Cambridge University Reporter

Annual Report of the Council for the academical year 2006-07

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

The purpose of this Annual Report is to summarize the activity of the University Council during the academical year 2006-07 and to draw attention to some key policy areas which the Council and other bodies are addressing. The Council is by Statute the principal policy making and executive body of the University. It receives from the General Board an Annual Report on the Board's own work, particularly in the areas of education and research. The two Reports are published, together with the Financial Statements for the financial year 2006-07.

The Chancellor

1. On 17 April 2007 the University celebrated the 30th anniversary of The Duke of Edinburgh's Chancellorship. As part of the celebration, Professor Timothy Clutton-Brock gave his inaugural lecture as Prince Philip Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the Senate-House, in the presence of the Chancellor.

The 800th Anniversary

2. The University is to celebrate its 800th Anniversary in 2009. The Council has discussed imaginative proposals to mark this important date put forward by a working party chaired by Professor Jeremy Sanders, and plans will be announced soon.

The collegiate University

3. The Council is pleased to record the incorporation by Royal Charter of Hughes Hall as a College in the University.

4. An amendment to Statute G, II, about the basis of assessment of College contributions for University purposes, has been approved during the year by Her Majesty in Council. A fuller revision of this Statute has been agreed after extensive intercollegiate discussion and consultation and the Council expects to report to the University during the academical year 2007-08.

The University's financial and resource position

5. Planning and resources matters are considered through planning and budget processes controlled by the Planning and Resources Committee, which is a joint Committee of the Council and the General Board, and includes in its membership Chairs of the Schools. The budget process has the active participation of the Resource Management Committee, and the Council's Finance Committee, which is concerned with the overall financial position of the University. The results of this important work are presented annually in the form of the Council's Annual Report proposing allocations from the University Chest, a document which is being progressively developed to form a full budget document for the 'teaching and research' University, that is the University as an institution not including Cambridge University Press or the Local Examinations Syndicate (nor the Colleges).

6. The consolidated accounts for 2005-06 (which include the Press and the Local Examinations Syndicate) were certified by the external auditors as 'true and fair' (which was possible because of the consolidation). In a further improvement to accounting and reporting, the accounts for 2006-07 are prepared for submission to the Higher Education Funding Council for England by the earlier date of 30 November (rather than 31 December as previously). The Council is grateful for the co-operation of the Press, the Local Examinations Syndicate, and the Colleges in enabling these improvements to take place.

7. A significant element in the future of University budgeting is assessment, in addition to the recurrent needs of the University, of the capital position of the University, particularly in relation to the funding of future capital projects which the University may well have itself to finance in whole or part, for example the redevelopment or improvement of some long-developed operational sites, and the development of non-operational lands in the Cambridge sub-region. In this connection the resource aspects of the strategic directions process (see below) are particularly relevant.

8. The present budgetary position of the University is positive, although the Council's aim of producing a significant margin of free resource has not yet been attained. It remains an important priority. There are several reasons why progress has not been as swift as the Council would have wished: principal among these is the effect of the slower than hoped for national implementation of the policy of full economic costing of research, which has not yet fully kicked in to bring in to the University the resource which research requires. An uncertainty is the coming rebasing of HEFCE block grant funding of research following the present Research Assessment Exercise. The future arrangements for determining the research element of block grant are a matter of prime importance to the University. The Council and the General Board have therefore ensured that the University contributes fully to discussions about future policy in this area, both in its own right and in concert with like-minded universities.

9. An important development during the year has been the establishment of the Investment Office, headed by Mr Nick Cavalla, the Chief Investment Officer, who took up his post in the spring. Working with the Investment Board, a Committee appointed by the Council which reports to the Council through the Finance Committee, policies for the future direction of the Endowment Fund (previously the Amalgamated Fund) are in development.

Strategic directions

10. The Council has initiated a process of consideration of strategic directions for the University, and a series of papers by Pro-Vice-Chancellors, officers of the Colleges' Committee, the then Registrary, and others, on education, research, the collegiate University, resources, and governance and management have been considered by the Council on various occasions during the year, and notably at the strategic meetings held in April and September 2007. The Council will soon publish these papers on its website for the information of those interested, and will be conducting further strategic assessments which it plans to discuss in the spring of 2008.

Development and the Campaign

11. The Council receives regular reports about the progress of the Campaign for the 800th Anniversary. A campaign report has been published ( Excellent progress has been made towards campaign goals.

Major developments and the University's Estate

12. On 2 February 2007 Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh visited Cambridge to open the Li Ka Shing Centre which houses the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute, on the Addebrooke's site. This major collaboration between the leading cancer charity and the University, with its emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration, will make a real difference to the future diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer.

13. A strategic planning project of great importance to the future of the University is that associated with the development of land at North West Cambridge, about which the Council is advised through a Strategy Committee chaired by Mr Alexander Johnston, an external member of the Finance Committee. One of the University's early goals would be to secure opportunities for the development of housing and other accommodation, but it seems at present that early development may not be possible until after the two planning authorities concerned, Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council, have finalized their joint Area Action Plan for the site in 2009. The Strategy Committee has overseen the preparation of representations to the Councils on their issues and options consultation, and further representations will be made during 2007-08 in subsequent stages of formal consultation.

Land and buildings

14. The significant programme of capital expenditure continued, with a new building completed on the Addenbrooke's site for the Institute of Metabolic Science, and large-scale refurbishments completed on the Wellcome Trust Centre for SBI (Systems Biology Institute), the Mond Building (New Museums), the Raised Faculty Building (Sidgwick Avenue), as well as other schemes for Plant Sciences, Zoology, and Biochemistry (Downing Site and New Museums Site), and the roof of the Seeley History Library (Sidgwick Avenue).

Human Resources

15. During the year the Personnel Committee and much of the work in the Personnel Division has continued to focus on the assimilation of staff to the single spine/new grading structure. An interim report on outcomes from the exercise was published (Reporter, 2006-07, p. 612). Other aspects of the national Framework Agreement have also been taken forward in partnership with the trades unions, including harmonization of terms and conditions and career pathways. Work on the introduction of the Cambridge Human Resources Information System (CHRIS) has continued throughout the year, achieving go-live in Summer 2007 which is being followed by a period of parallel running. The year has also seen engagement on a wide range of policy matters including disability and gender equality schemes, pension provision, age discrimination, fixed term working, child protection. Work has also begun on leadership and management skills development programmes to be introduced in 2008. Much of the activity has been scrutinized by applying the self-assessment tool for people management which is feeding into a revision of the University's HR Strategy and will ensure the mainstreaming of funds from HEFCE under the Rewarding and Developing Staff initiative.

Student matters

16. The Council has oversight of student matters generally, and works principally through the Standing Advisory Committee on Student Matters, which includes in its membership the principal officers of Cambridge University Students Union and the Graduate Union, and the elected student members of the Council and the General Board. This Committee is responsible to the Council for, in particular, the University's oversight under the Education Acts of the two unions.

17. During the year the student complaints procedure has been simplified, to take account of the additional complaint channel which is now available to students through the service of the national office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA). Information about complaints and applications to OIA and student complaints resolved internally will be provided during 2007-08.

Governance and management

18. In April 2007 the Council issued for consultation a green paper about developing governance, which raised various possible developments for consideration, including a small increase in the number of external members of the Council and arrangements for the chairmanship of the Council. Various comments have been made and have been published. The Council has since reported to the University (Reporter, 2007-08, p. 109).

19. Statutory changes about the responsibilities of the Councils of the Schools and their chairs have been introduced. These codify and modernize the statements of responsibilities of the Schools and their chairs, a matter of considerable importance as the budgetary and other activities of the Schools develop.

20. The Council is the authority responsible for the University Offices, and various University service institutions which are not under the supervision of General Board. The University Offices and Unified Administrative Service (UAS) more generally are in a process of development and the Council has encouraged the then Registrary and his successor to proceed with improvements in organization and management. The Council expects that the organization for Council institutions, and service institutions generally, will be further reviewed and developed during the coming years.

21. The planned wider implementation of CamSIS, the student information system, has been delayed by almost a year as a result of problems with UK-specific software features delivered by the supplier. The Project Board has taken decisive recovery action, and has advised the Council that progress will resume on a sound footing in the coming year.

22. The Council appointed Dr Jonathan Nicholls, EM, Registrar and Secretary of the University of Birmingham, and previously Registrar of the University of Warwick, as Registrary with effect from 1 October 2007.

The conduct of Council business

23. The membership of the Council changed following the elections held in the Michaelmas Term 2006.

24. The Council has continued its practice of holding strategic meetings, in principle two a year, one in September (usually residential out of Cambridge) and one in the Easter vacation (usually non-residential in Cambridge). Discussion at the September 2006 and 2007 meetings concentrated on governance and strategic directions, and that held in April 2007 particularly on the strategic directions process, with the participation of the Chairs of the Councils of the Schools.

25. The streamlining of the arrangements for Council business, to permit meetings to concentrate on matters of real significance, with routine business dealt with, under careful protocols which allow all members of the Council to participate if they desire, through the Business Committee and the system of submission of business by circulation, has continued to prove valuable. In the Lent Term 2007 the Council adopted a code of practice for members of the Council, which is to be published. This code represents a useful model for other bodies in the University.

26. Much of the work of the Council is informed by the advice and recommendation of other bodies, to which the Council records its and the University's thanks. Particularly these include the Council's own Finance and Audit Committees, and the major joint committees of the Council and General Board (the Personnel Committee, the Planning and Resources Committee, the Buildings Committee, and the Resource Management Committee). Education and research, which are to a significant degree the responsibility of the General Board, are the subject of advice from the Education and Research Policy Committees of the Board.

Dr Timothy Mead

27. Dr Timothy Mead retired as Registrary on 30 September 2007, after a decade of service to the University, in the course of which he energetically supported two successive Vice-Chancellors, and the Council itself, during periods of some difficulty and challenge, and led major developments in the administrative services of the University, both within the UAS and more broadly. The Council records the appreciation of the Council and the University for this distinguished service.
26 November 2007 ALISON RICHARD, Vice-ChancellorM. CLARK G. A. REID