Cambridge University Reporter

Annual Report of the Council for 2003-04

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


This Annual Report, and the Annual Report of the General Board to the Council (p. 310), are to be read together. Each Report summarizes the work of the respective body and deals with the matters which are, in particular, the statutory responsibility of each body. However, as the principal policy making and executive body of the University under the Statutes, the Council have been significantly involved through their strategic discussions (paragraph 7) and through the work of the Planning and Resources Committee in educational and research fields, which form the principal responsibility of the General Board.

The Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellors

1. Professor Alison Richard took up the office of Vice-Chancellor on 1 October 2003. Towards the end of the academical year the Council received from the Vice-Chancellor, and discussed with her, a paper about her first year in office and her plans for the future. The Council welcomed the thoughtful and energetic approach which the Vice-Chancellor had brought to her first year as Vice-Chancellor in Cambridge.

2. During the year, four further Pro-Vice-Chancellors were appointed in addition to Professor Minson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Planning and Resources. These officers are: Professor Andy Cliff (Personnel), Professor Ian Leslie (Research), Professor Melveena McKendrick (Education), and Dr Kate Pretty (Special Responsibilities). The five Pro-Vice-Chancellors report to the Vice-Chancellor working as a team convened by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Planning and Resources. Although the full team was only appointed at the beginning of 2004, it is already clear that significant value has been added by their activity, operating at the centre of the University, providing significant academic leadership, and drawing on a wide range of experience from around the University.

The Council and governance

3. Following the approval of a change of Statute, the Council set in motion the process of selecting two external members to be recommended for appointment by the Regent House to serve on the Council, one of whom would also chair the Council's Audit Committee. (The recommendations have now been published and approved, Reporter, p. 162, and Graces 1 and 2 of 10 November 2004).

4. The proceedings of the Council itself have been streamlined within the last academical year. For some time, the Council have met approximately monthly (about ten times a year) but the arrangements for dealing with routine Council business have now been significantly changed. For about three years, routine legislative business has been dealt with through the Business Committee of the Council, first chaired by the then Master of St John's, and now by Dr George Reid. The business before the Committee is circulated to all members of the Council, who have an opportunity to call in any items for consideration at a meeting of the Council or of a committee of the Council. This arrangement permits the speedy despatch of legislative and similar business, as soon as it is ready. The Committee deals itself with straightforward business, and is also a revising committee, finalizing proposals which have been approved in principle by the Council itself (subject to the same protocol for calling in).

5. The Council also receive much information, and recommendations for routine decisions, through a new system of weekly circulars, issued to all members of the Council, and which, so far as matters for decision are concerned, are also subject to calling in by a member of the Council for consideration by the Council itself or a committee. This system was introduced experimentally during the year, and has been confirmed as permanent.

6. Taken together these procedures have significantly reduced the volume of paper which has to be considered at meetings of the Council itself, and have also contributed to improving the timeliness of the submission of material, whether for information or decision, to members of the Council.

7. The Council have held two special strategic meetings away from Cambridge in the course of 2003-04, at which major policy matters and other aspects of the Council's work were reviewed.

8. The Council instituted a review of voting arrangements in the Regent House, through a committee chaired by the President of Lucy Cavendish. The committee's report (Reporter, 2003-04, p. 1073) makes important proposals about the presentation of legislation and policy proposals, with a view to helping the Vice-Chancellor, as presiding officer, to present policy material as clearly as possible for decision by the Regent House. The Council are grateful for the work which the committee undertook, and have published its report for Discussion in the Michaelmas Term 2004 (the Discussion took place on 19 October 2004, see Reporter, p. 133). The Council expect to comment on the remarks made in the Discussion, and on the Review Committee's proposals, in the Lent Term.

9. The Council approved proposals by the Registrary to appoint review panels for the Research Services and Personnel Divisions of the University Offices. These panels, respectively chaired by Professor Ian Leslie and Professor Willy Brown, reported to the Council in July 2004. The reports have been published together with the management responses (Reporter, 2003-04, p. 1035). The Council have accepted the recommendations of the two reviews, which are in the course of implementation. (Reviews of two further Divisions will take place in 2004-05.)

10. The Council authorized the advertisement of an unestablished post of Director of Public Affairs in the University Offices, which would be administratively located in the Secretariat, the holder of which would discharge wide-ranging responsibilities, working with the Vice-Chancellor and other senior officers in fostering the University's external relations. The existing Press and Publications Office would be operationally responsible to the new director.

11. The Council have published a Report proposing clarification of the respective responsibilities of the Finance Committee and the Planning and Resources Committee, and the establishment of a new Buildings Committee (Reporter, 2003-04, p. 537). The Council have also reported on arrangements to discontinue the offices of Secretary General of the Faculties and Treasurer (Reporter, 2003-04, p. 714). Following discussion of these Reports and approval of the recommendations in the latter Report (Grace 4 of 30 June 2004), the Council will report further in the Michaelmas Term proposing the necessary amendments of Statutes and Ordinances. (A Report has now been published, Reporter, p. 240.)

National policy

12. Important developments took place during the year in national policy which affect, or will affect, the University.

13. The Higher Education Act 2004 makes provision for universities to charge higher fees for home and EU undergraduates than at present, from 2006, subject to clearance of an access plan with the new Director for Fair Access. The Act also provides for independent review of student complaints in universities and colleges to be introduced in 2005 (replacing, in this regard, the jurisdiction of College Visitors; the University does not have a Visitor). The Act also makes provision for the establishment of the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The Council have recently reported to the University with their proposal about Home and EU undergraduate fees from 2006 under the new system. The Council, in co-operation with the Colleges, are in active development of a significantly enhanced bursary scheme for UK undergraduate students.

14. The Government, through the Department of Trade and Industry and the Research Councils, has also introduced a new system for the costing of research work, Full Economic Costing. This new system will require extra administration and management within the University, but should lead to better recovery of the full cost of externally funded research conducted within the University.

Strategic planning, resources, and finance

15. The Council, through the Planning and Resources Committee, have instituted a new strategic planning process, currently in the course of implementation through University institutions and central consideration of major policy questions. This process is informed by the developing Resource Allocation Model, and by the new financial model, which assists financial decision making. The whole process is directed towards a strategic approach to the teaching, research, education, and knowledge transfer which the University undertakes, including further development of the excellent working relationships between the University and the Colleges. It will rebase the University budget so that it can encompass all University expenditure and not, as has previously been the case, only the expenditure supported by the University Chest. In this latter connection, the Council are planning that the Allocations Report, or budget report, for 2005-06, which will be issued in the Easter Term 2005, should represent a comprehensive budget for the University.

16. The Council have agreed that the University accounts for 2003-04 will be consolidated to include those of the Local Examinations Syndicate; and that those for 2004-05 will also include the accounts for Cambridge University Press and some other institutions associated with the University.

17. On current funding and spending assumptions set out in the 2004 Allocations Report the Council predict a continued recurrent deficit on the Chest into the second half of the decade. This is not a sustainable situation and the Council are determined to correct it. (See the Council's Notice, p. 278.) There is a responsibility on Government, and other funders of our activities, to provide the full costs of the activities which are expected. Full Economic Costing of research will go some way towards this, as will the expected increment to block grant to be provided by the HEFCE, following Government reviews. However, there are already worrying signs that the unit of resource for the public funding of teaching will be further reduced, despite the Government's evident assumption that universities such as Cambridge will implement the new fee regime. The key strategic problem facing the University is how to relate the recurrent resources available to it (estimated to take account of the need for continuing investment in infrastructure and future developments) to the likely income which will be provided by Government, other public authorities, foundations, and business, and from other resources which the University can legitimately employ.

18. The Council are not at present able to assure the Regent House that the current predicted national changes in the financial situation for UK universities are themselves sufficient to safeguard the University's medium-term future.

19. The success of the 800th Campaign for the future of Cambridge is therefore of crucial importance to safeguarding the University's future and to enabling the University to continue to contribute to the development of students and scholars, and to society, as we would wish.


20. The Council are pleased to record that the total cash received by the Cambridge Foundation in 2003-04 was £40.7m. This includes US$31m that was received from the estate of the late Dr Herchel Smith in January 2004 (a partial payment of the US$35m that was accrued for in the 2002-03 Cambridge Foundation Accounts). Excluding the Herchel Smith legacy, the total for this year is up £4.5m from 2002-03 - an increase of 24%.

21. During 2003-04, Cambridge in America transferred a total of £6.3m to the Cambridge Foundation, of which £3m was for the Colleges and £3.3m for the University. A total of £5.6m was received by the Cambridge Foundation for the Colleges during this reporting period, £2.6m of which came through the University Development Office.

22. The Council express the University's gratitude to the Foundation and Cambridge in America. Particular thanks are owed to the outgoing Chairman of Cambridge in America, Mr Gurnee Hart, for his sterling work in developing the organization.

23. In preparation for the octocentennial of Cambridge in 2009, the Council have approved proposals for the 800th Campaign. Detailed plans for the Campaign launch are now being formulated. The Colleges and University have agreed a Memorandum of Understanding to provide a framework for developing a closer and more co-ordinated fundraising partnership during the 800th Campaign. This agreement reinforces the existing relationship between the University and the Colleges in the interests of sustaining overall excellence in teaching, research, and learning.


24. Major proposals for a single pay and grading spine for all staff were published in a consultative Report, jointly with the General Board. These have been the subject of widespread consultation, and responses will be made in 2005.

Planning and the building programme

25. Strategic site planning is continuing for development over a long period in North West Cambridge. New accommodation for the Faculty of English and the Institute of Criminology is now in use on the Sidgwick Site. New apartments and nursery accommodation in West Cambridge are also now in use.

Regulatory, compliance, and similar activities

26. Good progress has been made on Risk Management processes, on disaster and recovery management, on preparation for the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, on systems for the declaration and registration of interests by staff, and on managing Value for Money (VFM) processes.

27. The University Statement of Health and Safety Policy has been radically revised and was re-launched in 2004 as an A5 leaflet. The Annual Report of the Health and Safety Executive Committee will be published separately.

Academic developments; educational and research policy

28. The General Board's Report comments in detail on academic developments, educational and research policy, and is published together with this Report (p. 310). (It was discussed in detail by the Council on 29 November 2004.)

The Council's work in 2004-05

29. The Council will deal with the University accounts for 2003-04 in the Michaelmas Term 2004, and will work on the preparation of the budget for 2005-06 in the Lent and Easter Terms 2005, when the Council will also deal with important aspects of strategic planning, estates, and preparations for the 800th Campaign. The Council have established an outline work plan for the full academical year 2004-05, and intend to work with the General Board and other bodies on a full, correlated central work plan.