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Annual Report of the University Council for the academical year 2005-06

The COUNCIL begs 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. 258) 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 its legislative work, its strategic discussions, and the work of the principal joint committees of the Council and the Board, such as the Joint Planning and Resources Committee, in the educational and research fields which, however, form the principal executive responsibilities of the General Board, and which are therefore reported in detail in the Board's Report.

Dr Stephen Fleet

1. The Council recorded with deep regret the death of Dr Stephen Fleet, Registrary, 1983-1997, and later Master of Downing College, a dedicated and highly effective servant of the University and the Colleges, particularly Downing and Fitzwilliam.

Strategic planning, resources, finance

2. Further progress has been made in restoring financial balance in the University, as summarized in detail in the Allocations Report for 2006-07 (Reporter, 2005-06, p. 671), which sets out a comprehensive picture of the anticipated financial position of the University. Nevertheless, the resources available to the University are tightly stretched, because of the extensive commitments necessary to maintain, develop, and further improve overall excellence in teaching and research in the University, and to keep our infrastructure up to date. Further significant increases in the income available to the University are therefore still needed, and improvement of the arrangements for University funding, which in the UK inevitably consists of a variety of public and other funding streams, is a priority for the University.

3. A further 'College fee' settlement was agreed with the Colleges, after negotiation with representatives of the Planning and Resources Committee, providing reasonable payment by the University in respect of most home and EU undergraduates, with corresponding educational and other obligations to the University on the part of the Colleges.

4. Proposals are under consideration nationally for possible changes to the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), which is an important driver of a significant element of the University's funding (that is, the QR element of the HEFCE block grant). The proposals at present under consideration are for the replacement of existing peer review assessment methods by some form of metrics based approach. Such an approach has weaknesses and hazards, and the University, in its own right and in cooperation with other like-minded universities, is participating constructively in continuing national discussions.

5. The Investment Board, a Committee of the Council (which has replaced the Finance Committee's former Investment Sub-committee), has now been established and has begun work. A search has taken place for a Chief Investment Officer, and Mr Nick Cavalla's appointment was announced this term.

Pay and grading

6. The proposals of the Council and the General Board about the pay and grading of University staff have been approved and an extensive programme of implementation (including matching and moderation) has taken place during the academical year, now almost complete, except for cases of review and appeal. The Council is grateful to all University staff and to the heads and administrators of institutions for their cooperation. A pay settlement has been agreed nationally for a period of several years.

University policy

7. Various developments in University policy, and reviews, have taken place as follows:

Intellectual Property Rights. The new IPR policies and procedures, developed after extensive consultation, have now been implemented and are in operation.

The University internationally. The two international reviews have been concluded and published (Reporter, 2005-06, pp. 614 and 623), and the recommendations made are now in the course of implementation.

Postgraduate education. A review of postgraduate education, led by the Pro-Vice-Chancellors for Education and Research, is in progress.

Local and regional planning: North West Cambridge

8. The long-term development of University land in North West Cambridge is a matter of great importance to the future of the University. Progress can now be made on it following the adoption by the City Council of the 2006 Cambridge Local Plan, which confirmed the principal propositions for the area which the University put forward. University structures are now being put in place to enable the University to plan both early and later developments. Full development will, of course, take place over some decades. The Council is grateful to Mr Alexander Johnston, an external member of the University Finance Committee, for agreeing to chair the strategy committee for North West Cambridge.

Land and buildings

9. The significant programme of capital building continued with new buildings being completed for the Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience (Huntingdon Road), the Department of Zoology (Madingley), the Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics, the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, and the Cancer Research Facility at Addenbrooke's. The sale of 2.5 ha of land at George Nuttall Close off Milton Road, Cambridge, for housing was completed during the year.

Government of the University

10. The Council, on advice from the statutory Nominating Committee, reappointed Professor A. C. Minson as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for planning and resources from 1 August 2006. This is a major function, which in particular requires leading the Planning and Resources Committee and the Resource Management Committee, and taking part in a wide variety of activities in the central management of the University and the development of University policy. Following recent changes of Statute the Pro-Vice-Chancellor is no longer Acting Secretary General and Acting Treasurer, as these offices have been terminated.

11. Later in the year, again after due process through the Nominating Committee, the Council reappointed the other four Pro-Vice-Chancellors with some redefinition of portfolios; these reappointments take effect from 1 January 2007:

Professor A. D. Cliff, human resources (redesignation)
Professor I. M. Leslie, research
Professor M. C. McKendrick, education
Dr K. B. Pretty, international strategy (redesignation).

12. Clarified and improved arrangements for voting in the University were approved by the Regent House on the recommendation of the Council and are now in force. This followed earlier consideration of a consultative report (or green paper). The Council hopes that it will be possible for more matters to be dealt with through green papers or consultative reports, both of the Council itself, and of other bodies in the University, such as the General Board and the principal policy committees. The Council hopes that this process can be further enhanced by the use, in particular, of web discussion methods. The Council plans to introduce significantly improved web arrangements for University business in the first half of 2007.

13. The Council has discussed matters of University governance on several occasions during the year, with the advice of the group chaired by the Master of Emmanuel, including the Master of Clare, Lord Simon, and Professor J. S. Bell. The Council does not believe that there is a necessity for major structural changes, and has therefore concluded that the University's priority should be to make such targeted changes as will improve further the University's capacity to undertake efficient and effective self government. The Council believes that the principal areas in which early such developments would assist the University are these:

(a The Council has considered some limited increase in the number of external members of the Council itself. An early green paper is planned.
(b Development, and codification, of the important roles of the Councils of the Schools and their chairs, about which consultation has been taking place during the academical year; a Report on this matter has recently been published (Reporter, p. 230).

14. The Council has arranged for the preparation of a comprehensive statement of the composition and responsibilities of the principal University bodies and authorities, including the Council, the General Board, and committees. This is for publication in the near future. It is intended as an aid to members of the University (and to members of committees and the central bodies) in taking part in University business.

15. The Council has agreed to adopt a code of practice to confirm conventions applying to members of the Council. This will soon be published for reference.

The Council

16. The Council has continued the relatively recently adopted improved pattern of work, with a sequence of approximately monthly ordinary meetings during the year (eleven) and two strategic meetings each academical year, one out of Cambridge held in September, and the other in Cambridge held in March. These strategic meetings have considered a variety of topics, including the principal elements of strategic planning, and aspects of University governance and management. Much detailed work of the Council is dealt with, under careful protocols which allow all members of the Council to be involved, by the Business Committee (legislative and similar work), the Executive Committee (legal and comparable work), and through frequent circulation of routine business and material for information and report.

17. The Council is responsible for the supervision of some University institutions (those not placed under the supervision of the General Board) and discharges this function particularly through the Planning and Resources and Personnel Committees, the participation of these institutions in strategic planning processes, and through the Finance Committee, which engages in discussions with institutions such as the Local Examinations Syndicate, and the Press (which has a somewhat different statutory status from that of other institutions).

18. The Council has received and published the reports of reviews of two divisions of the University Offices (the Estate Management and Building Service and the Health and Safety Division). The Council has authorized the next review of a division, to take place during 2006-07, to be of the Finance Division. The Registrary has also reported to the Council on a process of development of the Unified Administrative Service (UAS), designed to achieve greater clarity and coherence and to improve resource, personnel, and facilities management for the UAS. Some amendments of Ordinance may be necessary in due course if there are changes to divisional structures or titles.

19. The Information Strategy Group takes an overview of major information schemes. The Council is pleased to note continuing progress with the implementation of information systems supporting the University's key business processes. CUFS, the financial system, has been operational for some years now. CamSIS, the student information system, is operational and will be rolled out to futher University institutions and Colleges over the next few years. The next major scheme, which is in development, is for human resources (CHRIS).

20. The Joint Committee on Development (a Joint Committee of the University and the Colleges) has continued to play an active role in providing oversight and direction of the 800th Anniversary Fundraising Campaign. During 2005-06 there were successful public launches of the Campaign in Cambridge, London, New York, San Francisco, and Hong Kong.

The Council's work in 2006-07

21. The audited accounts of the University for 2005-06 (which for the first time include those of the Press) will be published in December 2006. The Council expects to report to the University in the spring of 2007, in the form of the Allocations Report, about the financial position of the University and the budget for 2007-08.

22. The Council also plans a systematic programme of strategic discussions during the year, in the course of which it expects to commission certain strategic reviews from other bodies in the University, and from individuals. The Council hopes then to publish a statement or statements of strategic directions in the academical year 2007-08.

23. The Council will maintain its continued monitoring of the developing Campaign for the 800th Anniversary Fundraising Campaign, and of the planning of development in North West Cambridge. Both these matters are normally reviewed termly by the Council, and may also be discussed at the strategic meetings.

Conclusion

24. The Council remarked in the Report last year that there are significant challenges ahead, especially in relation to resources, but that the Council believed that the strategies reported gave grounds for optimism about the future of the University, a matter of national, indeed international, significance. This remains true, but the Council believes that positive progress has been made in major fields, and will continue, so that the grounds for optimism are stronger than before.

11 December 2006 ALISON RICHARD, Vice-Chancellor BOB DOWLING G. A. REID
  Z. BARANSKI MARK FERGUSON DAVID SIMON
  RICHARD BARNES D. LOWTHER VERONICA SUTHERLAND
  NIGEL BROWN D. W. B. MACDONALD LIBA TAUB
  WILLIAM BROWN JAMES MATHESON JOAN M. WHITEHEAD
  MIKE CLARK MARTIN REES RICHARD WILSON

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Cambridge University Reporter 20 December 2006
Copyright © 2006 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.