Cambridge University Reporter

Report of the Council on governance: membership of the Council, etc.: Notice

3 December 2007

The Council has considered the remarks made at the Discussion held on 6 November 2007 (Reporter, p. 248) of the Report dated 22 October 2007.

Membership of the Council

The Report proposes that the number of external members of the Council should be increased from two to four (there are also 20 other members of the Council apart from the Chancellor: the Vice-Chancellor, sixteen elected senior members, and three elected students). The proposal is made to improve the good functioning of the Council in the conduct of University business, and not, contrary to the drift of some remarks made in the Discussion, for other reasons, nor, in particular, in response to external pressures.

It is important that the members of the Council in class (e) are external and independent of the University, and can be perceived as such. Otherwise their utility to the University is compromised. The method of appointment makes a significant contribution to demonstrating this externality and independence. The Nominating Committee, as already duly constituted by Ordinance (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 117), provides a more appropriate mechanism than any alternative proposed. It consists of the Chancellor, the High Steward, the Deputy High Steward, or a deputy for the Chancellor as chair (most recently the High Steward chaired the Committee); the Vice-Chancellor (whose appointment is confirmed by the Regent House); two members of the Council in classes (a), (b), and (c) (who are elected by the Regent House); and four members of the Nomination Board (who are appointed by Grace of the Senate on the nomination of the Council) at least two of whom are not members of the Regent House. It proceeds, as required by Ordinance, by public notice and considers applications and suggestions. Recommendations are put forward for approval by Grace. To achieve externality and independence on the part of those nominated, especially in relation to independence and externality from the Regent House, while giving the Regent House a veto on any recommendation, this constitutional arrangement, which has already worked successfully on one occasion, seems better than the suggestion made in the note of dissent and in the Discussion that the Regent House should directly elect the Nominating Committee, which would risk reducing the independence and externality of those recommended for appointment.

The arrangement in place provides:

The Council emphasizes that the non-resident members of University, such as the High Steward and members of the Nomination Board, are supporters of the University but can also take a broad view of what the University needs from a potential independent and external member.

The quorum

It was suggested in the Discussion that as the size of the Council has increased it would be appropriate for the quorum necessary to constitute a valid meeting to be increased also. At present Statute A, IV, 10 states that no business shall be transacted at a meeting unless seven members at least are present. The total membership of the Council is twenty-two (rising to twenty-four if the recommendation of this Report is approved) and for reserved business nineteen rising to twenty-one. Meetings of the Council are well attended, with significantly more members present than necessary for a quorum. However, in an emergency it might be necessary to discharge University business in circumstances where all members of the Council were not able to attend the meeting. The Council has considered whether a quorum of seven members is still appropriate and has agreed to recommend a change to the Statute to increase the quorum to nine.

The Council also intends that a review should take place of quoracy arrangements for University bodies in general, with particular regard to emergency management and business continuity.

The General Board

The Report proposes an amendment of Statute C, I, 9 about the frequency of meetings, to conform to current practice, requiring the General Board to meet monthly, rather than fortnightly. Currently the chairman of the General Board determines that there is not sufficient business to justify the intermediate meetings.

The General Board have established the monthly frequency of meetings over a period and are convinced that it is an efficient arrangement. Various procedural improvements have enabled the Board efficiently to conduct their business in this timetable. For example, there is greater consideration of University business by the major committees, and some delegation of decision to them (e.g. the Personnel Committee, the Planning and Resources Committee, the Education Committee, and the Buildings Committee). The Board have recently instituted a system of approval of routine business and business for information by circulation (corresponding to the now well-established system of circulation of similar Council business).

The present Report presents an opportunity to confirm in Statute a practice which is evidently satisfactory.

Professor Edwards asked that breaches of the provisions of Statutes and Ordinances about the conduct of University bodies including Boards, Syndicates, etc., should be brought to the attention of the Council. In the first instance such matters should be raised with the Registrary. The provisions of Statute K, 5 may also be relevant.

The next steps

The Council believes that the good conduct of University business would be advanced by the approval of the recommendations of the Report. It is therefore submitting a Grace (Grace 2, p. 360) for the approval of the recommendations and the amendment to Statute A, IV, 10 set out below.

Statute A


Chapter IV


Section 10.

By amending the last sentence so as to read:

No business shall be transacted at a meeting unless nine members at least are present.