Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6205

Monday 29 November 2010

Vol cxli No 9

pp. 213–260

University Council: Annual Report, 2009–10

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

Dame Alison Richard

1. The academical year 2009–10 was the seventh and final year of Dame Alison Richard’s distinguished tenure as Vice-Chancellor. She has made many important contributions to the University, including vigorous participation in the Campaign, and the development of University financial and academic strategy. She proposed the establishment of the Investment Office and the Investment Board, and led or participated in many significant appointments in the University (Professors, Pro-Vice-Chancellors, and others). Within the Council she introduced annual reporting to the Council by the Vice-Chancellor, a valuable procedure, and proposed the Council’s now established sequence of twice-yearly strategic meetings. She diligently chaired the Council, the General Board, the Finance Committee, and many other bodies. The Council records its and the University’s thanks to Dame Alison.

High officers

2. The High Steward, Dame Bridget Ogilvie, and the Deputy High Steward, Lord Richardson of Duntisbourne, both retired from office in 2009, after dedicated service to the University. Dame Bridget had previously appointed Mrs Anne Lonsdale, formerly President of New Hall and a Pro-Vice-Chancellor, as Deputy High Steward. On the recommendation of the Nomination Board, Lord Watson of Richmond, JE, was elected High Steward. The University is fortunate in these appointments.

Major appointments

3. The Council was pleased to recommend the confirmation by Grace of the appointment of Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, W, then Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council, to serve as Vice-Chancellor for seven years from 1 October 2010. The Council looks forward to working under the leadership of Sir Leszek, in what is clearly an exceptionally challenging period for the University. The Council is grateful to its Advisory Committee, chaired by the Master of Christ’s, for its excellent work in searching for the new Vice-Chancellor.

4. Professor Andrew Cliff, Professor Ian Leslie, and Dr Kate Pretty, Pro-Vice-Chancellors for Human Resources, Research, and International Strategy, respectively, retired at the end of their maximum period of service. The Council is grateful for their service to the University. The Council appointed Dr Jennifer Barnes, Professor Lynn Gladden, and Professor Ian White as Pro-Vice-Chancellors from 1 January 2010, respectively with the portfolios International Strategy, Research, and Institutional Affairs.


5. The Council congratulates Homerton College on the grant by Her Majesty The Queen of a Charter of Incorporation, and full College status within the University.

6. New Hall is now completing the final formal stages of adoption of its new title, Murray Edwards College, which recognizes the College’s history and a major benefaction. The relevant University Statute change has already been made by the University on the recommendation of the Council.

Accountability and Audit

7. The first annual accountability exchange has taken place with HEFCE, which has indicated its continued opinion that its ‘overall conclusion is that HEFCE is able to place reliance on the University of Cambridge’s accountability information’.

8. Amendments to the constitution of the Audit Committee have been put forward by Report, in particular to strengthen the requirements for the quorum and to increase the number of co-opted members.

Governance and constitutional matters

9. The scoping study for a possible review of the Statutes, and Ordinances, chaired by Professor David Yates, Warden of Robinson College, was completed in the Spring of 2010. The Council accepted its conclusion that a review should take place, and put forward a Report to the University in the Easter Term 2010 proposing the initiation of a technical review process, on the lines proposed by the scoping group. The recommendation in this Report was approved by Grace. Accordingly, a Technical Advisory Group, also chaired by Professor Yates, has been established to monitor the work. It is planned that the task of proposing revisions to the Regent House should be completed by Easter 2012. The work of simplification and clarification would proceed through the issue of consultation papers, including drafts of suggested new statutes, and then by Report to the University.

The Council

10. The Council is defined by Statute A as the principal executive and policy-making body of the University, having general responsibility for the administration of the University, for the planning of its work, and for the management of its resources. It is declared to have power to take such action as is necessary for it to discharge these responsibilities. It is also to perform such other executive and administrative duties as may be delegated to it by the Regent House or assigned to it by Statute or Ordinance.

11. The Council initiated the process to appoint two external members of the Council to serve from 1 January 2011 to serve following the retirement from the Council of Lord Simon of Highbury (who is Deputy Chairman of the Council and Chair of the Remuneration Committee) and Mr Nigel Brown OBE (who chairs the Audit Committee). The Nominating Committee established by Ordinance was on this occasion chaired by Dr Vanessa Lawrence, a continuing external member of the Council. It submitted its recommendations to the Council in the Michaelmas Term 2010 and Mr Dominic Casserley and Mr John Shakeshaft have now been appointed by Grace.

12. Lord Simon and Mr Brown are the first external members of the Council to serve since that category of membership was introduced. The Council records its warm appreciation of their exceptional service to the Council and the University. The Council has also congratulated Mr Brown on his appointment as High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire.

13. The Council has adopted a Statement of Primary Responsibilities (annexed to this Report) and intends to review and adopt this annually, together with its Standing Orders, the Code of Practice for members of the Council, and the Statement of Corporate Governance (which appears in the Financial Statements). These and other important material are collected in the new annual Handbook for members of the Council (available on the Council’s website:

14. The Council has pursued its programme of strategic meetings, one in September and one in the spring. The Council continues to operate its internal processes through ordinary regular meetings (eleven each year, and special meetings when necessary), scrutiny of business through the Business Committee, the Executive Committee, and other committees, and through receipt and approval of routine business by circulation. The Council has set up a programme of meetings with the heads of institutions under its supervision. Most material considered by the Council is available on the website.

15. The Council’s Nominations Committee and its Committee on the membership of Council committees have been brought together as a single Advisory Committee on the Membership of Council Committees and External Nominations.

Teaching and research

16. Teaching and research is the responsibility of the General Board and of the Schools, Faculties, and Departments under the supervision of the Board. The General Board reports annually to the Council. The Board’s Report for 2009–10 is annexed to this Report. The Council does not attempt to summarize the Board’s Report, but records with approval the development of the education and research programmes of the University, even in difficult times, and the commitment of the University to maintaining and indeed developing the highest academic standards both in teaching and in research.

17. Some developments should be specially singled out: the establishment of the Sainsbury Laboratory, for Plant Diversity and Development, located in the Botanic Garden, the review of teaching and research in the social sciences which is under consideration by the Board, and the General Board’s review of the teaching and learning support services, which is the subject of consultation, discussion, and implementation (with changes of Ordinance where necessary).

18. The University has continued to contribute to national discussions about the future of research funding, particularly in connection with the future arrangement for the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) or its successor (the Research Excellence Framework (REF)). It has recently been announced by Government that implementation of the REF is to be deferred for one year, and this means that the recent RAE results will inform funding for some time.

19. The funding of research in the University is currently a cause of concern, especially the falling rate of indirect cost recovery. As a consequence, the Resource Management Committee (RMC) has reviewed current procedures and concluded that they are over complex and lack sufficient incentives to maximize indirect cost recovery. The RMC is now developing a new simpler scheme which will give Schools greater flexibility and improve incentives to recover costs.

University employment

20. This is a challenging period for universities in connection with pension arrangements. National discussions have taken place about the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and consultation with members is now taking place. Discussions have been taking place within the University, initiated by the Pensions Working Group of the Finance Committee, about the Cambridge University Assistants Contributory Pension Scheme (for assistant staff). Consultation with members, as required by law, is expected to take place during 2010–11 once the agreed procedures for negotiating with the relevant trades unions have been completed.

21. Proposals for the revision of Statute U (the Statute about discipline, dismissal, and grievance procedures for ‘academic staff’, imposed on the University following the Education Reform Act 1988) were put to the Regent House after a long deliberative process. The Regent House rejected the proposals as put forward and the Council has since established a new working party, chaired by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Institutional Affairs, to consider grievance and discipline matters, and mediation arrangements, for staff generally, not just the ‘academic staff’ identified in Statute U. The Council hopes to be able to submit agreed proposals about these matters for approval in 2010–11.

University resources

Fees and student support

22. Public funding in the UK, including the public funding of higher education, particularly for teaching, is under huge pressure. A sequence of announcements has been made by the Government, and by HEFCE. The outlook for research funding, notwithstanding governmental intentions to protect research of high quality, is still a matter of concern. Future funding arrangements for teaching are even more uncertain, and potentially even more problematic, as the basic level of HEFCE T grant is withdrawn, to be replaced by the payment of fees by or on behalf of Home and EU Students from 2012–13. The Council expects that the financial year 2010–11 will be difficult, and that the financial years 2011–12 and 2012–13 will be more difficult. The Council has, through the Planning and Resources Committee, initiated planning to help the University through this difficult period, and is at present assuming that the situation for 2011–12 and the remainder of the planning period in relation to general University spending will be one of significant cash reduction. Schools and other budgetary authorities are being asked to plan on this assumption.

23. The independent review of fees and funding (particularly related to the position of Home and EU undergraduates), chaired by Lord Browne of Madingley has now reported (October 2010). Many submissions were made in the various stages of this review, including submissions from the University, which have been made available within the University, and from the Russell Group. The Government has made several announcements following the report and more are expected. Changes to the fee and student support system must not adversely affect the opportunity for students of high potential but limited means to benefit from Cambridge’s opportunities (which preferably should be improved). The Council will seek to ensure, working with the Colleges, that Cambridge’s present good arrangements for student support, in particular bursaries, are developed further.

24. It is imperative that in the University reductions in year to year funding should be carefully managed so that as far as possible damage is not inflicted unnecessarily on valuable academic programmes, whether of teaching or research. It is also vital that the University continues to invest for the future, in buildings, equipment, and people, and that we should further diversify income streams so as to reduce vulnerability to fluctuating government funding. This does not mean that all existing activities or facilities should be kept, at least in their present form, but the University should take great care to ensure that when changes are made the full academic impact is properly evaluated and the changing situation kept under control. Crisis measures are to be avoided as far as possible.

25. The Council will report further to the Regent House about the resource and spending position of the University in the budget and allocations Report for 2011–12 which will be published in the Easter Term 2011.

26. Financial information about the University for 2009–10 is contained in the Financial Statements published with this Report.

27. One aspect of investing for the future is to keep under consideration the state of the University’s academic estate, and at present attention is focused on new developments related to changes on the central sites, including the Old Press site and the New Museums site, for example the new building for Materials Science at West Cambridge, and the Humanities and Social Sciences building at 7 West Road. Work is being undertaken on a Capital Plan which will permit the University to assess the possible gap in funding between what may be immediately available, and what will be required for capital investment. How such a funding gap should be addressed is a matter for judgement: different approaches could be taken, for example funding through borrowing, funding through the use of University resources, or funding through the partial sale or lease of assets and premises. The Finance Committee of the Council is developing this work, which is being reported to the Council regularly. The Council is publishing a Report to the University seeking formal authority to borrow under carefully defined procedures, so that if the need for borrowing arises it is not necessary to seek specific authority on each occasion.

28. Arrangements have been made to allow investment in the Cambridge University Endowment Fund by Colleges and other charitable entities close to the University. This will allow access to the scale and diversification offered by the CUEF for smaller endowment funds. The Council has been pleased to note good performance of the Fund, reflecting the advice of the Investment Board, and the work of the Investment Office, and its Chief Investment Officer.

North West Cambridge

29. Development of North West Cambridge is not an ordinary University capital development, but rather a development process. The University secured agreement that the land in question be removed from Green Belt restrictions to meet strategic needs in the University for affordable housing for qualifying members of staff, under-capacity for, particularly, postgraduate students in existing college accom­modation, and predicted needs for new research space both as an extension of current University activities and in partnership with external organizations. A green paper has been published and has been discussed, and a full Notice in reply issued. A formal Report to the University is planned for 2011.

30. At present, preparatory work is being undertaken, rather than site work. The next formal step (other than procedures within the University) will be the submission of an outline planning application for the entire site in accordance with the approved Area Action Plan, which provides for up to 3,000 residential units (half of which would be for University and College employees), 2,000 accommodation units for Colleges, and 100,000 square metres of research space. The application is expected to be submitted in June or July 2011. Further modelling of traffic volumes is now required following the decision that the A14 improvement works will not now proceed. Some works in the project area will be the financial responsibility of the University (but not all because partnerships are anticipated). To the extent that University buildings for specifically University purposes are concerned, the ordinary University processes for approval apply. The capital costs, and indeed running costs, of these are to be assessed in the ordinary way through the assessment of capital projects. Other developments to be financed by the University, such as infrastructure and housing for the University, will require initial financing, although some such investment will be recovered from payments by other developers. Much of the development, especially the housing to be sold for private ownership, will be the responsibility of developers. The considerations attaching to the financing of the project are analogous to, but not exactly the same as, the considerations attaching to the Capital Plan referred to in the previous section. It is possible that borrowing may be the best way of financing some of the University’s investment for North West Cambridge.

31. The Council will report to the University about the development of governance structures for the North West Cambridge project.

The Campaign

32. Despite the adverse world economic and financial situation, the £1 billion milestone for the Campaign for the University and the Colleges has been passed. The University is grateful to all individuals whose generous donations have made this possible. This is a remarkable achievement, and reflects outstanding levels of commitment by the University and the Colleges working in concert, in particular through the Campaign bodies, the Development Office, and the remarkable leadership of the outgoing Vice-Chancellor. The Campaign continues to its full term. The Council is considering future development and fund raising activities.

22 November 2010

L. K. Borysiewicz, Vice-Chancellor

M. J. Daunton

Debbie Lowther

N. Bampos

A. M. Donald

R. Mansigani

R. J. Barnes

R. J. Dowling

Mavis McDonald

Nigel Brown

David Good

Rachael Padman

William Brown

Christopher Hum

David Simon

M. R. Clark

F. P. Kelly

S. Wakeford

S. J. Cowley

Vanessa Lawrence

Joan M. Whitehead


Statement of Primary Responsibilities of the Council (re-adopted September 2010)

The Council has adopted this Statement of Primary Responsibilities.

The principal responsibilities of the Council are defined by University Statute A, IV, 1 which reads:

(a) The Council shall be the principal executive and policy-making body of the University. The Council shall have general responsibility for the administration of the University, for the planning of its work, and for the management of its resources; it shall have power to take such action as is necessary for it to discharge these responsibilities. It shall also perform such other executive and administrative duties as may be delegated to it by the Regent House or assigned to it by Statute or Ordinance.

(b) The Council shall have the right of reporting to the University. It shall advise the Regent House on matters of general concern to the University.

(c) The Council shall perform such duties in connection with financial matters as are assigned to it by Statute F, I.

(d) The Council shall make an Annual Report to the University, and shall initiate and submit a Grace for the approval of the Report by the Regent House.

(e) The Council shall have the power of submitting Graces to the Regent House and to the Senate. The procedure for the submission of Graces shall be prescribed by Ordinance.

(f) The Council shall oversee the work of all those institutions in the University which are placed under its supervision, and shall ensure that the University officers assigned to those institutions are satisfactorily performing the duties and fulfilling the conditions of tenure of their offices.

Pursuant to these responsibilities the Council:

through its Finance Committee, its Audit Committee, and the Planning and Resources Committee ensures the University’s accountability for the proper use of public funds;

supervises the financial position of the University through its statutory Finance Committee;

arranges audit through its statutory Audit Committee;

conducts legal business and ethical scrutiny, especially in respect of the acceptance of benefactions and investment responsibility, through its Executive Committee;

discharges its responsibilities in relation to the University as an employer through the Human Resources Committee (HRC), a joint Committee with the General Board;

develops University policy on the advice of the General Board and that of specialist advisory bodies;

conducts planning and resource allocation through the Planning and Resources Committee (PRC) and the Resource Management Committee (RMC), both joint Committees with the General Board;

deals with business about buildings and the University estate with the advice of the Buildings Committee (a joint Committee with the General Board which reports through the PRC), and on the advice of the Finance Committee;

informs and advises the Regent House through Reports, Notices, and Graces, and through considering remarks made at Discussions;

conducts the University’s relations with Government, HEFCE, other national bodies, and local and regional bodies;

supports and advises the Vice-Chancellor, and through him or her the team of Pro-Vice-Chancellors;

supervises University institutions placed under its supervision, particularly through receiving reports, and also through the PRC and the HRC;

through the Finance Committee exercises financial and some other supervision of Cambridge University Press, the Local Examinations Syndicate (Cambridge Assessment), University-owned companies, and some free-standing bodies such as the Cambridge scholarship trusts;

pursuant to Act of Parliament, discharges responsibilities for the University Student Unions through its Student Matters Committee;

makes (or recommends) senior appointments (including the Vice-Chancellor, Pro-Vice-Chancellors, the Registrary, and, through its Standing Appointments Committee established by Ordinance, Directors and other senior staff in the Unified Administrative Service);

assures risk management, emergency management, and value for money surveillance;

monitors the implementation of major projects, through special groups and the Information Strategy and Services Syndicate, and the North West Cambridge Strategy Committee;

keeps University governance and similar matters under review;

makes a statutory annual report to the University;

monitors its own performance and effectiveness.

The Council has published the following statement (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 114):

Notice by the Council

Statement of intention

In carrying out their functions as the principal executive and policy-making body of the University the Council will consult the Regent House on questions of policy which in the Council’s judgement are likely to prove controversial. They will do this by submitting a Grace to the Regent House for the approval of a provisional decision or statement of intention; where appropriate, such a Grace will allow for the expression of a preference between alternative options. The Council will give consideration to remarks made at any Discussion of such matters and to the outcome of any vote on them.