Cambridge University Reporter


Tuesday, 22 January 2008

A Discussion was held in the Senate-House. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Cliff was presiding, with the Senior Proctor, the Junior Proctor, a Pro-Proctor, the Registrary, and fifteen other persons present.

The following Reports were discussed:

Report of the General Board, dated 28 November 2007, on the establishment of a Professorship of Education (p. 358).

No comments were made on this Report.

Report of the General Board, dated 28 November 2007, on the establishment of a Professorship of Macroeconomics (p. 359).

No comments were made on this Report.

Third Report of the Council, dated 10 December 2007, on amendments of Statute G, II (Financial relations between the University and the Colleges: the Colleges Fund) (p. 372).

Professor A. W. F. EDWARDS (read by Dr A. L. R. FINDLAY):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am glad to read that the Council have secured the consent of the Colleges for these proposals as required by the 1923 Oxford and Cambridge Universities Act. Future historians will find the background covered in my remarks on this subject at the Discussion a year ago (Reporter, 2006-07, p. 244).

When the Council summarily dismissed those remarks and submitted Grace 3 of 10 January 2007 without having obtained the required consent I immediately wrote to the Vice-Chancellor suggesting that she might use her power to withdraw the Grace for further consideration. I drew her attention to the legal opinions on the question and to the letter sent to Heads of Houses by the Registrary Dr Fleet on an earlier occasion. She did not act on my suggestion, or indeed acknowledge it, so when the Grace was approved I wrote to the Commissary under the procedure of Statute D, V, representing to him that the decision was 'procedurally unsatisfactory' on legal grounds. On 5 February I submitted my formal request that he quash the Grace, using the forms provided by the Old Schools.

I received the Commissary's ruling from the Old Schools four months later, on 7 June, though it was signed and dated 22 May. He had rejected my request. There being no provision for appeal, the Privy Council then approved the change of Statute embodied in the Grace.

Though obliged to accept the ruling, I wish to state that, having taken professional legal advice, I do not accept the Commissary's legal arguments behind it, and intend to give my reasons in an article to which reference may be made in future should the problem ever arise again.


Deputy Vice-Chancellor, my contribution to this Discussion does not relate primarily to the issue of College contributions. Rather, I want to talk about how College accounts, on the basis of which those contributions are determined, are prepared and published. This subject is relevant to today's Discussion, since it is acknowledged in the Report that evidence derived from College accounts was used in the preparation of the Report.

I have been concerned with this matter for a long time, and have raised it (ad nauseam, some might say) on several occasions when I was on the University Council during the 1990s, and at Discussions in this place.1 I have consistently argued that all Colleges (like all components of the University including Cambridge University Press) should make available to the public annual accounts in a format which provides a true and fair view of their financial affairs. We have made great progress, but we still have a little way to go. The Press, after some dogged behind-the-scenes resistance, now prepares its accounts 'in compliance with the Statement of Recommended Practice: Accounting and Reporting by Charities (revised 2005) ('the SORP')' - at least that is what it claims on page 55 of the Annual Report and Accounts of the Press for the year ended 30 April 2007. (The SORP itself can be found at

I am not competent to assess in detail the extent to which the Press accounts now conform to the SORP, but one particular provision that is easy to understand can be found in paragraph 236 of the SORP which includes the following words: 'Where a charity is subject to a statutory audit then the notes should also show the number of employees whose emoluments for the year … fell within each band of £10,000 from £60,000 upwards'. The Press Accounts prior to those most recently published contained that information, but I could not find it in the most recent Accounts; 2 I wonder why not.

Several years ago, the Colleges decided that they did not wish to follow the then available SORPs such as the one drafted by the Charity Commission, notwithstanding an observation of the former Senior Bursar of Trinity. Some years ago, I showed him a copy of the Eton College accounts prepared in accordance with the Charity Commission SORP, and he assured me that he would have no difficulty in producing a similar set of accounts for Trinity 'given a wet Thursday afternoon'. The Bursars of most of the Cambridge Colleges decided, in spite of the immensely hard work required, that they would have to develop their own SORP which, we are assured, now conforms to current accounting standards. The new form of accounts has been adopted by all but two of the Colleges, and is now published annually by the compliant Colleges in the Reporter. It is known as the 'Recommended Cambridge College Accounts (RCCA)' and is referred to in paragraphs 4 and 8 of the Report we are discussing today. The RCCA was the result of hard labour by a group of College Bursars lasting for several years, and spearheaded by the late Charles Larkum who opened the Discussion of the matter in this place in July 2003.3

We read in paragraph 4 of the present Report that 'the Fees Sub-Committee have been developing their proposals and have been collecting the necessary accurate information on capital values through the Recommended Cambridge College Accounts (RCCA), the new form of College accounts'. Paragraph 8 talks of the use of 'estimated figures based on the RCCA for 2003-04, 2004-05, and 2005-06'. One therefore assumes that those who prepared this Report must have had available to them the accounts of all the Colleges in RCCA format, and yet accounts in that format for two of the thirty-one Colleges have been notably absent from the Special Editions of the Reporter entitled 'Abstracts of the Accounts of the Colleges' now published in March of each year. (The title of this weighty document is surely now inappropriate, since the accounts contained in it are, with just two exceptions, not abstracts, but full accounts which comply with modern accounting standards?) The Colleges whose accounts do not so comply are Christ's and Trinity. They are allowed to continue with 1926-style financial reporting in the Reporter as a result of a shabby little 'opt-out clause' (Statute T, 54(b)).

If, as the Report seems to imply, accounts were available in RCCA format for all Colleges, why were they not published in that format in the Reporter? If, on the other hand, they were not available to those who drafted the present Report because they had not been published in the Reporter, then the omission should have been acknowledged in the Report. It is, of course, an important omission since the accounts of the wealthiest College, Trinity, which is such a generous benefactor to so many activities in the University, would not have been available in the RCCA format, and other means would need to have been found to get hold of information on such things as capital values.

Some information about capital values, even in the case of Trinity, has, since at least 2001, been made public by its Senior Bursar.4 Thus in November 2007, in 'The Senior Bursar's Notes on the Accounts', he conceded that the 'Statutory Accounts … make no provision for a full balance sheet', but he went on to report 'an estimated value of £764.1 million for the assets of the College (excluding College buildings and other artefacts)', as well as 'an audited valuation of £92.7m for the College's Amalgamated Trusts Fund'. So, slowly but surely they are moving towards the publication of a true and fair view. Given that they have come this far, I would urge the Master and Fellows of Trinity College to bite the bullet and adopt the RCCA in its entirety. If there are aspects of it that Trinity don't like, they should join the RCCA fraternity and argue for change from within rather than scorning the RCCA from without. The late President Lyndon Johnson's wise words about J. Edgar Hoover, tents, and direction of micturition spring to mind.

To be fair, Christ's does publish on its website accounts which conform to a SORP,5 but oddly Christ's has chosen to adopt the SORP issued by the Charity Commission which was found to be unfit for purpose by most Bursars. Christ's are not permitted to use the Charity Commission SORP when publishing their accounts in the Reporter. What is it, I wonder, that Christ's find so objectionable about the RCCA? I would urge them to join Trinity in adopting the RCCA and then pressing for such modifications to it as they feel are necessary.

It is high time that all Colleges should (a) stop publishing their accounts in the now utterly discredited 1926 format, and (b) henceforth adopt the RCCA in reporting their financial affairs to the public. Failure to do this can only reinforce the suspicion (which I do not share) that the non-compliant Colleges must have something to hide. The Colleges of Oxford and Cambridge continue to be exempt charities in spite of the latest round of charities-related legislation; Eton and Winchester have now lost that status, and indeed their charitable status (exempt or not) is being hotly debated. Other organizations could lose it in the future. If the Colleges want to retain it, they should use every opportunity to behave with total propriety. I will repeat part of a speech, first drawn to my attention by a Fellow of Trinity, made in the House of Lords in November 1991 by Earl Ferrers, Minister of State, Home Office, moving Second Reading of the 1992 Charities Bill:

The purpose of the Bill is to enhance public confidence in the charitable sector by ensuring that charities are well-managed and properly regulated. There should be a regime which will result in the public having confidence in the charitable sector. The best way of maintaining public goodwill is to ensure that every charity is accountable, publicly and openly, for the manner in which it conducts its affairs.

There we have a lucid statement of the case for transparent accounting by charities. Charles Larkum, a wise, cautious, highly respected, and much missed College Bursar, led the effort to provide the Cambridge Colleges with appropriate means to meet the need for public and open accountability - namely the RCCA. When he spoke in this place in July 2003 to explain the thinking behind the Report recommending the adoption of the RCCA he said this:

The College Accounts that the Report seeks to replace, were devised in the wake of the 1919-22 Royal Commission on the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. … they were in effect imposed on the Colleges from 1926. They include no income and expenditure account in the modern sense, and no balance sheet in any sense. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that from 1926 to the present time they have remained unaltered, taking no cognisance of the advances in accounting practice that began with the Companies Act 1947 and have been a constant influence in the period since.

I pointed out in the same Discussion that, slipped in without comment to the recommendations of the Report on the adoption of the RCCA,6 was a proposal (now adopted) that Statutes should be amended such that the University would surrender its power (previously contained in Statute G, III) to direct the Colleges on what form of accounting format they should use. The Council responded to my remarks as follows:

Dr Findlay … suggested that the University should direct the Colleges to comply with the RCCA. … The Council … had taken the decision at an early stage that 'direction' to submit a revised statement of accounts would not be as effective as negotiation. … Negotiations can still continue with these two Colleges within that framework.

That was four-and-a-half years ago. Are negotiations with the two Colleges still continuing? Who is doing the negotiating? Is it proving as effective as the Council seemed to believe that it would be?

It cannot be right that two Colleges should demonstrate such apparent disdain for the public that they continue to report their financial affairs in the Reporter in the archaic 1926 format. The adoption of the RCCA without further delay by all Colleges would be a fitting tribute to Charles Larkum and his tireless work for the collegiate University.

To end on an optimistic note, it is quite possible that my expression of concern over this matter may soon be overtaken by events. I have been told recently that all Oxbridge Colleges will be required to register with the Charity Commission, and the current failure of our Colleges to follow uniformly sound reporting practice may, very soon, become a thing of the past, whether the Colleges like it or not - a consummation devoutly to be wished.

1 e.g. Reporter, 1996-97, p. 1007; Reporter, 1998-99, p. 516 and p. 578, and Reporter, 2002-03, p. 1174.


3 Reporter, 2002-03, p. 1174.



6 Reporter, 2002-03, p. 1017.

Dr G. A. REID:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I hope that I may be able to offer Dr Findlay some reassurance, at least on the matters concerning the Report before us today. Dr Findlay said that the College accounts would be used as the basis on which contribution is calculated. That is not wholly the case. In fact, the intention is that Colleges should be required to submit a specific return, not included as part of the Recommended Cambridge College Accounts (RCCA), in order to verify the assessment of their contribution. Moreover, the Finance Committee of the University are given quite extensive powers in the new draft Statute G, II to verify, if need be, the returns of Colleges, and in particular, in section 9(g) of the Statute, they will have power to require, or to make rules requiring the certification of the value of assessable assets and that is of course the basis on which contribution is calculated. It will also be required, under Statute G, III, 4(i), that the Auditors shall sign a report with their opinion that the contribution of each College has been correctly calculated.

Dr Findlay observed that the information in the Report is based upon information taken from the RCCA of those Colleges publishing them. Of course, that was done in order to make the sort of assessment of the effect of the new system that was necessary to bring definite proposals forward to the Regent House. In that process, however, both of the Colleges, Christ's College and Trinity College, that do not currently produce their accounts in that form were very kind in providing the information that we needed for our work. I should like, in conclusion, Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, to express my thanks to the Bursars of those Colleges for providing that information and just to take this opportunity perhaps more widely to express thanks to Trinity College for the very considerable voluntary contributions that they have made over past years to the Colleges Fund, which have helped to sustain that Fund.

Annual Report of the Council for the academical year 2006-07 (p. 303).


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak on behalf of the Board of Scrutiny as its current Chairman. The Board of Scrutiny has a duty 'to scrutinize on behalf of the Regent House each year the Annual Report of the Council (including the Annual Report of the General Board to the Council) [and] the accounts of the University'. In fulfilling the Board's duty, a representative of the Board customarily makes some preliminary remarks at today's Discussion and the Board subsequently publishes a more considered response in the form of an Annual Report in July. The remarks today are therefore in that tradition.

The Secretary of the Council is the Registrary so it is perhaps unsurprising that with the change of the holder of that post at the beginning of this academical year, Council's Report is, more than usual, a catalogue of facts with few reference to strategy. We hope that next year the University is given a better view of the strategic thoughts of the Council.

We do however welcome the publication on the web1 of discussion papers prepared for Council by the Pro-Vice-Chancellors for Education, Research, and Planning and Resources, the previous Registrary, and the Chairman of the Colleges' Standing Committee on strategic directions. It is unclear from the minutes of Council and from the Council website of the current status of these discussion papers, which now in some cases date back to last Lent Term.

We would therefore welcome timely updating on the web of the Council minutes which, as of mid-January 2008, had as the most recent published minutes those of 24 September 2007. On the other hand, the Planning and Resources Committee is to be commended by having up-to-date minutes with detailed reporting of discussion about strategic matters of concern to the University.

We expect to be reporting in some depth in July on the following matters that are under active discussion:

(i) The organization and management of 'the University Offices and the UAS' (Council's Report, paragraph 20). The Board of Scrutiny continues to believe that the comment that it made in its 2006 report is still relevant to this exercise - that 'changes must involve proven greater efficiency without significant increased expenditure'.

(ii) Development of North West Cambridge and the Old Press Site, especially options for financing.

(iii) The pay and grading exercise and the follow-up assimilation exercise.

(iv) Procurement procedures especially those handled at departmental level.

(v) The University's handling of IPR disputes with respect to licensing issues.

(vi) Issues of usability in CamSIS and CHRIS.



Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I should like to start by thanking the Council for their response to my remarks on North West Cambridge in the Discussion on 9 October 2007, and the information in their Report.

However, I had to waste the time of the Planning Officer by asking for the actual responses, and I am very grateful to him for providing them so promptly. Obviously the Reporter is not the place for such details, but please could the Council adopt a policy of putting such documents onto suitable web pages, as promptly as is practicable, for the information of the Regent House? They are, after all, available for inspection by any member of the public once they have been submitted.

My primary interest is not in the plans and responses as such, but on what justification the local Highways Authority has for its claims and implications of the University's position. This is not the place to describe my interest in that matter, but I have other reasons to believe that the former's good faith is sometimes questionable. The University has harmed its own interests by not previously publicizing the information that I requested, because its members could have used that to correct some of the erroneous claims that have been made on this topic.

Returning to the North West Cambridge plans and responses as such, my reaction is that they are an order of magnitude better thought out, more realistic, and more 'sustainable' (with the meaning currently used by Government Planners) than any of the others I have seen for the Cambridge area. The University should stick to its guns and not be pressured into supporting the poorly thought-out scheme in the County's Transport Infrastructure Fund proposal.

This is an area where many members of the Regent House (and even Senate) are in a position to assist the Council, Strategy Committee, and Planning Division - if they are provided with the information with which to do so.

Professor G. R. EVANS (read by Dr D. R. DE LACEY):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, my theme is 'strategic direction'. Statute A, IV, 1(a) provides that 'the Council shall be the principal executive and policy-making body of the University' and that it shall 'have general responsibility' among other things for 'the planning of [the University's] work'. The Annual Accounts we are also discussing today confirm that 'The Council meets ten times throughout the year to consider the plans and strategic direction of the University'. However, they include in their prefatory description of the University's governance the proviso that the 'Council of the University is the principal executive and policy-making body of the University' only 'subject to the Regent House'. Statute A, III, 4 confirms that.

In most respects the machinery of the University's governance is well-designed to ensure that the activities of the Council come to the attention of the Regent House and that it can exercise a veto if it chooses. But the forming of 'strategies' is not one of them.

We read in this Report that:

(24) The Council has continued its practice of holding strategic meetings, in principle two a year … 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.

This move to 'strategic planning' activities has gone with:

(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.

I expressed concerns about the KPI-trend a year ago, in a speech on the Annual Report of the General Board.1

In the present Report, under the heading Strategic directions, I read that:

(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.

But these papers will not appear in the Reporter. They will merely be visible 'soon' on the intranet and for 'information' not Discussion: '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.'

Anyone who thinks strategic direction can safely be left to continue out of sight of the Regent House need only look at paragraph 13, which mentions the 'strategic planning project … 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'. This enormous venture, which will use most of the land in the University's land bank, has not been Discussed by the Regent House for a considerable time.

My deeper concern here lies in the extension of the Council's 'strategic planning' activities into areas where hitherto academics have been largely free to pursue their research and teaching as the pursuit of truth has led them. It is not many years since it was firmly promised on the introduction of appraisal for academic staff that there would be no attempt to interfere with their choice of research direction. Now there is a 'research strategy' and those who hope to climb the promotion ladder are dependent under the new procedures on the approval of their line managers who, in their turn, need to ensure that the Department or Faculty produces strategically approved research.

So I am asking for a constitutional requirement for 'strategic direction' work to be brought within the category of matters which must be reported to the University for Discussion.

As a former member of the Council at the time when we appointed Tim Mead as Registrary, I would like to wish him well in retirement. We did not always agree but you could have an honest argument with him and no hard feelings; and he took seriously the importance of protecting Cambridge's future as an academic-led institution.

1 Reporter, 2006-07, p. 437 and


Deputy Vice-Chancellor, '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.' I would like to echo Mr Maclaren's remarks, both his gratitude to the Council for their informative Notice in Reporter No. 6097 which addressed our concerns, and his request that the University be kept informed of what is being done in our name concerning such 'important' developments. There is an obvious place for this to happen: the Notice itself referred to the North West Cambridge website1 but fails to observe that this is now seriously out of date, having apparently not been updated since March 2005. Yet much has happened since then. Surely this is precisely the place to publish everything the University has been doing and is doing in planning for the North West site? This Report tells us that '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'. Please will the Council ensure that these are all published on that website.


Annual Report of the General Board for the academical year 2006-07 (p. 306).


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak again on behalf of the Board of Scrutiny as its current Chairman. The Board welcomes the detailed Report of the General Board to the Council. Further comment will follow in July, but for now we would state that we are surprised that there is no mention of the considerable disquiet that attended the restructuring of the Faculty of Oriental Studies and no mention of any subsequent analysis of the General Board's review procedures to avoid any future criticism of those procedures.

General Board matters that the Board of Scrutiny is considering include:

(i) Changes to the University's matriculation requirements to widen participation, which we expect to be welcomed provided it does not result in a drop in our admission standards (paragraph 3.2).

(ii) The Review of Graduate Education (paragraph 6) when the current consultation period is completed.

(iii) Faculty use of College Teaching Officers.


Deputy Vice-Chancellor, paragraph 7.1 refers to the need for better co-ordination of pedagogic support in the context of academic services, states that a forward looking strategy and clear governance structures are required, and a full review will be undertaken in this academic year.

One can hardly argue with those principles, but it is unclear whether they will address the real issues. I am in the Computing Service and have returned to this area after a gap of about 30 years. I hoped, at least partially, to teach software engineering techniques at a level encouraged by paragraph 2.1 (Ethos and Culture) in the Learning and Teaching Strategy, and to collaborate with other Departments as much as possible.

Both aspects have proved to be surprisingly difficult to arrange, much more so than they were 30 years ago, and it turns out that a large part of the problem is actually due to the managerial structure that we did not have then. This applies both to transferrable skills and to examinable ones, but I shall not waste people's time by describing the details and simply give some explanations.

There seem to be fewer courses that are examinable in some contexts, and useful as transferrable skills in others. It also seems to be harder to arrange such things, for reasons I shall mention in a moment.

Many Departments' staff are reluctant to allow an outsider to give courses, sometimes for PD33 reasons. They get more points, and potentially a higher grade, by having sole responsibility for running courses than by collaborating with the Computing Service to do it. They also get little credit for doing something that is not a part of their formal role.

More seriously, the same applies at a higher level. Heads of Groups, Departments, and Schools get points and promotion for major projects and formal collaborations, but not minor and informal ones. Even quite senior people within some Departments have little discretion on what they can arrange that is not part of a formal departmental policy.

Both issues derive from the structures. It is true that a bottom-up anarchy is inefficient, but it is not true that a top-down hierarchy is better. The types of inefficiency are different, but too much management and governance is as counter-productive as too little.

Professor G. R. EVANS (read by Dr D. R. DE LACEY):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the General Board is being 'strategic' too:

Further progress has been made towards integrating the academic plans of the Schools, and other institutions, into a single high-level planning statement for the University as a whole. The Board welcomed the opportunity to meet jointly with the Council to consider strategic position papers on education, research, and the Collegiate University.

The General Board, like the Council, is moving towards the KPI-style pattern of infrequent meetings to talk about 'strategy' while the University Administrative Service takes over more and more of the 'real' decision-making in the areas in which the General Board has responsibilities:

1.2. 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.

The Report mentions both the forthcoming RAE and the Institutional Audit by the Quality Assurance Agency in February 2008. It may be remembered that the chief criticism of Cambridge at the time of the last Institutional Audit in 20031 concerned the failure to protect the quality of provision in collaborative arrangements (paragraphs 74 and 88-91). Now we read:

2.3. The University's arrangements for collaborative learning and teaching provision involving other institutions were reviewed by the University's Internal Auditors whose report assisted the Education Committee in identifying matters needing to be addressed in this important area which, across the sector as a whole, has been of particular interest to the QAA.

Is the University going to thank the QAA for drawing its attention in the last audit to the danger it was in? For the reputational and other institutional risks attaching to collaborative provision have snowballed in the last five years and it is reassuring to see that:

8.1. Work has begun on implementation of the two Working Party Reports on international matters (Reporter, 2005-06, pp. 614 and 623) and in particular on the forming of strategy for overseas collaborations.

May I take the opportunity to draw the General Board's attention to the excellent paper on collaborative provision available on the Oxford intranet (though they have got into rather a muddle about joint degrees I see).2 I daresay Oxford would let Cambridge see at least the very useful and clear Part I.

I am pleased to see recognition of 'the need to establish a separate unit for academic integrity, responsible for handling student complaints and appeals and I look forward to the Report proposing a 'University-wide ethics panel' promised at 12.4.



Reports and Financial Statements for the year ended 31 July 2007 (p. 311).


Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I again speak on behalf of the Board of Scrutiny as its current Chairman. Professor Minson, and the Director of Finance, Mr Andrew Reid, and his staff are to be congratulated on the Report and Financial Statements, as we now have for the second year a 'true and fair account' of the complete activities of the University of Cambridge. The Board has had a preliminary and very helpful discussion with the Director of Finance regarding small infelicities in the presentation, and will report more fully following further discussion.