Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6199

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Vol cxli No 3

pp. 65–88

Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A Discussion was held in the Senate-House. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Mr Duncan Robinson was presiding, with the Registrary, the Proctors, one Pro-Proctor, and twenty-three other persons present.

The following Reports were discussed:

North West Cambridge Project: Green Paper (Reporter, 2009–10, p. 1010).

Professor I. H. White:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Institutional Affairs, and a member of the Project Board for the West and North West Cambridge development, in support of the ‘Green Paper’ issued for consultation on the proposed development of the University land at North West Cambridge.

One of the features of the successful growth of the University in recent years has been the development of new buildings both to enhance established academic activities, and make possible new avenues of study and research. As the University estate has grown, the provision of space into which it can further expand has been increasingly recognized as critical to the long-term future of the University.

North West Cambridge, with its large scale and yet relative proximity to the City centre, has therefore been a focus of the University’s estates strategy for some years, with initial consideration of the site in 1989, leading to a full study in 2008, following the publication of the East of England Plan. Following a range of consultations within the University and a submission by the University to the draft Area Action Plan of 2009, it was gratifying to receive approval for the release of the North West Cambridge area from the Green Belt in October 2009. The University thus has a unique opportunity to carry out a planned and phased development on a scale not previously possible.

This report therefore seeks to provide a plan as to how the University can match its competitors around the world, who are themselves rapidly investing in new facilities. Rightly, the plan identifies the need for academic space for emerging fields, flexibly configured in certain cases for the development of new research partnerships. However, importantly, it also identifies the importance of maintaining the University’s ability to attract the best staff and students from across the world by providing a supply of affordable housing in modern and sustainable communities, in part based on the collegiate model.

Although there are pressing reasons for the development of North West Cambridge, it should be noted that the vision for this masterplan in this Green Paper goes significantly beyond this. The Project Board is aware that, given its scale, North West Cambridge can only be successful if it is coherently integrated into the City, taking account of local need and provision, for example including the Colleges and Departments adjacent to the Madingley and Huntingdon Roads. As a result, the Green Paper sets out a vision for the development of North West Cambridge as a vibrant extension to the City that predominates as a University quarter but one that is also a mixed academic and residential community supported by high-quality schooling, shops, community and leisure facilities, all designed to the highest standards of energy and transport sustainability.

In considering such proposals, great care should rightly be taken to the principles of governance, with the need for clear financial, planning, and development principles. I therefore fully support the proposals for the creation of a new Syndicate on these terms.

In summary, given the great opportunity the University has had in recent years to develop its estate, I commend the report to the University.

Dr D. R. de Lacey:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, at the outset I should declare an interest: as well as being a member of the Divinity Faculty, I am chairman of Girton Parish Council, and a South Cambridgeshire District Councillor for Girton. And it should not be necessary to remind you that half of the site under discussion is in the Parish of Girton. It probably is necessary, however, since there is no hint of that fact in the Green Paper. This does make all those references to ‘the community’ somewhat problematic as I look forward to greeting a significant number of new parishioners.

It is also necessary to note that a great deal has happened since the Paper was published, and it is a disappointment that we have not been presented with an update for our Discussion today, including a Plan B (which presumably exists) to take account of the possible scrapping of the A14 upgrade. The day before the Green Paper was published, the Cambridge News quoted Mr Roger Taylor as claiming that the whole development ‘is dependent on the improvement of the A14 between Fen Ditton and Histon.’ Whether the A14 goes ahead or not, this statement bodes ill for all the current users of the already choked Huntingdon Road. Blithe assertions that North West Cambridge will only add a few per cent more traffic to the quadrant are not reassuring when the current road system is already gridlocked and when other developments are also set to increase traffic into it.

May I, however, express my gratitude to the University’s planning team for already involving me in their considerations; some of what I say today will not be new to them.

Girton in general is already concerned about noise and air pollution: concerns heightened rather than allayed by the A14 proposals. And the most polluted part of Girton is probably the north-west tip of this site, bounded by the M11, the A14, and the Huntingdon Road. It was a bit horrifying to see in what was called the ‘University’s Easter 2008 Masterplan’1 that this appeared to be the designated location for a primary school. A radically different indicative Masterplan is provided on the North West Cambridge website2 so ideas are clearly in flux, but I do hope the University will ensure that whatever is built there, the most stringent EU regulations on noise and air quality will be implemented.

I find the Masterplan least convincing when it turns to sustainability. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor used the phrase ‘highest standards’, and paragraph 79 makes a good start: ‘The University is at the forefront of sustainable thinking and has an ambition to see development in the North West Cambridge site as an exemplar in this regard.’ This promise, however, is not borne out in the following paragraphs, and I trust that Professor Mair and his colleagues will ‘challenge the evolving designs’ (as paragraph 83 puts it) publicly and in consultation with other experts. In particular I hope they will challenge the statement that ‘all houses and flats built after 2016 will be zero carbon’ (paragraph 84): why leave it so late? Why will only ‘many’ roofs have solar panels (paragraph 86)? I hope they will involve, as far as his own schedule will allow, Professor David MacKay in their discussions: his section on combined heat and power in his groundbreaking book Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air3 is salutary reading for those whose current studies focus on combined heat and power. His conclusion is: ‘I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a bad idea’ (p. 144). We do have the opportunity here for an exemplar site, for a site of the highest sustainability standards. Please let’s not waste it.

Let me finally return to that problematic community. The Masterplan acknowledges that its secondary school will be off-site, across the Huntingdon Road. As I understand it, so will many other of the facilities residents will need, while this site will host other shared facilities. Little thought appears to have been given as to how residents on either side will access the facilities on the other. My village is divided by a single bridge over the A14. This has had a startling effect on our community, and we have to work hard to make each side feel part of the other. Here the divide is a wide and busy road. At the very least, a pedestrian and cycle bridge should be part of the thinking. And all this assumes that the NIAB site will actually develop as hoped and come up with necessary Section 106 to provide what our site needs. In the current economic climate, should the University not have a Plan B up its sleeve to ensure that this community is not left bereft of those things necessary for community, should NIAB fail?

Professor R. J. Anderson (read by Dr S. J. Cowley):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the North West Cambridge project was conceived before the credit crunch, when markets for capital and property were different. It seemed a clever idea at the time: sell land for expensive private houses and use the profits to build cheap apartments that new staff could rent for their first few years with us. But the site is our last big space within Cambridge; once West Cambridge is full, it’s where we’ll be putting new departments and institutes for the next fifty years. For that reason I opposed the clever housing project, even before 2008 when the financial projections appeared to make sense.

But the figures no longer make sense. By now, the project’s projected internal rate of return does not meet our five per cent target for long-term investments. The speculative property project now looks set to earn less than we expect to achieve on the capital markets – and that’s before we account for the opportunity cost of losing our land bank. Over the next few years, the situation is likely to get worse. As a householder, I detest the fall in property prices; as a citizen and a parent, I have to accept it for reasons of sustainability and intergenerational equity. But even if house prices fall no further, the net financial effect of the North West Cambridge project will be to give rent subsidies worth £1–2m to several hundred post-docs and junior academic staff, while losing £1–2m from our investment income. We can do that anyway, by starting new staff a few points higher up the scale or by a direct cash subsidy, and keep the land for the next two generations.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, it’s time for a rethink. I would like to suggest a constructive way forward based on three observations. First, the planning authorities have agreed in principle that some of the site can be used for academic accommodation. Second, we are short of accommodation for graduates; this is already limiting the development and growth of new courses. Third, post-docs are not merely disadvantaged at Cambridge by high housing costs, but by the fact that few of them have a college affiliation. They arrive in Cambridge, work from nine to five – or more likely eight till seven – and then just go back to their digs. These are the research staff who may be the most productive of all of us; yet of all the people who work for us, they are the most marginalized and excluded. The ‘Collegiate Cambridge’ about which we boasted during our octocentenary campaign just passes them by.

I would therefore support a move to develop a new kind of college in North West Cambridge, with its focus on providing a home and a community for graduate students and for the post-docs who need one. The site we have; it’s the vision that’s lacking. The development of North West Cambridge should not go ahead until it has one.

Professor D. J. Maskell:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am speaking in this Discussion as a member of the Project Board for West and North West Cambridge and as Head of the Department of Veterinary Medicine. The ‘green paper’ issued for consultation on the proposed development of the University land at North West Cambridge sets out a compelling academic and strategic case for taking the project to the next stage of obtaining outline planning permission. That will open up the prospect of a phased development of the site thereafter on a timetable that the Regent House approves. I would like to make a few remarks about the academic imperatives for the proposed development and also about the recommended governance structure.

Cambridge must remain a world-leading university. Its status depends largely on its research reputation and that, in turn, depends very much on the quality of the staff and research students that we can recruit. At present, too many of our younger staff cannot afford to live within the central City boundaries or in close proximity to the academic, social, and cultural facilities that characterize the University at its best. If the University is to prosper in the future it needs to continue to grow and develop. Without growth, innovation is inhibited, and without development, we will stagnate. At present, growth and development are threatened by a shortage of affordable housing in attractive communities for our staff, and the capacity of the Colleges to accept more postgraduate students. These constraints are damaging our competitiveness. The master plan for North West Cambridge includes a significant number of new subsidized flats and houses for our staff. The detailed research undertaken by the Department of Land Economy on the University’s housing needs shows that something like seventy-five per cent of the subsidized housing would be occupied by post-doctoral workers, a large group of staff who are essential to our research but often disenfranchised within collegiate Cambridge. The remainder of the subsidized accommodation would be for key support staff and younger academic staff. There are innovative and realistic opportunities under discussion with the Colleges for creating new forms of collegiate space that could provide for mixed communities of post-docs and postgraduate students within the wider community that the master plan envisages for North West Cambridge. The master plan also contains provision for significant new research space, much of it designated for external organizations in partnership with our departments and institutions. We already benefit hugely from such interactions. They will become more important in the future. The space designated within the master plan for research will provide the scope for future developments once West Cambridge is filled out.

North West Cambridge is designed to be a highly-sustainable, low-carbon community with social, educational, commercial, and recreational facilities that will also benefit those who work and live at West Cambridge, thereby creating a new University quarter within the City boundaries characterized by an integration of residential, academic, and community purposes that will serve our ambition to remain as one of the world’s leading research-led universities.

The ‘green paper’ also proposes a governance model for the project, which would involve the creation of a new Syndicate with delegated powers. It will be essential that a project of this scale and importance to the future of the University is well governed. It must be accountable to the Regent House through the submission of annual reports and accounts, but also entrusted with powers to take decisions consistent with the overall strategy approved by the Regent House and within the agreed financial parameters. Without a balance between accountability and delegation, the successful delivery of the project will be hampered to the point of failure. I therefore fully support the proposals for the creation of a new Syndicate on these terms and believe that, as with the Local Examinations Syndicate, it will provide the right structure for protecting and serving the University’s interests in the development and stewardship of the new community that we envisage.

Dr J. S. Ash:

I speak against the Green Paper, having given it very careful consideration. The point being that in a document for a project that is notionally associated with addressing risk, it shows remarkable inattention to very serious risks. My colleague Dr de Lacey has already urged you to consider issues associated with environmental risk, and that is close to my heart, but apart from the issues of noise that I think will be far more intrusive than are currently allowed for in the project planning, there is the other issue, and that is: it is considered in the document that risk to reputation is a major factor. I can think of nothing that would harm the University’s reputation more than were it to suffer a serious fire or a serious incident on the site which emergency services were unable to attend in good time. The issue is that the present arrangements, considering the traffic density at particular times, the fact that the project will add to that density, and my own conversations with those involved in the project, lead me to suspect that time would not be properly used in an incident, time being a critical factor. To be absolutely blunt, if we cannot properly protect and ensure the safety of those people we attract from all over the world to study here, we cannot ensure their duty of care, and it is inappropriate to proceed with a project of this nature.

Dr M. G. Kuhn:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, when the first public consultation on the North West Cambridge site started in 2005, I told colleagues in my department of my hope that this would finally be an opportunity to buy land and self-build a home here.

The idea spread quickly: within days I heard back from sixteen colleagues in three departments alone who were also keen to build their own home close to their workplace, but had been frustrated by the absence of suitable plots. Extrapolated across the University, there should be hundreds more.

Speculative developers design houses entirely to optimize their own profits, barely following the minimum requirements of unambitious building regulations and planning constraints. Cambridge is already full of their product. Self-builders buy land, hire their own architect and construction company, and have full control over every design decision for their own home. Self-built homes are optimized to fulfil the needs of their occupants, rather than their builders.

Many of us have grown up in places where self-built homes are the norm, and are frustrated by the low quality and high prices of speculatively-built Cambridge houses. Many of us have also keen interests in sustainable and efficient architecture, including innovative building materials, as well as advanced energy, ventilation, heating, water, and control systems unfamiliar to most local commercial developers.

The Green Paper mentions high-quality design and sustainability prominently, and this is certainly a step in the right direction. However, quoted technical standards, such as the Code for Sustainable Homes, remain unimaginative box-ticking exercises. They fall short of the state of the art in other countries, and award points for many political aspects of a house that have nothing to do with sustainability, or that do not apply to this site. Many self-builders, on the other hand, are interested in implementing far more ambitious standards, such as the PassivHaus Planning Package or the AECB Gold specification. A noteworthy number of ambitious self-build projects, privately undertaken by staff with related research interests, would help to make the site a showcase for advanced and sustainable design that would do the University proud.

Therefore, I urge you to offer all market-housing land on this site as separate serviced plots for individual buildings on the open market, to commercial developers and private self-builders alike, especially all land designated for detached and semi-detached market homes. This will ensure the best financial outcome for the University, by maximizing competition among buyers. It will also help many University employees to fulfil their dream of living in their self-built home close to their workplace.

I also invite any member of the University interested in self-build projects on University land to contact me to join our mailing list.1

Professor D. M. Thompson:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I should begin by declaring an interest as a resident in a road on the other side of Huntingdon Road from the proposed North West development, and also as a Fellow of a College in the neighbourhood. Broadly speaking, I welcome these proposals, and simply want to make three points.

The first concerns housing. I very much welcome the proposal to build private housing, which is intended to prove attractive to University employees on this site. There is a desperate need for this in the city, and the consequences of the increasing dispersal of senior members of the University to the villages around Cambridge as a result of the rigid imposition of the ‘green belt’ policy inherited from the 1950s has not only intensified Cambridge’s local traffic problems but also made traditional collegiality much more difficult. Anything which ameliorates either of these problems is to be welcomed. However, in my judgement, it does mean that the kind of house design by any developer needs to be watched very carefully, insofar as the University is able to influence that. We do not need another area of grand luxury homes, but rather the kind of three- and four-bedroom homes which are so difficult to find on the northern side of the city, particularly the latter. I am also slightly concerned by the high rate of turnover envisaged for the short-let homes, which will constitute half the housing provision. I certainly see the need for such provision, quite apart from the likely requirements for social housing as a result of planning permission; and I would still think that this was desirable if the coalition government was to change those rules on this in the near future. But an average tenure of less than three years, as envisaged in paragraph 48, is likely to make the development of any real sense of local community difficult, and it will also pose particular problems for the primary school envisaged.

My second point concerns the shopping facility. When a few colleagues and I were discussing this some months ago, we quickly agreed that what was really needed was another Waitrose (which would save a number of journeys down the M11 from north Cambridge), and not at any price another Tesco, in view of the proximity of the large stores at Bar Hill and Milton. I have naturally followed the discussions in the local press about this, including the rather unrealistic comments of some of the local councillors; but in view of the comparison drawn with the Waitrose at Trumpington, I wonder whether the agreed size would still be attractive. You may think that this level of detailed comment is unhelpful, but I see no point in concealing what some of those affected are actually saying.

Finally, there is a reference in paragraph 30(b) concerning the Local Centre to ‘community space (including faith provision)’. I hope that the relevant authorities might think of taking the advice of either of, or preferably both, the Cambridgeshire Ecumenical Council and the East of England Faiths Council (of both of which I happen to be a member). In these two bodies, there is a considerable amount of experience about what is and what is not feasible in multi-faith provision. Various senior members of the University also have considerable expertise in this area. It would therefore be valuable to set up some sort of consultation process sooner rather than later, in view of the importance which the Local Centre will inevitably assume in providing a framework for the new community of people in the development as a whole.

Mr N. Taylor:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak today as one of those staff members who has, not very long ago, taken on the challenge of finding accommodation and taking up my appointment at the same time.

I congratulate the authors of the Paper on setting out a plan for what is, in its broadest sense, a much needed development of the University’s estate. If we may set aside for the moment any concerns for the future of staffing levels in the University, I am convinced by this Paper that the expansion of research and of residential space is a necessary action, and indeed that the North West site is the place in which to do it. The devil will surely be in the detail, and I beg to put a few points which give me cause for concern in the paper.

The paper describes the nature of a community focus at the centre of the site. This, as suggested, must be in place at an early stage to alleviate the notable paucity of a community focus on Madingley Road and Huntingdon Road. The new centre will, then, be a focus for not only the North West Cambridge site but additionally the West Cambridge and perhaps NIAB: a lofty goal.

In this centre, we’re told, there’ll be a place for dining, for faith, and for those who keep order; there will be a small shop and open space, all surrounded by residential buildings. We are only missing a library and we have a College. There is another similarity to the College in the proposed three-year limit on the staff accommodation, with a feedstock biased to new arrivals. Will there be time to develop such a splendid new community as is proposed? Or will the residents scarce have time between their Freshers’ Week and Degree Day, or rather their Eviction Day, to contribute in any meaningful sense? A dull promenade of flats in which no one talks to one’s neighbour is hardly attractive to the excellent minds we seek to recruit. Still less attractive would be a mere dormitory for academics and their entourage, enclosing the entire development in a bubble of self-containment. Maintaining the diversity suggested, to include not only our own staff but also families with no University connection whatever, will be the most important factor in creating a new, vibrant community.

There is a problem. How should this need to create a mixed community be balanced against the identified need of the University to house its staff, and the desire to complete the market housing first so as to provide income. My inclination is more towards equality in development of staff and market housing, but with a much stronger inclination to flexibility of the process as it takes place.

Flexibility during development is, I hope, implied by the vague language used in the paper. There must be retained the option to promote, demote, cancel entirely, or create anew, aspects of the development. From the facilities provided to the academic space, the project itself must be able to react to feedback generated by the community it is creating. The section in the paper on academic space is especially non-committal; perhaps wise given funding uncertainties. At this stage, the greatest requirement is the ability to react to changing demands of the University. Others will, I am sure, insist that the Regent House retain oversight of this project and it is not my place to disagree with that opinion.

I alluded at the start to my search for accommodation following my appointment. The North West Cambridge site is of personal relevance to me as, returning six weeks after graduation, I took rooms for a year on the site itself, at Gravel Hill Farm. That building is, I believe, still standing although condemned by the Accom­modation Syndicate. Whilst there is not the outstanding architectural brilliance of the King’s chapel, this Senate-House, or perhaps the Christ’s ‘Typewriter’, I would be dismayed if existing, historical buildings such as that Victorian house were not given proper consideration for a role in the redevelopment. When planning for the future, we must not lose sight of the past which has enabled us to be able to so plan.

This Green Paper describes the next major stage in the development of the University as a world-class institution. To deliver that development as a community to which staff can be attracted and retained will require careful, continued balancing of the needs of those staff, both to live and work, with the current and future needs of the wider University.

Report of the Council, dated 28 June 2010, on the expansion of Kettle’s Yard (Reporter, 2009–10, p. 1051).

No remarks were made on this Report.

Report of the Council, dated 28 June 2010, on the construction of an extension to the Whittle Laboratory at West Cambridge (Reporter, 2009–10, p. 1053).

No remarks were made on this Report.

Joint Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 19 and 7 July, 2010, on a Combined Equality Scheme on race, disability, and gender (Reporter, 2009–10, p. 1117).

Professor I. H. White:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak again as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Institutional Affairs, but also as Chair of the Equality and Diversity Committee, and Race Equality Champion, in support of the Report before the Regent House proposing the adoption of a Combined Equality Scheme.

At the heart of the core values of the University, in addition to freedom of thought and expression, is the right of all who study and work to be free from discrimination, and it is of paramount importance that all members of the University community should be treated equally and valued fairly. It is therefore important to have effective policies to support such principles.

The Combined Equality Scheme builds on a series of existing policies which have already been approved by the University. These include the University’s 2002 Equal Opportunities Policy, which first defined its overarching commitment to promoting equality and diversity for all students and staff, and the 2003 Race Equality Policy and Action Plan. Also encompassed are the Disability and Gender Equality Policies which have been adopted by the University, albeit in draft form.

This report therefore recommends approval of a combined scheme to consolidate previous policies, and sets out the principles upon which the University wishes to ensure that its members are to be confident that they are part of a fair and supportive community. It details, in a single policy document, the University’s com­mitment to equality and explains how it will fulfil its statutory obligations in relation to equalities legislation. This Scheme is also configured so that it can be expanded in response to future anticipated changes in legislation. Progress towards actions and objectives will be reported in the Equality and Diversity Annual Reviews.

It should finally be noted that a substantial level of consultation has occurred during the preparation of the scheme, including all the staff and student diversity networks of the University and through open consultation events run by the Equality and Diversity section.

I therefore commend the Equality Scheme to the Regent House.

Professor G. R. Evans:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor: two brief points.

Although the University has formalized its responsibility for progressing equality, one of the key aims of the public equality duties is to assist and compel public authorities in the ‘mainstreaming’ of equalities practice.

The question whether and in what respects the University of Cambridge is a public authority is a complex one. But the Report takes that for granted and claims that therefore ‘the processes and systems supporting the identification and eradication of inequality and discrimination’ are ‘part of the core business’ of the University. This sounds pretty ‘motherhood and apple pie’ (or should that be ‘parenthood and apple pie’?), until the claims move on to include ‘governance, leadership, and management’ among other things. Am I mistaken in spotting here the potential for this argument to be used to try to override the powers of the Regent House in some future context? Could the Regent House have been denied its right to vote about the Combination Room lift on the basis that since the lift was to assist disabled access the Regent House had no right to any say in the matter of the options for providing that access?

Among the ‘other things’ which might fall foul of a proposal to remove the right of the Regent House to vote about a matter, are ‘teaching and learning, including curriculum design and delivery’. No chance ever to vote about the Great Library Takeover? Then there is ‘staff recruitment, selection, training, career development, and progression’. No more votes on Statute U proposals? I don’t think I need go on.

Secondly, ‘responding to complaints’. It seems to be proposed that both for staff and for students – and also for visitors – this should move into the territory of ‘dignity at work’. I have been exploring the Dignity at Work material.1 This contains various procedures which I do not recollect being put before the Regent House.2 Further such ‘guidance’ is announced in the Reporter of 6 October, in the curiously-named ‘Dignity at study’ Notice.3

The Dignity at Work policy offers as mediators:

members of staff, drawn from a variety of backgrounds and roles throughout the University who, as volunteers, have received training in mediation skills in order to assist with the resolution of difficulties between individual members of staff.4

But there is no such thing as a properly accredited mediation training, and my enquiry as to what training these volunteers have received has been met by silence so far. More information in the Council’s reply, please.

The Dignity at Study procedures include wording of horrifying muddleheadedness:

(ii) Informal process: resolution may require the involvement of an appropriate member of staff (College or University), and/or mediation through conciliation.

Mediation does not necessarily involve conciliation. It is true that the technical language is still somewhat fluid but this is a worryingly misleading statement. Mediation is voluntary, so resolution cannot ‘require’ it. And while mediation is informal it is not, I repeat not, a ‘stage’ in a procedure as it is called in this document. Mediation can be tried at any time and it involves moving outside the adversarial procedure and creating a safe place where a solution in everyone’s interests can be explored.5

Professor N. A. Dodgson:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Forty years ago, this would have been a controversial and a divisive Report. Today it is neither. In many ways it is addressing a problem that we have outgrown. We have come a long way. For example, those young upstarts who pushed for co-educational Colleges are now venerable retired professors.

Nevertheless, this Report raises awkward questions that require answers.

First, there is the cost of this policy. We are committing ourselves to spending a lot of money to tackle a problem that should not exist. This University is committed to excellence in teaching and research, which are our core business. We recruit the very best people. We should do this irrespective of their gender, religion, ethnicity, or disability. I would have hoped that, ten years into the twenty-first century, we would have learnt to select people solely on their ability. Yet, this Report implies that we must spend a lot of money to do more. The Equality and Diversity office already employs nine people, at a cost of a quarter of a million pounds a year. On top of that, add the time spent by hundreds of administrative and academic staff in complying with the existing policies. A policy like this does not come for free: it has financial implications across the University. Can the Council and the General Board explain why there is no mention of cost in the Report?

Second, there is the extent of the policy. The Report implies that the University should do much more than meet the minimum legal requirements for compliance. In a time of plenty, that would be laudable. But in a time of austerity, it needs a strong justification. When we are being asked to cut back drastically everywhere, can the Council and General Board justify why we should do more than meet the minimum legal requirements?

Third, there are the legal requirements themselves. I find it depressing that much of this Report has to concern itself with meeting the requirements of the law. (And there are so many laws: when the only tool you have is legislation, every problem looks as if it can be solved by legislation.) Could the Council and the General Board consider pushing back on the Government on these issues? We spend much time and resource in complying with our Government’s legislation, and yet we are told by the same Government that we must trim the fat and do more with less. Equality and diversity is about changing hearts and minds, and you do not do that by passing legislation. Legislation leads to litigation, not to a change of heart. When students ask me what we spend their fees on, I do not want to have to reply that we spend a lot of their fees on ensuring that they cannot sue us.

Finally, there are a couple of areas of this Report where I have specific concerns: data collection and advertising.

Data collection. A lot of data are to be collected. What is done with them? Are they of any use to anyone? Do they make any difference? I have talked with the staff who collate the equality statistics for job applications. As far as they can see, these statistics are never used by anyone, and collating them is thus an unnecessarily time-consuming chore. The important question here is, therefore: can we save money and time by reducing our collecting to only those data that are demonstrably of use?

Then advertising. The Report implies (in Section 4) that it is important to distribute large quantities of paper. At present this is tending towards the ineffectual, with a lot of material ending up in the bin. As an example, the latest literature from Equality and Diversity consists of a set of glossy brochures and a DVD. They’re lovely. A large pile of these arrived in my Faculty earlier this month but there were too few to distribute a copy to everyone and far too many to be appropriate as a central resource. So these are likely to be thrown away, as no one knows what to do with them. But they are beautifully produced. I wish that my Faculty had the budget and the people to produce such gorgeous material for recruiting students. It does not make sense that Equality and Diversity can spend so much of our time and money on something that is peripheral to our core business, while my Faculty has to scrimp and scrape together enough time and money to produce even one brochure that directly supports our core business of teaching. The ludicrous end-point of this trend is that every employee will have an extensive collection of gorgeous Equality and Diversity brochures, but that we will have no funding to provide lecture notes to students.

Which brings me full circle to my first question, and the one I really would like an answer to: why is there no mention of cost in this Report?

Professor Dame Athene Donald:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak to you as the University’s Gender Equality Champion, one of the three new champion’s roles formalized in this Combined Equality Scheme. The role initially was created in the mind’s eye of our previous Vice-Chancellor, who wanted to focus thoughts on the importance of true equality. As a University, we have certainly not succeeded particularly well in the past; our history is glorious but also formally excluded women for more than ninety per cent of its existence. Even recently, segments of our multicultural and diverse society will have continued to feel excluded or under-valued. It is high time we dealt formally and properly with the consequences of failings consequent upon our long history.

The creation of this Combined Equality Scheme brings together many actions needed to bring the University into compliance with the law. Currently we are not doing well on the compliance front, and this should be a source of shame. What we have in the Scheme is a clear statement of the approach of the University in dealing with the different equality strands. It gives a brief overview of the University’s functions and activities in order to fulfil its aspirations to be a good employer, which extend to actions beyond mere compliance. By bringing together a previous grand total of thirty-eight policies and papers into a single, easily digestible document, we will not only have much greater clarity of vision and purpose and greater transparency, but in the process reduce the administrative burden on both the central bodies and individual members.

The law may upon occasion be an ass, but the new duties incumbent on us under the Equality Act 2010 require us to respond, as does natural justice for our students and employees. I have watched this Scheme during its gestation. I have followed it through a series of committees – the Equality and Diversity Committee, the Human Resources Committee, and finally University Council, all of which I sit on – so I have seen how each committee has helped to mould the final article, to ensure a balance of pragmatism and aspiration wrapped up in the necessities of the legislative framework. I believe it represents a significant step forward for the University and all its employees. I warmly commend this combined Equality Scheme to you.

Dr N. Bampos (read by Professor Dame Athene Donald)

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, our University is a good employer but one which must aim to do better by its staff and students. The proposed Combined Equality Scheme brings together what have been a fragmented set of guidelines under which the University has operated over the past ten years, into a single protocol to protect our employees and better inform us as the employer. In effect we have already been doing what the combined scheme proposes through dozens of separate policies, so now we will have at our disposal a single framework that improves clarity, transparency, and impact. Doing so will streamline the administrative structures that help the University meet its legal obligations relating to public equality duties. Furthermore, we will move to a single reporting framework as required under the Equality Act 2010 and become more responsive to future developments in legislation. This is not just another piece of bureaucracy to serve a set of administrative objectives, but a policy that intends to focus our efforts in better serving the staff of the University.

As chair of the Joint Committee on Disability and one of the three Champions charged under the proposed Combined Equality Scheme to better represent disability in the workplace, I urge the Regent House to support adoption of the scheme. The scheme does more for the University than simply comply with legislation. It allows us to go beyond compliance and to ensure a responsive, supportive, and diverse workplace in which our great University remains competitive and productive at every level.

Mr D. J. Goode:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as President of the Cambridge University and College Union (Cambridge UCU).

The UCU, like all trades unions, has a commitment to equality built into its constitution, and I am delighted that the University shares that commitment. I look forward to working with the University administration on monitoring and, where necessary, improving the Scheme in the years to come.

Report of the General Board, dated 13 July 2010, on the establishment of a Professorship of Cognitive Develop­mental Neuroscience (Reporter, 2009–10, p. 1128).

No remarks were made on this Report.

Fifteenth Report of the Board of Scrutiny, dated 28 June 2010 (Reporter, 2009–10, p. 1129).

Mr P. F. Davis

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am speaking today as the outgoing Chairman of the Board of Scrutiny to commend the Board’s Fifteenth Report to the Regent House. I am pleased to say no errors or omissions have been formally notified to us since the Report’s publication, so it is without apology for its form that I appear here today; the Regent House must be the judge of its content. Whatever that verdict, I wish to assure colleagues of the Board’s fervent desire to offer its comments and recommendations in the spirit of constructive dialogue that has become a hallmark of its deliberations in recent years.

The issues tackled this year have been broad, with comments ranging from praise for the continued clarity with which the finances and the alarming prospects for the next few years are presented, to criticism of the all-too-public failure of collective responsibility exhibited by Council and some frankly poor governance decisions.

The Board has accepted the arguments evinced in the Budget Report to support the likelihood that the University will run a deficit for the next several years. But with the Browne Review on Higher Education Funding finally being published today, with all its attendant debate and controversy, it cautions against this deficit being allowed to become embedded in the University’s finances. We are encouraged by the openness with which the new Vice-Chancellor is already addressing the crucial issue of finances, and urge the University’s management to press for a comprehensive restructuring of our charging regime, thus guaranteeing our ability to offer genuinely needs-blind admissions. Unless Cambridge is bold and vocal, the danger of a ‘death by a thousand cuts’ may not be avoidable. This issue is about to cease to be political and become practical – it is not just the government’s approach that will change; ours, within the University, will have to as well.

The Board has expressed its doubts that the University’s aspirations for the development of its North West Cambridge site show sufficient commercial ambition. Whether a reassessment can be undertaken or not, it is clear that unusual opportunities for long-term borrowing continue to exist in the UK fixed-interest markets. Capital funding for this and other large-scale University projects is going to be needed. As it has for the last three years, the Board urges the University to take advantage of what will be, in the end, only a temporary dislocation, and to tap bond markets forthwith.

A considerable section of the Report is devoted to the looming crisis in the University’s various pension schemes. The Board is slightly encouraged by the consultation about to be launched to effect some necessary reforms to the operation of USS – this realism is to be welcomed. With the Colleges having already addressed the future of CCFPS, we now await proposals for the updating of the schemes run for the University and the CUP’s operational staff. It is highly unlikely that any ‘final salary’ scheme in the country will escape modification, and, although the Board is aware that plans are being drawn up, the need for the University to swallow this pill is becoming urgent.

The machinations regarding the reform of Statute U and the installation of the lift in the University Combination Room took up a lot of the Board’s time last year. We have linked these governance issues with a more general concern for the presently infelicitous operation of the Council and a clearly identifiable factionalism within it. Our Report makes several recommendations as to how things might be improved, from the conscious need to reinforce a sense of ‘cabinet’ responsibility to considering a change to allow this organ to be chaired permanently by an external member. The Board hopes that lessons will be learned and that a more smooth-running operation of the University’s administration will be in evidence this year.

The Board is aware that the Human Resources Division has been going through major changes in the last two years. We had the opportunity to discuss these with the Director of HR. An area of great concern to departmental administrators related to the inability to get employment contracts right in a practical timeframe. The Board received various assurances that this issue was being addressed and would get better. The evidence to date suggests, unfortunately, that this is not yet the case – we will be keeping an eye on progress and would expect to comment again on HR in our Sixteenth Report.

Similarly, there are several other topics already established where we will be following the threads. These include:

The review of the provision of teaching, learning, and research in the social sciences, especially in the light of the critical comments from Professor Willy Brown on the work of the Review Committee in the minutes of the General Board of 2 June 2010.

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 (ICE). The Board of Scrutiny has taken a closer look at these proposals and their viability during 2009–10. Much hard work has been undertaken within ICE during that period with apparently good results. However, given the substantial changes recommended in the Strategic Review, the appointment of a new Director of ICE from October 2009, and the imminent publication of ICE’s Strategic Plan in response to the Review, the Board feels that it would be premature, and possibly unhelpful, to comment on these initiatives at this time. It will take time for the financial impact of the introduction of new programmes (replacing those lost as a result of funding changes), and of changes in the use of Madingley Hall, to become visible. It will also take time to evaluate the developing relationships currently between ICE and other parts of the University. The Board will therefore continue to devote time in 2010–11 to the impact of the Strategic Review on ICE, and particularly to four inter-related matters: the current and potential roles within the University of the Institute and of Madingley Hall, the role of academic staff within ICE, relationships between ICE and other University institutions, Faculties, and Departments, and current budgets and business plans for the Institute and for Madingley Hall.

The progress of Professor David Yates’s Advisory Group in its Technical Review of Statutes and Ordinances will also be followed. This is an initiative that the Board has called for over several years and of which it is very supportive.

Finally, there are at least two issues the Board has not previously commented on that may occupy it this year. With the Council’s recent report that it is intending to expand the University’s provision of Masters courses, especially as this coincides with the Research Councils’ increasing refusal to pay the ‘college fee’, the Board will be speaking for the first time to the Board of Graduate Studies. In addition, given the decision not to appoint a new Director of Student Services but, apparently, to split this role in two, dealing with student policy and operations separately, the Board will be seeking to understand what this means for student provision and college relations.

The Board has followed previous practice in appending the recommendations in its Fourteenth Report, together with Council’s initial responses, to its latest utterance. A number of issues remain outstanding, but it welcomes the progress that has been made in the presentation of HR expenditure in the Annual Report of the Unified Administration Service (UAS) and Council’s recognition of the need for more careful explanation before publication of consultative Reports.

Mr R. J. Dowling:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Regents, the Board of Scrutiny passes comment on a ‘recent trend’ in the number of notes of dissent that have appeared attached to Council Reports. It believes these to be ‘surely a sign that something is amiss’. As a signatory to many of those recent notes, I think I should respond.

The recent notes of dissent have been on the two Council Reports on the reform of Statute U, the Council Report blocking a fifty-regent Grace on the lift in the Combination Room, and most recently, one on the constitution of the Audit Committee.

It should be noted that not all the ‘usual suspects’ sign all the notes. This is not a knee-jerk response from an opposition party. It is a concern that the Regent House, the governing body of the University, charged with discussing all Reports, should see both sides of each matter. The mere absence of a signature does not do that. The Board of Scrutiny describes this as a ‘recent trend’. If it is recent, that is only because the number of members of Council prepared to voice opposition has gone up. A lone voice can easily be ignored. Six voices speaking in unison cannot. These voices, incidentally, are all elected by the Regent House. The Board of Scrutiny does not get to silence them.

Recall the Board’s description of this as ‘a sign that something is amiss’. I observe that in both the cases that have gone on from Report to Ballot, the Regent House sided with the dissenters. There were two notes of dissent regarding Statute U reform, which Regent House rejected in ballot. There was a note of dissent against the suppression of the fifty-member Grace on the blessed lift, whereupon the stink from the Regent House at Discussion was so great that Council, quite rightly, reversed its position. The discussion of the constitution of the Audit Committee is ongoing. That two of my colleagues were minded to sign a note of dissent causes me to stop and reconsider my position. Am I misjudging the will of the Regent House?

What’s ‘amiss’ is that the Council still does not listen to the voices of dissent but presses on with Reports that are then rejected by ballot.

What’s ‘amiss’ is that Council is losing touch with the Regent House.

Professor G. R. Evans:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor,

The Board discussed a number of issues connected with the governance of the University, notably the revision of Statute U, the installation of the lift in the University Combination Room, and a return to the Review of Teaching and Learning Support Services (‘TLSS’).

The University owes the Board of Scrutiny gratitude for its care in setting out a summary of these recent events with references (which will assist the historian of the future), and drawing attention to ‘areas of concern with the working of the Council and its relationship with the Regent House’. Readers of the Oxford Magazine will have noticed that this section forms ‘Cambridge Notes’ in the issue of Noughth Week for this Michaelmas Term.

The Board draws attention to the waste of administrative time (and the time of academics serving on committees discussing the matter) when a plan is badly handled:

Statute U: Countless meetings, countless drafts, and countless hours must have been devoted to the rewriting of this Statute, and the recent decision of the Regent House to reject these proposals lock, stock, and barrel must be a matter of the greatest concern.

Misguided conduct of decision-making in the University of Cambridge is a ‘matter of concern’ for reasons going deeper than recklessness with the trust of the Regent House and the time of willing servants of the University, important though these are.

Essentially, it seems, those driving the process sat tight. They ‘failed to listen’ to expressions of disquiet in Discussions and on the ‘governance’ newsgroup until they became loud enough to demand their attention. The Council proved willing ‘to shift its ground’, the Board notes, though ‘it took a long and, at times, heated discussion to force through these changes’. And instead of considering open-mindedly whether it should radically reconsider the whole plan, it largely made the changes it did with, apparently, the strategic purpose of quietening the opposition so as to ‘press ahead regardless’. The gamble did not pay off, as history now records.

A similar bid to carry on regardless, perhaps motivated by a failure of sensitivity to the change in engine noise when the Regent House revs up, is observable in the conduct of the affair of the Combination Room lift. The Board of Scrutiny does not reproach those who made the mistake at the outset of failing to ensure that the Regent House was consulted. It can understand that it might seem that ‘the request for a Grace was just an irritation caused by a few people with nothing better to do’. One would not wish to quarrel with the Board’s reluctance to point the finger of blame.

Yet the Board of Scrutiny considers, goes into italics to deplore, that something important and serious happened when ‘no statement was made by the Council between 10 November 2009, and 27 January 2010, and work on the lift continued’:

This was a red rag to a bull because it shifted the argument away from the matter of the lift and on to much more dangerous ground, a belief that the Regent House was being ignored.

More serious still was the far from unanimous decision of the Council to ‘reject the request as frivolous’. The result was what amounted to a vote of no confidence in the Council, which was forced to allow the Grace to go to the vote. The apparatchiks and academic committee members who bungled the process (procedurally and politically) in the first place won, but it was a pyrrhic victory. Everyone who uses the fifteenth-century Combination Room may see the monument to poor administration still there in the corner by the door. And the Board of Scrutiny’s reproof stands in the record.

The third episode of ‘unnecessary confusion and conflict’ recorded by the Board has not yet run its course and I hope the Board will return to it in next year’s Report. The report on the radical Teaching and Learning Services proposals should never have been a report with a small ‘r’. After it was forced into the open through the Freedom of Information Act, the Council stated that ‘the Registrary should consider the general policy on publishing such reports and advise the central bodies appropriately’. But, the Board notes, ‘there has been no discernible further movement on this issue’. So the Board ‘recommends a clarification of the “general policy” on publishing. It would be helpful if the nature and status of “discussion documents”, “green papers”, “white papers”, and the like could be defined, as well as at what stage of a process they are appropriately issued’.

One can only cry ‘yes please’ to that, but surely if a document is of a type which would have to be disclosed in response to an FOI request it should in any case at least be placed on the University’s website, with a note in the Reporter? From a practical point of view that would help avoid the manifesting of serious opposition only at a stage when the Regent House is eventually offered a Report.

The Board’s concern in this fifteenth Report is with the two-way ‘lack of trust’ it believes is now apparent. This implies that the Regent House now looks with increased suspicion on the activities of the UAS and the Council; and the UAS and the Council are afraid to act transparently in case the Regent House should get wind of plans likely to prove controversial and cry halt before the plans have been taken so far towards implementation that it will be impractical to stop them (as seems to be the case with the high wind of change that is now overtaking Libraries provision).

Here I part company with the Board of Scrutiny. I would be very, very wary of a ‘solution’ which interferes with Cambridge’s precious freedom from the conventions of collective responsibility:

Disagreement is normal but so is the convention of ‘decision in cabinet’ whereby those who have lost a vote accept the majority decision, pick themselves up, and move on,


The Board recommends that the Council reflects on how it might strengthen the principle of collective responsibility so that those who disagree do not feel that they must resort to public expression of dissent.

Oxford’s Council has that convention and the result, coupled with the rarity of Debates of Congregation in Oxford – they take place only when crisis threatens – has been that members of the Council have been unable to express disquiet, let alone dissent, and one result was Oxford’s grim experiences of a couple of years ago over governance, library matters, and the infamous Letters threatening to discipline academic staff whose research did not conform with departmental policy. Cambridge Council members must remain free to publish dissenting notes. Who cares how many and how often? If they indicate poor management and decision-making, then the Regent House should be allowed to see the signals.

The Vice-Chancellor, who is Chairman of the Council and also in daily communication with the Registrary, may be inclined to allow him or herself to take sides with the UAS rather than remaining strictly neutral. There is evidence in the Minutes of recent meetings that this has been happening. Members of the Regent House will know how to read:

There can be no doubt that the pressures from outside for executive action will only increase and the sense of frustration is real. The slowness of our decision-making processes will continue to cause difficulty both within and without the institution, and it is only natural that the representatives of the ‘civil service’, which does not vote but which must have some influence on how business is conducted, will be impatient.

I am sure the new Vice-Chancellor has read and digested the lessons in this Report.

I do not think an external Chair would be a safe bet. Might it not mean that the pressure from the UAS would simply shift to the new Chair, and that a new power-group would form, rather like that in other universities, consisting of the Chairman of the Council, the Vice-Chancellor, and the Registrary. (The Registrar is also Clerk to the Governors in many institutions.) It would simply mean that the two-seater sofa hitherto adequate for sofa government had to be replaced by a three-seater model. So please, no to:

The Board recommends, therefore, that the Regent House look again at this particular Statute, and consider the possibility that the Council should be permanently chaired by one of its external members.

As to the changes needed to restore trust, these are culture-changes, changes of expectation. Power-groups play power-games. I was a member of Council at the time of the early Reports of the Board of Scrutiny and I remember meetings at which members of Council sought to have the Board’s hands tied in various ways. I also remember the meeting at which it was agreed that the publication of the Fifth Report should be delayed from the summer to the Michaelmas Term, at the instigation of a member of the Council, with consequences for the CAPSA disaster recorded by the Board in its Sixth Report.1 Anyone who knows how the committees and the apparatchiks can work to spin cobwebs to obscure uncomfortable truths should be wary of any move to make it more difficult for the truth to out.

Dr S. J. Cowley:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, as a former member of the Board of Scrutiny (2001–05) I have maintained an interest in the Board’s Reports. Indeed, I have a ‘soft spot’ for the Board since it provided me with invaluable training for my current position as a member of the Council. It made me what I am today. In return, I have attempted to persuade the Council to consider the Board’s Reports seriously, and to give more detailed replies (e.g. see Council Minute 30(c)(i) of 23/11/09); I have had little effect.

There is much to commend in the current Report, but attendance at a Discussion in the second week of a busy term is rarely driven by a desire to shower undiluted praise on the Board, rather an imperative to take issue with a number of opinions and statements in the Board’s Report.

Let me start with the section on Administration and Governance. It is true that the proposed repeal of Statute U, the ‘lift’, and the review of the TLSS are sad sagas, and there is much in the Board’s analysis that is of merit. However, I would argue that the Board has fundamentally misunderstood the role and workings of the Council. The Council is not a cabinet, and there is no convention of a ‘decision in Cabinet’ (paragraph 46). I refer the Board to its March 2002 submission on the Council’s Consultation Paper on Governance1. I quote:

The Board is aware of suggestions [in 2002] that “members of Council, although elected as individuals, should accept the collective responsibility which follow[s] from the Council’s position as identified by Statutes” . . . . The Board wishes to place on record its view that collective responsibility would reduce accountability. Moreover, such a principle of collective responsibility would seem to be inconsistent with Statute K17 which states that “a Report of the Council, or of any other body that has the right of reporting to the University, shall be signed by those members of the reporting body who agree with the Report; . . .”. There is the implication here that members of Council should let their disagreement with a Report be known by not signing it.

I could not have put it better myself!

Silent dissent on the Council is enshrined and commended in the University’s Statutes. Moreover, vocal dissent is not a ‘relatively new phenomenon’ as suggested in paragraph 47. Anthony Edwards assures me that he was signing Notes of Dissent in the 1980s (surprise, surprise), and thanks to the efforts of a DAMTP secretary over the summer, I can report that in 1992, five members of the Council (including those well-known ‘rebels’ Gordon Johnson and John Polkinghorne) signed a Note of Dissent on the ‘Report of the Council of the Senate on a review of student participation in the work of the central bodies’, that in 1993, Joan Whitehead signed a Note of Dissent on the ‘Third Report on Statutes and Ordinances’, and that in 2002 another well-known ‘rebel’, one George Reid, signed a Note of Partial Dissent on the ‘Report of the Council on the stipend attaching to the office of Director in the Unified Administrative Service’. Further, it seems George Reid triggered an avalanche. In 2003–04 there were three Notes of Dissent, then four in 2004–05, one in each of 2005–06 and 2006–07, two in 2007–08, one in 2008–09, and four in 2009–10. In this millennium, the record holder is Ross Anderson, who has signed fourteen. I have signed four: one on Governance in 2007–08, two on Statute U in 2009–10, and one on that gripping subject of the Constitution of the Audit Committee in 2009–10. When I lost on the Council should I have ‘picked myself up and moved on’ (as recommended in paragraph 47)? Given that I ended up on the side of the Regent House in the first three cases (while the fourth is sub-judice – Council take note for next Monday) I think that answer is self-evident. The Governing Body of the University is not the Council, it is the Regent House. It is those who have not carried the Regent House who need to pick themselves up and move on, and fortunately the Council does just that.

The Board’s fire is misdirected. It should be less concerned with how members of the Council take defeat, and more with how other elements of the University cannot move on. Let me give an example connected with Statute U. Following the decision of the Regent House, there was a constructive meeting of the Council (not in the least because of a very, very gracious contribution from one of the proponents of the reform). The result is that a Working Group has been set up to consider revision of the procedures for both grievance and discipline short of dismissal. Revisions to these procedures were supported by almost everyone who spoke in the Discussions on Statute U. As recorded in a minute of the Council, the Working Group has gelled, and good progress is being made. Further, once confidence has been restored, then maybe the Group, with a fresh mandate from the Council, would be in a position to consider the much trickier issues of dismissal and redundancy. However, there are already rumblings within the Old Schools about a robust return to dismissal and redundancy, rumblings that damage rather than build trust. Opponents of the repeal of Statute U have moved on and are trying to be constructive, many of the proponents of the reform of Statute U have moved on and are trying to be constructive, but there are elements who seem unable to accept the will of the Regent House, and who cannot pick themselves up and move on. It is with those elements that the Board should be concerned.

While on the subject of Statute U, I would also like to refute a statement in the Board’s Report. In paragraph 35 the Board states that it ‘does not believe that the changes [to Statute U] were designed to make redundancy of academic staff easier’. I accept that just because I have said the opposite repeatedly in this House, that is no reason for the Board to believe me. However, as Nick Holmes and I were leaving the second meeting of the aforementioned Working Party, I asked Nick if he had heard what I had heard: the answer was yes, the representative from HR had said that the changes to Statute U would have made dismissal of staff easier. Those who like counting the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin can now debate the difference between dismissal and redundancy, and the inclusion, or not, of designed and academic, but I hope the message is clear.

Under the heading of Administration and Governance, the Board also comments on the ballot process. It notes that ‘the attention of the Board was drawn to the process by which returns are counted’, and that ‘there are . . . very strict guidelines as to who has access to the papers in the interim, and there is no suggestion that these guidelines have ever been broken’. Oh really.

In the middle of the Statute U ballot, on 24 April 2010, it was alleged to me that two boxes, one for Placet and one for Non-Placet, into which the ballots were being pre-sorted in advance of the closure of the ballot, were visible, and that one box had far more votes than the other. I concluded that the Non-Placets were winning; yet I still redoubled my efforts because if I could deduce which way the vote was going, then so might those of the Placet tendency, and they might be motivated to get the vote out (since if the vote was low, the result was already a foregone conclusion). Now, mathematicians are used to what seems unlikely events having a probability higher than one might first expect, but sure enough soon after there were emails from Heads of Department, Heads of Divisions, etc. encouraging us all to vote.

That I could correctly deduce how the vote was going was a failure of our system; I should never have been allowed to so conclude. For this reason, a colleague contacted the Proctors, and thence the Board, and I will admit that I am disappointed by the outcome. It seems to me that the University’s ‘watchdog body’ (paragraph one) seems to have been content with a pat on the head. This was not always so; it used to be far more robust.

In paragraph 3 the Board notes that it ‘has requested information and papers . . . and is pleased to report that such information and papers have generally been made available’. I hope that the Board realizes that this was a battle hard won. In paragraph 91 of the Board’s eighth Report,2 it is recorded that the Council tried to withhold papers from the Board in contravention of the Board’s statutory powers. It is recorded that it took three months to obtain the papers. What is not recorded is that, in order to obtain the papers, the Board had to take action under Statute K5(a), and that the then Vice-Chancellor took one day less than the allowed three months to concede. Board, bark loudly and do not whimper.

Let me also recount another salutatory tale from my time on the Board. On 21 November 2001 the Board published an interim statement on CAPSA noting that the University had apparently signed a contract committing the University to an expenditure of millions of pounds with Oracle, without having taken legal advice (for that is what the Board had been told at a meeting). A week later, the Chairman of the Board nobly stood up in a Discussion and retracted that statement since the Board had subsequently been advised that the University had in fact taken legal advice. But did it? Following the Shattock and Finklestein Reports there was in fact a third report, by the solicitors Masons (if my memory is correct). This report had limited circulation; indeed I think I was not meant to see it. However it was an interesting read since, inter alia, Masons reported that they could find no evidence that the University had in fact taken legal advice! I need not ask whether anyone from the Central Bodies subsequently stood up in a Discussion to make that clear. But the Board decided to let bygones be bygones, however it learnt a lesson . . . and barked louder in future.

Let me finish with three brief remarks.

External members of the Council and the Audit Committee have proved to be a success, but you can have too much of a good thing. The Audit Committee does not need its external membership enlarged, particularly if it does not cure the quorum problem (paragraph 63). I refer the Board to my Discussion remarks of 6 July 2010.

The last thing the University needs with a new Vice-Chancellor is a governance debate. The role of the Vice-Chancellor is not that of a CEO (as was decided by the Regent House seven years ago). The Vice-Chancellor leads the University as the Chairman of the Council and, as Anthony Edwards would put it, Chairman of the Regent House. We do not need to revisit the old chestnut of whether we need an external as the Chairman of the Council (paragraph 50). While I have the greatest respect for our externals, and they have been a good thing, an external Chairman would not understand the University sufficiently, and could easily end up the creature of the Central Bodies.

Finally, pensions (paragraph 11). The reform of pensions does not need to be addressed ‘ruthlessly’; instead the Board should be advocating that the issue is addressed mathematically, analytically, and in the best interests of the University. I agree that this has not happened. Indeed, despite the risk that pensions pose, the Council has failed to consider the matter in detail, and abdicated its responsibility to make it views known to the USS in advance of the JRG vote. Time is late, but we need a wide discussion of the proposals now, far wider than the PR consultation proposed by the USS at great expense.

Mr D. J. Goode:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I want first of all to declare, and then to set aside, an interest. I am a member of the Board of Scrutiny. But I am not speaking today in that capacity. Today, Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as President of the Cambridge University and College Union (Cambridge UCU).

Paragraphs 30 to 44 of the Report before us today are devoted to ‘Administration and Governance’. Of this important section of the Report, paragraphs 31 to 36 deal with the proposed revision of Statute U put to the Regent House during the last Academical Year. Paragraphs 40 to 44 deal with the Combination Room lift, but you’ll be delighted, I’m sure, Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, to hear that I won’t be talking about that.

Paragraph 31 reminds us that:

Countless meetings, countless drafts, and countless hours must have been devoted to the rewriting of this Statute. . .

I’m sure they were. But unfortunately, the number of meetings, drafts, and hours devoted to consultation and negotiation with Cambridge UCU on the rewriting of this Statute are rather easier to quantify, thanks to that world-changing flash of inspiration by the sixth-century mathematician Aryabhata. Why him? Because he is widely recognized as having invented the concept of ‘zero’, which also happens to be precisely the number of meetings, drafts, and hours the University’s administration spent on Statute U with UCU.

The reason for Cambridge UCU’s total lack of involvement in this particular process is simple. Cambridge UCU is not recognized by the University for collective bargaining for the academic, academic-related, and research staff groups.

Simple, Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor. But baffling.

The UCU is recognized in virtually every other university in Britain, both pre- and post-92. And our lack of recognition is definitely not for lack of trying.

I and my colleagues have raised the subject of lack of recognition on many occasions, informally and formally. At one point, it looked as though the University administration might give us recognition, having set out a number of pre-conditions. I wasn’t necessarily all that happy about some of them, but I ensured that every one of those pre-conditions was met, and met more than adequately. And no sooner did I have the goal in my sights, and no more defenders in the way, than the administration picked up the goalposts and moved them.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind, nor in the minds of many others, including members of Council, and members of the General Board, that this lack of recognition is detrimental to the University as a whole, and indefensible from the points of view of not only good industrial relations, but also good common sense.

There is also no doubt in my mind, nor in the minds of many others, that had the proposals for the revision of Statute U been undertaken with the full involvement of Cambridge UCU, those proposals would not have been rejected by the Regent House ‘lock, stock, and barrel’ because we would have ensured, through discussion and negotiation, that the proposals put to the Regent House were a compromise acceptable to the majority.

But I’m not here to rant about past failings, Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor. I am here to echo the Board of Scrutiny’s comments in this section and in other sections of this Report about lack of proper consultation, about the workings of Council, about lack of trust, about making bad decisions based on poor advice, and so on.

I try never to point to a problem without offering a solution. The problem is obvious: lack of recognition. And the solution is equally obvious: recognition.

Simple, Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor. But not at all baffling.

Professor D. M. Thompson:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I apologize for the fact that these remarks are spontaneous, but nevertheless, they are none the less valid for that. It seems to me that the principle that members of the Council may sign a note of dissent is absolutely fundamental to our governance. The function of the Chairman of any body is to try to lead that body to a consensus decision, and to be satisfied with anything less is actually a comment on chairmanship, not on the members of the body concerned. I am well aware, since I was a member of Council for six years, that this is not always easy, but it does seem to me that if the University ever loses sight of that, it has really lost the plot.

‘Cabinet government’, as conventionally defined by Walter Bagehot, has long ceased to exist in this country, as successive Cabinet Secretaries have admitted. It is well known that the only Cabinet decision taken in Tony Blair’s first government concerned the Millennium Dome, when the Prime Minister was absent and the Deputy Prime Minister proposed that the decision be: ‘let’s leave it to Tony’. I don’t know, because I haven’t heard, how many similar decisions were taken in the second administration, but the analogy of Cabinet government is hopelessly wrong, and it does seem to me that if anything comes out of this Discussion, the acknowledgement of that is absolutely fundamental. In my own experience, I think that perhaps there were one or two Council Reports that I did not sign. I cannot recall (though I have not checked) whether I signed any notes of dissent: I don’t think so. But the principle [that it should be possible] seems to me to be fundamental.