Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6169

Monday 30 November 2009

Vol cxl No 10

pp. 293–340

Annual Report of the Council for the academical year 2008–09

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

1. Introduction

1.1 This is the Council’s Annual Report on its work in the academical year 2008–09. It is accompanied by the General Board’s Annual Report to the Council about its own work in its particular domains of education and research (p. 301). The Reports are also accompanied by the University’s Financial Statements (p. 305). The Council is declared by Statute to be the University’s principal policy making and executive body, subject to the powers and responsibilities of the Regent House, and this Report sets out how the Council has discharged its role during 2008–09.

1.2 The Council paid tribute to Professor Sir David Williams, EM, Vice-Chancellor 1989–96, and formerly Rouse Ball Professor of English Law, who died on 6 September 2009. Sir David held the Vice-Chancellorship for three years as President of Wolfson College, and then for four years under the new Statute, a unique tenure of the office.

1.3 The Council also paid tribute to Professor W. A. Deer, Vice-Chancellor 1973–75, Master of Trinity Hall and Professor of Mineralogy and Petrology, who died on 8 February 2009, and to Dr Ian Nicol, F, Secretary General of the Faculties 1972–84, and previously Secretary of the School of the Physical Sciences, who died on 18 February 2009. Both played important roles, in collaboration, in the strategic development of the University, in particular in connection with the development of West Cambridge, and Dr Nicol played the major role in developing the present School structure.

2. High Officers

2.1 Lord Richardson of Duntisbourne, who had held the office of Deputy High Steward since 1982, resigned the office in the summer of 2009. The Council records the University’s thanks to Lord Richardson for his service to the University in this capacity. The High Steward has appointed Mrs Anne Lonsdale as Deputy High Steward by Letters Patent in accordance with the Statute.1

2.2 The present High Steward, Dame Bridget Ogilvie, has since resigned the office with effect on 31 December 2009, and the Nomination Board for the offices of Chancellor and High Steward will meet during the Michaelmas Term.2 The Council takes this opportunity of recording its own and the University’s thanks to Dame Bridget Ogilvie for her service as High Steward, and in particular for chairing the Nominating Committee for external members of the Council, which has now undertaken two successive sets of nominations.

3. Membership of the Council

3.1 Lord Simon, CAI, and Mr Nigel Brown OBE, HH, were reappointed external members of the Council. Following the recent change of Statute, two new external members of Council were appointed: Dr Vanessa Lawrence CB (Director General of the Ordnance Survey) and Dame Mavis McDonald (former Permanent Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister). The Council welcomed this strengthening of its membership. Pursuant to the new Statute, Lord Simon has been appointed as the Deputy Chairman of the Council and has chaired parts of several meetings, including those about the accountability and reporting of the Vice-Chancellor. He also chairs the Council’s Remuneration Committee. Mr Brown continues to discharge the important role of Chairman of the Audit Committee.

3.2 The University has good cause to be grateful to the external members of the Council (and external members of other bodies) for their disinterested but committed service.

3.3 The biennial election of members of the Council in classes (a), (b), and (c) took place in the Michaelmas Term 2008 and the annual election of student members in the Easter Term 2009.

4. Major appointments

4.1 In 2009 the Council initiated the process for the nomination of a Vice-Chancellor to succeed Professor Alison Richard from 1 October 2010. An Advisory Committee was set up under the chairmanship of the Master of Christ’s, a member of the Council. Consultants (Perrett Laver) were appointed and the office was advertised. The Council has been updated at each regular meeting about the Committee’s work. The Council expects, after meeting identified candidates, to decide its recommendation, to be submitted to the Regent House for approval by Grace, by the end of the Michaelmas Term 2009 (see Grace 1 of 26 November 2009).

4.2 Professor John Rallison, T, took up office on 1 October 2008 as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education. On the recommendation of the Nominating Committee established by Ordinance, and after consultation with the General Board, the Council appointed Professor Steve Young, EM, of the Department of Engineering and formerly Chair of the School of Technology, as Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor, with particular resp­onsibility for Planning and Resources, to succeed Professor Tony Minson at the completion of his six years of service, on 1 August 2009.

4.3 The Council initiated the process to appoint Pro-Vice-Chancellors to succeed Professor Cliff, Professor Leslie, and Dr Pretty, who retire from that office on 31 December 2009. These appointments have now been announced in the Reporter (p. 70).

4.4 The Council records its wholehearted appreciation of the contribution of Professor Minson as a Pro-Vice-Chancellor, in supporting the Vice-Chancellor and the other Pro-Vice-Chancellors, and in leading the Planning and Resources and Resource Management Committees, in increasingly difficult external circumstances, and in a period of internal development as devolution of financial and other responsibilities to the Schools has been embedded, and in many other important roles. The Council was pleased to record the Vice-Chancellor’s intention to appoint Professor Minson to chair the Press Syndicate from 1 October 2009.

5. Colleges

5.1 The Council was pleased to report to the University recommending that consent be given to the application by the trustees of Homerton College for full chartered College status within the University. The necessary amendment of the University Statutes has already been approved. It is expected that a Charter (and Statutes) for the College will be granted in due course, probably during 2010.

5.2 The Council has been pleased also to recommend approval by the University of the intended change of title of New Hall, to Murray Edwards College, consequent on a munificent benefaction to the College, and also marking the service of the first President of New Hall, Dame Rosemary Murray, who was Vice-Chancellor of the University in 1975–77. Again, the necessary change of University Statute has been approved.

6. The Council

6.1 The Council meets relatively frequently, approximately monthly except in August. It also normally has twice-yearly strategic meetings, and occasional special or informal meetings. The Council’s non-confidential minutes and papers are available on the internal website at

6.2 In addition to its full meetings the Council operates through various other mechanisms, including a network of policy and executive committees, which include the major policy-making committees jointly established with the General Board. These committees include

Committees of the Council



Investment Board

Executive (ethical and legal business)

Student Matters

Applications (individual undergraduate cases)


Joint Committees with the General Board

Human Resources

Planning and Resources

Resource Management


6.3 The Council also discharges much legislative and preparatory business through its Business Committee, which works under carefully defined protocols to permit all members of the Council to participate if necessary in business. It deals with matters which, although important, do not need to be held up to be dealt with at full monthly meetings of the Council or which require preliminary consideration. In addition, the Council receives routine business through weekly circulars (also available on the Council’s web site), which set out matters for information, and straightforward matters for approval. Again, any member of the Council may request that such business is referred to a meeting of the Council.

7. Accountability and Audit

7.1 The Council considered the report of the 2008 HEFCE Assurance visit (which has been published, Reporter, 2008–09, p. 591). The report gave the important finding that HEFCE could repose confidence in the University’s accountability arrangements (which are largely conducted through the Council’s own Audit Committee). The report made constructive suggestions about the development of the University’s arrangements, in particular in respect of the responsibilities of the Council and other central committees (such as the University Audit Committee and the Finance Committee) in respect of Cambridge University Press (which has a special statutory position) and the Local Examinations Syndicate (Cambridge Assessment). In particular steps are being taken to ensure the coordination of audit functions, and for the University Audit Committee to be strengthened by the addition of a member from each of the audit committees of the two Syndicates.

7.2 The University Audit Committee, which is a Committee of the Council chaired by Mr Nigel Brown OBE, an external member of the Council, has continued its demanding programme of frequent meetings, with consideration of reports from the internal audit function, and of reports by the external auditors. By Grace PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) have been appointed as external auditors for the University for 2008–09 following a market testing exercise, and have also been appointed as external auditors for Cambridge Assessment and Cambridge University Press (the latter from its 2009–10 financial year).

7.3 The internal audit function has also been market tested and Deloitte have been appointed as the internal auditor.

8. Finance and resources

8.1 The Council principally conducts finance and resource business through its Finance Committee, chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, and, jointly with the General Board, through the Planning and Resources Committee (PRC) chaired by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Planning and Resources, supplemented in more detailed matters by the Resource Management Committee (RMC), also chaired by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor. The principal functions of the Finance Committee are to oversee the financial position of the University overall, and the custody and management of major assets, and in dialogue with the PRC to set the annual budgetary envelope. The functions of the PRC and the RMC are to conduct planning and resource allocation business, in the case of resource allocation within the budgetary envelope identified by the Finance Committee.

8.2 The Council, on the advice of the Finance Committee, monitored the worsening economic conditions over the year which impacted on the values of the University’s investment assets and the pension schemes to which the University is exposed, and the outlook for future public and other funding.

8.3 The Council (following discussion in the Finance Committee and the Planning and Resources Committee) considered the Budget Report in detail on several occasions. The Report set out the financial position of the University and proposed allocations from the Chest for 2009–10.3 Although the position for 2009 remains relatively secure there are many uncertainties about future government funding through HEFCE and Research Councils, and about other sources of funding. The regular transfers from the Local Examinations Syndicate (Cambridge Assessment) and Cambridge University Press to the Chest are an important element in the University’s finances, representing, as they do, a significant element of unrestricted resource.

8.4 Work on reviewing the University’s financial strategy has progressed with increasing importance as the financial position has tightened, and is being discussed by the Finance Committee and the Council itself. A detailed discussion took place at the Council’s September 2009 strategic meeting.

8.5 The increasing costs of pension provision (Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), Cont­ributory Pension Scheme (CPS)) are a matter for concern and the Council has asked its Finance Committee to explore ways of ensuring that the University’s pension schemes are affordable and sustainable going forward.

8.6 Through its Investment Board the Council has monitored the management of the Cambridge University Endowment Fund over the period and was pleased to note that investment performance, although negative, was ahead of the usual indices.

8.7 The annual Reports and Financial Statements for 2007–08 were submitted to HEFCE in good time for the accelerated timetable.

9. University buildings and the estate

9.1 The Council’s responsibilities for University buildings and the estate are principally conducted through the Buildings Committee, a joint Committee of the Council and the General Board, chaired by an external member (Mr Terry Gardner) and which reports to the central bodies through the Planning and Resources Committee. The Council’s Finance Committee also has a role in connection with the non-operational estate, including investment properties.

9.2. Building projects. The following projects were completed in the period, all of them within budget (to a total of £35.9m):

Department of Plant Sciences – Refurbishment of part of second and third floors

Department of Engineering – Refurbishments Phase 1 & 2

ADC Theatre Phase 2b

History and Philosophy of Science – Expansion of Whipple Library Phase 1 & 2

University Library – Replacement of storage for printed research

Kavli Institute for Cosmology (partial completion July 2009)

Institute for Manufacturing

School of Clinical Medicine – Refurbishment of the Herchel Smith Laboratory

9.3 Construction work on other major projects continues including for the Sainsbury Laboratory in the Botanic Garden. Major projects for the Humanities and Social Sciences and Materials Science and Metallurgy on the Sidgwick Avenue and West Cambridge sites respectively are in advanced design stages.

9.4 University staff have been engaged with the Higher Education Environmental Performance Improvement (HEEPI) in advising the Building Research Establishment on the development of the new Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) for higher education standards, which was introduced in July 2009. All higher education buildings need to comply with them. The University achieved its first two BREEAM ‘Excellent’ scores this year on the Institute for Manufacturing and the Kavli Institute for Cosmology projects confirming continuing commitment to the development of highly sustainable buildings.

10. North West Cambridge

10.1 An important stage has been reached in the development of North West Cambridge, with the report of the Inspectors about the plan for the area, which accepted the principal arguments put forward by the University and allows the University to proceed with its own planning. To this end the Council expects soon to issue information4 and, later in 2009–10, a Report about the proposed machinery for undertaking the programmes of development of the site.

11. Student matters

11.1 The Council discharges its responsibilities for University student unions under the Education Acts in respect of governance (the approval, review, and amendment of constitutions; electoral schemes and election conduct) and financial management (approval of estimates of income and expenditure and of audited accounts) through its Student Matters Committee. The Committee includes in its membership senior members of the Council, the Proctors, the student members of the Council and the General Board, and the sabbatical officers of Cambridge University Students Union (CUSU) and the Graduate Union.

11.2 During 2008–09 the Committee has been undertaking a review of the finances, and purposes, of the two student unions, in particular with respect to the discretionary financial assistance provided by the University. That review is ongoing and is expected to propose in due course a revised framework for the allocation of resources to the unions, having regard to their agreed continuing services, activities, and functions.

11.3 The Committee undertook significant work on the review of student complaint procedures in various domains. The range of complaint, review, and appeal procedures available to students was further extended by the Council through the introduction of a procedure for the review of decisions of the Applications Committee of the Council in respect of allowances for candidates for examinations and allowances of terms. The Council recognizes the valuable contribution made by both senior and junior members of the University who have participated in the appeal, complaint, and disciplinary procedures.

11.4 The Committee has also overseen the development of a new procedure for Dignity at Study, parallel to the procedures for Dignity at Work for staff, and expects to put forward a final version during 2009–10.

12. The Campaign and alumni relations

12.1 The Development Director is now responsible also for the new Alumni Relations Office. The Development Director has reported regularly to the Council about progress on the Campaign, and the Council has been pleased that, despite the unfavourable economic circumstances, good momentum has been maintained, both for the University and Colleges.

12.2 Whilst there has been a fall in the average volume and value of gifts of £1m or more, it is anticipated that the Campaign will exceed the £900m milestone as a result of funds received in 2008–09. Information is currently being collected from the Colleges about their fundraising income for 2008–09 and a final figure will be published in the forthcoming Campaign Report in November. The Council has also been pleased to see that the pipeline of gifts in negotiation and under consideration by donors has remained strong. The 800th Anniversary has provided additional opportunities to cultivate relationships with existing and prospective donors, most notably at the Cambridge ‘Prom’ in July when a pre-concert reception attracted 350 guests. Also in July the Chancellor’s 800th Anniversary medal was awarded for the first time to thirteen of collegiate Cambridge’s most significant benefactors.

12.3 The new Cambridge Alumni Relations Office (CARO) was formally launched in the Spring and the merger with the Cambridge Society was finalized in June. The Council is most grateful to the Society for their contribution to the development of strong connections with alumni and their support for the new office. CARO has worked closely with the 800th Anniversary team to use the celebrations as a platform for strengthening connections with worldwide alumni, for example, the 2009 Alumni Weekend which took place just outside the period of this Report.

13. Academic, education, and research

13.1 The University’s teaching and research activities are the primary responsibility of the General Board of the Faculties, which has its own statutory powers and responsibilities, including powers of supervision over institutions placed under its supervision (principally the Schools, Faculties and Departments, the Library, the Institute of Continuing Education, and the University Computing Service). The Board reports as necessary to the University, and submits an Annual Report to the Council as required by Statute.

13.2 A major theme in the present year has been the outcome of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). This ranked the University in first position in most analyses of the results, which was highly satisfactory. The outcome reflects not only the outstanding strength and breadth of the University’s research but also the support for the University’s submissions of staff across the institution. The funding outcomes, however, going forward, are not yet entirely clear, although the outcome seems likely to be more satisfactory than had been feared.

13.3 The RAE will be replaced by the proposed Research Excellence Framework (REF). University staff, and in particular the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, have contributed to national consultation and discussion about the development of this Framework, not yet concluded. This is of critical importance to the University, given the need to sustain research of the highest quality internationally. The Council emphasizes the value to the University of the research element of the HEFCE blue grant, which makes crucial contributions to the resources available to the Schools, supporting this endeavour. The University is a pilot in the HEFCE study of ‘impact’ in relation to Research funding.

13.4 Certain recommendations arising from the last Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) audit of the University’s educational provision have been implemen­ted, as was the bulk of the action plan agreed following the General Board’s review of graduate education.

13.5 In addition to the Board’s rolling programme of departmental reviews, the Board also concluded strategic reviews of the Institute of Continuing Education and of the University’s Learning and Teaching Support Services. Mrs Anne Jarvis was elected University Librarian, in succession to Mr Peter Fox, and Dr Rebecca Lingwood was appointed Director of Continuing Education in succession to Professor Richard Taylor.

13.6 Proposals for the introduction of the degrees of Master of Mathematics and of Master of Advanced Study were approved by the Regent House.

13.7 The Council and the Board have reported to the University about proposing the designation of the Professorship of Botany as a Regius Professorship, to mark the establishment of the new research centre for plant sciences.5

13.8 Further details of teaching and research activities are in the Annual Report of the General Board to the Council, published with this Report (pp. 301–304).

14. People and HR

14.1 The Council conducts its responsibilities in relation to the University as an employer through the Human Resources (HR) Committee, which is a joint Committee with the General Board (which itself has important employment responsibilities in relation to staff in General Board institutions).

14.2 A major task has been the continuing review of Statute U with a view to modernization and simplification. The Council has discussed the developing proposals on several occasions, and is holding a joint meeting with the General Board. The Council and the Board expect to report to the University in Michaelmas Term 2009.6

14.3 The Human Resources Division of the University Offices has been restructured, to focus on service to the Schools and other major units. Rebecca McIntosh has been appointed as Assistant Director of Human Resources. Mike Williams has been appointed as the Dentist for the University Dental Service and reports to the Director of the Human Resources Division for day-to-day matters.

14.4 Proposals to develop a further range of non-pay benefits have been progressed during the year. Pensions salary sacrifice has been introduced which ultimately increases the take home pay for staff who are in one of the occupational pension schemes. A cycle to work scheme is shortly to be implemented with other benefits (including those which support the University’s sustainability agenda) also being planned. The University Nurseries for the children of staff and students have been enhanced by the introduction of a new provider and the availability of improved facilities and play equipment. The Committee is monitoring with care the progress of national pay negotiations for university staff.

14.5 The Council received the University’s first Equal Pay Report during the year. Under the Council’s direction, a Gender Representation Review Group (GRRG) was formed, to report to the Human Resources Committee, with the objective of reviewing current University staff procedures and policies. It also made a submission to the General Board review of the Senior Academic Promotions process.

14.6 The work on harmonization of terms and conditions has continued. The standard hours of work (36.5 hours) have been implemented across the University and contracts of employment for new staff have been updated and modernized to reflect compliance with legislation and harmonization on the language used.

15. Swine flu preparation

15.1 Since May 2009, the Council has been actively engaged in preparations for a potentially significant outbreak of swine flu (H1N1) during Michaelmas Term 2009. The Emergency Management Team established an Incident Liaison Team (ILT) which has met weekly since the middle of June 2009 to discuss developments and determine future actions. Dr Mark Wormald (then Chair of the Advisory Group for Communicable Diseases and representative of the Senior Tutors’ Committee) drove forward the initial work; he was replaced by Dr Paul Hartle in August 2009. The ILT’s membership includes representatives from the Occupational Health Service, the Human Resources Division, the Office of Communications, the Secretariat, CUSU, and the Graduate Union.

15.2 The ILT’s remit is the establishment of appropriate policy and procedure (for approval as necessary by the Emergency Management Team) and the drafting and dissemination of accurate and timely information. The ILT has actively and regularly reviewed guidance from government sources and agencies, Universities UK, and HEFCE and has updated local guidance and documentation to take account of a rapidly changing situation. There has been regular interaction with the local Primary Care Trust and with GPs. All of the guidance and documentation which the ILT has produced has focused on the need to consider issues associated with continuity management and to reduce, as far as possible, the risk of spread.

16. The 800th Anniversary celebration

16.1 The celebrations taking place throughout 2009 to mark the 800th anniversary of the establishment of the University have been well received. The year began with church bells ringing touches of 800 changes especially composed for the occasion. Alumni groups from Melbourne to Toronto and from Mumbai to New York celebrated by ‘Ringing in the Year’. Light displays on the facades of The Old Schools and the Senate House were widely appreciated in the University and the City by over 15,000 people, and have been repeated in Beijing. Other highlights have included a Garden Party for 9,000 staff and friends in the Botanic Garden, and a BBC Henry Wood Promenade concert featuring the combined choirs of collegiate Cambridge and Cambridge alumni as performers and composers. The concert was the fastest selling event of the Promenade season.

16.2 These headline events were supplemented by over 40 events organized by societies, Departments, and Colleges, and supported by the 2009 Fund of the 800th Anniversary Committee. In addition, in balancing celebration with academic content, a growing number of short films and audio recordings labelled ‘Cambridge Ideas’ on the 800th Anniversary website ( demonstrate the transformational work of the Cambridge academic community.

16.3 ‘Letters to the Future’ offers the chance for the members of the University and others to leave a legacy from the Anniversary to their as yet unborn successors or relatives in 100 years time. A collection of 800 letters will be stored in the University Library until 2109.

16.4 These activities are just some of the highlights of the Anniversary year. The positive media interest from around the world has emphasized the global importance of the University.

16.5 The Council is grateful to the 800th Anniversary Steering Committee chaired by Professor Jeremy Sanders and the 800th team headed by Geoff Morris for the success of the Anniversary celebrations.

17. The Darwin Bicentenary

17.1 2009 is also the bicentenary of Charles Darwin. This has been marked by several major events in the University, including an exhibition in the University Library. The Council congratulates the Fitzwilliam Museum, in particular, on the success of and acclaim given to its internationally noted exhibition ‘Endless Forms’, an exemplar of the contribution which the University museums can make to public understanding and appreciation of scientific insight and its broader impact.

18. Council institutions, the Unified Administrative Service (UAS), and the University Offices

18.1 Development of the University Offices and the UAS continues and the Council receives reports from the Registrary, as head of both. The Research Services and the Human Resources Divisions are being reorganized better to reflect the needs of Schools, and to provide better customer focus. It is expected that a Head of Student Services will be appointed in the Academic Division to provide better focus for the various services provided directly to students, some of which are delivered through freestanding institutions under the supervision of the Council, some through General Board institutions, and some through the University Offices.

18.2 Senior appointments of University Officers in the UAS are made by the Council’s Standing Appointments Committee. The Council’s Remuneration Committee considers matters relating to senior salaries and stipends, including aspects of professorial pay.

19. Governance

19.1 The Council is establishing an advisory group under the chairmanship of Professor David Yates, Warden of Robinson College and outgoing Chairman of the Board of Scrutiny, to undertake a scoping study to prepare for the proposed revision of the Statutes, and Ordinances, to provide a framework for the review. The Council has asked the advisory group to report to it by Easter 2010.

20. The Council’s work in 2009–10

20.1 The Council expects, as mentioned earlier in the Report, that it will make or recommend important appointments during 2009–10, those of the Vice-Chancellor (1 October 2010 to 30 September 2017) and (already concluded) those of up to three Pro-Vice-Chancellors (1 January 2010 to 31 December 2013). The Council will facilitate the transition between Vice-Chancellors, and will make arrangements for timely strategic discussions led by the new Vice-Chancellor.

20.2 The Council will also take forward the results of deliberations about Statute U and related employment policies and procedures.

20.3 The Council will consider the suggestions of the technical advisory group about the revision of the Statutes, and Ordinances, in the Easter Term 2010.

20.4 The year may well see significant challenges in relation to the system of public funding, including the review of Home and EU undergraduate student fees. These will arise from decisions initiated by government. The Council will seek to ensure that any changes safeguard good access to Cambridge undergraduate courses.

20.5 The Council expects the University to continue to contribute energetically to the continuing consultations about the Research Excellence Framework.

20.6 The national, and indeed global, economic downturn will impact on public funds available for higher education through HEFCE and other organizations (such as the Research Councils). The Council (and the General Board), particularly through the actions of the Finance and Planning and Resources Committees, will monitor the financial situation as it develops. Guidance will be communicated to the Schools and other University institutions, and an up-to-date assessment will be published in the Allocations (or Budget) Report to be published in the Easter Term 2010.

27 November 2009

Alison Richard, Vice-Chancellor

M. R. Clark

Vanessa Lawrence

David Abulafia

S. J. Cowley

J. F. Li

Ross Anderson

M. J. Daunton

D. Lowry

N. Bampos

A. M. Donald

Debbie Lowther

R. J. Barnes

R. J. Dowling

Mavis McDonald

Nigel Brown

David Good

Rachael Padman

William Brown

Christopher Hum

David Simon

T. Chigbo

F. P. Kelly

Joan M. Whitehead