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Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 15 March 2005. A Discussion was held in the Senate-House of the following Reports:

Second Report of the Council, dated 9 February 2005, on a proposal for a new building project at West Cambridge (the East Forum) (p. 478).

Professor A. HOPPER (read by Professor M. S. LONGAIR):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the West Cambridge site will greatly benefit from further development and an increase in the variety of institutions present. The East Forum gives an opportunity to house more industrial research labs which will enhance the research environment and also complement the presence on the site of Microsoft and Intel, the world's largest software and semiconductor companies respectively.

Furthermore, as the Computer Laboratory expands over the next few years it will need the space currently occupied by other organizations in the Gates Building, such as Intel, who have expressed an interest in moving to the new building.

Entrepreneurship activities in some form are likely to continue to exist in the University, so taking advantage of a generous donation and constructing premises is a good thing. I recognize there is a wider debate about IPR, and University administrative structures, but it is my view that the development of the East Forum should take place independently. Having co-founded eleven companies I can say entrepreneurship is about people motivated to do their own thing unhampered by administrative shackles. I hope the University is wise in maintaining that perspective in future.

Professor Sir RICHARD FRIEND (read by Professor M. S. LONGAIR):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I welcome the Second Report of the Council on the proposed 'East Forum'. Recent developments on the West Cambridge site have increased science and engineering activities, and, as a member of the Department of Physics, I will be pleased to see a broader range of activities and resources on the site.

The Second Report addresses a real concern raised by the First Report: that the University was exposing itself to unnecessary financial risk in a 'non-core' activity. Commercial funding of the East Forum B building removes this risk. I will be pleased to see Cambridge Enterprise in the East Forum A building. There is increasing interest among graduate students, postdoctoral staff, and academic staff in technology transfer, and availability of courses, advice, and incubation space will be welcomed. The separation of Cambridge Enterprise from the Research Services Division removes the confusion about their different roles, and I am not concerned that the presence of Cambridge Enterprise on West Cambridge will compromise independence of action by researchers elsewhere on the site.

The Council of the School of the Physical Sciences, however, is concerned that the West Cambridge Master Plan may no longer be appropriate for the academic purposes intended for the site. Grand plans to relocate and expand a number of Departments beyond the recently completed 'Residence' blocks seem unlikely to be implemented in the near future. The Residence blocks are very substantial and have already had the unfortunate effect of creating a barrier between the currently developed side of the site around the Cavendish and the undeveloped space to the west. Instead, the real discussions within the School have centred on how to allow research and teaching to develop so that there are fewer barriers for work which crosses traditional departmental boundaries. This includes the NanoScience Building and the planned Physics/Medicine activities which will develop with the election of two new Professors in this area. Proximity therefore becomes important, and, for example, the current plans for the move of Materials Science to West Cambridge are to locate it very close to Physics. It is important to take stock of the impact of the East Forum on these plans. If the East Forum A building is to be 'economical and practical' then its social and teaching spaces will need to be used by others on the site, and integrated planning of social and teaching space is now needed as the project goes ahead.

Professor M. S. LONGAIR:

Madam deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am very happy to associate my name with the remarks made by Professors Hopper and Friend. As the Head of the Department of Physics, which moved to the West Cambridge site in 1974, I particularly welcome the Second Report from the Council for two reasons. The first is the importance of finding a suitable home for all the entrepreneurial activities which are now an essential part of the business of the University. The very welcome increase in the number of Science and Technology Departments which are moving to the West Cambridge site makes this the natural location for these facilities. I should also remark upon the success of the introduction of entrepreneurship within our Part III Experimental and Theoretical Physics course where Physics students gain academic credit for the serious study of the process of taking innovative ideas from the gleam-in-the-eye to wealth-creating products. I am sure this trend must form an integral part of all Science and Technology Departments.

My second reason is to welcome the catering facilities which will be placed on a secure basis for future operations. Not only will these provide catering of a very good standard, but it will also make it much more feasible to run meetings and small conferences on the West Cambridge site. At the same time, we should recognize that other simpler catering outlets are already on the West Cambridge site and it has been agreed that these provide a much more economical service which is more attractive to students and assistant staff. These points were agreed with Dr Alex Reid in his survey of users of the West Cambridge facilities. We hope that the University will develop an integrated approach to these different needs on the West Cambridge site.

My final point is that our plans for the development of a new building to house research in the Physics of Medicine, Biology, and Soft Condensed Matter will benefit enormously from the proposed Enterprise and catering facilities. This interdisciplinary and inter-School collaboration will result in an additional influx of researchers to the West Cambridge site whose principal academic base may well be elsewhere in Cambridge. Our plans are consistent with the development of the East Forum as planned, although I can see great merit in Professor Friend's suggestion that the University reconsiders whether or not the present proposal really is the best strategic location for the East Forum facilities for the reasons he outlines.

Professor I. M. LESLIE:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I welcome this Report by the Council concerning the East Forum. We should be grateful to the Hauser-Raspe Foundation, not just for their generosity, but also for their patience for the time it is taking in rethinking the project to allow us to go forward with minimal financial risk to the University. We should also be grateful to Alex Reid who has devised this strategy and has also been involved in a broad consultation exercise within the University about the East Forum proposals.

The University has an obligation to supply communal facilities in West Cambridge. As more Departments or parts of Departments move to West Cambridge, this need grows. The temporary facilities will be overstretched when the CAPE building is occupied in 2006.

I am sure members of the Regent House will be disappointed by the lack of specifics in this Report. But this Report is a first-stage Report; it seeks permission to negotiate with a developer. The results of those negotiations will provide specifics both concerning the financial arrangements and the facilities that will be available in the East Forum. I am delighted that Andy Hopper has taken up the role of Representative User for the project and will thus be involved in these negotiations.

The proposal is, for some, overly complex, melding communal facilities, Cambridge Enterprise, and commercial use. For others, this is an attraction: an East Forum which is designed to encourage interaction within and outside the University.

The separation of Cambridge Enterprise from the Research Services Division (RSD) was a recommendation of the Review of RSD which took place last year. The physical separation proposed in this Report is, I believe, important, partly symbolically, and partly for clarity.

Some believe that we cannot proceed with the East Forum until the final structure and place of Cambridge Enterprise is determined. The possibility of turning Cambridge Enterprise into a separate company is being seriously considered. However, whether a separate company or not, Cambridge Enterprise will be very much a part of the University, and its operational interaction with academics will not be affected.

Some will argue that the future of Cambridge Enterprise is tied into the IPR policy. Ensuring that the results of our research are used for the benefit of all is part of our mission, and for many results, commercialization is the best route to ensure that. No matter what the resolution of the IPR policy debate, it will remain the case that there are a number of academics who need little assistance in commercializing the intellectual property that they create, and there are others who need a great deal of assistance. We have an obligation to provide that assistance and Cambridge Enterprise is the means by which we do so.

When the Computer Laboratory committed to moving to West Cambridge in 1999, I sought assurances from the University that the infrastructure of West Cambridge would be improved. That reassurance was forthcoming. I sincerely hope that the recommendation of this Report, which is after all only seeking to enter into detailed negotiations, is approved by the Regent House so that this reassurance can be fulfilled.

Dr A. M. DOBRéE:

Madam deputy Vice-Chancellor, as Interim Director of Cambridge Enterprise, and a member of the Senate, I thought that the discussion would benefit from factual information about Cambridge Enterprise.

The University has contributed, directly and indirectly, in so many ways to the growth of the Cambridge cluster and to the success of new companies in the region. The proposed generous donation by the Hauser-Raspe Foundation is very welcome and a major endorsement of the role of the University in knowledge transfer and of the benefits that greater University support for technology transfer can bring.

Some academics are keen to exploit their intellectual property without help from the University, and have access to the necessary resources, but there are many who are glad of the support and advice the University can provide through Cambridge Enterprise. The University's many research sponsors also expect us to be responsible for ensuring the successful commercialization of intellectual property arising from the research they sponsor. In the last year alone, Cambridge Enterprise received 141 invention disclosures and filed 61 new patent applications for inventors. Cambridge Enterprise negotiated 41 licence and option agreements and helped create five new companies. We also provided advice and support to a further 28 companies started by academics. Cambridge Enterprise put in place 93 consultancy agreements for academic staff and signed off 244 material transfer agreements on behalf of the University. Although there seems to be some misconception in a few quarters about the role of Cambridge Enterprise, our mission is clear - we exist to help University of Cambridge inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs make their ideas and concepts more commercially successful for the benefit of the inventors, the University, the wider society, and the UK economy.

The East Forum has the potential to bring many benefits to the academic community, particularly to those who wish to see the results of their research commercialized. There are general benefits to the West Cambridge site through the provision of the atrium, café, and seminar space. The East Forum will also be a centre for knowledge transfer, providing academics with a direct route into the network of people in Cambridge who can help new companies survive and flourish. Experience with our current small incubator space, and the experience of the St John's Innovation Centre, demonstrates the benefits afforded by regular informal opportunities for interaction with other new companies and related professionals. These interactions will also support other activities of inventors and Cambridge Enterprise in IP protection, licensing, and consultancy.

Cambridge Enterprise is developing into a separate organization and the needs of Cambridge Enterprise in regards to location, size, and facilities are likely to change over the next ten years. Concerns have been put forward about the location, but wherever Cambridge Enterprise is located it is never going to be next door to every Department with whom we work. We already have a satellite office at Addenbrooke's and would maintain this. Concerns have also been raised about the cost of East Forum to Cambridge Enterprise, but our aim would be to run the incubator in such a way as help support Cambridge Enterprise financially, rather than for the building to be a cost to it. Our current incubator space is run in this manner. Concerns have been voiced about the use of the building if Cambridge Enterprise should no longer require it - whilst I do not think this is a possibility in the near future given the importance of technology transfer - the terms of the proposed Hauser-Raspe donation are such that the University could continue to benefit from the use of the building for other entrepreneurially focused activities.

The University has a duty to maintain and develop a technology transfer service for the benefit of its staff, to help the results of its world-leading research benefit the public through commercial development. As technology transfer in the UK continues to develop, and becomes increasingly important to universities and Government, it is vital that the University of Cambridge not only maintains the position it currently has in this area but continues to be at the leading edge of research commercialization. The development of the East Forum, through the proposed donation from the Hauser-Raspe foundation, will support the University mission in technology transfer, whilst also benefiting the wider academic community at West Cambridge.

Professor G. R. EVANS:

Madam deputy Vice-Chancellor, my remarks are principally about the method of consultation, for this has been an important example of the creation of a new method of dealing with reservations, expressed on the publication of a 'tester' Report. I was one of the 'senior academic staff' with whom Dr Alex Reid met. He has not asked my consent to the assertion that 'with very few exceptions' we approved or strongly approved of the project and I invite the Council to give the figures for those who did so (in both categories). Otherwise this kind of thing is the worst kind of spin.

The impression I got, and Dr Reid was kind enough to meet me on two occasions, was that he had been briefed to try to win over the awkward squad. He was retained as a consultant 'to explain the East Forum project' to these selected persons 'and to obtain their advice as to how it can be developed in ways which will best serve the University'. It does not appear from this Report that the answer 'no' was built in as an option in the consultation at all.

But perhaps I mistake. Perhaps I was one of the 'several' he met with a quite different purpose in the next paragraph, one of those who had already spoken against the project in a Discussion. We, it seems, were not to be consulted, merely to be persuaded that there was no financial risk to the University so that we would shut up and stop making speeches of a hostile kind. I was not the only one who felt that this was the idea, courteous and pleasant though Dr Reid was throughout, and good though I believe his intentions to be.

On the substance, I do not take kindly to this division of consultation of some from persuasion of others and the general air of 'fixing' it all evinces. Why should I have confidence in the promises in this Report? My dislike of these mixed ventures, the contamination of University with commercial interests, and the enlargement of our footprint in the land is not much diminished. Nor do I feel comfortable with the mixture of general planning (Report on North West Cambridge for today) and the solicitation of our 'in principle' approval for projects such as this one by one in the meantime, especially where the 'specifics' remain unclear. A further area where we need to pioneer improved consultation has to do with what 'specifics' we ought to be told about before we give a final agreement to 'estates' proposals such as this.

It is that word 'trust' again, Vice-Chancellor. So tricky.

Professor R. J. ANDERSON (read by Mr R. J. DOWLING):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, five years ago, the previous Vice-Chancellor set out a bold strategy to cash in on the dotcom boom. The strategy had three main components: taking ownership of all the intellectual property generated by University employees; expanding our technology-transfer Department from about three people to about thirty; and getting a donation to part-fund a building to house them.

We now live in a different world. Share prices have subsided to more normal levels. The overwhelming majority of speakers at Discussions in 2002 and 2004 on intellectual property made it clear that this House will not trust our technology transfer office to control the fruits of our labours. Some of the technology transfer staff have now left, and although the office is being relaunched as Cambridge Enterprise, we have seen no business plan for it. Finally, there is now lots of lettable space in Cambridge for technology start-ups. There is some demand for wet-laboratory space, but this Report does not propose that: it proposes more office space than we need for tech transfer, and externally lettable office space of which there is a glut.

I am sometimes amazed by the Old Schools' inability to abandon projects that have got bogged down. Those who follow University affairs will be aware that yet another attempt will shortly be made to persuade us to hand over intellectual property, with a Discussion next term and a vote in Michaelmas. And we are still awaiting the appointment of a Managing Director for Cambridge Enterprise, so that a business plan can be drawn up for this lucky recipient of our ideas.

I do not object to better facilities in West Cambridge, where I work. But I do object to the order in which these items of business have been brought before us. The IP issue should be settled first; then we should approve the plans for Cambridge Enterprise; and only then should we consider covenanting for the next fifty years to use such a large amount of space for tech transfer and other entrepreneurial purposes. For this reason, four Council colleagues and I dissented from this Report. Two other Council members abstained.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, we do not propose to call a vote on this Report, as it is only the first in a two-stage process. It basically authorizes the Vice-Chancellor to negotiate with developers. I am moderately confident that, once the developers do their sums, the plan will simply die. However, if the second Report appears before the substantive issues are settled, then a vote may well be needed.

Mr R. J. DOWLING:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Report before the University describes the East Forum A building in four paragraphs, 5(a) to 5(d). Of these, one covers the café and the atrium and the other three relate to Cambridge Enterprise. This is reflected in the lines of the table assigning approximate areas to the company's functions.

We have not seen a business plan for Cambridge Enterprise yet. Such a plan would tell us how many staff were to be allowed for, what customer requirements would be, etc. And yet, despite the lack of this plan, 80% of the building's area is assigned to the company and facilities are being provided for it. How can its needs be properly discussed in a building plan until they have been seen in the context of a business plan?

This Report has much to commend it but surely the University should approve the plans for Cambridge Enterprise before assigning almost an entire building to it.

Professor I. H. WHITE:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, as Chair of the Council of the School of Technology, I recognize that the Second Report concerning the proposal for the East Forum has been the result of substantial consultation following the revised First Report set forth on 24 November 2003.

The presence of the School of Technology has continued to grow in West Cambridge, particularly in Computer Science and Engineering, with the new Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics due to be completed during the next academic year. This Centre involves close collaboration between academia and industry to enhance the exploitation of research achievements. As the School has a wide range of academic activities suitable for exploitation, it is most welcome that a dedicated facility now be constructed to encourage enterprise, by having a facility to provide relevant services and resources. In addition, suitable accommodation for early stage companies is most welcome.

The proposed facility appears to have great synergy with and yet be complementary to Centres within the School, such as the Institute for Manufacturing and the Institute of Biotechnology, which are currently expanding their entrepreneurial activities. The proposed facilities within the East Forum are therefore most welcome, particularly if they can be harnessed in the most effective manner for the overall benefit of the University, for example by minimizing possible future duplication of facilities.

In recent years, the University has benefited from the presence of certain companies located in West Cambridge, such as Microsoft and Intel. It is particularly welcome therefore, that it is intended that only companies relevant to the University will have access to the lettable space in East Forum B.

Dr S. J. COWLEY:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, there is much to be welcomed in this Report. It is clear that many points raised in the previous Report have been addressed.

Professor Leslie has mentioned the lack of specifics in this Report, for example, the lack of a business plan for Cambridge Enterprise. When CAPSA was introduced, there was a business plan: it was wildly optimistic and our procedures were changed. Now, apparently, we make decisions without finalization and presentation of a business plan. Elegant prose is no substitute for hard numbers, to which the current University operating deficit is testament.

Professor A. MYCROFT:

Madam deputy Vice-Chancellor, I would like to amplify Professor Leslie's gently understated remarks on infrastructure.

Here we are again, more building is proposed at West Cambridge, but there is none of the promised infrastructure which Master Plans make so much of but which gets conveniently forgotten when another building is proposed.

Old hands will remember various dissent when it was proposed to move the Computer Laboratory out to West Cambridge; this was mollified somewhat by assurances that infrastructure (a convenience shop, a cash dispenser, etc.) would be soon be provided - these are important to staff who live outside of Cambridge, and to those in the new apartments.

Well, we have been here four years now, and buildings keep getting approved and infrastructure keeps getting put off, and occasionally the powers-that-be mumble 'time not ripe' or 'budget deficit', but it's getting time for Regent House to say 'no' to some-or-other building project unless some attention is paid to staff as well as buildings.

So, what do we want, and when do we want it? A shop and a cash dispenser seem a nice simple start. Perhaps even sandwiches at Tesco prices, or vendor-van prices, instead of Wests' prices? Ask around, and one is told 'uneconomic', or, having waited six years, 'banks no longer offer fee-free cash dispensers'.

I would like to suggest that these problems could be solved in only a small fraction of the time, effort, and money that a building project requires.

First let us demolish the 'no demand' myth. Edinburgh has a similar site, 'King's Buildings', to West Cambridge; similarly placed (3km from the centre, few shops around). This manages to support a free Royal Bank of Scotland cash dispenser and a Waterstone's shop (I recall sandwiches there too), in spite of it being not significantly bigger than West Cambridge - we currently have 2,507 full-time people, compared with Edinburgh's 1,600 staff and 6,000 students (this latter figure includes undergraduates which ours does not).

We have actually built the shell of a shop (which could also hold a cash dispenser) next to the apartments, but are told that this is unattractive to lessees. Why? It surely cannot be the captive market in the new apartments next door with the nearest alternative shop more than a mile away? Perhaps because the University is so keen on making a profit on commercial activities that it has failed to offer it at a peppercorn rent with commercial review after (say) five years when the site is more fully occupied? Perhaps it claims shop-fitting is expensive?

Well, it seems that our practice for approving new building is wrong. There should be a tax (maybe only 1%) added to the cost of new buildings to fund general infrastructure. After all the main entrance corridor to the Computer Laboratory has a set of pigeon-holes which cost £15,000 (yes, really!), probably because the architects thought these would look nice in a building costing £20m. But I'd have happily given up on these for IKEA pigeon-holes and made a contribution of £14,000 to general infrastructure like shop-fitting, instead.

I do not believe that someone like Tesco Express, or a small city-centre shop, or even the people who run sandwich vans, could not make £100 a day (to cover staffing, and some depreciation) selling sandwiches and stationery alone when offered a decent rental contract by the University. Perhaps even a student project at the Judge Institute of Management Studies could show the University how to make money from a peppercorn-rent shop? How do College student union shops make money?

And what about a cash dispenser? Why do Edinburgh get one and not us? The answer is perhaps that they got in before banks started saying 'we don't provide any more free cash dispensers, but our (thinly disguised) commercial arm will provide you one if you want to charge your hard-working staff £1.50 per transaction for access to their own money'. This practice was roundly condemned in the House of Commons committees earlier this year, but is still being touted to us by our bankers, Barclays.

This brings me on to a related point. We hear a lot about cost savings and how the University puts out to tender the cost of utilities like electricity and gas. But may I ask, when was the last time when the University's banking services were put out to tender? Perhaps the Royal Bank of Scotland (or some other bank) could offer significantly improved banking terms resulting in significant cost-savings or income-enhancement to the University over what Barclays offer (and they might throw in a free cash dispenser for West Cambridge too!)?

Barclays certainly seem to need a little shake-up in how they treat us - they recently kept a senior colleague of mine waiting one-and-a-half hours for some pre-ordered euros.

But seriously, the University accounts for 2004 show turnover of around £500m, and total assets at around £1.4 billion (even if we exclude CUP and UCLES). This pretty nearly puts us in the league of the FTSE-100 (e.g. 50% of the capitalization of British Airways), and very certainly were CUP, UCLES, and/or Colleges to be included.

Now, can you imagine a FTSE-100 captain of industry, on moving a major part of the company to an out-of-town site, being told by the company's bankers 'Oh, but you're not important enough for us to provide a cash dispenser' or 'Surely one of your executives can wait an hour-and-a-half once in a while'? People like us in the commercial world have foreign exchange delivered to their desk instead! And 'the staff want a shop too?' - really what are things coming to?

So, to conclude: why do we not include a small percentage cost in all new building costs to cover infrastructure (and not just roads)? Have we offered a peppercorn rent to companies who might be willing to operate a shop? What is the possible range of cost-savings from putting our banking operations out to tender? Even if we cannot get a free cash dispenser, why doesn't the University buy its own as part of infrastructure?

I would find it much easier to vote placet when I knew the answer to these issues. Planners also may have not been so happy with the Master Plan if they knew that infrastructure was going to be neglected.

Report of the General Board, dated 16 February 2005, on the establishment of a Professorship of Sustainable Design (p. 482).

Professor G. R. EVANS:

Madam deputy Vice-Chancellor, Architecture rides again? Could we have a clear plain statement please from the Council and the General Board of the manner in which all those academic architects took their departure so recently, what persuaders they were offered, or sanctions threatened with, to get them to go? For it seems the field is now clear for new appointments but will the appointees be safe? Would you risk applying for a post in Cambridge now, however senior and attracting however good a secret deal?

Report of the Council, dated 28 February 2005, on the construction of agricultural buildings for the School of the Biological Sciences in North West Cambridge (p. 511).

Professor A. C. MINSON:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, during the past few years the site at Huntingdon Road has been the focus of controversial planning applications for the development of a primate research centre. The Regent House and local residents may therefore be concerned about proposals for refurbishment and new buildings on this site. I should like to reassure the Regent House on the nature of these proposals.

The Huntingdon Road site has been used for many years to study farm animals, specifically aspects of reproduction and nutrition. The current proposals are to provide improved accommodation, stables, and pens to replace existing accommodation that is in very poor condition. The proposed construction involves no change in the nature of the work or of the species studied.

I hope that this will reassure members of the Regent House as to the nature of these proposals.

Third Report of the Council, dated 28 February 2005, on the development of the University's land in North West Cambridge (p. 513).

Professor A. C. MINSON:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, it has been University policy for some time to obtain medium- and long-term options for the development of land at North West Cambridge between the Madingley and Huntingdon Roads. This matter has been the subject of two previous reports to the Regent House.

Members of the Regent House will be aware that the timetable is driven by the planning of the City and District Councils, and on this occasion the University seeks the authority of the Regent House to place submissions before the Cambridge Local Enquiry during the summer of this year. A great deal of work has been done to define the environmental issues, the transport options, and the spacial development options in consultation with a variety of stakeholders. This process and the current outcomes are described on the website given in the Report and I hope members of the Regent House will find time to consult the website.

Housing costs in Cambridge are becoming the main impediment to recruitment, and our ability to offer affordable accommodation to a wide range of staff will be a key factor in our future success. The land at North West Cambridge is critical for this purpose. There is a less immediate need for land for academic developments. Nevertheless, re-development of the New Museums and Old Press Sites will depend on our ability to re-locate key activities and it is also imperative that we provide our successors with flexibility for the future.

I hope that the Regent House will approve this Report and give the University the authority to make submissions to the Planning Enquiry.

Professor G. R. EVANS:

Madam deputy Vice-Chancellor, first we just approved proposals to develop a strategy (Grace 10, 26 July 2000). Then we approved the preparation of a Master Plan (Grace 3, 4 February 2004), in which it was projected that the Green Belt round Cambridge would have to go. Now we learn how comprehensively this enormous development will change the environs of Cambridge.

'The majority of the site comprises large areas of habitat of limited intrinsic nature conservation value,' we read. There is a little more detail about the actual 'nature' involved, including a mention of the great crested newts who have been a feature of the debate throughout as Cambridge has grown first to include West Cambridge and now North West Cambridge. It seems that 'open countryside' will be reached only 'beyond the M11' and all this nature will have to live in a 'corridor'. I am sure the newts have been consulted like everyone else and have agreed to this plan. I expect 'limited' is just the word they would have chosen. Nice and even-handed.

It is of course a careful plan and I bet it cost the University a bomb to anticipate and offer reasonable reassurances about all the possible objections. May we know how much has been spent up to now please, Council? 'A conservative assessment of infrastructure costs' apparently suggests that it will not cost the University anything but the University will not make a profit either. But why should we believe that a conservative estimate will turn out to be correct? Does it ever, in building work, even if it is no more than adding a conservatory to your little house in Cambridge, should you be able to afford a little house anywhere near your place of work? What is the University's record in keeping within 'conservative assessments'?

My own reasonable anxiety is that such concerns will be met only if the money is found to do all the things promised. For this is not necessarily all going to happen, is it? It will be done piecemeal, and there will be changes and some projects will fall through and we may well be left with the kind of visual mess we now have on the shopless West Cambridge site, with its glaring absence of a banking hole in the wall. Read your way in the Reporter through the saga of the Marconi Building and the way the Old Schools was left gasping and holding the bills when the firm collapsed. If we approve the recommendation 'that approval be given to the principles and the general nature of the emerging spatial options described in this Report', the Regent House will lose overall control of the strategic planning from this point onwards.

'That the Acting Treasurer be authorized to accept a tender for the works, within the available funding, on the advice of the Director of the Estate Management and Building Service' (see previous Report) has now replaced the old standard Grace which used to let our former Treasurer do it. Does this not mean that the decisions will be taken by the Director in whose (almost literal) Empire our Estates now lie? One at a time? Indeed the Report says so. 'Further development of a Master Plan by the University will need to be an iterative process with continuing engagement with stakeholders, and responding to the outcomes of the Cambridge Local Plan Planning Inquiry and the preparation of South Cambridgeshire's Local Development Framework.'

The promise of affordable housing looks attractive, of course, but I do not see here any clear explanation of the mechanisms which will prevent this affordable housing going straight back on to the market at market rates. Nor have I noticed any detailed explanation to the Regent House of our space needs. It all seems pretty hypothetical to me, and likely to be based on predictions of the future growth of the University which raise enormous policy issues. So before we descend to the detail could we return to the preliminaries and have an open discussion of the kind of University we want Cambridge to be in generations to come, how big, and, in view of this grand sideways shift of the geography, where exactly?

It is that word 'trust' again, Vice-Chancellor. So tricky.

Joint Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 7 February 2005 and 17 November 2004, on University Composition Fee rates for the M.Phil. Degree and certain other postgraduate qualifications (p. 516).

Professor J. S. BELL:

Madam deputy Vice-Chancellor, I wish to speak in support of the Report, which is essential to the strategic planning of my School, the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences. The argument in favour of differential fees for Master's courses is based on two principles. First, the costs of courses are driven principally by academic considerations. Second, the costs of courses should be met by the mix of income from public support and student fees, unless we take transparent and considered decisions to subsidize particular courses out of other funds.

I want to make it clear that this Report concerns all Master's courses, and is not confined to M.Phil. courses. We already accept that the M.B.A. and the M.Ed. have different fees, and the issue is how far this differentiation should go. Coming from the School with the largest number of M.Phil. courses, I do not see a single rationale which unites them. Master's courses are of three kinds: advanced study in a subject studied at undergraduate level, a taught conversion course for those moving into a new area, and research training for those intending to move on to the doctorate. We have all of these within the umbrella of the M.Phil., and, unlike the dissent in the Report, I do not see the necessity to have a single policy within which these very different courses need to fit.

My first principle is that the costs of courses are determined principally by academic considerations. As I have just said, there are a number of very different academic purposes for Master's courses. These will have different implications for costs. An intensive, graduate-level conversion course will require more tuition than a research training programme in which students are working largely independently under structured supervision. The need for support from library and computing facilities, as well as tuition, will vary from subject to subject. As a result, a single tuition fee rate for all subjects may not be appropriate. It makes sense for administrative reasons not to have too many different rates. But we need to allow Faculties and Departments the flexibility to propose differential fees, where the costs of what they wish to run as an academic programme are substantially out of line with the standard University Composition Fee.

My second principle is that the costs of learning support, including tuition, should be met from the total income from public funds and tuition fees, unless we make explicit decisions to subsidize particular courses. At Master's level, the mix of funding is different from at undergraduate level. There is less public subsidy from HEFCE and Colleges do not provide tuition. In work a number of us have done to produce a costing model for M.Phil. and other Master's programmes, we have identified that many Master's courses are operating at a loss as a result of academic decisions on how student learning is to be supported. To take an example, the LL.M. is an advanced study course with a wide variety of taught options. Our estimate is that the course costs exceed the income from public funding and tuition fees by over £3,000 per student. With 130 students on the course, that is a large sum of money to be found from other sources. Our planned University Composition Fee for this course for 2005-06 is 12% below that for the LL.M. at Birmingham and 63% below that for the LL.M. at the London School of Economics, to take just two examples. Of course, we could deliberately choose to subsidize the LL.M. course. I somehow doubt that my colleagues in the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences would see subsidizing prospective legal practitioners as a high priority compared, say, with educating prospective research students in archaeology. There are academic arguments to be had on which courses we subsidize and which we do not. Faculties whose courses are making a loss at the standard University Composition Fee and who do not wish to continue to subsidize the course to such an extent should be free to propose a fee level that brings costs and fees more into balance.

These academic debates need to take place at Faculty and Departmental level, examining their own programmes and making proposals to their Schools. I don't see how a general debate about the future of the M.Phil. suite of programmes as a whole would be useful. The proposal here is that Faculties should propose to their Schools that the fees for individual Master's programmes of study should be raised above the University standard fee. The financial case will be examined by the School, including the arrangements for ensuring that academically meritorious students can still gain places. The Report suggests that attention is paid to the position of students currently fully supported by research councils and the Cambridge Trusts. If the fees rise, then the suggestion is that the additional amount these students need to be fully funded ought to be borne by the Faculties. Again, the extent of such arrangements needs to be considered on a Faculty by Faculty basis.

This is only a discussion of principle. Detailed proposals will be put forward in relation to a number of programmes. There are already a number of Faculties within my School who are considering proposing an increase in the fee level for students on particular courses in order to be able to satisfy their academic ambitions for the quality of their courses and to avoid making a substantial financial loss. The procedures proposed in the Report offer ways in which these will be fully considered.

I am sorry the graduate students feel that they have not been fully consulted. There were student members of the Education Committee and General Board in several discussions of the subject. When plans are considered by Faculty Boards in relation to particular Master's courses, this will give a further opportunity for graduates to have an effective contribution to the debates about the appropriateness and potential effect of those plans.

Professor G. R. EVANS:

Madam deputy Vice-Chancellor, there are several issues here, it seems to me, in this proposal that we allow 'differential, higher, rates of University Composition Fee to be charged to students admitted to particular M.Phil. and other taught postgraduate courses'.

One is the RAM-based theory that the University should begin to think of itself in terms of 'cost-centres', in competition with one another, rather than as a community which shares its resources, to enable small-number subjects to survive even if they cannot, of their nature, bring in the big bucks. The assumptions behind the theory of 'subsidizing' advanced just now terrify me, as does talk of loss-making courses.

The justification for these 'higher' fees is going to be that certain courses cost more to run. Once you move beyond infrastructure costs, such as the fact that a veterinary M.Phil. (say) involving a dissertation on pachyderms may require the purchase of an elephant for a particular student's close study, do you not enter an area where the salary costs of the teaching staff might become relevant? Are students on a given M.Phil. course to subsidize with their top-up fees the secret top-up payments to certain specially favoured Professors brought - or is that bought - in by the University? Should it be made clear in the RAM calculations that buying in allegedly even taller poppies than the ones who already make Cambridge a cheery floral red will lead directly to higher tuition fees for students in their Departments? For surely that is only logical?

Are courses for which only the basic fee is charged going to look like Cinderellas, with a certain cachet attaching to how much the Faculty or Department can get away with? On this logic, cheap courses must mean that only mediocre people are teaching them, surely?

The access concerns are important, and it is interesting to see that they are now acknowledged to apply at postgraduate level. The issues which have been surfacing here and there recently are still not being addressed, however. Are we hatching a policy designed to get us more of those lucrative overseas students, or more graduate students if we can now charge them more as well as undergraduate students? I attended a HEFCE briefing last week on the future funding régime for graduate courses. (As far as I could see the University had sent no one officially to represent it.) One of the topics discussed was 'when is a research degree not a research degree?', how taught courses fit in, and how the funding will work. I would like to see some broader discussion of all that before there are any more nibbling shifts towards differential fees.

How clearly did the Council see where these questions arose and what their implications were when they approved this Report for publication and discussion? The General Board, a previous speaker said, did not see the need to have a 'single policy'. I do. Not a single fee rate. Not a reduction of differences to samenesses. But surely a single unifying theory under which we make such decisions?

Mr D. S. LIVINGSTON:

Madam deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am speaking today as the Academic Affairs Officer for Cambridge University Students Union.

In November this Report was presented to the General Board, of which I am a member, and for the first time on that committee I found myself unable to sign a Report. Whilst we as a student body have long been in favour of free education and remain especially opposed to any variability in fees, having major concerns about their impact on access, there are in this case more pressing concerns.

The report compiled by the Mistress of Girton and mentioned in paragraph 2 of this Joint Report has many recommendations. It seems inappropriate to us to implement solely the recommendations on fees without locating these changes within an overall strategy for taught postgraduate provision in this University. There are many debates on-going about our graduate provision. For example, some are to do with student numbers, some around the nature of the M.Phil. and its current disparity, both in terms of its nature and its quality. Then there are yet more concerns around the transferability of the Cambridge M.Phil. within the UK and the wider world and also there are concerns around College and University provision for one-year graduate students. Added to these concerns there was also not sufficient student consultation on this issue as the committee report acknowledges.

We would much prefer to see proposals for a new fee structure come forward with an overall M.Phil. strategy, rather than in this piecemeal fashion. We feel this is an untimely move and we cannot lend our support to this Report at this stage.

Mr W. P. W. STREETING (read by Mr D. S. LIVINGSTON):

Madam deputy Vice-Chancellor, as President of Cambridge University Students Union and as a student representative on the University Council, I felt unable to sign this Report for the reasons set out clearly in the note of dissent and expanded upon by my colleague from CUSU this afternoon.

I am disappointed that the Council and the General Board have chosen to press ahead with this new charging structure without addressing first the wider issues facing the provision of postgraduate education in this University.

I can only hope that the University will address the wider issues surrounding taught postgraduate provision as a matter of urgency. Pressing ahead with changes to the fees structure before addressing wider problems with educational provision can only send a disappointing message to students that the University has got its priorities wrong on this occasion.


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Cambridge University Reporter 23 March 2005
Copyright © 2005 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.