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Twelfth Report of the Board of Scrutiny: Notice by the Council

1 October 2007

The Council wishes to comment briefly on selected issues raised in the Twelfth Report of the Board of Scrutiny (Reporter, 2006-07 p. 914) in advance of the Discussion of the Report to be held at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 9 October 2007. The Council will, of course, comment more fully after the Discussion.

Governance

The Council is interested to note the remarks of the Board about governance (paragraphs 25-32). The Council has received separately comments from the Board about the Council's recent green paper on governance, which are already available on the Board of Scrutiny's own website and will be published in due course with the other comments on the green paper. The Council is pleased to note that the Board welcomes the green paper's emphasis on governance being driven by purpose and effective policy, rather than by structural change for its own sake (paragraph 28) and the Board's opinion in favour of a maximum of four external, independent, members of the Council (paragraph 29). The Council notes the Board's statement that it does not believe that this will have a significant effect on the overall balance of the Council (paragraph 29). The Council expects to report to the Regent House during the Michaelmas Term 2007 about governance proposals in various areas.

The Unified Administrative Service

The Board suggests that the newly appointed Registrary should be given the opportunity to review the proposals for the development of the UAS prior to their implementation. The new Registrary is now in office and is already involved in the discussions.

CamSIS

The Board recommended (Recommendation 8) that the newly appointed Registrary and Director of the Management Information Services Division (MISD) should review with some urgency both the governance and implementation aspects of CamSIS, the student information system, and whether there are likely to be any cost increases incurred in bringing the system up to standard and that could affect the long-term cost-effectiveness of the project. The Council notes that CamSIS is the most complicated business system to be implemented to date by the collegiate University. Significant elements are already live as the following 2006-07 transaction figures indicate: 11,117 examination entries made, 187 class-lists produced, 6,808 transcripts produced, 10,615 degree conferments processed, 78,509 public examination (A-level) results processed for 12,353 UCAS applicants, 4,300 online applications for graduate study. However, the project has suffered from the failure of a major supplier to deliver the necessary UK specific software to support UCAS, the Higher Education Statistics Agency, and the Student Loans Company. The contract with the supplier was terminated and the CamSIS development team took over responsibility for rewriting the software code. To enable this to occur the project board decided to delay the roll out to further Colleges and Departments whilst the rewrite was done. The Council is advised that this work is proceeding well and that the expected improvements in student administration will be realized albeit more than a year later than had been originally planned. This is not expected to have a major impact on the long-term cost effectiveness of the investment. The Council expects the Registrary and the Director of MISD to report on CamSIS before the end of Michaelmas 2007, as a matter of due diligence.

Pay and Grading

The Council notes the Board's comments and recommendations on the procedure for the assimilation of all staff onto the single pay spine (paragraphs 51-71). The Board commented on the insufficiency of the information sent out to members of staff and the lack of clarity in some of this information. The Board recommended that the University review existing electronic and other means of communication with a view to improving the way it communicates with staff (Recommendation 9). As far as the assimilation exercise was concerned, the aim was to keep staff as fully informed as possible within the channels of communication currently available - this was done by means of roadshows, letters to all staff members, the Staff News which was sent out at regular intervals by the Personnel Division, and the Pay and Grading website. The Council agrees with the Board that internal communication in general is an issue for the University and notes that this is being addressed, in part at least, through a review being undertaken by the Director of External Affairs and Communications.

The Board also referred to the availability of role descriptors to some but not all members of staff at the time of writing the PD33s. As the Board noted, the intention had been not to publish descriptors until after all PD33s had been submitted. The Council is advised by the Director of the Personnel Division that the point of the PD33 was to gather evidence and that the whole evidence was then compared against a range of descriptors to find the best match. It was unlikely that anyone was helped particularly by seeing the descriptors in advance. The Council, however, accepts that there may have been the perception that some individuals could have gained an advantage. The Council agrees with the Board's Recommendation 10 - that in any future situation where staff are asked to provide information for central processing, all should receive full information on the process and its implications before responses are required.

The Board recommended (Recommendation 11) that relevant Departmental administrators should be given HERA training to facilitate the grading of new and vacant posts. An important component of any role analysis is consistency in outcomes; this comes from the experience of a small number of analysts scoring a large number of roles and being able to compare outcomes. Therefore it is not evident that it is necessary or desirable to train Departmental administrators in HERA scoring methodology in order to write accurate PD33s.

The Board also recommended (Recommendation 12) that the University should publish detailed statistical information on staff pay, including all the information promised in the amended Graces of 27 July 2005, as soon as possible and annually thereafter. The Council intends, on the recommendation of the Personnel Committee, to publish information on the timescale already agreed. Information has already been published on the Pay and Grading exercise (Reporter, 2006-07, p. 612) and on the Professorial pay review (Reporter, 2006-07, p. 770). An equal pay audit and impact analysis is in hand.


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Cambridge University Reporter 03 October 2007
Copyright © 2007 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.