Cambridge University Reporter

Annual Report of the Council for the academical year 2007-08

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

1. Introduction

1.1. This is an Annual Report about the work of the Council itself, and should be read with the accompanying Report of the General Board to the Council. It is published with the Reports and Financial Statements for the whole University, including Cambridge University Press and the Local Examinations Syndicate (separate individual Annual Reports of which are published in due course). A Discussion will take place in Lent Term 2009.

1.2. The Council meets approximately monthly, except in August, and also holds two strategic meetings each year, one in the Spring and one in September. Much detailed business is dealt with through the Business Committee, and through a weekly circulation of business, both of which are regulated by careful protocols so that all members of the Council are kept informed and are able to participate in particular business if they wish. Much of the policy related work of the Council is undertaken through the major Joint Committees with the General Board, in particular the Planning and Resources Committee and Resource Management Committee, the Buildings Committee (which has an external chairman), and the Human Resources Committee (previously the Personnel Committee). A key role in financial matters is taken by the Council's statutory Finance Committee, chaired by the Vice-Chancellor. The Council, and the Vice-Chancellor, are advised on legal and ethical matters (particularly concerning benefactions) by the Executive Committee. Important educational work, particularly about the standing of individual undergraduate students for examinations, is undertaken by the Council's Applications Committee (a review procedure for decisions of this committee has recently been introduced). The Council's statutory Audit Committee, which is chaired by an external member of the Council, has a crucial role in audit and assurance business, including both internal and external audit, and assurance to HEFCE.

2. Appointments

2.1. The Council has appointed Professor John Rallison, T, as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, from 1 October 2008, succeeding Professor McKendrick, the first holder of this post. A high priority for the coming period will be reform of arrangements for graduate education. The Council has initiated the process to appoint a Pro-Vice-Chancellor to succeed Professor Minson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Planning and Resources, from July 2009, and expects to make an appointment in the Michaelmas Term 2008. The Council will then review the portfolios of the team of Pro-Vice-Chancellors, ahead of making the three further appointments in 2009.

3. Governance and related matters

3.1. University Statute changes to introduce two more external members of the Council and to make provision for a deputy chairmanship of the Council (and also to regularize the timetable for meetings of the General Board) have been approved. Four external members, to serve from 1 January 2009, will be nominated shortly. Lord Simon has been appointed Deputy Chairman of the Council, to 31 December 2008.

3.2. An Advisory Group appointed by the Vice-Chancellor, chaired by the Master of Emmanuel, considered various matters about membership of the Regent House. The Council does not intend to make any early proposals for major changes, but will report soon about the present age limit on membership of the Regent House.

3.3. A periodic HEFCE Assurance visit took place on 30 June 2008. The report will be published by HEFCE in due course (probably early in 2009) with the Council's reply. The Council expects the conclusions of the visit to be positive and constructive.

3.4. A process of consolidating Orders of continuing effect (that is, individual Graces of the Regent House with continuing effect which are not in the form of regulations) into the Ordinances has been initiated, to take place during 2008-09. The result, published in the edition of the Ordinances in the Autumn of 2009, will be as complete and up to date as possible a statement of the University's domestic legislation. This will provide a sound basis for the eventual full revision of the Ordinances (and Statutes), or of substantial parts of them.

3.5. A review is taking place of Statute U (the Statute imposed under the Education Reform Act 1988) following consideration of the comments made on the Green Paper issued in the Lent Term 2008. A simplified framework Statute is now being prepared, which, if adopted, would be fleshed out by more detailed procedural ordinances and codes of practice.

3.6. Revised arrangements for University-wide management of information services and strategy have been introduced, with the establishment by Ordinance of a new Information Strategy and Services Syndicate, replacing the former Information Technology Syndicate and the Council's Information Strategy Group. The Syndicate is chaired by Professor S. J. Young, and has established a Business Committee. It is through the new Syndicate in particular that oversight of the major information systems (e.g. CamSIS, CHRIS) which are of particular importance to the University (and, in the case of CamSIS, the Colleges) in achieving good management, is provided.

3.7. The Council's Finance Committee has revised the periodicity of its meetings and in 2008-09 will be meeting approximately twice each term. A business sub-committee has been introduced for routine and preparatory work.

4. Finance and resources

4.1. The Council reported at length on the financial and resource position of the University in the Budget Report for 2008-09 (Reporter, 2007-08, p. 792). Although there are major uncertainties (in particular the impact of global economic circumstances, possible increases in pensions costs, and effects of Government policy), the University's strategy of seeking to achieve financial sustainability, with income from a variety of sources, including the state, is sound.

4.2. A new process of reviewing University financial strategy has been launched by the Finance Committee, led by Ms Sherry Coutu, one of the external members of the Finance Committee.

5. Development and the Campaign and the 800th anniversary

5.1. The Council receives regular reports about these matters.

5.2. A programme of academic and other events for the celebration in 2009 of the University's 800th anniversary has been developed by a group led by Professor Jeremy Sanders.

5.3. The Campaign is progressing well and in 2007-08 was running ahead of the expected profile of achievement. It is too early to assess whether the global economic problems will affect the progress of the Campaign going forward.

6. University developments

6.1. Planning for the development of North West Cambridge is continuing. The Strategic Committee, chaired by Mr Alexander Johnston, an external member of the Finance Committee, is working efficiently. A Project Director, Mr Roger Taylor, has been appointed. A small group, chaired by the Registrary, is ensuring coordination. Consideration by the two planning authorities concerned is not yet concluded. The University's proposals for the area are the subject of an independent examination before an Inspector. A Report to the University was recently published (Reporter, 2007-08, p. 613).

6.2. The significant programme of capital expenditure continued, with a new building at West Cambridge for Physics of Medicine and a new studio building for the Faculty of Architecture, along with a refurbishment of the Scroope Terrace accommodation. At the Addenbrooke's Site the refurbishment of the former Pfizer building was completed for the Cambridge Centre for Imaging. There was restructuring of the Anatomy building on the Downing Site, and also of the Melville Laboratory at Chemistry. Many of these schemes required associated improvements to infrastructure, such as power supplies.

6.3. The University recently completed the sale of part of the former Downing College playing field, at the Addenbroke's Site, to the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for £2.8m, to enable the delivery of key worker housing, a planning condition of the Li Ka Shing Centre for Cancer Research UK.

7. Education and research

7.1. The result of the recent periodic audit visit by the Quality Assurance Agency was satisfactory. A review of learning support has taken place, and a strategic review of the Institute of Continuing Education is to take place.

7.2. High priority is given to widening access to undergraduate education, and a Director of Undergraduate Recruitment has been appointed, to lead such activities within the Cambridge Admissions Office, and to work in cooperation with the Colleges, and the intercollegiate Director of Admissions.

7.3. The University's submissions to the current Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) were made efficiently. The full results of the RAE are not yet known, but they are of great importance to the future funding of research in the University.

7.4. Fuller information about education and research is contained in the General Board's Annual Report to the Council, annexed to this Report (p. 226).

8. Council institutions, the University Offices, and the Unified Administrative Service

8.1. The Registrary is responsible to the Council for the University Offices and the wider Unified Administrative Service (some of whose members serve in University institutions outside the University Offices, such as Offices of Schools, Faculties, and Departments). The Council also has general oversight of those University institutions not placed under the supervision of the General Board, mostly staff or student service institutions, and also the Fitzwilliam Museum. There are special accountability arrangements by Statute or Ordinance for Cambridge University Press and the Local Examinations Syndicate, which operate particularly through regular scrutiny by the Finance Committee. The Finance Committee also has oversight of University owned companies.

8.2. Ms Sara Cooper, Director of Health and Safety, and Mr Peter Deer, Director of Personnel, have retired. The existing Personnel Division has been reviewed and is being restructured to form a Human Resources Division, which also includes the Disability Resource Centre, and the Health and Safety Office, which no longer forms a separate division. Mr Indi Seehra has been appointed Director of Human Resources. Dr Martin Vinnell, DOW, has been appointed Director of Health and Safety: the professional and regulatory responsibilities and authority of this important post are not affected by the administrative inclusion of the Office in the broader Human Resources Division. Mr Martin Reavley, K, has been appointed to the vacant post of Director of Research Services.

8.3. Work is taking place on how administrative accommodation can be rationalized, with a view to improving services. The approach being taken is to identify 'back office' functions which can be located outside the city centre, so increasing efficiency, and to identify the other activities which require ready access by staff and students, and which probably need accommodation in the city centre, preferably in a single location or in a small number of units. The Old Schools would, increasingly, be a building used principally by the Vice-Chancellor and close colleagues. The full conclusions of this process are not yet ready, but it would be hoped that a substantial amount of existing accommodation, often in small units, could be released for reallocation, or for sale, lease or development. The possible development of a Staff and Student Services Centre would be a particularly beneficial outcome of this process, for the convenience of students and staff alike. (Services could be located in such a Centre whether or not they formally formed part of the University Offices, or were freestanding service institutions under the supervision of the Council).

8.4. A review has taken place of the Dental Service, which is part of the University Health Services, a Council institution. The Service will continue, with slightly modified arrangements.

8.5. Dr Timothy Potts became Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum on 1 January 2008. The Council pays tribute to the distinguished tenure of Mr Duncan Robinson as Director of the Museum.

9. The Council's work in 2008-09

9.1 The Council's work is planned throughout the year in a continually updated 'work plan'. The Council reviews the updated plan at each meeting, and in particular considers it at strategic meetings. In addition, urgent business is brought to meetings of the Council or is reported otherwise. The Council has held a strategic meeting in March and September 2008, and plans to continue the programme of strategic meetings in April 2009, and in September 2009.

9.2 In 2008-09 particularly important work will be the initiation of the process for the appointment of the next Vice-Chancellor (from 1 October 2010) and the appointment of Pro-Vice-Chancellors. The Advisory Committee for the Vice-Chancellorship will be appointed in the Michaelmas Term 2008. Other priorities are the reform of graduate education, and the development of financial strategies for the University, taking into account the UK Government context (RAE outcomes, the future of public funding of capital, and the development of national policy for fees and student support).

24 November 2008 ALISON RICHARD, Vice-Chancellor NIGEL BROWN F. MORRISSEY