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Annual Report of the General Board to the Council for the academical year 2004-05

The GENERAL BOARD submit this annual Report to the Council.

Introduction

1.1. This Report covers a broad canvas of activity, much of which impinges on all institutions across the University, as well as the Board and their Committees. Perhaps most importantly, the completion of the 2004 Planning Round marks a significant milestone in enhancing the University's capacity for academic and financial planning. Other major activities included the preparations for the introduction of the Full Economic Costing (fEC) of research grants; the pay and grading project, following the implementation of the National Framework Agreement; the continuing development and phased implementation of CamSIS; and planning for the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. The Board are deeply impressed by, and appreciative of, the commitment shown by colleagues across the University in taking forward these developments.

Academic standards, quality, and reviews

2. National and internal arrangements for Quality Assurance

2.1. As a requirement of the University's participation in the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) Institutional Audit in April 2003, a follow-up report, detailing actions that had been taken in response to the Audit Team's report, was submitted in December 2004. While most of the Team's recommendations had been addressed fully, the proposed updating of the University's Guide to Quality Assurance was deferred because of the need to give priority to complying with HEFCE's Teaching Quality Information (TQI) initiative, which continues to demand increasing resources: in 2004-05 the requirement to participate in the National Student Survey was introduced. The Board's and Cambridge University Student Union's (CUSU) reservations regarding this exercise were reported last year. In the event, student response rate was too low to permit the inclusion by HEFCE of data relating to the University on the TQI website.

2.2. No further QAA review activity occurred in 2004-05. However, the profile drawn up by the Teacher Training Agency marked the University's provision for the training of both primary and secondary teachers as outstanding and placed it top of annual league tables for teacher training. The QAA revised three sections of its Code of Practice for the Assurance of Academic Quality and Standards, including that dealing with External Examiners, and all Faculties and Departments were advised of the changes. Changes to this section of the Code of Practice and the consideration of the reports of External Examiners by the Board also led to the revision of the Board's guidance on the roles and duties of External Examiners.

2.3. It was reported last year that, in response to a recommendation by the Audit Team, the General Board had agreed a Good Practice Strategy. As part of the Strategy, a website has been set up (http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/education/gps/), two Good Practice events have taken place, articles have appeared in the University Newsletter and a CamCommunities forum has been piloted.

2.4. The Board's Education Committee continued its scrutiny of reports produced by professional, regulatory, and statutory bodies and considered the report of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons on the Department of Veterinary Medicine.

2.5. The Board have again been well represented in national debates on quality assurance, responding to the Higher Education Funding Council for England's consultation on Sustainable Development and taking part in a QAA consultation on the recommendations of the Burgess report regarding the introduction of a national credit framework. The University was also one of ten institutions invited to participate in an impact assessment of quality assurance regulation in Higher Education, commissioned by HEFCE. The consultants' report indicated that the cost to the University of the 2003 Institutional Audit had been estimated at £380,000.

3. Teaching, learning, and assessment

3.1. The Board reported last year that it would be reviewing the infrastructure for preparing, supporting, and monitoring funding bids for learning and teaching activities. Accordingly, a Pedagogic Support Steering Group has been set up, with the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) as Chair, to oversee the work of a Research Associate who will scope the University's needs for pedagogic support.

3.2. The Education Committee has continued to work closely with a variety of University and College bodies. In particular, it has collaborated with the Senior Tutors' Committee in carrying forward the University's responsibilities to encourage students to participate in Personal Development Planning (PDP) and to keep Progress Files. During the year a large-scale survey to explore students' needs in the PDP area was carried out, leading to recommendations for a pilot system to be put in place in 2005-06.

4. Departmental and other reviews

4.1. The Education Committee continued to review the General Board Review process in order to make it effective and fit for purpose. The Board agreed new provisions for deferral of review, processing of review reports, and review committee membership. Enhanced training for Review Secretaries was provided and all guidance documentation was revised.

4.2. During 2004-05, the Education Committee considered and acted upon the reports of the following reviews which had taken place in 2003-04: the Institute of Biotechnology, the Faculty of Law, the Department of Pathology, the Faculty of Mathematics, and the Faculty of Philosophy. The University approved proposals for the integration of the Faculty of Economics and Politics and the Department of Applied Economics to form a single Faculty of Economics.

5. Degrees, courses, and examinations

5.1. A new M.Phil. course and examination in Biotechnology was approved. The Board also approved changes to the names, content and/or assessment of existing courses for the M.Phil. Degree (one-year course), including those offered by the Faculty of Economics, and the Departments of Chemical Engineering, Geography, History and Philosophy of Science, and Linguistics. The regulations for the course in Soil Mechanics, which has not run for several years, were formally rescinded.

The Board also approved the introduction of a Certificate of Postgraduate Study in Economics and agreed to the suspension of the Diploma in Management, pending a review by the Judge Business School of its graduate provision.

5.2. Numerous changes in the regulations for Tripos examinations were approved, of which the most significant were: changes to the regulations for the Medical and Veterinary Sciences Tripos and the Natural Sciences Tripos (including the abolition of a Part in each, and the introduction of two new subjects in Part II of the Natural Sciences Tripos); the inclusion of students taking Natural Sciences Tripos, Part II Biochemistry, in the Cambridge-MIT Exchange Programme; the introduction of a new strand (Physical Sciences) in the Education Studies Tripos; Part IA of the Computer Science Tripos (the study options available); and Part IA of the Architecture Tripos (amendments to the teaching of history and theory of architecture).

5.3. Substantial changes to the curriculum and length of the clinical medical course (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) were the subject of a Report to the University. Arrangements concerning the consideration of candidates with respect to meeting formal professional standards in medicine and veterinary medicine were revised by the School of Clinical Medicine and the Department of Veterinary Medicine respectively, and approved by the Board.

5.4. The Board continued to review the provision of continuing education courses and approved the introduction of Advanced Diplomas in: Garden History; History of Art; Learning and Development; and Orthodox Christian Studies. A Postgraduate Diploma in Counselling in a Primary Care Environment and an M.St. course and examination in Latin-American Studies were also approved.

6. Academic performance

6.1. The main area of activity of the Joint Committee on Academic Performance has been overseeing the work of a Research Associate, appointed in September 2004, to investigate the under-performance of some UK students of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Caribbean origin. The project is supported by the HEFCE Teaching and Learning Strategy Funds. Questionnaires were issued to students from those ethnic backgrounds and interviews conducted with some of them. A number of interesting factors have been identified which affect the academic performance of students from these three ethnic minorities, almost all of whom were positive about their experience of life at the University. A report was submitted to the Joint Committee in September 2005.

7. Graduate education

7.1. In the Easter Term 2005, the Pro-Vice-Chancellors for Education and for Research issued a consultation paper to Schools, Faculty Boards and comparable institutions, and Degree Committees, seeking preliminary views on a number of issues relating to graduate education. In light of the responses received, the Board have established a Review Committee for Graduate Education, under the joint chairmanship of the two Pro-Vice-Chancellors, to make recommendations on the University's future strategy in this area. The Review Committee has been asked to report in stages during 2005-06. During 2004-05, two significant reports relating to graduate matters were approved by the Regent House: one on the introduction of an Eng.D. Degree; and the other making provision for charging a higher rate of University Composition Fee for particular M.Phil. or other postgraduate programmes of study.

8. International education

8.1. Two Working Parties, one on International Academic Relationships and one on International Student Recruitment, Selection, and Support, chaired respectively by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Special Responsibilities) and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), have completed their deliberations: their reports will be the subject of wide consultation in the Michaelmas Term 2005. The International Education Office, initially set up on an unestablished basis with Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI) funding, has now become an established part of the Unified Administrative Service and has been renamed the International Office, to reflect its involvement in a wider range of the University's international activities.

Planning and resources

9. University financial position

9.1. The 2004 Allocations Report (Reporter, 2003-04, p. 716) noted a significant worsening of the financial position during the previous twelve months. In contrast, the 2005 Allocations Report (Reporter, 2004-05, p. 699) reported that the financial position of the University was improving as a result of a combination of additional income and controls on expenditure: the position was responding to the action taken over the previous two years. The improved control of expenditure and more effective use of resources is partly a result of increased devolution of financial planning and management to Schools and other institutions, associated with the introduction of the Resource Allocation Model and the new planning round (see below). Forecasts indicate that the new income resulting from the 'Full Economic Costing' (fEC) of research and from the new Home/EU undergraduate composition fee will lead to a small surplus by 2007-08 despite continuing pressure on costs from, for example, salary restructuring.

9.2. The 2005 Report again highlighted the need for investment in staff and facilities to ensure the University's continued ability to recruit and retain high quality staff of all grades but forecast surpluses are too uncertain and at too low a level to plan significant investment from the Chest, at least in the short term. Investment in the next Research Assessment Exercise is essential: further investment will require the demonstration of more sustained financial recovery.

10. The Resource Allocation Model and the planning process

10.1. The Resource Allocation Model (RAM) and the University's planning process were firmly linked through the Planning Enquiry, launched in May 2004. School-level financial forecasts informed by the RAM were the basis of the guidance to Schools and other institutions for the preparation of costed plans for the period to 2008-09. As noted above, the 2004 Allocations Report stated that the financial position of the University had worsened significantly in 2003-04, although a more favourable view could be formed of the longer term. The estimates were therefore prepared on the assumption of continued savings.

The planning exercise was conducted at School level and at the level of individual non-School institutions. A complete response was achieved on or very near the deadline of 1 December 2004. The plans and the analysis were the subject of a round of meetings in January 2005 between the Pro-Vice-Chancellors (Planning and Resources), (Education), and (Research) and the Chairman of each School. A parallel series of meetings was held between the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Special Responsibilities) and the Director of each non-School Institution. The main purposes of each meeting were to consider the implications for the 2005 Allocations Report and to form a view on the acceptable spending plan for each School and non-School Institution in 2005-06.

The 2005-06 approved expenditure plans were incorporated in the 2005 Allocations Report. The plans for all institutions were collated and circulated as an exchange of information to improve planning in the next round. Student number projections were produced for discussion with the Colleges. A range of issues was identified for further discussion, including discussion by the Board, during 2005-06.

10.2. The University's strategic plan, to be developed during 2005-06, will draw on the full range of institutional plans and the dialogue with the Colleges.

10.3. The aim of the planning and budgeting process was to serve and reinforce the qualities that place the University amongst the world's best by:

It is too early to judge the success of the planning process against those aims, but informal feedback indicates that the process1 has been helpful. The RAM continues to generate important new management information, for example cost rates for use in the M.Phil. costing model, and to assist with 'pricing' for 800th Campaign targets. RAM output is one approach to full economic costing.

11. Other developments

11.1. Implementation of Full Economic Costing (fEC) began with the appointment of a Project Manager and Steering Group. The purpose of the project is to achieve a robust method of fEC for, initially, Research Council funded projects. Earlier time allocation surveys in the University have provided the basis for the Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) exercise, which in turn has informed fEC and show the full cost of research. These arrangements have successfully passed audit.

Additional funding for the Research Councils will enable them to pay 80% of the fEC of each contract, which will go some way to making up the under-funding of research, and in particular the indirect and infrastructure costs which support research. The project involved officers from the Planning and Resource Allocation Office (PRAO), the Research Services Division (RSD), and the Finance Division: an urgent task was the acquisition and testing of new software to replace the RSD research grants form RSD-1A in time for the first round of fEC applications. fEC will be progressively rolled out to research grants from other sponsors with the eventual aim of achieving income of at least 100% of fEC at every opportunity.

11.2. The intention of Full Economic Costing is to fund research on a sustainable basis, and this may lead to a reduction in capital funding streams from HEFCE, from which the University has benefited greatly in recent years. In the current round (2004-2006), which is drawing to a close, the University was allocated £64,248,884 from the Science Research Investment Fund (SRIF-2) and £7,733,189 from the Project Capital 3 programme for Learning, Teaching and Students with special needs. Significant projects which benefited from this funding included: the Education Faculty Building, the Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics, the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, the Systems Biology Institute, the Plant Growth facility, and the Cambridge Institute for Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism. In February 2005, HEFCE announced the new funding round, Capital funding for learning and teaching, research and infrastructure 2006-2008, from which the University was allocated £68,761,055 for research infrastructure and £8,827,800 for learning and teaching. HEFCE approved the University's programme of projects for both streams at the beginning of August 2005. Major projects supported by this round include new buildings for Physics and the Bio-Medical Sciences and the Institute of Manufacturing, development and upgrading of the Cambridge/Cranfield High Perfor-mance Computing facility, refurbishment of the Pfizer Building, and in excess of £18m for the renewal of basic research equipment.

12. National policy/consultation

12.1. HEFCE funding formulae for both teaching and research are under review. It was assumed that the introduction of higher fees in 2006-07 would lead to change in the formula in that year but changes are not now likely until 2007-08 at the earliest. HEFCE has announced the goals for the review but will be consulting on the method later in 2005, that they will publish details in March 2006 and that they may consult further on specific issues later in 2006.

12.2. The Special Funding awarded for certain minority subjects has been discontinued and rolled up in block grant, but block grant may be reduced if the University ceases to provide for those minority subjects.

12.3. The R formula is expected to change after the 2008 RAE and there are no current plans to consult on a new formula, but HEFCE has implemented for 2005-06 the proposals for the funding of research degree programmes on which they consulted in 2003. The quanta of funding attributed on the various volume elements in the QR formula has changed. Linkage of the QR formula with the College fee agreement has led to an increase in the transfer to Colleges well above inflation. The QR formula no longer takes account of overseas students.

13. New academic developments

13.1. As a result of institutions restructuring or through the welcome availability of external funds, the Board were able to propose the establishment of the following Professorships and Readerships in 2004-05:

Research policy

14. Research Policy Committee

14.1. The Board's Research Policy Committee is an important forum, not only for overseeing the development of internal policies and procedures, but also for positioning the University in relation to external institutions, and in particular the major funding bodies. The most substantive item of business considered by the Committee in 2004-05 was the Third Report of the Council and the General Board on the ownership of intellectual property rights (IPRs). In the light of the comments made at the Discussion of 7 June 2005 and following further consultation with Professor Cornish, the Council and the General Board agreed to amend the draft Ordinance proposed in their Third Report, and submitted a Grace to the Regent House on 5 October 2005. The Council determined that a vote would be taken by ballot on that Grace and on any amendments that had been proposed.

15. RAE: preparation for the 2008 Exercise

15.1. In their last Annual Report, the Board reported on major changes introduced for the 2008 RAE, particularly the two-tier Panel structure and the introduction of continuously graded quality profile rather than a single rating, as awarded in previous Exercises. Further details were released in late July 2005 with the launch of a consultative exercise on RAE Panels' Draft Criteria and Working Methods. While cognate subject groupings of Sub-Panels within each of 15 Main Panels have adopted a mainly consistent approach, there is considerable divergence between the latter especially in their proposals for implementing the new grading methodology, which comprises three elements; research outputs, research environment, and esteem. Sub-Panels will assess each submission within these categories, grading results across five quality levels: 4*, 3*, and 2*, representing gradations of international research excellence; 1*, being national excellence; and 'U' (unclassified). The Funding Councils have set minimum weightings within the assessment process of 50% for outputs and 5% each for environment and esteem. However, Panels have freedom to determine allocations within these parameters. Other major differences between Panels relate to the treatment of research outputs and mechanisms for assessing environment and esteem. The Councils of the Schools, and all Faculties and Departments, were consulted to inform the University's response, which was required by mid-September 2005. The definitive Criteria and Working Methods will be published in January 2006.

These substantial changes to the RAE assessment process will require the University to review its policies and procedures for formulating submissions. Work has commenced on this, driven in part by the requirements of the HEFCE guidance on RAE equal opportunities protocols. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), who will lead the 2008 RAE for the University, has held discussions with Councils of the Schools on mechanisms to strengthen submissions. The Board will continue to oversee both policy development and operational issues, on a regular basis.

16. Review of Architecture

16.1. As part of their monitoring of those Departments that did not achieve at least a 5 rating, or retain their 5* rating, in the 2001 RAE, the Board set up a working group in January 2004 to consider the Department of Architecture. The group reported to the Board in July and October 2004, identifying major concerns. Following their acceptance of the recommendations in the group's second report, the Board conveyed to the Council of the School of Arts and Humanities their view that the Department had made insufficient progress towards becoming a viable academic institution of the quality required by the Board. Accordingly, the case for the Department's continuance, without a significant injection of resources, had not been made. An alternative option was for the School to identify additional resources that would enable the Department to reach the appropriate academic standard.

This process led to very considerable media interest with the Vice-Chancellor receiving numerous expressions of support for the Department's work, both from within the University and more widely. The Council of the School reported to the Board in December 2004. The School's advice was based on their assessment of the Department's revised academic strategy, supported by the opportunity to make new appointments, including a Professorship, as a result of University financial support for a programme of early retirements and restructuring. In January 2005 the Board agreed to accept the School's proposals, subject to the Department's progress being monitored by a group set up by the Board for this purpose. Since that date, one University Lecturer has been appointed, the Board of Electors to the new Professorship has met to consider candidates, and a programme of refurbishment and for an extension to Scroope Terrace has been drawn up, to be funded from the University's SRIF and Project Capital allocations. The Board congratulate the Department and the School on the progress they have made and are grateful to the School for the invaluable role they played in identifying a viable way forward for the Department.

Personnel

17. HR strategy and other major policy developments

17.1. Following publication of a Consultative Report (Reporter, 2003-04, p. 971) and extensive consultation with all University staff and partnership working with the trades unions, proposals for new arrangements for the pay and grading of non-clinical staff (http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/personnel/reward/) were published in a Second Report of the Council and the Board (Reporter, 2004-05, p. 745). Core elements of the new arrangements are the introduction of a single spine, the establishment of a new grading structure, the determination of the grading of posts by a common methodology, and the introduction of a market pay policy. The arrangements, which the Council and the General Board believe are imperative if the future success of the University is to be safeguarded, were subject to a vote by ballot by the Regent House in the Michaelmas Term 2005.

17.2. The aim of making senior academic promotions prospective has been achieved with the completion of the third annual exercise of the new scheme in advance of the date from which the promotions are effective (1 October 2005). The fourth annual exercise has been launched for promotions effective from 1 October 2006. As with previous exercises, administrative modifications have been made in the light of the feedback received in order to improve the running of the scheme.

17.3. Probationary schemes have now been put in place for all staff groups. The scheme for academic staff required an amendment to Statute D and, following approval by the Privy Council, has now been implemented. This has also made it possible for University Senior Lectureships to be advertised and filled by open competition.

17.4. In partnership with The Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and other trusts, the implementation of new pay and contractual arrangements for clinical academic staff arising out of the Follett Committee's recommendations have been completed.

17.5. Consultation with the Colleges on employment matters is ongoing through the University and Colleges Consultative Committee for Human Resources, which is chaired by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Personnel), and has included matters such as the career structure for College Teaching Officers (CTOs) and the participation of CTOs in the University's PHEP (the Pathway programme for HE Practice) programme.

Health and safety

18. General matters

18.1. The Board continue to receive detailed advice from the Health and Safety Executive Committee; and the Annual Report for 2004 from the Committee has been published (Reporter, Special No 17, 5 August 2005).

18.2. The burden of regulatory affairs continues to grow, predominantly in relation to counter-terrorism legislation, but also in areas such as waste disposal, drug precursor, and high activity sources of radioactivity. This demands comprehensive surveys and licensing, and results in an increasing need for liaison with all the inspectorates. The number of visits to the University by all the Enforcing Authorities remains high, averaging more than one a month, sometimes involving more than one agency, and lasting several days. As a consequence, a major part of the work of the Health and Safety Division is focused on relationships with the Authorities.

18.3. The safety audit programme, developed, managed and run by the Division, is running on time and to schedule. Departmental feedback is very positive and the programme has already resulted in many tangible improvements in safety standards across the University. Supplemented by specialist auditing and by inspection, the University procedures for monitoring safety management have been complimented by external inspectors.

18.4. Achievement against benchmarking standards for health and safety can be readily demonstrated, which stands the University in good stead with external organizations and contributes to demonstrating satisfactory governance. It is all the more regrettable when lapses occur. Following the prosecution of the University by the Environment Agency, in respect of breaches of authorizations at the Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre, it will be necessary to review our internal procedures and ensure that communication about the importance of absolute compliance is reinforced.

Academic services

19. Libraries

19.1. During the academical year, the Committee on Libraries has considered the recommendations of the report on staff development for librarians, which was compiled by the Librarian of the Department of Zoology and submitted in August 2004. A sub-group of the Committee continues to meet to ensure that the recommendations are implemented as appropriate. At present, funding is being sought to support a part-time staff development officer for librarians and to maintain the website.

19.2. In response to the report of the Standard Review of the University Library, resources have been made available to manage the scheme for the co-ordination of journals and to seek further ways of improving the further integration of library services across the University. The escalating costs of journals remain a concern and proposals are being drawn up to review subscriptions across the University.

19.3. The Committee considered a paper from the University Librarian on options for a long-term acquisition, storage, and disposal strategy for libraries. The issue has become acute in the light of shortages of space and the Committee will consider further the extent to which electronic resources should replace paper versions of books and journals. The Committee has continued its rolling programme of visits to Faculty and Departmental libraries in the University, and is pleased to report continuing evidence that a very good service is being provided.

Conduct of business

20.1. The conduct of the Board's business and the management of the flow of business between the Board and the Council, and the committees, was facilitated by the development of a work plan, which the Board will review and update on a regular basis. The Board approved the introduction of circulars, issued in between meetings, to deal with matters for report and straightforward business, freeing up more time at meetings for the consideration of substantive items and more strategic discussion of matters, such as the planning enquiry, which raise University and wider issues.

25 October 2005 ALISON RICHARD, Vice-ChancellorM. J. DAUNTONMELVEENA MCKENDRICK
 JOHN BELLR. H. FRIENDROGER PARKER
 TOM BLUNDELLRICHARD HUNTERPATRICK SISSONS
 WILLIAM BROWNRUTH KEELINGLAURA WALSH
 H. A. CHASED. W. B. MACDONALDI. H. WHITE

1 The process has been reviewed by the Internal Auditors, but they have yet to report.


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