Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6196

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Vol cxl No 37

pp. 1101–1188

Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

A Discussion was held in the Senate-House. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Dr Gordon Johnson was presiding, with the Registrary, two Pro-Proctors, and eleven other persons present.

The following Reports were discussed:

Report of the Council, dated 31 May 2010, on the gallery refurbishment and new entrance for the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Reporter, p. 942).

Dr C. R. Lewis (read by Dr C. M. Hills):

I am speaking as the President of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society. The topic under discussion today is the Report of the Council on the gallery refurbishment and new entrance for the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Reporter, 3 June 2010). As the Report explains, the Museum holds ‘the third most significant collection in its fields in the UK, with many unique artefacts and pieces of exceptional historic significance from Captain Cook’s voyages, archaeological discoveries from excavations in the Olduvai Gorge, and Roman and Anglo-Saxon finds from the Cambridge area’, many the gift of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society (hereafter CAS) to the University in and after 1883 (ibid.).

This is not the time to rehearse the founding of the CAS in 1840 by members of the University and others principally for the purpose of engaging the public in archaeological work carried out within the University across the Cambridge region. Nor is it the time to explain the catalytic role of the gifts of the Society’s archaeological and ethnological collections in the founding of the Museum in 1883, or its contribution to research and scholarship in the Departments of Archaeology and Anthropology especially, but also elsewhere in the University, for the following century and more (Reporter, 4 December 1883). Nor will members of the Regent House need reminding of the recognition of the supportive collaboration between the CAS and the University in the agreements between the two in 1883, 1919, 1949, and 1987 (Reporter, 4 December 1883, 14 May 1919, 19 October 1949, and 23 April 1987).

The vision of the Director and his staff for the development of the Museum as ‘a genuine public museum as well as a teaching and research institution’ is exciting, achievable, and commendable (Reporter, 3 June 2010). The proposal of a Museum whose layout and displays will be accessible and stimulating not only to those who come to them for the first time, but also – by using the displays to disseminate leading-edge theory and research – to students, scholars, and researchers, is inspiring. The energy of the Museum Director and his staff in their successful application for grant funding and in their careful planning for the maximum benefit to be achieved from the grant is admirable. It comes at a time when public awareness of archaeological heritage is particularly high, and when such interest receives strong support from researchers, practitioners, national and international policy-makers, and professionals in the field. The CAS supports the Museum’s initiative whole-heartedly, and offers the following remarks in the hope that they may be helpful in the months to come as the plans become reality.

The CAS aims to engage the public in their archaeological and local historical heritage and the contribution made by the University to the historic environment – for their own benefit, for the advantages of the communities within which they live and the organizations within which they may work or volunteer, and in order to contribute to the scholarship of both students and the academic community at large. In these ways, the Society strengthens the impact of the contribution of research to policy-making, helps to influence the direction of future research, and through the transfer of academic knowledge in its engagement with the public offers opportunities for inclusion and cohesiveness in communities on which the impact of globalization can be to make them more diverse, less interconnected, and more transient.

It is intended that this formal contribution to today’s discussion of the gallery refurbishment and new entrance for the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology will enable CAS to make a helpful and important input into the contribution made by the Museum to public engagement and research impact in archaeology and anthropology. The CAS brings together scholars across the University and in other academic institutions, professionals and policy-makers, nationally and internationally, with a broad range of the general public. Though its particular focus is on the Cambridge region, it seeks to enhance public and scholarly recognition of the contribution of regional archaeology to archaeological thought and its place in the wider context of British and European archaeology. The Society will be delighted to assist the current and future development of the Museum through effective, formal collaboration which would support the Museum, the Department of Archaeology and the University to ‘raise the profile of [archaeological] research and be an effective advocate for its social, cultural and economic significance’ (, our addition).

The conditions of the grant require the infrastructural building works to be completed by the end of March 2011. There is therefore a great deal for the Director of the Museum and his staff to undertake in the intervening months and the detailed plans for the archaeological displays in the Museum are, necessarily, still unclear. The CAS considers that in developing these plans, it is of the utmost importance that:

a) The Museum should undertake full and proper processes of consultation with the Council of the CAS in (i) the short-term development of the building works; (ii) in developing the detail and content of the new displays of the archaeology of Cambridge and its region, which must have due prominence, be of impeccable academic quality (taking full account of recent significant archaeological discoveries) while also being engaging for the general visiting public, and be capable of being updated with new discoveries as and when appropriate, and (iii) in the medium- and longer-term in deciding the contribution of the Society’s archaeological and ethnological collections to the displays in the Museum.

b) The Museum should ensure that the world archaeology display, which has already been dismantled, will be reopened and made available for teaching, research, and the visiting public as soon as possible.

c) The Museum should continue in the long term to fulfil the role for which it was founded, that is, as the archaeological museum for the Cambridge region (including the city of Cambridge), while recognizing that the Museum’s other collections will make this one role among several; and that it continues to provide supported access to its collections for teaching and research.

Professor N. J. Thomas:

The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has long made substantial contributions to teaching and research at the University and I think most particularly given Cambridge students access to original material and historic collections of great significance that have made their learning experience at this University very special and quite different to the experiences of many students at other institutions.

However for many years we have felt that the Museum has not worked as effectively as it might, as a public institution, an institution that takes Cambridge collections, the treasures brought to Cambridge by many researchers, scientists, travellers, alumni, and of course most particularly by the Cambridge Antiquarian Society. It has not brought those important collections as effectively as it might to a wider audience and one of the key motivations behind these proposals, the redevelopment plan, is the re-presentation of the Museum in a form in which it is more publicly accessible. That process involves most particularly the development of a new public entrance and the redevelopment of galleries that have become dated.

It does seem of importance in itself, of great public value, that we’re in a position to take Cambridge collections and contemporary Cambridge research to the widest possible audiences but it’s also important to the Museum that we are doing this effectively because the process enables us to raise funds more effectively and sustain the Institution in what is certainly going to be a tremendously challenging period financially and in other respects. The process of developing new exhibitions is one that must be undertaken collaboratively; we are committed to engagement, discussion, the process of consultation involving students, colleagues within the University, and colleagues beyond the University. Discussion with the Cambridge Antiquarian Society in particular looms large in that process. That process of consultation has begun and I look forward to it being carried on in a tremendously fruitful way over the coming months, and not too many years we hope before the galleries are in a position to be re-opened and to present our work, our collections, the research of the University generally, more effectively.

Report of the General Board, dated 2 June 2010, on the establishment of a Laing O’Rourke Professorship of Construction Engineering (Reporter, p. 965).

Professor Dame Ann Dowling:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as Head of the Department of Engineering. The Department’s aim is to address the world’s most pressing challenges through our teaching and research. In converting research ideas into practice we collaborate with colleagues in a range of different disciplines and industries. A new collaboration with Laing O’Rourke and the Judge Business School will enable us to expand our activities in construction engineering. We seek to be a focus for innovative research that will develop novel solutions to the major challenge of constructing a built environment that is sustainable whilst providing for the needs of society to supply energy, water, shelter, and transport infrastructure on which economic well-being depends. New teaching initiatives, including a Master’s programme in Construction Engineering, will educate engineers able to apply these ideas, approaches, and technologies in practice, and make a difference to construction projects around the world.

We are delighted that Laing O’Rourke, the UK’s largest privately owned construction company, shares this vision and has agreed an initial donation of £9.6m, indexed for inflation and payable over ten years, to create a Centre for Construction Engineering and Technology within the Department of Engineering. The proposal includes the establishment, for a single tenure, of a Laing O’Rourke Professorship of Construction Engineering. The Professor would provide research leadership to the Centre as well as contributing to Departmental teaching at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. This proposal has the strong support of the Faculty Board of Engineering.

I would like to express the Department’s enthusiasm for this new initiative and our warmest thanks to Laing O’Rourke for their generous and welcome donation which will enable us to achieve our aspirations. We trust others in the University will share our enthusiasm and support the General Board’s recommendation that the Laing O’Rourke Professorship in Construction Engineering be established.

Professor R. J. Mair:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as Head of the Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering Division of the Department of Engineering. The creation of a Centre for Construction Engineering and Technology within the Department of Engineering, enabled by an initial donation of £9.6m from Laing O’Rourke, will considerably enhance our research and teaching capabilities. The new Centre’s research will focus on the innovative application of emerging technologies, coupled with the latest manufacturing concepts and processes, to transform the construction industry. The construction and infrastructure industry is the largest employer in the UK; new research and emerging technologies provide opportunities for transforming that industry, from design and commissioning, the construction process, exploitation and use, to eventual de-commissioning. The Laing O’Rourke Professor of Construction Engineering will provide academic and intellectual leadership of the Centre, which will address these important issues, and will be a welcome addition to our strong research team relating to infrastructure and the built environment. This new initiative, in close collaboration with the Judge Business School, will also provide innovative teaching at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

I strongly support the recommendations of the General Board, and I commend its proposals to the University.

Report of the General Board, dated 2 June 2010, on the University Library and the Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies (Reporter, p. 996).

Professor J. M. Rallison (read by Mrs S. Bowring):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the General Board review of Teaching and Learning Support Services reported in July 2008 (see Reporter, 2009–10, p. 260). The review recommended widening the role of the University Library in relation to electronic content, including e-books, electronic journals, multimedia and interactive learning programs, the digitization of local content, and the promotion and generation of new content within Cambridge. A related recommendation of the review was that the Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies (CARET) should become a sub-Department of the UL but retaining its primary role of supporting innovation in teaching and learning. This role includes the investigation and development of new technologies, advice on pedagogical issues, and engagement with individual academics to develop new teaching methods. These proposals were welcomed by the UL Syndicate and the Committee of Management of CARET, and the two organizations have been working increasingly closely in pursuit of these objectives over the past year.

The General Board now recommends that CARET should be incorporated within the UL but keeping its Management Committee structure. There are advantages for both organizations in such a relationship. CARET will continue to enjoy the freedom to respond rapidly to opportunities in support of innovation in learning and teaching, and will be well placed to assist and advise in the development of the electronic provision of the UL.

Mr N. M. Maclaren:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I welcome the fact that this change is conducted according to the appropriate procedure.

The Discussion of the 7th July 2009 pointed out several serious omission from and errors in the facts and conclusions in the then unpublished report. The General Board stated on the 9th November that it would consider those remarks which relate to the substance of the recommendations of the review committee.

This Report provides no evidence that those remarks have been considered. Far worse, a search of the published minutes of the General Board on the Web finds no occasion on which they were considered.

I shall not repeat the contents of that Discussion here, but should like to mention a few of the terms of reference of this review, and ask what this Report implies about them:

the provision of high-quality, cost-effective pedagogic support to students and staff of the University

ensuring a leading and innovative role in the use of e-media in support of learning at both the undergraduate and graduate level

As was pointed out, many (perhaps most) pedagogic support services and innovative uses of electronic media are provided by individuals and departments independently of CARET, but were not considered by the review. Is it the intention that we should stop doing such activities, shoehorn them into CARET’s model (and abandon any that will not fit), or what?

the physical location of these activities and possible infrastructural requirements

Rumours are that these are going to be located in and provided by MISD. Is it really a wise decision to merge such pedagogic support services into the central administration? And does this imply that the same might eventually happen to other support services, such as the library services themselves? It certainly makes sense for departmental financial administrators, but one wonders what it implies for central and departmental libraries in the long term?

resource requirements and opportunities for fund-raising

The current Report recommends that it be provided with permanent core funding, but does not seem to say how this will be arranged. While the details are clearly unnecessary in a Report, it would be useful to have a clear statement of whether the UL’s income will be increased, or whether it will be expected to carry the cost of CARET from its budget, and some indication of its future funding strategy.

Whether or not incorporating CARET into the UL is a good idea, it is not clever to make such a change without considering the wider environment of innovation in teaching and learning, which does not seem to have been done. I regret to say that Talleyrand’s comment on the restored Bourbons springs to mind.

Professor G. R. Evans:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, it is 6 July 2010. We are here to discuss a Report which was first signalled in the Michaelmas Term of 2007. Since then, as the present Report admits, a Discussion on a Topic of Concern has been called and held. That was a year ago. It took the General Board until late November 2009 to publish a response to that Discussion, in the form of a mere Notice. Now we have a Report at last, on the occasion of that Long Vacation Term Discussion when so many are away.

Meanwhile, plans have been implemented out of sight of the Regent House and without the Regent House being offered a Report on the fundamental underlying questions. The post of University Librarian has been advertised and filled, on the premise (and presumably the promise to the appointee) that the plans would go ahead. The General Board either has or has not been acting on its own direct Ordinance-creating authority under Statute C (definitely an area needing scrutiny in the technical review of the Statutes, since it appears to be difficult to be sure about that).

The General Board has kept its scheme pretty close to its chest (or it would have done had it not been for some purposeful enquiries under the Freedom of Information Act which forced out of it and into the Reporter last November the text of the report it had commissioned in 2007). It is hard to guess what is meant by ‘a rolling development programme of pedagogic support and innovation implemented by the UL but developed through a new Teaching and Learning Services Steering Group to be a joint sub-committee of the General Board’s Education Committee, determining academic policy, and the Information Strategy and Serviced Syndicate, setting IT strategy’. But it sounds to me to be potentially in conflict with the old (and statutory) presumption in Statute D that University Teaching Officers are personally in charge of their own teaching and research. First research came under a ‘strategy’ and the line-management of Heads of Department and now teaching is apparently to do the same.

I am equally concerned about those ‘external partnerships planned by the UL as part of its Strategic Plan’. May we know more about these?

Mr J. P. King (read by Mr M. B. Beckles):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, firstly I would like to congratulate the General Board on finally adhering to the letter of the rules regarding these proposed changes. It does seem unfortunate that this is being dealt with so close to the end of term although I suppose it was inevitable given that the review that triggered all of this was initiated in February 2008.

For my part I have no idea whether overall this merger is a good idea in principle or not. It is not that I am short of opinions, merely short of useful information. We are being asked to vote on this matter on the basis of a reluctantly published and widely lambasted report (with a lower case ‘r’, since it was published as a Notice).1 I would however note that many of the other changes proposed in the report have been put on indefinite hold.

Since it seems common for the response to Discussions to ignore comments not framed as direct questions I will ask some direct questions.

Are the General Board (or Council given that they are the ones that need to respond) happy with the quality of the report upon which they base their recommendations for this change in spite of its many failings which have already been observed in the Discussion of the Topic of Concern?2 Any academics involved should ask themselves what their reaction would be to a paper of this quality from a student or researcher.

Why is CARET being made into an institution under the University Library when the Director ‘shall carry out the such duties as may be determined by the General Board?’ The Management Committee and the Librarian appear to have virtually no power over CARET except perhaps one over their budget.

Do the General Board intend that financial information about the running of CARET remain available? It seems likely that details such as CARET requiring £100,000 from the Technology Development Fund to prop it up for two consecutive years will be lost in the somewhat larger University Library budget. Would it not be appropriate if as is currently proposed that CARET remain a separate institution under the Library, to publish CARET’s accounts explicitly?

And finally, and in some ways most importantly, what cost savings or administrative benefits are expected from this change?

Professor I. H. White (read by Mr J. A. Trevithick):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as Chair of the CARET Management Committee. The CARET Management Committee and the Director of CARET fully endorse the recommendation that CARET should be incorporated into the University Library with core funding as set out in the General Board Report. CARET has established a reputation for the University as a leading innovator in the use of technology to support teaching and learning and in 2008 was awarded one of the largest ever ESRC/EPSRC grants for Technology Enhanced Learning at £1.5 million. The Centre also has a leading role in the Sakai Foundation, a consortium of peer institutions that is creating open source software for teaching and learning infrastructure. Other members of the nearly 100-strong Foundation include Yale, Stanford, Berkeley, Michigan, Oxford, and the Australian National University. Nearly 9,000 staff and students of the University were regular users of the Sakai software under the name of CamTools during the 2009–10 academic year. The staff of the Centre have assisted several Pilkington Teaching Prize winners in innovative use of technology as part of their teaching and Dr Keith Johnstone of Plant Sciences received a national teaching fellowship for his work using 3-D molecular visualization for student laboratory work, developed in conjunction with CARET.

The Management Committee endorse the conclusions of the General Board review of teaching and learning support services, that electronic distribution of teaching materials will emerge as a significant role for the University Libraries in the coming years. The incorporation of CARET into the Library will create significant benefits in the development of the Library role in teaching and learning. There will be challenges for the University as technology becomes ever more important in the daily work of the academic and in CARET the University has a strong innovation centre to ensure it can make full and cost-effective use of that technology. The structures and funding arrangements proposed in this report will ensure that CARET will continue to be able to foster innovation in the use of technology to support teaching and learning.

Professor P. Ford (read by Dr J. P. Spencer):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as the chairman of the Library Syndicate and as a member of the General Board of the Faculties. At its meeting on 28 October 2008 the Library Syndicate considered the General Board Review of Teaching and Learning Support Services Report and I quote its response: ‘it welcomes the proposal that the Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technology (CARET) should be placed, along with permanent core funding, under the umbrella of the University Library as there is a clear synergy between the two services.’

All libraries are becoming increasingly dependent on digital technologies to manage their resources and deliver their services. For the University Library, the opportunity to incorporate CARET is thus both highly appropriate and very timely. CARET will complement and strengthen the Library’s capacity to respond to users’ needs by supporting innovation in teaching, learning, and research, including the investigation and development of new technologies. It will enable the Library and CARET to take forward an integrated strategy for pedagogic support, which lies at the core of the General Board’s review.

The synergy recognized by the Library Syndicate has existed informally since CARET’s inception. Its value has been demonstrated by recent collaborations which have resulted in the development of interfaces to deliver new digital services and library content in support of teaching, learning, and research. Recent successful developments include a lightweight interface to digital versions of past exam papers, the Newton catalogues, and DSpace, in addition to a mobile interface to the catalogues. Collaboration between CARET and the Library is playing a critical role in bringing together the wealth of digital content, from ebooks to exam papers to PhD theses, held by the Library and its users. By working together and presenting a coherent picture of digital pedagogic support, the Library and CARET have been in a position to attract external grant funding, most recently from JISC, to aid these developments.

This development will not detract in any way from the Library’s firm commitment to supporting scholarly research and activities across all disciplines, and in all formats, be they printed or electronic. Instead, it will ensure that the Library remains at the forefront in evaluating and applying new technologies for the benefit of its users, and will thus reinforce its established role as a provider of quality and innovative information services to the Cambridge academic community and beyond.

Report of the Council, dated 14 June 2010, on the constitution of the Audit Committee (Reporter, p. 991).

Professor G. R. Evans:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, creeping introduction of external members of the Council into more numerous powerful positions in the University will please HEFCE. But if the contribution of externals is to be taken seriously, and their powers in the University expanded, should not their appointment be taken equally seriously, adequate time allowed for it, and a serious attempt made to widen the pool of the great and the good, beyond the limited number of holders of multiple places on many Boards who tend to form a closed circle in national life?

The University needs to appoint two external members of the University Council, to serve for four years from 1 January 2010. In February 2010, Oxford was already searching for an external for its own Council to serve from Michaelmas Term 2011.1 Cambridge’s advertisement for externals who are needed much sooner appeared in the Sunday Times on 28 June and will, I understand, be in tomorrow’s Reporter. That does not seem to me to be a sufficiently wide net. Nor has it been cast soon enough to catch enough fishes to choose from. It would be good to have some tiddlers to throw back so that they could grow into bigger fish and learn to swim competitively with the closed circle of the currently favoured few.

It has always been the case that the same few names show up on many of the University’s committees. Do we really want the same few names to continue to appear among the allegedly ‘independent’ external governors of universities, including our own? Where is the new blood to come from in the few days the ‘names’ have to be identified for the present appointments? Of course those expensive head-hunters may be able to find them, but their filing cabinets, in my experience, also contain mainly the familiar names.

Mr N. M. Maclaren:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I have heard that the wording of this Report has been through many iterations, but I regret to say that the final paragraph (d) is both extremely unclear and specifies something that was clearly not intended.

The clause ‘of whom not more than two may be external members including one member of the Council in class (e)’ appends a conditional phrase to a conditional clause. Does the ‘including’ attach to the words ‘external members or the ‘of whom’, because either is possible and they have completely different meanings?

Perhaps more seriously, it states there may be not more than three people co-opted, of whom not more than two may be external and not more than two may be non-Council Regent House members. That would allow three co-optees, all of whom are members of the Council and the Regent House. That was clearly not intended.

If I understand the intent correctly, I suggest restructuring this paragraph and spelling out the restrictions – for example:

(d)not more than three persons co-opted by the Committee, provided that it shall not be obligatory for the Committee to co-opt any person or persons. Of those persons:

(i)at most one shall be a member of the Council in class (e), and no others shall be members of the Council,

(ii)not more than two may be external members, including any member of the Council in class (e), and

(iii)not more than two may be members of the Regent House.

Mr J. M. R. Matheson (read by Mrs S. Bowring):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, as a former Chairman of the Audit Committee, indeed its last internal Chairman, Reports concerning the Audit Committee tend to catch my eye. This one seems problematical both in terms of detailed intention and implementation.

The central purpose of allowing an external Member of Council, who it is intended will become the next Chair of the Committee, to be a Member prior to this is reasonable and sensible. The suggested mechanism for implementing this as part of the co-option process is not as it: (a) requires redefining the quorum in such a way that the Committee could have to ask an internal member to leave in order to become quorate; and (b) redefines the co-option rules in such a way that it would be possible for three internal Members of Council to be co-opted. I assume that this latter at least is unintentional.

A far simpler solution to achieve the same central purpose would be to make specific provision for this extra Member (as an additional Council appointment when required) rather than trying to build them into the co-option mechanism.

This would have none of the unfortunate side effects noted above and the added benefit of transparency. The only changes needed would be to define a new class of Member; and separately to make the provisions for an acting Chairman, which should include this new class.

Dr S. J. Cowley (read by Dr J. P. Spencer):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the proposals in this Report are threefold: first to allow for an additional co-opted member, second to modify the quorum to require that there are more external than internal members present, and third to require that an acting Chairman is elected from the external members. Before these proposals are accepted questions that might, nay need, to be answered are (a) whether the Audit Committee is adequately performing its duties as set out in Ordinance, (b) whether the proposed changes would increase or decrease the effectiveness of the Audit Committee, and (c) whether these changes are required or desired by external bodies such as the HEFCE. My answers are (a) far more than adequately, (b) decrease the effectiveness, and (c) not required, but possibly desired. To cut to the quick, my conclusion is that the proposals are ill thought out. In support of this conclusion I collect my thoughts under three headings.

The External:Internal Balance

This Report proposes the fourth revision of the Audit Committee in the last eight years. The first of these revisions in 2002 arose from recommendations in the Shattock Report on the CAPSA/CUFS accounting system débâcle. For while the Audit Committee had raised repeated concerns about the implementation of CAPSA, it had not done so with the necessary urgency to prompt sufficient action by the Council. In response, the 2002 revisions recommended that the Audit Committee should be reconstituted so that it had an external chairman and a majority of external members.

In the 2002 Discussion1 I argued that the aim in reconstituting the Audit Committee should be to establish a committee that would perform its functions effectively, independently, objectively, and, if need be, fearlessly. To that end I noted that, as the collapse of Enron had demonstrated, having a majority of external members on your Audit Committee was not sufficient (indeed the Enron whistle-blower was an internal member of staff). Moreover, while the Audit Committee with its external members, had failed to publicly warn of the impending fiasco that was CAPSA, the wholly internal Board of Scrutiny had attempted to raise the flag (only for the then Council to suppress the Board’s Report until after go-live).

To be effective, the Audit Committee needs to know what is going on at the work-face by having its ears to the ground, or at least by being composed of members who have had sufficient conversations along King’s Parade or on the Coton footpath. External members need to be supplemented by independent internal members, and the external:internal ratio needs to be kept in balance.2

In 2002 the Council agreed with me; I quote:

‘The Council agree with Dr Cowley that it would be desirable for there to be members of the Audit Committee other than members of the Council and external members, that is ‘independent’ internal members. It is for this reason that the Report proposes that the Committee should continue to be able to co-opt persons, other than members of the Council ... the Council have agreed that at least one of the two persons who may be co-opted should be a member of the Regent House and propose that Regulation 1(d) as set out in the Report be amended to read:

(d) not more than two persons, of whom at least one shall be a member of the Regent House, neither being members of the Council, co-opted by the Committee, provided that it shall not be obligatory for the Committee to co-opt any person or persons.’

How does this compare with the current proposals? Well the number of co-options has been increased to three, the requirement that the first co-option has to be a member of the Regent House has been dropped, and two extra externals can be co-opted without any internals.3 The possible external:internal ratios would range from an unbalanced 7:2 to the current 5:4.

By all reports the current Audit Committee works well because of the constructive interaction between the externals and internals. I believe that a necessary check and balance is that this ratio should not be allowed to become too one-sided. Hence for good reason in 2002 the Council required the first co-optee to be a member of the Regent House (but not a member of the Council). My proposal (which I agree is slightly, but necessarily, convoluted) is that Regulation 1(d) should be amended to read thus:

(d) not more than three persons co-opted by the Committee, none being members of the Council except for up to one in class (e), not more than one being an external member, and at least one but not more than two being members of the Regent House excepting members under Statute A, III, 7(a)(ii), provided that it shall not be obligatory for the Committee to co-opt any person or persons.

This would maintain the 2002 principle that the first co-optee was a member of the Regent House, it would allow for an incoming Chairman of the Audit Committee to be co-opted, it would still ensure that there was a majority of externals on the Audit Committee and it would better retain the balance of external to internal members (the possible ratios ranging from 5:2 to 5:4). Indeed, in response to an email of mine to the Council on 18 April 2010 I believe that the Council at its 19 April 2010 accepted this wording in principle. As requested I forwarded my proposal to the Central Bodies on 20 April 2010, yet as far as I can ascertain this proposal was not sent in writing to the Audit Committee for its 13 May 2010 meeting three weeks later. Further, when the current wording was proposed no explanation for the change was given to myself, or more importantly, the Council. I request that the Council re-consider my arguments and re-adopt my wording.

The Quorum

The second of the revisions in the last eight years was Grace 8 of 8 May 2003 that established a quorum for the Audit Committee of at least five members, of whom at least one had to be an elected member of the Council and two had to be externals members from class (c). This Grace was submitted without a Report or a Notice.

I was going to outline the history of the current proposals over the last year; but the twists and turns, acceptance and backtracking, and ‘consultation’, would require far more than my 15 minutes. My recollection is that at least one of the motivators of reform was the difficulty in achieving a quorum at the Audit Committee; indeed 20% of meetings between October 2007 and May 2010 were inquorate. What of the new proposals? Under these 47% of meetings between October 2007 and May 2010 would have been inquorate. This is madness. A response of ‘to mitigate against this, attendance will need to be closely monitored and those members who find it difficult to attend will need to retire in favour of those who can’4 is inadequate. If I was the HEFCE I would be more concerned to ensure quorate meetings than to require a majority of externals to be present. Indeed, maybe this is the point to tackle the HEFCE head on.

The Guide for Members of Higher Education Governing Bodies in the UK5 recommends ‘audit committees with a lay majority’. The Handbook for Members of Audit Committees in Higher Education Institutions6 encourages as good practice that ‘all audit committee members are independent and objective’, and further notes that ‘employees of the institution and the chair of the governing body are generally not considered independent, and should therefore not be members of the audit committee’. I disagree. In my experience some of the most objective, robust, independent critics of the University are internal members. I have already given the example of the Board of Scrutiny in the case of CAPSA go-live. Let me give another example.

On 26 May 2010 Vince Cable is reported as saying ‘I was very taken aback to discover that last year the pay of vice-chancellors rose by over 10 per cent in the middle of a financial crisis. There is some gap between reality and expectations in some of those institutions ... I just get absolutely no sense in the university sector that there is the same degree of realism and of self-sacrifice which is going to have to happen if we are going to preserve the quality of university education ... there is clearly salary escalation at the top level that bears no relation to the underlying economics of the country.’ So who sets the top level salaries at most universities? Remuneration Committees with a lay majority. Is the University of Cambridge at the top of the pay league? Far from it. According to the 2008/09 Financial Statements the Vice-Chancellor was paid £246,0007 (i.e. about 25% more than the Prime Minster and about the same as the Head of the Met), compared with the £376,000, plus pension, of the Provost of UCL. Who reviewed the Vice Chancellor’s stipend in 2007? An advisory group with an internal, note internal, majority. Indeed, I hope that I am not giving too much away by saying that the hawks on the Council, when it comes to stipends, are the internals not the externals.

Dear HEFCE, externally dominated Remuneration Committees, Audit Committees, and the like are not a panacea; as Vince Cable has observed many have failed. What Remuneration Committees and Audit Committees require are independent minded members, and our experience in Cambridge is that internals can be just as independent as externals, and often have a better idea of where the bodies are buried.

I conclude that there is no objective need for a quorum in which more external than internal members should be present. Indeed, in response to a question at the June Council meeting it was confirmed that the HEFCE have neither asked for, nor require, a quorum with a lay majority. Further, given the attendance at the Audit Committee between October 2007 and May 2010 such a requirement would be somewhat perverse. Yes, the Audit Committee should have a lay majority (as it has), and if reform is desired I would support a quorum of five, with the requirement that three be externals; but let us not devalue the important role that independent internals play.

As a footnote, as part of the twists and turns, etc., I did suggest an alternative quorum given that there might be, albeit rare, circumstances where external bodies might place added confidence in a decision of the Committee if at least one-half of the members voting were external members. To this end I proposed that whilst the quorum should remain at five and that there should always be at least two external members present, it should be possible for any two members to request that a decision could only be made when at least one-half of the members voting were external members (there is a precedent for a decision on certain issues differing from the default quorum rules in the regulations for Degree Committees). I still view this as a rather elegant solution, but it was not taken up.

The Chairman

The third of the revisions of the Audit Committee, that of the summer of 2003, established an external member of the Council as Chairman of the Audit Committee. However, it failed to address the issue of an acting Chairman. I realized this early in 2010, and the proposal that an acting Chairman be an external is the only one of my [many] suggestions to make it to the Report. I support it!


At present the University has an effective Audit Committee, in no small part because of conscientious external members, including a dedicated external Chairman who will be hard to replace. However the effectiveness of the Committee will be potentially decreased if the balance between external and internal members is skewed too much in one direction (and recall that it was externals on the Audit and Scrutiny Committee at Oxford who fanned the flames of their governance debate), and if it is made more than twice as difficult to achieve a quorum.

The aim of allowing an incoming Chairman of Audit to be co-opted can be achieved with my wording of Regulation 1(d) (while still retaining the 2002 balance between external and internal members). The aim of asserting the independence of oversight of the Audit Committee could be achieved by a quorum of five, with three being external members (while not increasing the number of meetings that were inquorate).


Report of the Council, dated 14 June 2010, on a technical review of the Statutes, and Ordinances (simplification and clarification) (Reporter, p. 992).

Professor G. R. Evans:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, ‘The laws of the university were as the heavy sedge, or seaweed, which only encumbered exertion and darkened hope,’ wrote Thomas Frognall Dibden in 1836. He and some friends formed a plan ‘to break through all this miserable thralldom and melancholy state of things’, and to form a ‘Society for Scientific and Literary Disquisition’. They met to devise a code of laws for the society and took immense trouble to ensure that it should not ‘beat down any one barrier of university law or regulation’. Then they took it to the Vice-Chancellor for his approval. Although he could see nothing in these innovative laws ‘subversive of academic discipline, or contrary to the statutes of the university’ he mistrusted their ‘tendency’ and forbade the new Society to meet as proposed.1 Isn’t the problem Cambridge faces rather like this Oxford tale of a century and a half ago? Finding your way through Cambridge’s current Statutes and Ordinances is indeed like swimming though sedge or seaweed. What we need is to clear this overgrowth out of the way so that we can see what we have got. And only then should we take courage to venture into the clear water and swim.

I confess to having felt some scepticism when I read that the long-delayed overhaul of the Statutes and Ordinances was to begin with a ‘scoping study’, when everyone could see what a fiasco the attempted ‘reform’ of Statute U was proving to be. But I am partly reassured by the content and the apparent sedge and seaweed-clearing intent of this Report.

The first question of course is what ‘technical review’ means. The distinction between ‘simplification and clarification’ and ‘policy or governance review’ is not clear-cut. Oxford has discovered that the clarification of its rules for delegation of powers has led it into some very muddy waters indeed. The seaweed is coming back. It has found that ‘simplifying’ its domestic legislation into statutes and regulations has not simplified things a bit and there are many documents called regulations which do not contain regulations and the usual clutter of guidelines and assorted procedures continues to be issued. The sedge is regrowing.

So rule one perhaps is to make provision to put such unavoidable future slippages right, and that means creating something much more powerful and effective that Cambridge’s current Statute K, 5, or the great clean up will become the great mess up here as there.

For Oxford has not really found that simpler is either clearer or better. Derek Wood, draftsman of Oxford’s post-North statutes, might usefully be asked for his view of what he tried to achieve and whether it proved possible to achieve it in the senior university. He could even be asked to serve on the working party perhaps? And how about getting in Professor Norman Doe as an expert on quasi-legislation to act as an external advisor in the hope of saving Cambridge from Oxford’s current difficulties in this area?

That will be particularly important when it comes to the category-shifts which it is proposed will take material from Statute to Ordinance. I found myself wondering when I read this suggestion whether the Advisory Group had checked with the Privy Council about the major change it made in the same direction in February 2006, and enquired how it was all working out in other universities.2

It does seem an indisputably good idea to improve the navigation of the Statutes and Ordinances now that they are online and one no longer has to struggle with those pdfs. In fact, it seems such a very good idea that I suggest it is done first of all. Then we could all see much more easily where the duplications and overlap problems occur and contribute more usefully to the work of deciding where to put things. I have, for example, raised before in this place, the problem of the multiple relationships in which an individual may stand to the university, especially that of membership (Statute B), office-holding (Statute D), employment (Statute U). So in which arena should a disciplinary procedure sit?

That suggestion goes with another. It is that the proposed authoritative handbook should not be written by a member of the UAS or by the numerous PR staff the University now employs, but out of a serious review of the way people in search of information and understanding of the University’s constitution make their searches of the new improved searching facility. And the induction of new staff probably needs an overhaul too, to ensure that no member of the Regent House enters office without a clear understanding of what that privilege means.

As to ‘approved (or not) by the Privy Council’, I had it from the previous Clerk to the Privy Council that no statute has ever been rejected to his knowledge. So we had better get it right, hadn’t we? Awkward questions are unlikely to be asked.


Mr N. M. Maclaren:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I welcome this Report, and agree with its recommendations. The devil is in the detail, of course, but this is a good approach. I have one comment of detail.

In proposal 4 and paragraphs 8 and 13, it proposes to refer any policy or governance matters that arise to the relevant University body (which will usually be the Council) for consideration. That will often be the most appropriate action. However, many such matters will be best considered after the Review had been completed, as the best solution to them may depend on other changes. Also, considering such changes individually may not be optimal, either in terms of effort by the Council or the resulting Statutes and Ordinances.

I suggest that its remit is slightly expanded, to produce a Report (after it completes) that includes all of the policy or governance issues it feels should be referred, and to which body, and to request the Council to publish it. This can be discussed in the normal fashion, and the Council can then use the remarks as extra information when deciding whether and how to proceed with the matters that have not already been dealt with.

Note that I am not suggesting that the Report do any more than collate its referrals for publication, which would minimize the extra work, while ensuring the Review were seen to be fully transparent in its actions.

Report of the Council, dated 31 May 2010, on the appointment of the University as sole Trustee of Strangeways Research Laboratory (Reporter, p. 938).

Report of the General Board, dated 2 June 2010, on the establishment of a Professorship of Medicine (Reporter, p. 966).

Report of the General Board, dated 11 June 2010, on the establishment of a Professorship of Cellular Pathophysiology and Clinical Biochemistry (Reporter, p. 999).

Report of the General Board, dated 11 June 2010, on the establishment of a Professorship of Orthopaedic Surgery (Reporter, p. 999).

Report of the General Board, dated 11 June 2010, on the establishment of a Professorship of Stem Cell Medicine (Reporter, p. 1000).

No remarks were made on these Reports.