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The BOARD OF SCRUTINY begs leave to report as follows:
1. The Board of Scrutiny could be described as the University's 'watchdog body'. It forms part of the official mechanism for ensuring that the University is run in a way that is transparent and is accountable to the governing body of the University, which is the Regent House. It comprises eight directly elected members who serve for a period of four years, and the Proctors and Pro-Proctors (who are nominated by the Colleges and formally elected by the Regent House). Of the members who are directly elected by the Regent House, four retire and four new members are elected every two years. Further information is available on http://www.scrutiny.cam.ac.uk/.
2. The Board has a statutory obligation 'to scrutinize on behalf of the Regent House':
|(a)||The Annual Report of the Council;|
|(b)||The Abstract of the Accounts of the University;|
|(c)||Any Report of the Council proposing allocations from the Chest.|
It also has the right of reporting to the University on any matters falling within the scope of this scrutiny and has the power to inspect any documents that are relevant to any enquiry that it is empowered to make. The Board, with the best interests of the University in mind, aims to carry out its functions in a constructive manner. Since its inception, the Board's practice has been to publish a single Report exploring the themes that emerge from these official documents, rather than a series of separate Reports on Reports. This Fourteenth Report follows this tradition.
3. In discharge of these obligations during the academical year 2008-09 the Board has met fortnightly during each Full Term with two additional meetings in June to finalize this Report. It held formal meetings with the Vice-Chancellor ('VC'), the Registrary, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor ('PVC') (Planning and Resources), the PVC (Education), the PVC (Human Resources), the Librarian, the Chairman of the Audit Committee, the Director of the Research Services Division ('RSD'), and the Director of Development and Alumni Relations. In addition, sub-groups of the Board met with the Director of Finance and the Director of Human Resources ('HR'). At various times in the year the Board has requested information and papers from these and other persons involved in running the University and is pleased to report that such information and papers have been readily made available. The Board is most grateful to all of these individuals for the time and assistance they have given.
4. The Board was provided with part-time administrative assistance this year by Miss Emma Easterbrook. Her help has been invaluable.
5. The Board has, as in previous years, reviewed the recommendations that it made in its Thirteenth Report and, in the light of Council's responses, considered what progress, if any, has been made in the intervening twelve months. The Board's comments on these matters are appended as Annex A.
6. As suggested in its interim statement in Reporter,1 for the third year running the Board congratulates the PVC (Planning and Resources) and the Director of Finance and his staff for another admirably clear set of accounts and financial statements for the financial year ended July 2008. Indeed, these have been augmented this year with a number of Statement of Recommended Practice ('SORP')-required changes to the accounting treatment of endowments and heritage assets which make both of these easier to identify, while also increasing the reported annual surplus. Given the historic nature of the material on which this Report is based, events will likely have transpired to alter substantially the picture since the end of the last accounting period.
7. The University has presented an encouragingly strong set of results. Income growth exceeded that of costs in nearly every department and activity, and, most importantly, a surplus was achieved for the first time in some years in both 'Big and Little U' (i.e. the University with and without its major trading undertakings, principally Cambridge Assessment and the University Press). 'Big' or Consolidated Group income was up 13.4% over the previous year at £1,074m, and expenditure, while up by 11.5%, was still at the acceptable level of £1,055m. This was, especially in view of the economic turbulence, an admirably steady result and showed an increase on last year's surplus to general reserves from £25m to £42m.
8. The Board noted in its interim statement that two changes to accounting policies arising from the implementation of the SORP affected the accounting surplus as shown in Note 12. The reclassification of specific donations as endowments reduced income by £13m; and the recording of donations of, and for the purchase of, heritage assets as income without corresponding expense increased the surplus by £9m. This has also had the effect of reducing Deferred Capital Grants (Note 24) and thus making Notes 15, 16 and 25 on Fixed Asset Investments and Endowments clearer. In its Thirteenth Report, the Board called for a clearer presentation of the contribution from donations received by the 800th Anniversary Campaign to the University's finances as set out in the accounts. Although things have improved this year with a useful paragraph in the PVC's Report to the Accounts, there is still scope for a substantial increase in clarity while still being compliant with the relevant SORP - perhaps a separate Note could deal with this point. It is still not always possible to reconcile the much-publicized fundraising successes with the flow of monies into the University's accounts.
9. It is particularly heartening that even without this fillip, 'Little U' still reported an accounting surplus from academic operations of £12m, a number buoyed up by the SORP changes and transfers from specific endowments, to reach a total of £25m. Clearly, Cambridge Assessment remains a very important part of the University's funding model, contributing £11m this year to the 'Little U' results and £28m to the consolidated 'Big U' results. Happily this business continues to flourish but, as the Board highlighted last year, the University remains particularly vulnerable to a reversal in Cambridge Assessment's fortunes. This point is reinforced by the CUP's ability to contribute being severely curtailed by the size of its Financial Reporting Standard 17 ('FRS 17') pensions deficit (see below). In his excellent Review of the Financial Statements,2 the PVC (Planning and Resources) identifies the risk of over-reliance on too few sources of income. In the Board's view, the University is running this danger particularly in its expectation of continued substantial support from Cambridge Assessment. The consolidated University's surplus of £42m for 2007-08, good though it is, is put into perspective when it is borne in mind that it constitutes less than 4% of a turnover now in excess of £1 billion. It is very unlikely to be enough to keep the University out of deficit as the impact of likely cuts in funding are felt in future.
10. This has been a year of transition in the way the University manages its investments. Ironically, the current process of diversifying funds across a larger number of active managers and away from the traditional UK geographic concentration, and therefore not being fully invested at all times, may have helped the overall performance beat its benchmarks. The CUEF's investment return was down 'only' by 7.1% during the period, markedly better that most equity or property indices and very creditable in difficult market circumstances. This year the section on endowment and investment performance in the PVC's Financial Review is slightly more detailed than in previous years. In particular, the Board welcomes the setting out of the Investment Office ('IO') and Investment Board's agreed long-term asset allocation targets and their commendable independence from some of the better known, and currently battered, private US endowment models. In its last Report, noting the establishment of the new IO, the Board called for a more complete annual review of the CUEF's portfolio performance. The IO already issues an annual report to investors in the fund - this is a useful document and one which the IO intends to develop further over time.
11. The Board recommends that the IO publish its annual report to investors more widely for the general University reader.
12. It is redundant to rehearse the damage that has been done to pension schemes, particularly defined benefit structures, over recent years, firstly by government-inspired changes in tax allowances, actuarial fidgeting and, more recently, by the collapse of stock market values. The Cambridge University Assistants' Contributory Pension Scheme ('CPS') and CUP's schemes have both suffered a ballooning of net liabilities under the annual FRS 17 reporting standard over the last year - these have grown from £79m to £158m, of which the Press accounts for £43m (Note 22). A full triennial valuation for CPS is due in 2009. This is likely to confirm a large widening of the deficit of the type revealed by this year's valuation in the Cambridge Colleges Federated Pension Scheme ('CCFPS') run by several Colleges. The CPS's employer's contribution rate is already due to increase by 4% in August 2009 to help address the deficit in the 'timely manner' required by the pensions regulator. However, faced with burgeoning increases of costs for past service over which it may have no influence, it seems incumbent on the University at the least to consider and discuss with the relevant employee groups options for a modification of the benefits for future service and the possible replacement of the scheme for new joiners with a defined contribution scheme, as has already been introduced at the Press. These are very unpalatable prospects, but there has to be a recognition that staff and pension costs are a considerable threat to the University's continued financial health.
13. This point is particularly important given the reluctance displayed in the Scheme's public pronouncements, at least until the short briefing note was issued by the Trustees to members on 15 June 2009, to acknowledge that USS also has its own problems and that these are likely to get worse. The University is already budgeting for a 2% increase in employer contributions in October 2009, the result of the March 2008 valuation and an additional 2% increase is included in the Financial Plan for 2011. There will be another valuation in 2011. There must be concerns whether these 2% increases will be enough and the Board questions whether regrettable, but perhaps necessary, increases in employee contributions should not be considered too, which would require amending the scheme's current rules. USS is a particular worry as it is a group 'last-man-standing scheme' (not a single-employer structure like CPS or CCFPS) in which the University is only one voice. However, there is no reason why Cambridge University's voice need be a small or compliant one, indeed, the Registrary is a member of the Joint Review Group ('JRG') which is currently discussing possible changes to meet future pressures. The Board would urge a robust approach to negotiations, perhaps to try to identify and agree institutional splits of assets within the scheme, and would voice its own concern at what is sometimes seen as resignation, or fatalism, within the University in accepting scheme decisions with magnanimity. It should not be totally unimaginable that the operation of USS and the University's place within it may have to change in future.
14. The Board recommends a robust and activist approach to confronting the problems likely to beset the future of the defined benefit pension schemes in which University employees are registered.
15. The issue of the University flexing its muscles to protect its financial position also relates to staff pay. This has seen a large rise over the reporting period as the last provisions of the sector-wide agreement of August 2006 washed through the system. Pay for academics and support staff is agreed at a national level. Again, the Board believes the University must do everything in its power to ensure a sensible outcome to this year's settlement at a time of rapidly rising unemployment and negative national inflation rates.
16. In its Thirteenth Report the Board made much of the tightness of the University's financial room to manoeuvre in pursuing the large number of capital projects it has identified. We are pleased to note therefore, that during the reporting period total capital expenditure was £119m and that at 31 July 2009 contracted commitments stand at £138.6m against £64.7m last time. This is particularly gratifying as, notwithstanding the 86% figure mentioned in Note 30, the Director of Finance has assured the Board that all of this commitment is fully funded, with moneys coming from a mix of Capital Investment Framework ('CIF'), internal sources and donations.
17. In his Report to the Accounts the PVC (Planning and Resources) helpfully identified a list of principal risks to the University's long-term financial position. Some of these are mentioned earlier in this Report; others, such as the RAE outcome, are now known. Above all, the weak economic outlook and its concomitant effect on investment returns and, probably, philanthropy also, will inevitably remain concerns for some time. Despite an undeniably successful year, the University can do no more than aspire to continue to generate this year's modest operating surplus. This may or may not prove to be possible beyond 2009-10, but even such a favourable outcome will still do little to allow the University to develop its plans for North West Cambridge, the New Museums and Old Press Sites, and the movement of several Departments to new accommodation in West Cambridge. The PVC concluded his section on future projects as follows: 'The costs of the redevelopments have yet to be calculated but, if progressed, they will form an integrated capital programme during the next six years and will inevitably be the focus of significant capital expenditure.'
18. In its last Report, the Board's principal financial recommendation was that 'the University should investigate with all expediency the prospect of taking advantage of current market conditions to raise significant sums of long-term funds via the fixed interest markets.' In the intervening period a significant number of Colleges have raised long-dated loans at fixed interest rates around 5%, with one choosing to borrow index-linked. The aggregate amount raised in this way probably exceeds £200m. This has provided added flexibility in managing finances, whether borrowing has taken place to facilitate capital projects or simply to invest for the recovery. The University could still do this on a far larger scale.
19. Notwithstanding the terrible contraction in credit markets and the reluctance of commercial banks to lend, high-quality issuers' paper has remained much in demand. Borrowing margins may have widened over the period and the inverse yield curve turned positive once more but this has been more than offset in a lowering of absolute levels of long-term interest rates and a contraction between long-dated gilt-edged yields and the fixed/floating swap rates that are generated from them. In simple terms, the bond markets remain wide open to a quality issuer such as the University and, indeed, new issuance activity is increasing all the time.
20. In its response to the Board's recommendation, the Council volunteered that amendments of Statute were being proposed to allow borrowing 'when conditions are optimal'.3 The relevant statutory change has now been made. The Board respectfully suggests that, surprisingly given the lengthy period the market has been so accommodating, conditions remain optimal for a large bond issue or Private Placement by the University. This is something the University can take advantage of rather than be forced into for liquidity reasons as has been the case for several US institutions recently. The debt markets are still presenting an opportunity of historic proportions for the University to transform its financial outlook. As a result of all the College activity there is now a considerable level of capital and loan markets expertise within the collegiate University, while, conversely, there will no longer be a need for Colleges to join with the University in any operation since they have largely completed what transactions they desired.
21. As last year, the Board strongly recommends that the University's Finance Committee proceed as soon as possible with a long-dated issuance in the fixed-interest markets while conditions remain historically favourable.
22. Council's recommendations for allocations from the Chest for 2009-10 (the Allocations Report) were published in the Reporter on 20 May 2009. In his comments at the Discussion of the Allocations Report on 9 June 2009 the Chairman of the Board of Scrutiny drew attention to the dichotomy between the University's relatively benign financial position due to the surpluses anticipated to the end of the 2009-10 academic year and the considerable funding uncertainties which may not be adequately reflected in the projections for the following three years. There is a marked contrast between the realistic tone of the commentary, which the Board commends, and the surprisingly sanguine view represented by the tables. Interestingly, this point is made within the Report itself: 'Despite the relatively optimistic assumptions underlying the figures in Table 3, the projections show continuing Chest deficits. This is not a sustainable position, particularly since funds set aside for capital investment will be inadequate unless there is a continued stream of external funding for this purpose'.4
23. There is a reference in paragraph 12 of the Report to 'the reduction in chest income projection due primarily to the most recent estimate of recovery of the indirect cost of research'. In addition to indirect cost recovery being behind budget (due primarily, the Board is told, to the phase-in of fEC-priced projects being slower than anticipated) there is also an arguable case that the University could have been a little more aggressive with regard to fEC so far as it relates to the University libraries in particular. Nevertheless, the Board is satisfied that the amount foregone, while not insignificant, is relatively minor in the grand scheme of total research TRAC costs and may even be presented as 'prudent'. The University receives a direct grant from HEFCE for the UL as one of the country's five National Research Libraries. The UL's 'open access' policy makes it an especially attractive library for research scholars from outside Cambridge. The need to ensure appropriate cost recovery on research grants for the UL, in particular, must bear in mind its National Research Library status. The Board is by no means certain that the University got this balance absolutely right with respect to libraries in the early stages of fEC, but it is satisfied that it has now.
24. The underlying issues are largely those highlighted above. The continued reliance on Cambridge Assessment to provide ever-increasing income to the Chest is reiterated, while the Board shares the concerns expressed that HEFCE block grant funding 'may not keep pace with inflation'. The Board finds the assumptions made about the University's own internal inflation rates highly questionable, in particular the assumption 'that non-pay inflation will be 1.5% in all years' - there is very little to suggest that this could ever be a prudent number. Subsequent to issuing the Allocations Report, the University's Planning and Resources Committee and its PVC Chair have considered this further. In the Discussion on the Allocations Report the PVC (Planning and Resources) said: 'The Planning and Resources Committee believes that the University should be prepared for reductions in public expenditure on higher education and research beyond 2011 and recommends that, notwithstanding the projections described in the Report, it would be prudent to plan on the basis of a zero cash increase in 2010-11, equivalent to a Chest Allocation below inflation'.5 The Board is in total agreement with this revised planning assumption.
25. The Board recommends that, notwithstanding the currently low levels of the Retail Price Index and other indicators in the UK, the University should use an inflation percentage more representative of long-term averages when modelling future financial outcomes.
26. Once again, the Report highlights two of the greatest challenges facing the University. There is a description of the measures agreed to increase the employers' contribution to USS, but, until the JRG is ready to report, there can be no discussion of what proposals may be made to vary employees' involvement - a less fatalistic assertion than 'the University has little, if any control over this situation' (paragraph 34, p. 763) would, however, be welcome. As suggested above, the Board believes the University needs to promote a policy to ensure its voice is heard in the plans being made for the future of USS.
27. Similarly, the active capital expenditure programme enabled by HEFCE funding through the CIF is rehearsed. These plans are dependent on the CIF award of £115m notified last year for spending between April 2008 and March 2011. The last tranche of these funds is not guaranteed as they are dependent on their availability in the 2010-11 HEFCE budget. The Report talks of losing these funds if projects are not initiated in time for expenditure to be incurred within tight HEFCE deadlines (paragraphs 16 and 17, p. 761). More importantly, the Board considers it a virtual certainty that, given the economic exigencies facing the UK government for the foreseeable future, CIF funding will dry up altogether after 2011. New ways of funding the University's ambitious programme of capital projects (outlined in paragraphs 31 and 32) must be found urgently - the Board will point the way towards the bond markets one last time in this Report. Coincidentally, the Board welcomes the changes to Statutes and Ordinances announced in the Reporter specifically authorizing the University to undertake a long-term loan.6
28. There is an overwhelming sense contained in the Allocations Report of a clear understanding of the challenges facing the University but, apart from a certain level of complacency over the relatively comfortable position for the next two years, no clear strategic vision emerges as to how to tackle these challenges, though the Board fully recognizes how difficult this is given all the uncertainties. It nevertheless believes that the development of such a vision must be attempted. The Board remains convinced that the levers to ensure continued vigour and growth are within our collective grasp but a less cautious and graduated response is necessary to seize them.
29. The Board has followed with interest developments with regard to the proposed repeal of Statute U and the consequent amendments that would be required to be made to Statutes B, VI and D, IA, as well as the addition of a new Statute D, III. At the time of writing the Council has yet to conclude precisely which changes will be put forward to the Regent House for approval and what form of words will be adopted for those changes. In some sense, therefore, it might be thought that comment by the Board is premature. Nevertheless, the Board feels it is appropriate to offer comment at this stage not only on the process that is being adopted but also on some issues of principle that are embodied in the proposals that have so far been published, the latest of which are contained in a 'White Paper' issued by the General Board and published in the Reporter on 4 December 2008.7 This followed a 'Green Paper' issued by the Council and the General Board in January 2008 that sought the views of the University in a review being conducted of the 'Disciplinary, Dismissal, and Grievance Procedures for University Officers'.8
30. In terms of process, while the Board finds it somewhat 'unconventional' to issue a 'White Paper', provided this 'White Paper' is a precursor to the Council and the General Board issuing a Report to the Regent House, with detailed recommendations attached, properly signed by those members of these two bodies that agree with the proposals, in accordance with Statute K, 17, then the Board can see no real harm in the process adopted. The Council stated in paragraph 1 of the White Paper, and has subsequently confirmed by a later announcement in the Reporter,9 that the procedure to be followed was one of wide consultation, followed by a further 'Report' and legislation. Some members of the Regent House nevertheless appeared a little confused by this procedure - possibly because the White Paper appeared in a somewhat unconventional form. These are difficult and controversial proposals. The very last course that should be adopted is an attempt to bounce the Regent House into voting on surprise amendments to Statutes, or to deny members of the Council or the General Board the opportunity to attach any notes of dissent. The intent, it now appears, in issuing a 'White Paper' was to provide a further opportunity for informal discussion and debate within the University on difficult issues before a formal Report is presented to the Regent House. The Board is grateful to the Council for offering this further opportunity, although much heat might have been avoided, even if no further light would necessarily have been shed, had the procedure to be followed been made completely clear from the outset. Once a proper statutory Report has been issued in the Michaelmas Term of 2009 (for that is when the Council has indicated we might expect such a Report) it will, no doubt, then be the subject of a further Discussion in the Regent House, to be followed by Council's response to that Discussion before any statutory changes are put forth for gracing and, almost certainly, for voting, by the Regent House. The White Paper states in paragraph 1 of the summary that 'it sets out in developed form the policy of the Council and the General Board', and in paragraph 2 of the Introduction it is stated that the Council and the General Board 'have put forward definite proposals to the University' in the White Paper. However, the paper is not signed by Council and General Board members and it is by no means clear that the proposals have the support of all members of the bodies from which the proposals purport to emanate. Views have been expressed in Discussion that the course adopted in publishing a White Paper is, at the least, unconventional and possibly unconstitutional.10 The Board has no strong views on this point either way, though it feels it would have been helpful if the precise status of the paper, information on by whom it was issued, and the precise next steps to be followed, had been addressed clearly and directly in the opening paragraphs of the paper.
31. The Board recommends that in future, should the Council and/or the General Board wish to consult the University in a wholly informal fashion before it has formulated its views to the point where it is able to issue a Report, it makes clear at the very outset of the consultation document the precise status of the document that is being issued, why it is not being issued in the form of a Notice or a Report, which body or bodies of the University are issuing it and how comment is to be fed back to those bodies and within what time frame. Proper published Minutes should also be kept of any open meeting consultations.
32. Since matters are still at a consultation stage, it is inappropriate to comment on the detail that will no doubt ultimately appear in a Report. However, the Board is concerned, at a time when the University is not only in celebratory mood but also in need of all the support and loyalty it can get from University officers and staff during a period of particular economic stringency, that measures are being mooted to downgrade the rights of 'academic-related' staff. Certainly there may be a case for clarifying the mechanisms for removing any member of staff who is truly 'underperforming' and for simplifying what can, under current mechanisms, be interminably and unduly lengthy grievance procedures, but the Board can see little merit in any change that results in academic-related staff being subject to a different procedure with regard to removal for redundancy than that applicable to University officers falling within the ambit of Statute D, II, 5 and Schedule J. Views will no doubt differ on whether the removal of an independent right of final appeal to the Septemviri in the event of redundancy is a good thing to propose on grounds of simplicity or a bad thing to propose as a dilution of individual employment rights. The Board is, however, clear that it is not a necessary thing in that current employment law does not require this 'simplification'.
33. While the Board believes that the proposals to simplify the grievance procedures are necessary, it is not persuaded that the proposed changes to the disciplinary procedures are necessarily in the best interests of the University. There is currently a different procedure laid down in Statute U to deal with issues of discipline alone and decisions to dismiss. The proposals in the White Paper not only conflate these two matters to some degree but also remove, in the case of dismissal for a disciplinary 'offence', not only access to the University Tribunal, but also appeal to the Septemviri, substituting a procedure under which the 'responsible person' (variously defined in the proposed new regulations) not only deals with issues of discipline, but also any consequent removal from office (after having sought the leave of the VC) with one appeal only to an ad hoc committee.
34. Academic freedom is a cardinal value of the University. Statutes and Ordinances need to be drafted, not on the basis that this freedom will always be honoured and respected, but on the basis that one day it might not. This is not to question the good faith of those entrusted with the University's fate for the time being but is, instead, to guard against what many may regard as the unthinkable abuse of misplaced power at some time in the future. Current procedures are deliberately complex, multi-layered and inclusive. They are there not to obstruct the good governance of the University but to impede its misuse. The law of the land requires no change. In the Board's view the current protections in this area should be left alone.
35. Issues of academic freedom are to be covered, it is proposed, in a Code of Practice. Codes of Practice surface throughout the proposals. They will, it is suggested, deal with such matters as removal from office, discipline and grievances, probationary periods, removal on medical grounds, redundancy matters, retirement and redress of grievances. Many of these provisions are prescriptive and mandatory. They are presumably to be contrasted with mere 'guidance' because the draft proposals also contain separate 'guidance' dealing with mediation. The University does not embody its rules and procedures in 'Codes of Practice'. They are contained in Statutes and Ordinances that have been approved by the Regent House, not issued as 'Codes' by the Council.
36. The Board recommends that whatever the outcome of the further debates and discussions on the University's review of its disciplinary, dismissal and grievance procedures, any binding rules and safeguards arising from those discussions which are not to be contained in Statutes must be promulgated in Ordinances.
37. There is much detail in the White Paper that, were it contained in a Report from the Council, would be the subject of detailed comment, some of it critical, from the Board of Scrutiny. As it is, however, further comment from the Board would be premature and possibly unhelpful at this time. It is, nevertheless, highly likely that the Board will return to this matter in its Fifteenth Report.
38. Over the last academical year the Personnel Division was renamed the Human Resources Division11 and a programme of restructuring has taken place. Teams within HR are now organized around Schools and Non-School Institutions ('NSI') rather than by function within HR, with a back office comprising 'expert' functions and an HR Services section picking up much of the transactional process. This structure is intended to make the division more service orientated. The reorganization is still in the process of bedding down and it remains to be tested fully at School and NSI level in terms of assessing any improvements to business services. The Registrary has assured the Board that the cost of the significant restructuring at all levels in the Human Resources Division has not required any increase in budget allocation above imposed budgetary caps within the Unified Administrative Service ('UAS').12 However, the Board welcomes further accountability and communication in this regard, which has been a positive and increasing feature since the appointment of the new Registrary as shown by the last two Annual Reports of the UAS.13
39. The Board recommends that the Annual Report of the UAS for 2008-09 should again include information summarizing total HR pay costs, with expenditure by function clearly labelled with both percentage and sterling value, and providing a comparison with total pay costs for 2007-08.
40. Efforts are being made to improve communication. It was pleasing to see that the facility to include important information to staff in payslips was used in March to provide advance notice of changes to pension arrangements, as well as a Notice in Reporter and an announcement on the Human Resources Division website.
41. However, conversely, the move to a standard 36½-hour working week for assistant staff over the summer caused difficulties due to lack of communication with Departments. The issues are now resolved but the Board hopes the University will continue to strive to improve communication with appropriately knowledgeable staff with regards to major central policy changes and initiatives.
42. The four-year-period of pay protection for staff whose posts were 'red-circled' at the implementation of the single spine on 1 January 2006 is drawing to an end. It had been hoped that resolutions to 'red-circling' could be found either by expanding the roles of affected staff or by training and appointing them to another post at a higher grade. However in the current economic climate there is a possibility that this is less likely to happen. The Board has been advised by HR that there are currently 66 red-circled cases left to be addressed from the initial total of about 400.
43. The time taken to grade posts on the Higher Education Role Analysis ('HERA') system has fallen, but the process remains complex and difficulties are still encountered when writing a role description to target a particular grade - for example when an institution has a fixed level of funding for a post. Some training in writing PD33s has been provided which has eased the process, but the Board reiterates its point about the need for a greater understanding of the HERA scoring system within Departments, even if only at the level of senior HR administrators within Departments.
44. The Board recommends that full training in the HERA methodology for those senior Departmental and institutional administrators who have responsibilities for overall resource and planning issues now be made a priority.
45. Another concern is that the single-spine assimilation process, which resulted in the production of highly detailed job descriptions for all academic-related and assistant staff, has had the unforeseen consequence of fossilizing the University's structure. Institutions may avoid making needed changes to roles because of the need for time-consuming grading.
46. The Board welcomes the publication of the first results of the equal pay review,14 although it does query the long postponement from the expected original publication of this report (originally expected in Lent Term 2008).15 This is a preliminary report which identifies areas where there is concern and where action may need to be taken, but does not propose any action. Although the review is mainly positive some areas requiring further investigation were identified. The Board hopes that this research will take place swiftly.
47. There have been several comments made in Discussion about a lack of clarity in the criteria for senior academic promotions.16 The University clearly has to take into account the cost of promotions at some level as funds are not unlimited. Although this is mentioned in the criteria17 the Board thinks it would be helpful if this point was made more clearly.
48. We have received comment that, at the Faculty and Department level, promotions committees are not taking their responsibilities seriously enough and, for internal political reasons, not holding back from advancement to School committees candidates whose promotion prospects are not as strong as those of others applying from that Faculty or Department. The Board has no way of knowing whether such comments are a true reflection of the position but, in so far as there may be any truth in them, the Board hopes that in future years Faculty and Departmental promotions committees will continue to address issues of selection with the appropriate rigour.
49. Last year the Board commented on the need for the criteria for promotion to personal Professorships, Readerships and Senior University Lectureships to be included in Ordinances. Despite this recommendation and an earlier statement by the General Board indicating that this would happen,18 the Board is concerned to note that this modest step towards accessibility and greater legitimacy has still not taken place.
50. The Board repeats its recommendation that the criteria for senior academic promotion be given legislative force through embodiment in Ordinance.
51. Restructuring is also taking place in RSD with the appointment of the new Director. The Board welcomes this and considers that it may be helpful for RSD to follow the example of the Human Resources Division and consider adopting a new name for itself to send a clear signal that its internal culture has changed.
52. The Board hopes that the new Director and senior management in RSD take the appropriate advice at both strategic and operational levels in order to implement successfully any wide-ranging changes in the division.
53. The Board recommends that a change of name for RSD would now be appropriate.
54. In brief, the report (not Report) (GB Paper No. 08. B. 16) on the review, dated July 2008, proposes bringing under the umbrella of the UL not only all Faculty and Departmental libraries, but also the Language Centre and the Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies ('CARET'). At the time of writing a Notice has appeared in Reporter for 17 June of a Discussion of a topic of concern to the University,19 the subject of such Discussion being the Teaching and Learning Support Services review. The arguments made in the Discussion will come too late for mention in the Report, but if necessary the Board will return to this topic at a later date.
55. Unfortunately there seems to have been little, if any, and certainly no formal, consultation with the Faculty and Departmental librarians prior to the completion of the report which was sent to the administrators of the institutions concerned and therefore filtered down to their librarians over varying periods of time, thus giving rise to understandable nervousness, not to say alarm, not least among librarians familiar with the difficulties which had accompanied the introduction of a broadly similar scheme in Oxford. Much of this anxiety aroused by the report might have been diminished had it been presented to the Regent House for consideration of the principle.
56. Obviously, given the limitation on funds, and the increasing cost of publications, whether paper or electronic, there is sense in, for example, coordinating the provision of periodicals. Such a scheme, the Journals Coordination Steering Committee, has been in place for some time and has received additional attention recently and appears to be working well. There is clearly scope also for rationalization in the area of 'User Education', where there is currently a significant overlap between that provided by the UL and by Faculties/Departments given that the UL (unlike many US and European libraries of similar size) has no subject specialists and might find it advantageous to embed the Faculty/Departmental librarians into their introductions to electronic and paper resources and, certainly, into its accessions policies.
57. In general librarians in Faculties and Departments were concerned about the effect the proposals might have on their freedom of action and their terms and conditions of employment and were confused about future line-management. Early meetings seem to have done little to allay these concerns
58. It is indeed the case that the scheme whereby the Central Science Library, the Medical Library, the Squire Law Library and the Betty and Gordon Moore Library operate under the aegis of the UL work well. These libraries serve undergraduates, indeed, but they also serve the research community. An underlying assumption of the review, on the other hand, is that Faculty and Departmental libraries were designed to serve undergraduate users, as they still do, while the UL served as a research library and is now increasingly used by undergraduates.
59. If funding difficulties mean that undergraduate readers can no longer be entirely served by their College and Departmental libraries, this does not mean that the UL is any less used by researchers, not just on account of its special collections, but also on account of the large quantity of material on open access, which still attracts readers from, for example, Oxford.
60. It seems to be assumed in the review that all, or most, undergraduate needs are, or will shortly, be met entirely by electronic resources. This is clearly not the case at present, while there is a current problem for second-year undergraduates writing dissertations who lack the borrowing privileges of third-year undergraduates (and until the whole world's printed output is on-line it will not be, unless we take an unrealistically depressed view of our students' intellectual curiosity).
61. The review is marred by generalizations. For some institutions on the Sidgwick Site - historians, for example - it is but a short walk to the Official Publications room at the UL and to its manuscript collections, although for some visiting scholars the Faculty/Departmental libraries may meet all their day-to-day needs within a more collegiate compass, and several Departmental libraries, e.g. Criminology and History and Philosophy of Science, hold collections of older, foreign-language publications not available in the UL. Specialist publications in the smaller subjects, moreover, can currently reach the researcher far faster via their Departmental library than they could via the UL. Distance from the UL or its currently dependent libraries is clearly also an issue. These points are sufficiently plain, and the Board regrets that they were not taken into consideration before the review was made semi-public.
62. The good news is that the disparities between the functions and needs of the scattered libraries are now beginning to be recognized. Individual libraries on the Sidgwick Site have been invited to draw up models of how cooperation with the UL might work for them, and such models could then be offered to other institutions. The idea that 'one size fits all' seems to have been abandoned, and, since the (restricted) publication of the review, some steps have been taken to allay the natural suspicions of librarians in specialist libraries.
63. It appears that decisions concerning the coordination of resources are to be taken at School and General Board level, which may or may not reflect the needs of individual Departments.
64. The status of this undoubtedly useful institution is problematical in terms of both funding and the community which it serves. It is not obvious that putting it under the UL umbrella will serve to clarify these issues.
65. If, as the report suggests, the UL should be the main focus of pedagogical support within the University, there is apparent logic in its having good communications with the UL. How, exactly, it would mesh with existing structures, e.g. the IT institutions, has not been made clear.
66. The Board recommends that reports proposing cross-organizational alterations to the administration of support services, especially when involving the terms and conditions of employment of staff, should be offered to the Regent House as matters of principle before detailed proposals are made.
67. Thanks to the hard work of the Telecommunications Office and the Network Division the Telephone Replacement Project is on course to finish by June 2009. However the Board remains concerned about safety and reliability issues in the new VoIP-based telephone system. The Board has been shown some guidance from the Health and Safety Office ('HSO') on safety requirements for VoIP installations, which it has been informed is available on the HSO website. The guidance lays out acceptable options for 'emergency' phones. The Board considers that this useful document should be made more easily accessible.
68. A concern not addressed by the guidance document is that when there are problems on the computer network this now causes both telephones and computers to stop working, making it extremely difficult to report faults. Out of hours fault reporting for the network is currently by telephone to a voicemail box, and staff cover to fix faults out of hours is provided on a voluntary basis. The Joint Network Management Committee is investigating options to provide better cover.20
69. The Board recommends that the University provide 24-hour staff cover for the computer and telephone network and multiple routes to report faults.
70. On 3 June 2009 the General Board published a Notice containing wide-ranging proposals as part of a strategic review of the Institute of Continuing Education.21 The Board proposes to take a closer look at these proposals and their viability during the course of next year. At first blush the various changes in the governance and organization of the Institute, as well as the analysis of its role within the University and outside, have much to commend them. However, the success of the various initiatives proposed in the paper will be heavily dependent on there being full cooperation between the Institute and the relevant Faculties and Departments. The Board has yet to be persuaded that the significance of this, especially in a time of tightening resources, has been fully understood by the University's larger academic community and it hopes that during the coming academical year the General Board will devote the time necessary to secure the kind of University-wide buy-in to these proposals that will be essential to their success.
|1.||The Board recommends that the IO publish its annual report to investors more widely for the general University reader.|
|2.||The Board recommends a robust and activist approach to confronting the problems likely to beset the future of the defined benefit pension schemes in which University employees are registered.|
|3.||As last year, the Board strongly recommends that the University's Finance Committee proceed as soon as possible with a long-dated issuance in the fixed-interest markets while conditions remain historically favourable.|
|4.||The Board recommends that, notwithstanding the currently low levels of Retail Price Index and other indicators in the UK, the University should use an inflation percentage more representative of long-term averages when modelling future financial outcomes.|
|5.||The Board recommends that in future, should the Council and/or the General Board wish to consult the University in a wholly informal fashion before it has formulated its views to the point where it is able to issue a Report, it makes clear at the very outset of the consultation document the precise status of the document that is being issued, why it is not being issued in the form of a Notice or a Report, which body or bodies of the University are issuing it and how comment is to be fed back to those bodies and within what time frame. Proper published Minutes should also be kept of any open meeting consultations.|
|6.||The Board recommends that whatever the outcome of the further debates and discussions on the University's review of its disciplinary, dismissal and grievance procedures, any binding rules and safeguards arising from those discussions which are not to be contained in Statutes must be promulgated in Ordinances.|
|7.||The Board recommends that the Annual Report of the UAS for 2008-09 should again include information summarizing total HR pay costs, with expenditure by function clearly labelled with both percentage and sterling value, and providing a comparison with total pay costs for 2007-08.|
|8.||The Board recommends that full training in the HERA methodology for those senior Departmental and institutional administrators who have responsibilities for overall resource and planning issues now be made a priority.|
|9.||The Board repeats its recommendation that the criteria for senior academic promotion be given legislative force through embodiment in Ordinance.|
|10.||The Board recommends that a change of name for RSD would now be appropriate.|
|11.||The Board recommends that reports proposing cross-organizational alterations to the administration of support services, especially when involving the terms and conditions of employment of staff, should be offered to the Regent House as matters of principle before detailed proposals are made.|
|12.||The Board recommends that the University provide 24-hour staff cover for the computer and telephone network and multiple routes to report faults.|
|25 June 2009||DAVID YATES (Chairman)||MARGARET GLENDENNING||CATHERINE PITT|
|PAUL BEATTIE||MARGARET GUITE||RICHARD STIBBS|
|JEREMY CADDICK||JAMIE HORSLEY||LINDSAY YATES|
|PAUL FFOLKES-DAVIS||ELISABETH LEEDHAM-GREEN|
'The University should investigate with all expediency the prospect of taking advantage of current market conditions to raise significant sums of long-term funds via the fixed interest markets'.
Response: 'The Council and the Finance Committee are proposing amendments of Statute to permit (but not require) such action when conditions are optimal. A Report proposing amendments to Statute F has been published on p. 145.'22
Comment: We understand that the requisite statutory powers are now in place. As we observe in our Report at paragraph 18, we remain of the belief that there are still opportunities in the debt markets that the University should be exploring.
'Clearer picture of the contribution to finances of the Cambridge 800th Anniversary campaign should be represented in the annual accounts'.
Response: 'Publication of this information is kept under review, and, as the Board recognizes, substantial information is always published. Information published in or with the accounts must comply with the relevant SORP.'
Comment: There is still scope for greater clarity in this area while still being in compliance with the SORP. It is still difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile fundraising numbers with the figures appearing in the Financial Statements. We suggest that greater light could be shed on this area with a detailed Note.
'With the establishment of the University's Investment Office, a more substantial report into its activities and relative performance should be considered for future annual review.'
Response: 'Information about investment performance is published in the Financial Statements, which are published in the Reporter alongside the Council's Annual Report, and in the Financial Management Information, which is published in a Special No. of the Reporter. The Finance Committee (and the Council) receive regular information from the Council's Investment Board. The Finance Committee (and the Council) receive an annual report on the Cambridge University Endowment Fund, and both the Committee and the Council meet with the Chief Investment Officer to discuss investment matters. The reporting of the Investment Office and the Investment Board is to the Finance Committee and the Council. The Investment Office will continue the current practice of an annual summary to investors in the Endowment Fund and expects to develop the scope and content further.'
Comment: The Board appreciates the report to investors produced by the IO and believes it would be helpful if this were given wider circulation.
'A Syndicate should be established as soon as possible to undertake a revision of Statutes and Ordinances.'
Response: 'Proposals for the revision of Statute U (about the employment, grievance, discipline, and dismissal of academic staff) are in the course of consultation. A process of consolidating Orders (that is decisions of the Regent House which are not in the form of regulations) has been initiated by the officers, and will be concluded during 2008-09. Fuller information will be contained in the Council's Annual Report for 2007-08, to be published later in the term.'
Comment: The Board remains of the view that this is an urgent matter that should be addressed sooner rather than later. Indeed, the reference in the Council's Annual Report for 2007-08 to an 'eventual' full revision of Ordinances and Statutes does not display the appropriate sense of urgency that we believe is required. Further proposed 'tinkering' with individual provisions is only likely to compound the eventual difficulties.
'The Project Board of CamSIS should endeavour to fulfil the aspirations of the agreed vision statement.'
Response: See below.
Comment: The Board notes the successful introduction of the Online Admission form in CamSIS (the successor to the Cambridge Application Form in the 2008-09 admissions season) and the welcome introduction of Cambridge terminology to many parts of CamSIS, and looks forward to continuing improvements in this core system.
'Efforts should continue to improve communications on the VoIP project.'
Response: See below.
'The HSO and the VoIP project managers should issue joint guidance on safety requirements for VoIP installations.'
Response: 'The Council is referring these recommendations [for 5, 6, and 7] to the relevant project boards for consideration and report to the Information Strategy and Services Syndicate.'
Comment: The Board still has some concerns about safety and reliability issues in the new VoIP telephone system (see paragraph 68 above).
'The University should append an explanatory note to Regulation 24 in the next and future publications of the University's Statutes and Ordinances.'
Response: 'This is agreed.'
Comment: The Board is delighted to note that this has now been done.23
|CamSIS:||Cambridge Student Information System|
|CARET||Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies|
|CCFPS:||Cambridge Colleges Federated Pension Scheme|
|Chest:||An income stream consisting of funding council grants, Home and Overseas fees, endowment income, a share of research grant overheads, transfers from CUP and Cambridge Assessment, and certain other operating income|
|CIF:||Capital Investment Framework|
|CPS:||Cambridge University Assistants' Contributory Pension Scheme|
|CUEF:||Cambridge University Endowment Fund|
|CUP or the Press:||Cambridge University Press|
|fEC:||full Economic Costing|
|FRS 17:||Financial Reporting Standard 17|
|HEFCE:||Higher Education Funding Council for England|
|HERA:||Higher Education Role Analysis|
|HSO:||Health and Safety Office|
|JRG:||Joint Review Group|
|RAE:||Research Assessment Exercise|
|RSD:||Research Services Division|
|SORP:||Statement of Recommended Practice|
|TRAC:||Transparent Approach to Costing|
|USS:||Universities Superannuation Scheme|
|VoIP:||Voice over Internet Protocol|
1 Reporter, 28 January 2009, p. 450, http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2008-09/weekly/6138/16.html
2 Reporter, 1 December 2008, p. 233, http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2008-09/weekly/6130/3.html
3 Reporter, 5 November 2008, p. 138, http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2008-09/weekly/6126/6.html
4 Reporter, 20 May 2009, p. 763, http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2008-09/weekly/6151/21.html
5 Reporter, 17 June 2009, p. 897, http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2008-09/weekly/6155/21.html
6 Reporter, 20 May 2009, p. 763, http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2008-09/weekly/6151/21.html
7 Reporter, 4 December 2008, http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2008-09/weekly/6132/white_paper.pdf
8 Reporter, 9 January 2008, p. 404, http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2007-08/weekly/6097/32.html
9 Reporter, 7 May 2009, p. 688, http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2008-09/weekly/6149/7.html
10 Reporter, 11 February 2009, p. 490, http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2008-09/weekly/6140/16.html
11 In Council Minutes of 18 Feb 2008
12 UAS Annual Report 2006-07, http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/registrary/report/2006.pdf
13 UAS Annual Report 2007-08, http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/registrary/report/2007.pdf
17 http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2002-03/weekly/5899/5899.pdf para. 5.16
18 General Board Notice of 11 December 2002, See Reporter, 11 December 2002, p. 389, http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2002-03/weekly/5907/7.html
19 Reporter, 17 June, p. 867, http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2008-09/weekly/6153/9.html
21 Reporter, 3 June 2009, p. 812, http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2008-09/weekly/6153/9.html
22 Reporter, 5 November 2008, p. 145, http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2008-09/weekly/6126/12.html
23 Reporter, 10 December 2008, p. 335, http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2008-09/weekly/6133/5.html
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Cambridge University Reporter 15 July 2009
Copyright © 2009 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.