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Annual Report of the Council for the academical year 2004-05

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

The Council's Annual Report and the Annual Report of the General Board to the Council (p. 250) should be read together. Both Reports summarize the work of the respective body and deal with matters which are the statutory responsibilities of each. The Council is the principal policy making and executive body of the University, so defined in the Statutes. The Council is therefore significantly involved, through strategic discussions (paragraph 15), and through the work of the Joint Planning and Resources Committee of the Council and the General Board, in the educational and research fields which form the principal executive responsibilities of the General Board, and which are reported in the Board's Report.

Dame Rosemary Murray and Mr Michael McCrum

1. The Council pay tribute to the distinguished service to the University, their Colleges, and to the collegiate University generally, of two former Vice-Chancellors, who died during the year, Dame Rosemary Murray, first President of New Hall, Vice-Chancellor from 1975 to 1977, and Mr Michael McCrum, formerly Master of Corpus Christi College, and Vice-Chancellor from 1987 to 1989.

Strategic planning, resources, finance

2. The process of transforming the financial position of the University is well in hand and reflects both the positive decisions of the government and HEFCE, and good management by University authorities. But there is much more to do to achieve a sustainable financial situation. Good progress has been made in restoring financial balance, as summarized at length in the new format Allocations Report for 2005-06 (Reporter, 2004-05, p. 699), which sets out a comprehensive picture of the financial position of the University and shows how the Council, with the assistance of the Planning and Resources Committee (PRC, a joint committee of the Council and the General Board) and the Council's Finance Committee, intend to move the University from a recurrent deficit on teaching and research, and associated activities, to a sustainable position, which will give greater security and a better planning horizon for the University. A significant element in enabling this positive movement is the introduction, approved by the Regent House in 2005, of higher undergraduate tuition fees for home and EU students for 2006, which is, of course, coupled with the excellent scheme of undergraduate bursaries developed in the collegiate University, and with arrangements for up-front payment of fees by the state. The Cambridge arrangements were submitted to and approved by the new national agency, the Office for Fair Access (OFFA), and include challenging admissions targets put forward by the Colleges.

3. The new strategic planning process referred to in the last Annual Report is in progress. Submissions have been made by the Schools and non-School institutions, and the Colleges collectively have contributed to the process. Careful consideration is being given by the General Board, the Councils of the Schools, the inter-collegiate bodies, and the PRC, to the implications of the statements. The Council expect in 2005-06 to institute a cross-school review of graduate education, through the General Board.

4. Full Economic Costing of research, which is being progressively introduced, by government initiative, should have an increasingly positive effect in contributing sustainable funding for this area. But this positive effect may possibly, to some extent, be offset by constraints on research volume.

The Campaign

5. The success of the fundraising Campaign to mark the 800th Anniversary of the University is key to the future development of the University and the Colleges, especially in arriving at sustainable funding for important purposes including new initiatives, not likely to be supported by public funds. The public phase of the Campaign was launched on 23 September 2005, after extensive planning and discussion both in Cambridge and around the world, and embraces the University and the Colleges. Three Campaign Planning Committees of eminent alumni and alumnae have met in London, New York, and Hong Kong to help guide the preparations for the Campaign launch. The Council are very grateful to their members, and to their chairmen, Lord Watson of Richmond, Dr Bill Janeway, and Sir David Li for their unstinting efforts in support of the Campaign. A Campaign Board and a Campaign Council of alumni and friends are now being formed. The Council are delighted that Sir David Walker and Dr Bill Janeway have agreed to co-chair the Campaign Board and note with gratitude their own generous contributions to the Campaign.

University policy

6. Proposals for two major areas of University policy (pay and grading, and intellectual property rights) have been put to the Regent House during the academic year after extensive consultation within the University.

Pay and grading

7. Proposals for new arrangements for the pay and grading of non-clinical staff, developed by the Personnel Committee (a joint committee of the Council and the General Board) after extensive consultation with all categories of University staff, and which introduce a single spine, establish a new grading structure, and provide for a common methodology for grading posts have been published, and will be voted on by the Regent House in the Michaelmas Term 2005. (The result of the ballot was published in Reporter, 2005-06, p. 194.)

Intellectual property rights

8. Revised proposals for the policy on intellectual property rights (IPR), which have been arrived at after a series of consultations, among staff and students, were also published. The Council have agreed that they should be the subject of a ballot of the Regent House in the Michaelmas Term. (The result of the ballot was published in Reporter, 2005-06, p. 236.) The Council and the General Board believe that the introduction of a framework of policies and procedures on the lines proposed is highly desirable, in the interests of staff and students, and of the University as an institution.

Recognition of collegiate institutions

9. The Council are developing a more explicit set of criteria to help judge the basis on which collegiate institutions should in future be considered for recognition as Colleges, Approved Foundations, or Approved Societies. This work is in the course of preparation for publication and a Report to the University is expected to be published in the Michaelmas Term 2005 (Reporter, p. 218). This Report will recommend the recognition of Hughes Hall as a College, subject to the grant of a Royal Charter.

Buildings

10. The new Buildings Committee, chaired by Mr Terry Gardner, an external member, is a Joint Committee of the Council and the General Board reporting to them through the PRC (and pending a change of Statute currently before Parliament, also formally through the Finance Committee). Major buildings opened during the year include new buildings for the Faculty of Education (at Hills Road, enabling the physical as well as the academic integration of the teaching and research of the University Department of Education with that transferred to the University from Homerton College). New buildings for English and Criminology have also been opened.

The Estate Plan, local and regional planning

11. The University's Estate Plan has been revised and a summary has been published (see Reporter, 2005-06, p. 3, and http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/cam-only/offices/embs/strategy). Through the PRC and officer groups the Council monitor aspects of local, regional, and national planning which may impact on the University, and ensure co-ordination of the University's substantial contribution to local and regional activities, including regional co-ordinating bodies such as the Association of Universities in the East of England (AUEE).

Cambridge University Press

12. The Council regret that the process for the consolidation of the accounts of Cambridge University Press into the University's full accounts (which is necessary to permit a 'true and fair' audit opinion of the financial position of the University as a corporation) is, for practical reasons, taking longer than had been hoped, and will not now be attained before the accounts for 2005-06.

The Council

13. The Council welcomed in January 2005 the two newly appointed 'external' members, Mr Nigel Brown and Lord Simon of Highbury, and have greatly valued their contribution to the Council's work since then. Mr Brown chairs the Council's Audit Committee. Mr Alexander Johnston and Dr Nicola Nicholls have also joined the Council's Finance Committee as external members. The Council greatly appreciate the contribution and commitment of these four members. The Council also record their gratitude to the other external members of the Audit Committee and to the external chairman and members of the Buildings Committee.

14. As in 2004 the Vice-Chancellor reported to the Council at their July meeting on her year's work and her priorities for the following year. These matters are in part the subject of the Vice-Chancellor's address to the Regent House on 1 October 2005, and the associated blue paper on strategy.

15. The Council have also held several strategic meetings, out of Cambridge in September 2004 and September 2005 and in Cambridge in March 2005. These meetings, at which a small number of longer term topics are considered, away from the pressure of immediate business, are proving invaluable to the Council, especially in developing policy and identifying future strategies. Their outcome is reflected in the Council's contribution to the development of University policy, and in the identification of challenges and opportunities which are referred for consideration to other appropriate bodies, such as the General Board, the Finance Committee, and the Planning and Resources Committee.

16. The relatively new arrangements for dealing with the more routine business of the Council, for legislative and comparable business through the Council's Business Committee and otherwise through weekly circulars, both under careful protocols by which all members of the Council can, if they wish, intervene, are now well embedded, and have contributed significantly to the quicker dispatch of routine University business, and also to liberating the regular full meetings of the Council itself for the discussion of the most important topics.

17. The Council's activity and the identification of foreseeable major topics for discussion are on the basis of a 'work plan', which in particular charts the anticipated major business during the year, and which is continually revised. The Council also normally identify an item of 'principal business' for discussion in depth at most meetings. During the last year principal business discussed in this way has been:

October 2004North West Cambridge
November 2004The Annual Report of the Council and the Annual Report of the General Board for 2003-04
December 2004The financial position of the University
January 2005Strategic planning
March 2005IPR
April 2005Finance: the University budget and the Allocations Report 2005-06
May 2005The Allocations Report 2005-06 (second discussion)
June 2005The Campaign
July 2005The Vice-Chancellor's discussion with the Council.

Investment management

18. The Council have approved a proposal by their Finance Committee to replace the Committee's present Investment Sub-Committee by a new Investment Board, which will be a committee of the Council itself, reporting to it through the Finance Committee, and will include a significant proportion of external expert members, including the chair. The University's capacity to achieve good investment management will be enhanced by the existence of this Board, and by the establishment of a new, small, Investment Office, separate from the Finance Division of the University Offices, under the leadership of a Chief Investment Officer. Further information about this important step will be published in due course.

Governance

19. The Council do not have any immediate proposals to make about governance. Changes of Statute approved in 2004-05 are currently before Parliament (having been delayed by the dissolution, and, by a petition, which was, however, rejected by the Privy Council on the grounds that the petitioner had no standing under the Act). The Vice-Chancellor has asked a small group convened by the Master of Emmanuel (a former Secretary of the Cabinet) to advise her whether there are further steps which should in due course be considered to improve governance arrangements. The other members of the group are Lord Simon, the Master of Clare, and Professor John Bell, with the Registrary and the Administrative Secretary. A paper is likely to be submitted to the Council later in the present academical year.

20. The Council also have under consideration proposals, which have been the subject of Discussion, for minor procedural changes to improve voting arrangements for the Regent House and the Senate, arising from the work the Review Committee chaired by the President of Lucy Cavendish. The Council expect to report to the University in the coming term (Reporter, p. 190).

Regulatory, compliance, and similar activities

21. Significant activity has been undertaken, under the authority of the Council, particularly through co-ordinating groups of officers, in the areas of risk management, emergency management, counter-terrorism compliance, and the implementation of the requirements of the Licensing Act 2003.

22. The national Higher Education Regulatory Review Group, chaired by Dame Patricia Hodgson, has made important proposals to reduce regulatory and similar demands on universities. As yet, however, there is little progress in achieving in practice much needed reductions. Indeed, new national systems have been introduced during the year (e.g. the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), see below, and OFFA, see above), and a new system of charity regulation for universities (and for the colleges) is envisaged in the Charities Bill currently before Parliament.

Student complaints

23. Since January 2005 the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for student complaints in higher education has been designated by the Secretary of State under the recent Act. No complaints have been made from the University since the new system came into force.

24. The existence of OIA means that the present Cambridge student complaints procedure (which includes provision for formal review by a three-member panel) is now too elaborate (especially as it may in some limited circumstances be supplemented by review by the Commissary). Through the Student Matters Committee (a joint committee of the Council and the General Board) the question of some simplification of the Cambridge procedures is being considered.

University institutions under the supervision of the Council, and major information schemes

25. Particularly through the Planning and Resources Committee and the Resource Management Committee (which re joint committees of the Council and the General Board), and also through various co-ordinating groups, and with the participation of Pro-Vice-Chancellors, the Council exercise oversight over many University institutions, especially those service institutions which are not under the aegis of the General Board.

26. The Council are especially concerned with the University Offices and the Unified Administrative Service, on the management of which the Registrary reports to the Council. The new Director of External Affairs and Communications, Mr Stephen Jolly, is now in post. Central legal services have now been reorganized as the Legal Services Office, in the Secretariat. Mr Christopher Lewis has been appointed University Security Adviser, on the retirement of Mr John Heppleston, to whose important service to the University the Council pay tribute. Reviews of the Personnel and Research Services Divisions have already taken place. Reviews of the Estate Management and Building Service and of the Health and Safety Division are now taking place. The Council also expect to report in due course about the further development and possible incorporation of Cambridge Enterprise.

27. The Council also have oversight, through the Information Strategy Group and project boards, of the two major information management projects which are currently taking place: CamSIS, in the course of implementation in the University and the Colleges, for student information, and CHRIS, in the course of active development, for human resources information. The University's financial system - CUFS - has been upgraded to an improved version.

Academic developments, educational and research policy

28. The General Board's Report deals in detail with academic developments, educational and research policy, and is published together with this Report (p. 250). It was discussed in detail by the Council at their meeting on 28 November 2005.

The Council's work in 2005-06

29. The Council expect to approve the University accounts for 2004-05 for publication towards the end of Michaelmas Term 2005 and to work on the budget and Allocations Report for 2006-07 in the Lent and Easter Terms 2006. The Council expect to receive progress reports on the development Campaign each term, and will integrate these with discussions about strategic and financial planning. The schedule of strategic meetings to take place out of the ordinary sequence of meetings is September 2005, March 2006, and September 2006. The Council's work plan for 2005-06 has been the subject of consideration by the Council itself, and is co-ordinated with the newly introduced work plans for the General Board and the Finance Committee.

Conclusion

30. There are significant challenges ahead, especially in relation to resources, but the Council believe that the strategies reported here give grounds for optimism about the future of the University, a matter of national, indeed international, significance.

28 November 2005ALISON RICHARD, Vice-ChancellorD. LOWTHERVERONICA SUTHERLAND
 TONY BADGERD. W. B. MACDONALDLIBA TAUB
 Z. BARANSKIJAMES MATHESONLAURA WALSH
 RICHARD BARNESMARTIN REESBEN WHEELER
 NIGEL BROWNG. A. REIDJOAN M. WHITEHEAD
 WILLIAM BROWNDAVID SIMONRICHARD WILSON

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Cambridge University Reporter 16 December 2005
Copyright © 2005 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.