Cambridge University Reporter

Annual Report of the General Board to the Council for the academical year 2005-06

The GENERAL BOARD present this Annual Report to the Council.

1. Management of Schools, Faculties, and Departments

1.1. Following the recent changes in the University's planning and budgeting arrangements in which the Councils of the Schools play a key role and exercise a high degree of autonomy for budgetary purposes, the Board undertook a consultation exercise among institutions proposing an enhancement of the role of the Chairmen of the Councils of the Schools to more appropriately reflect the weight of their responsibilities under the new arrangements and their place in the senior leadership of the University. The proposals have now been broadly accepted and a Report to the University recommending their implementation will be published in the Michaelmas Term 2006 [published on 13 December, see p. 230].

1.2. The principal changes in the structure of Faculties and Departments approved in the course of the year were:

The formation of a Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience, through the amalgamation of the Departments of Physiology and Anatomy (Reporter, 2005-06, p. 64), to develop an integrated programme of research and education in the biosciences
The establishment of a Faculty of Computer Science and Technology (Reporter, 2005-06, p. 143), recognizing the standing and maturity of Computer Sciences and its cross-linkages with cognate disciplines.

1.3. The Board continued to meet three times a term, supplemented by a procedure for handling more straightforward business between meetings by circular. These arrangements enabled the Board to devote more time to strategic issues including giving detailed consideration to the academic and financial plans of the Schools and the outcome of major reviews of Faculties and Departments.

1.4. Each of the Schools now has well-developed forward strategies for student numbers, and the balance between undergraduates, taught postgraduates, and research postgraduates, in the light of their assessments of capacity and the research strategies of particular disciplines. Arrangements, coordinated through the Undergraduate Admissions Committee, for managing undergraduate numbers are responsive and working well.

1.5. All the Schools are giving a very high priority to their research plans, in readiness for the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). A number of key senior appointments have been made, or are planned, both in core areas, and to play important leadership roles in areas which span more than one institution, for example Stem Cells, the Physics of Medicine, Statistics, Conservation Biology, Politics, and Modern Arabic. The Board expect to see the development of further cross cutting themes of global importance, for example in the fields of energy and sustainability. Building on the University's record of success in raising financial support raised from external sources, including the 800th Campaign, such initiatives should be a priority for strategic investment by the University.

1.6. The Board's consideration of the School plans highlighted the need for continued attention to ensuring congruence between academic and estate planning, particularly in relation to the West Cambridge Site and the development of the central sites, initially the Old Press Site. Notwithstanding the evolution of the Full Economic Costing (fEC) approach to the University's core activities, the Board are clear that there is a continuing need for a dedicated stream of capital funding for universities, through the HEFCE block grant, thus retaining the flexibility to determine investment in line with the University's strategic priorities.

1.7. The Board intend to give further thought to developing mechanisms for obtaining an external perspective on the work of institutions in the light of the experience of those Schools which have instituted international visiting committees.

1.8. In the forthcoming planning round the Board will be giving particular attention to the staffing profiles of the Schools and the integration of academic plans with the fund-raising priorities of the 800th Campaign.

Academic Standards and Quality Enhancement

2. Internal and national arrangements for quality assurance

2.1. The Board undertook the following reviews of institutions during the year: Faculty of English, Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic, Department of Veterinary Medicine, Centre of International Studies, Institute of Criminology, and Department of Chemistry. Through the Education Committee the reports of the following reviews were considered and implemented: the Faculties of English and of History; the Departments of Earth Sciences, Materials Science and Metallurgy, and Pharmacology; and a review of Part III courses in the Natural Sciences Tripos. The Board considered the reports of reviews of the Cambridge Programme for Industry and the Faculty of Oriental Studies. The review of the Faculty of Oriental Studies generated a set of very significant recommendations, for both the reorganization of the Faculty and reform of its teaching provision, implementation of which is being overseen by a special Advisory Group of the Board, chaired by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education). A Report to the University will be published in the Lent Term 2007.

2.2. The Board, with the Board of Graduate Studies, have also revised the systems for the local and University-level consideration of the reports of External Examiners, a key component of the University's quality assurance mechanisms.

2.3. The Board's Education Committee continued its scrutiny of reports produced by professional, regulatory, and statutory bodies and considered the reports of the Royal Institute of British Architects (on the Department of Architecture) and of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (on the Department of Chemical Engineering), which both commented favourably on these Departments' teaching.

2.4. In common with all other universities, the University was subject to a one-off Special Review of Research Degree Programmes organized by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) which concluded that the University's ability to secure and enhance the quality and standards of its research degree programmes was 'appropriate and satisfactory'. A Code of Practice for research degrees was approved for publication in 2006-07.

2.5. The Board in conjunction with the University's Audit Committee undertook an internal review of the University's collaborative educational provision (i.e. provision offered in partnership with other organizations). Such provision was highlighted as an area for attention in the last QAA Institutional Audit and considerable effort has since been put into managing the attendant risks. The findings will help to inform future policy in this area.

2.6. The Board's Education Committee has started the planning for the University's next QAA Institutional Audit which will take place in the Lent Term 2008. The process will place a greater emphasis on enhancement of quality and the Education Committee is considering how best its assurance procedures can contribute to quality enhancement.

2.7. The Board continued to participate in HEFCE's quality assurance initiatives, despite its reservations about the utility and cost-effectiveness of certain measures, including the provision of information for the national Teaching Quality Information (TQI) website and facilitating the participation of final year undergraduates in the National Student Survey. Once again, the overall student response rate (of 28%) was too low to permit publication of the University's ratings by HEFCE on the TQI website, except in the case of the Education Tripos.

3. Teaching, learning, and assessment

3.1. A Pedagogic Support Steering Group, with the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education as Chair, was appointed to scope the University's needs for pedagogic support and report to the Board in the Lent Term 2007.

3.2. The University has successfully bid to HEFCE for a further tranche of HEFCE Teaching Quality Enhancement Funding (of over £500,000 a year for three years) which will support certain staff development and community outreach activities, as well as the objectives of the University's revised Learning and Teaching Strategy. One such objective is to explore how the activities of current contributors to pedagogic support (including the Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies (CARET), the Disability Resource Centre, the Education Section of the Academic Division, the Language Centre, and the Staff Development Section of the Personnel Division) can be better co-ordinated and enhanced for the benefit of Faculties and Departments.

3.3. The Board's Education Committee continues to work closely with the Senior Tutors' Committee, for example in carrying forward the University's responsibilities to encourage undergraduate students to participate in Personal Development Planning (PDP). Building on last year's PDP survey and pilot, a PDP website, using CamTOOLs, has been set up and widely publicized. A pilot for the personal development programme, Navigator, has been undertaken for male undergraduates as a counterpart to the Springboard programme available to female undergraduates.

3.4. The final research project commissioned by the Joint Committee on Academic Performance, 'The undergraduate experience among three ethnic minority groups', was completed and a summary of the findings published in March 2006 (Reporter, 2005-06, p. 479). The Board were satisfied by the project's generally positive findings, and they record their gratitude to the Joint Committee for its valuable work over the years.

3.5. The implementation of a Good Practice Strategy continued in 2005-06 through the Learning and Teaching Support (LTS) initiative, which hosted five well-attended events covering a range of topics relating to enhancement of learning and teaching. Supporting material for the events was provided through a forum tool, accessible by all members of the University.

4. Degrees, courses, and examinations

4.1. New postgraduate courses approved during 2005-06, included: M.Phil. courses in Public Health, in Russian Studies, and in Screen Media and Culture; an M.St. course in the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations (in collaboration with the Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations); and a Certificate in Postgraduate Study in Astronomy. The Board also approved the introduction or revision of a number of programmes offered by the Institute of Continuing Education and the Cambridge Programme for Industry. The Board expect their engagement with such courses to develop further, following consideration of a strategic report on the whole range of Cambridge's lifelong learning provision, prepared by the Council for Lifelong Learning at the end of the academical year.

4.2. The most significant changes to the regulations for Tripos, M.Phil., and other examinations approved were: the introduction of a new subject in Part II of the Natural Sciences Tripos, arising from the establishment of the Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience; changes to the regulations for the Bachelor of Theology; and the introduction of regulations to enable students to progress from a Postgraduate Certificate in Education to study for the M.Ed. Degree.

4.3. The Board, through an officer group chaired by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Personnel), kept in close touch with Chairmen of Examiners during the examinations and marking and classing period, so as to monitor the likely impact of industrial action by members of the AUT (subsequently, the UCU). In the event, that impact was limited, thanks to a settlement reached in June 2006. The Board are most grateful for the efforts of all concerned who ensured that examinations were concluded in time for General Admission to proceed smoothly.

5. Policy consultation and development

5.1. The Board was active in reviewing a number of key University policies during 2005-06, particularly the development of a revised Learning and Teaching Strategy, to be finalized in the Michaelmas Term 2006. They have also reviewed provision of non-Tripos teaching of languages; and, revised policies and procedures for detecting and dealing with plagiarism in examinations. The Board also consulted Faculties and Departments on their practices for the assessment of undergraduate students. The information gathered through the consultation has aided the Board in responding to a national consultation of the future of classing of undergraduate degrees and the introduction of a national credit framework. It also informed the development of University transcripts, now provided routinely to all students on graduation.

6. International matters

6.1 The Reports of the two Working Parties, on International Academic Relations, and a second on International Student Recruitment, Selection and Support, were endorsed by the Board and published in May 2006 (Reporter, 2005-06, pp. 614 and 623 respectively). In line with the Working Parties' recommendations, the International Office has now broadened its remit to include support for the University's wider international activities, particularly with regard to strategic academic links, and the development of regional- or country-specific strategies.

7. Graduate education

7.1. The Board's Review Committee for Graduate Education, jointly chaired by the Pro-Vice-Chancellors for Education and Research, has continued to work through its considerable remit during the year, paying particular attention to the organization of graduate education across the University and to questions of fees and funding, directed towards ensuring that the University is able to recruit, and support, the most academically able graduate students.

7.2. The Board of Graduate Studies integrated its operations fully with the CamSIS database; a timely, efficient admissions service has been achieved and progress made with improving services for current students and their supervisors. That Board has assumed responsibility for the management of the Overseas Research Studentships Scheme (ORSAS), including making the final decision on awards; this has enabled decisions to be announced much earlier than previously.

7.3. A full Report by the Board of Graduate Studies will be published at the end of the current calendar year.

Planning and Resources

8. University finance

8.1. The Board, through the Planning and Resources Committee (a joint committee of the Council and the Board), have played an active part in the consideration of the annual budget and the financial planning process. They note the cautiously optimistic remarks in the Council's Allocations Report about the overall financial position of the University. Contributing to that is the discipline engendered by the annual planning framework, which provides a structured process for reconciling aspirations with expected resources and gives Schools a financial basis for future planning.

8.2. A significant contribution to the expected improvement to the financial position of the University comes from the additional income expected to flow through the adoption of Full Economic Costing (fEC) for research, and the consequential increased flow of funds, particularly for Research Council funded projects. This has involved a major project overseen by the Research Policy Committee involving the Planning and Resource Allocation Office (PRAO), the Research Services Division (RSD), the Finance Division, and the Management Information Services Division (MISD). While not without implementation problems, the new approach is beginning to be embedded within the University's research community. Further work remains to be done during 2006-07.

8.3. Increasingly important in dealing with sponsors and funding bodies is having a robust mechanism for breaking down costs between teaching, research, and other activities. A key element in that is the periodic survey which has been done of academic staff time. In order to keep the information it provides as up to date as possible, that exercise will now happen every year, but the sampling frequency will be reduced so that academic staff should experience the same number of surveys, but spread more evenly over their career.

9. Capital programmes

9.1. The most substantial project initiated in the year was the proposed establishment of an Institute for the study of plant diversity and development with substantial external funding from the Gatsby Foundation for a new building and continuing operational costs. Following the approval of the first stage Report on the building (Reporter, 2005-06, p. 885), work is now proceeding with both the design of the building and the Institute's academic programmes.

9.2. The HEFCE capital funding programmes, Science Research Investment Fund round 2 (SRIF 2) and Project Capital 3 (Learning & Teaching), were both closed at the end of March 2006. The University used its full allocation in both cases and has virtually completed both programmes, having only five of about 93 projects waiting to be signed off.

9.3. As reported last year the University was allocated £77,588,676 by HEFCE in their 'Capital funding for learning and teaching, research and infrastructure' programme 2006-08. Of this, £68,761,055 was allocated specifically for research infrastructure while the balance of £8,827,621 was for learning and teaching. Implementation of the programme, and expenditure on the projects supported, is well advanced.

9.4. HEFCE have subsequently made two additional capital funding streams available:

(i) 'Additional research capital funding 2006-07 and 2007-08', from which the University has been allocated an amount of £3,289,627 for each of the two years.
(ii) 'Additional capital funding for learning and teaching 2006-08', with the University's allocation being £1,524,572.

Thus HEFCE have made available to the University total capital funding of £85,692,502 to be spent over the two years 2006-07 and 2007-08. The future of these schemes is not guaranteed, given the changes in national funding policies. The Board are concerned that the provision of a dedicated capital funding scheme from HEFCE for allocation in accordance with institutional priorities and plans should be reiterated and preferably incorporated in the HEFCE block grant.

10. Establishment of Professorships

10.1. As a result of generous benefactions raised through the 800th Campaign, or other external funds, the Board proposed the establishment of the following new Professorships:

the His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Professorship of Modern Arabic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies;
the Sigrid Rausing Professorship of Collaborative Anthropology in the Department of Social Anthropology;
the Moran Professorship of Conservation Development in the Department of Geography;
the Winton Professorship of the Public Understanding of Risk in the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics;
the Herchel Smith Professorship of Molecular Biology in the Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience;
the Miriam Rothschild Professorship of Conservation Biology in the Department of Zoology;
the Genzyme Professorship of Experimental Medicine in the Department of Medicine;
a Professorship of Management Studies, to be held concurrently with the Directorship of the Judge Institute of Management, in Judge Business School;
a Professorship of Financial Policy, associated with the Directorship of the Cambridge Endowment for Research in Finance, in Judge Business School.

10.2. The following Professorships were established with the support of prestigious awards from the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, and the Royal Society, respectively:

a Professorship of Stem Cell Biology in the Department of Biochemistry;
a Professorship of Molecular Immunology in the Department of Pathology;
a Royal Society Professorship of Chemical Biology in the Department of Chemistry.

10.3. In addition, the following Professorships were established supported on general University funds by the reallocation of funding within the Schools concerned:

a Professorship of Historical Anthropology (tied to the Directorship of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) in the Faculty of Archaeology and Anthropology;
a Professorship of Law in the Faculty of Law;
a Professorship of Politics in the Department of Politics;
a Professorship of Systems Biology and Biochemistry in the Department of Biochemistry;
a Professorship of Comparative Immunogenetics in the School of the Biological Sciences;
a Professorship of Statistics in the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics.

10.4. Professorships of Applied Mathematics, Physics, and Veterinary Science were established in advance of the retirement of existing Professors in the relevant Departments as part of the planning for the 2008 RAE.

11. Research policy and the Research Assessment Exercise

11.1. The Board are advised on policy issues arising from the funding and conduct of research within the University by its Research Policy Committee. The year 2005-06 was dominated by two major themes as well as the implementation of fEC (Full Economic Costing). The Committee reviewed and proposed the new policy on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) which received its approval on 15 December 2005. The Committee has established a small working group which is engaged in identifying the scope and extent of research ethics committees across the University, and to make recommendations to the Board in the Lent Term 2007.

11.2. The Board are closely monitoring the planning and preparation of the University's submission for the 2008 RAE. On the strategic side, the Board approved measures, including the proleptic filling of vacant offices, that should enhance the University's return in a range of disciplines. Operationally the Board have approved policies and procedures in the light of the 2008 RAE assessment process and further guidance from HEFCE. This has required the production of a University RAE Equality Code of Practice, drawn up in consultation with the Chairmen of the Councils of the Schools, which will govern the preparation of the University's RAE return. Equality briefing sessions have also been run for those who will have decision-making responsibilities in the preparation of RAE submissions; and a University-wide policy governing the operation of RAE selection committees at the local Unit of Assessment level has been devised and documented. All documentation is available on the University's RAE website (

11.3. Good working arrangements have been established between Faculties and Departments and the RAE administrative team based in the Old Schools. In view of the uncertainty over the release date of the Funding Councils' RAE database, and as an insurance against the software problems experienced in earlier Exercises, a local Excel-based system has been devised to enable data to be entered now. It is hoped that the transfer to the web-based system will be effected centrally during the course of Lent Term 2007. A timetable for the submission of draft RAE returns has been published which will allow the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Chairmen of the Councils of the Schools the opportunity to undertake a full review.

11.4. The Board formulated the University's response to the Department for Education and Skills, proposals for a move to a metrics-based system for the assessment of research quality.

12. Personnel

12.1. Following approval of the proposals of the Council and the General Board concerning the pay and grading of non-clinical University staff, throughout the academical year the focus of much of the work of the Personnel Committee has been on an extensive programme of implementation which is nearing completion. The General Board wish to express their thanks to University staff, heads and administrators of institutions, and trades union representatives for their hard work in this process.

13. Health and Safety

13.1. The Board receive assurance and advice on performance in health and safety principally via the Health and Safety Executive Committee (HSEC). The Annual Report of that Committee has been approved and is awaiting publication in the Reporter.

13.2. The Board note with concern that visits and attention from all enforcement agencies, predominantly the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency, have continued at a high level, with consequent implications for time commitments of staff, both safety specialists and in Faculties and Departments. It is of the utmost importance that all staff and students maintain a high level of awareness of, and attention to, safety issues through active engagement in programmes of audit, staff development, and training, as well as numerous less formal interactions at Faculty and Department level.

13.3. New legislation was introduced in radiological safety, noise, vibration, and work at heights, and the control measures required by these regulations were implemented during 2005-06, as were arrangements to ensure compliance with the Human Tissue Act.

13.4. 'Licensing' in the broadest sense applies to an increasing range of work at the University. Thus, in 2005-06, the Health and Safety Division applied for, and maintained on behalf of the University, more than 30 licences for registrations and work connected with safety. This increase reflects government strategy and the enhanced security and counter-terrorist measures, both of which impact on departmental operational practices.

14. Libraries

14.1. The Board's Committee on Libraries has been pleased to note the success of the scheme for the co-ordination of journals, piloted in the Schools of the Biological and Physical Sciences. Much of the duplication of expensive science titles has been eliminated and plans to extend the scope of the scheme to other Schools are underway. Discussions about the duplication of journals between the Colleges and between the Colleges and the University have begun, which may lead to the inclusion of College Libraries in the scheme.

14.2. The potential of the ebooks project for developing delivery of undergraduate study materials across all subjects has been recognized and is supported by a growing number of Colleges. In addition, the project has received a significant pledge of funding from the Isaac Newton Trust.

14.3. 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.