply embedded in the University. Nonetheless, we cannot afford to be complacent. To give a little local anecdote, when I was Acting Librarian of my College a few years ago I found myself having to investigate a nasty case of what seemed close to persecution of a black student by a member of the portering staff. More generally, we know that our undergraduate admissions processes are under constant spotlighting, as regards their fairness to applicants from whatever ethnic background as in other dimensions. Here, as in our staff recruitment practices, is one area where we will wish to be sure we are doing things properly, although, as all of us involved in admissions interviewing are aware, Admissions Tutors give careful guidance and training is taken very seriously. Professor Gus John comments in today's Education Guardian: 'Universities are powerful: they prepare people for the marketplace, and produce society's leaders; society has a right to expect that they would set a good example'. It is hard to think he is not right in his tacit implication that there will be a lot of public interest in the effectiveness of their response to the RR(A)A.
The Action Plan is of course a rather formidable document, reflecting the heavy touch of the legislation itself. Some colleagues may wonder how (for example) 'all staff' will be 'provided with appropriate training and guidance' - after all, we have only one Dr Felicity Hunt, who assures me however that what you need in this department you will get. If I understand correctly, the main job will be to assemble the statistical data which will enable us to assess and monitor our performance with respect to ethnic minority students and staff. That means that the offices of the central administration and the Race Equality Working Group proposed in A32 of the Plan (see also the final box of Annex 1) will carry key burdens on our behalf, along with the 'lead bodies' listed in the other boxes of that Annex. The other thing to read is Annex 2 which gives brief and as I see it unformidable guidance on the key questions different bodies and groups in the University will need to tackle in doing their bit under the Action Plan. The main thing will be to take some time to reflect on what we do and how we do it, asking ourselves whether our actions may impact differentially on people of different ethnic groups. If the answer is yes, then we are not achieving best practice and we will wish to reconsider what we are doing. But I expect the answer will be no, hôs epi to polu or by and large, as Aristotle would have thought inevitable where all sublunary affairs are concerned.
Professor J.-P. HANSEN (read by Mrs S. BOWRING):
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this University has a proud tradition of being highly cosmopolitan and inclusive, as well as being utterly indifferent to race in its recruitment policy. Its members and employees, from Masters of Colleges to all levels of academic, administrative, and support staff, as well as students, are selected on ability and commitment, and come from the widest range of ethnic and social backgrounds. Cambridge could not be a world-leading university otherwise! The twelve-page (!) Report under discussion therefore comes as a surprise, and I feel very uneasy about its motivations and proposed implementation. The policy and procedures put forward are out of all proportion in view of the absence of clearly identified problems of race-related issues in this University.
The proposed action plan sheds a suspicion of racial discrimination on all University employees and students, which is untrue, unfair, and could be disturbing to many members of the University. The Report in fact raises two related, but different issues: racial harassment and discrimination, and the increase of the numbers of staff and students from under-represented ethnic groups.
Harassment and discrimination would be very damaging to the University's image and prestige, but there seems to be no evidence of such events and attitudes at Cambridge over many years. The Report cites no examples or allegations of racial discrimination to support these bureaucratic measures for 'racial awareness' which will be an additional burden on University employees and students.
The bureaucratic measures appear also to be both excessive and inefficient as regards the monitoring of ethnic origins of staff and students, and the 'positive action' towards their recruitment. It is perfectly fair that a number of organizations within the University make efforts to encourage applications from minority groups and they should be supported in these efforts by the Equal Opportunities Officer, but setting targets, monitoring progress, and even appointing an ad-hoc Pro-Vice-Chancellor are excessive measures and could even lead to 'reverse discrimination' against 'majority' groups.
In particular, the Report does not clearly define what is meant by 'under-represented', and with respect to which reference such under-representation is measured. This poses the delicate problem of defining ethnicity in a very mixed society and in a well-integrated university. I believe that it is not the University's role to indoctrinate its members and employees in the idea of 'race awareness', which is unpleasantly reminiscent of past (and even present) totalitarian regimes. Many members and staff of the University have mixed ethnic origins, and attempting to define distinct and clear-cut groups is in fact contrary to the very idea of race harmony. The proposed policy and regulations could ultimately be damaging to racial harmony, by kindling reactions of fear and feeling of reverse discrimination. Such feelings would be enhanced by the apparent absence of protection of the members and employees of the University against unfounded or even mischievous accusations.
It is clear that the Report is partly in response to legal requirements, but in view of the absence of clear-cut evidence of racial inequality at this University, the response should be kept to a minimum, rather than blown out of all proportion. Those objectives which are reasonable and desirable can be achieved with a lighter bureaucratic touch!
The implementation of the Joint Report would represent a very substantial drain on human and financial resources of this University, which are at present over-stretched. Priorities must be properly established and the University must deliver its core duties, which are teaching able and committed students from all backgrounds and carrying out world-class research. It should not be distracted from these duties by excessive bureaucratic constraints, and should not waste energy, time, and resources on what may very well be a non-problem.
Dr D. R. DE LACEY:
Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, may I beg the indulgence of a few seconds of introductory autobiography. Being largely brought up in central Africa I discovered, on my return to this country, just how many and how invisible had been the racial prejudices I had acquired. The experience may perhaps have made me hypersensitive to racially prejudicial attitudes in others - and to the distinction between racial and other types of prejudice. It cannot be said that this University has a proud record in the others.
But we are to have a policy on race to fulfil our 'duties under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 (RR(A)A)' (paragraph 1). And this is how we do it. A week or so ago, a colleague received a letter from an Information Officer (or Manager, the sender seems somewhat unclear of her own role). In inelegant prose she informed my colleague that 'your ethnic category is now invalid'; a frightening fact in itself, but it was combined with a request to complete and return a new personal data form, with the statement, emphasized in bold print in the letter, `and the provision of this data [sic] is compulsory'.
Careful reading indicates that the provision of these data by the data subject is certainly not compulsory. What is compulsory, I gather, is that the University meet a completely arbitrary Government 'target' in returning such statistics. The Government is bullying us: so we in turn use tricks like this to bully employees into providing the data. Personally I do not wish anyone to know whether I am (or consider myself to be, the two appear to be synonymous in this newspeak) Irish, though my name may be something of a give-away (Hugh de Lacey was the first Earl of Ulster).
For the same reason and with the same bully-boy tactics the University Offices' website insists that all new staff complete Form PD16: 'Form PD16 is to be completed ... All sections of the form should be completed. The form must be signed and returned to Information Services' (http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/personnel/forms/pd16/ - emphasis mine). This form includes both the candidate's name, and details of 'ethnic origin' and disability. Again, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, employees are under no obligation to provide such sensitive data and may indeed be most concerned and frightened at the possibility of anyone in our administration seeing them.
When first I saw such a form I suggested to the Personnel Division that we could easily play the Government's game and protect our employees by providing a clear tick-box labelled 'I do not wish to disclose these details'. The suggestion was ignored. I ask the Council to consider instructing the Personnel Division to ensure that it is acted upon. The collection of these statistics has nothing to do with ensuring we treat all people equally; it has everything to do with contributing to the current Government's mania for spin.
In the light of such abuses, and abuses they certainly are, we emphatically need a policy for equal treatment (I find the phrase 'policy for race equality' too fascist in its tone). Will this Report provide that? I wish to highlight a very small number of the problems I perceive in it, though there are many, many more which should be addressed before it is graced.
I have already referred to the draconian approach being developed under Annex A, 17: 'The Personnel Division will provide methodologies and procedures for institutions to collect ethnicity data on job applications and other staff employment stages, e.g. promotion, and procedures, e.g. discipline and grievance'. I suggest someone set up some training courses in race awareness and oblige all personnel in our Personnel Division to attend them, before embarking on so insensitive a train of action. Ah, we are to have courses, the action plan 'gives a commitment on the provision of training' (2. (viii)): 'The Council will therefore ensure that: ... A3: All staff are provided with appropriate training and guidance' (Annex A, Introduction). This is nicely ambiguous. The training is on offer, but will all staff be obliged to attend such courses (and successfully to pass an assessment) before they will be allowed to 'govern, lead, or manage' (as Annex A, 1 describes our 'core functions') anyone from a minority - or even majority - group? Or shall we continue the present system in which untrained officers are permitted to lead our committees and chair our councils, passing in their ignorance resolutions in direct defiance of University Statutes or the Law of the land?
The Policy Statement includes a claim that the University will '(ii) monitor the recruitment and progress of ethnic minority students and staff' (paragraph 4). That sounds frightening enough to me; but far worse is to come: the monitoring is (again) obligatory, but 'To help interpret the information, the University might also wish to monitor other areas that could have an adverse impact on students from some racial groups, such as: ... student assessment, including the results of ... course projects, dissertations, and continuous assessment' (Annex A, 6). This bit is apparently not laid on us as an obligation, and I see no way of performing it which preserves anonymity or avoids (in their own eyes at least) potential extreme harassment of some individuals.
Perhaps one of our new Pro-Vice-Chancellors will be able to help us here. For Annex A, 5 gives one of them 'lead responsibility for racial equality'. Let us hope that the Nominating Committee bears this factor in mind when appointing Pro-Vice-Chancellors, for we carefully left all questions of what they were to do out of consideration when deciding how they are to be appointed or what qualifications they should have.
As part of the consultation framework there will be '(i) a staff race equality advisory group with membership from ethnic minority staff' (Annex A, 2). But, hold on! if these details are so confidential, how are such persons to be identified? Shall we have a job advert, labelled 'Ethnic majorities need not apply here'? How shall we force 'ethnic minority staff' to serve? And must we choose them from each ethnic minority? Or are we explicitly writing into our procedures that a Pakistani may be adequately represented by an Irishman but not by a Welshman?
If you are puzzled by that last question I do not blame you. Returning to the letter with which I began, it appears that the University is now following Her Majesty's Government in a completely new definition of ethnicity. Out goes anything conceivably based on genetics or even race (insofar as that category makes sense anyway). The categories are now palpably cultural, if not political. 'White' is divided into 'British' (that purest of racial types!), 'Irish' (with no indication as to whether this is Northern or Republican; Celtic or Norman Irish or a mix) and 'Other'. An Aborigine will presumably just be 'Other Black background' under 'Black or Black British', though Caribbeans are to be distinguished from Africans. Dravidian, Aryan, Parsee, Bhil, Jat, and many others are just 'Indian'; while Arabs, Japanese and Inuit are presumably lumped together into the category 'Chinese or Chinese British or other ethnic group'. The thing is not only a logical nonsense, it is deeply offensive and insulting to the people concerned.
Professor G. R. EVANS:
Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I do not for a moment doubt the good intentions here. It is plain that a great deal of work has gone into the preparation of this Report and it is strongly to be approved that it was put up on the Web for comment before being published as a Report. And at least we are getting a Report and a Grace leading to Ordinances, not arbitrary regulation and guideline.
I am not too keen on the management-speak. I do not recollect us having a Report before which 'provides a checklist for policy impact assessment'. Let me be clear. I am strongly in favour of the list. It is the language I recoil from. This kind of writing leads the author into assertions which seem to blur the line between duties upon the University arising under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 and its predecessor); and duties imposed on officers under our Statutes and Ordinances or accepted by those employees who have signed a contract with University or College.
Let me quote. 'The University recognizes that all areas of its activities are interconnected and interdependent. Thus all members of the University and all staff share a collective responsibility for these functions, according to their individual roles and responsibilities'. I am unable to see the way the one follows from the other, let alone how we arrive at, 'and all are expected to have due regard to the duties and goals set out above'. This is surely logically flawed? It is highly debatable whether the legal duty of the University is the collective responsibility of all its staff although it may be the collective responsibility of the Regent House. In any case, these are not the reasons we should not discriminate against those of different ethnic origin. It is unfair and the law does not allow it. Just say that. Why all this confusing additional verbiage?
A letter has been going round with the heading: Data Verification Exercise 2003 - Ethnic Origin. You are asked to reclassify yourself by sending back the form. Those who have received this letter and read it in conjunction with the Report would be entitled to feel frightened and threatened. 'The provision of this data is mandatory' says the letter, although it does not make it clear that the only mandatory part is that the University has to make returns to the Higher Education Statistics Agency. You do not have to make returns as an individual. Nor do students.
The real danger, on the recent showing of the trends in our 'management', is that this policy will be used as yet another line-management tool by untrained Heads of institutions, while the ethnic minorities among us in reality get no better protection than some of those who are sick or disabled have been getting. This is about subtleties, as Dr de Lacey has said. My evidence for this assertion includes a good deal emerging from experience with individual cases, which of course I cannot talk about without the consent of the people they concern. But it is no secret that our claims to sex and disability discrimination good practice have taken a salutary bashing at the hands of the Schneider~Ross Report and the speeches of Dr Roger Tapp. And despite the remarks of an earlier speaker, I do not see many brown, black, or yellow faces about.
I do not altogether blame the Old Schools administrators responsible. They are perhaps doing what they can. I do blame the failure to ensure that those with powers over others are given the 'required' training. I welcome Professor Schofield's assurances, but see the promise in the annual address of the Vice-Chancellor in October 2000. When is there going to be some action on this as a 'requirement'? It is quite simple. No one should be allowed to exercise line-management powers, and certainly not draw additional payment for doing so, without doing the relevant training and demonstrating a grasp of the rules of fairness, in this arena of equality or any other. Train 'em or demote 'em. That would have an 'impact' all right. A bit of training might come in handy in discouraging the discriminatory inspection of the 'progress' of those who identify their ethnic origins to the University.
Report of the General Board, dated 30 April 2003, on the abolition of certain University offices (p. 935).
No comments were made on this Report.
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Cambridge University Reporter, 4 June 2003
Copyright © 2003 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.