Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6212

Wednesday 2 February 2011

Vol cxli No 16

pp. 461–476

Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

A Discussion was held in the Senate-House. Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve Young was presiding, with the Registrary, two Proctors, and thirteen other persons present.

The following Reports were discussed:

University Council: Annual Report, 2009–10 (Reporter, 2010–11, pp. 215–18).

Dr D. R. de Lacey (read by Mr N. M. Maclaren):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, several of the various Reports before us today touch on the North West Cambridge development. My remarks relate to them all, but I shall focus on the Council’s Annual Report. May I remind you that half of this development is in the Parish of Girton, which I serve as Chairman of the Parish Council and as District Councillor. As such, I am grateful for the discussions I have had with members of the development team, though it is far from clear that the concerns expressed by the Parish Council have yet been accommodated by them.

Paragraph 30 of this Report summarizes the current situation. A planning application is expected to be submitted in a few months’ time; an application based on the original concept of this development (although the number of dwellings envisaged appears to grow, Topsy-like, without explanation). In the October Discussion on the Green Paper, I asked why no Plan B had been presented to take account of the inevitable abandonment of the A14 upgrade. I noted Mr Taylor’s comments to the Cambridge News that the development ‘is dependent on the improvement of the A14 between Fen Ditton and Histon.’1

Well, the A14 upgrade is indeed such stuff as dreams are made on, and yet the planning application is to go ahead regardless. This, despite the response to my remarks that ‘following cancellation of the upgrade proposals, the Council will reassess the position and will report to the University about the future of the project as soon as possible.’2 Not much reassessment here, it seems. All we are told is that further massaging of the data – I beg your pardon, modelling of traffic volumes – is required. It is surely improbable that this alone will persuade the Highways Agency to relent. Why are we to submit a futile planning application, bound to be rejected, rather than undertaking a major reappraisal of the whole project in the light of today’s hard realities, rather than the idealism which obtained when the plans were first mooted?

Professor G. R. Evans:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Council’s Annual Report seems to grow ever more terse. But under the headings, some topics are of quite a size if you unfold them.

I would like to concentrate on the note on the Statutes and Ordinances.

It is pleasing to see this review proceeding so briskly. Perhaps I make take the opportunity to raise one or two points for the consideration of the Technical Advisory Group. They invite comment in the Reporter of January the 12th. There can be no better place than here to flag up concerns.

It is important to keep an eye on the borderline between technical review and radical rewrite. I am not suggesting that there is evidence of function-creep as yet, but it needs watching. In Oxford, the five-year review of the North constitution, which was the occasion of Oxford’s comprehensive review of the Laudian statutes, was promised to Congregation as a reassurance that the new constitution was working. But this became a series of proposals for radical change of the governance of the University. On 23 September 2004, and again on 30 September1 with approval of the Resolution published on 7 October,2 the Council of the day set out its view that while ‘the intention in 1999 was that attention should be focused on how the new system was working and whether relatively modest changes were needed’, now ‘a review of the operation of the current structure with proposals for changes within the existing broad framework’ was called for. ‘Council has noted . . . that larger issues might arise,’ because ‘discussions about university governance are taking place nationally, in the light of the Lambert Review of Business–University Collaboration and the Charities Bill’. Congregation seems to have relied on the reassurances it had originally been given, and let this Resolution through without challenge. In Cambridge, something similar had happened a year or two earlier when proposals in the CAPSA Inquiry report mutated into major proposals for ‘governance change’. We can now look back from the distance of another five years and observe that everyone has forgotten about the Lambert Review then thrust before both Universities ad terrorem, and the Charities Bill has become an Act and come into force with barely a ripple to disturb either university’s surface.3

This shifting of a promise of mere review into something far bigger has just happened again with the Browne Review, which is precipitating gigantic revamping of the whole system of higher education when it was merely asked to take a look five years on at how variable tuition fees were working out.

So, prompted by the mention in this Report, a few tentative thoughts.

1. A ‘full statement about the government of the University’ is to appear in Statute A. Care will need to be taken about the redrafting of the ‘popular’ version at present to be found at ‘How the University works’4 against the new statutory version. Exactness on the constitution is important in educating the media who use this summary, and often express understandable bewilderment about the constitutional niceties when they make contact.

2. I cannot see where Statute K, 9 will fit into the new scheme. This is of immense potential importance, given the recent extension of the delegation of powers to individuals – a change whose ‘working’ needs to be assessed, surely, before it is embedded in a new scheme? The House of Lords has been getting very upset about the constitutional wreckage in prospect if Ministers get powers to amend primary legislation at will, under the forthcoming Public Bodies Act. Can we be sure this could not happen in microcosm in Cambridge under K, 9, if the General Board delegated its Statute C powers to its secretary?

3. What is to be done with the powers of the General Board to make certain Ordinances without referring to the Regent House under the present Statute C? Is that to continue in the crisis period prompting academic cuts, and how is the discretion of the General Board to make emergency Ordinances to be fettered in the future wording?

4. It is suggested that there should be a new Statute C (‘University Officers and Employment by the University (including some eventual continuing provisions of the present Statute U)’) and a new Statute D (‘Discipline and the University Courts (provisions at present in Statutes B,VI, and some parts of U)’).

Where should student complaints procedures fit into this scheme? Should symmetry be introduced, balancing student complaint and staff grievance with the respective disciplinary procedures? What about the ‘single gateway’5 idea adumbrated elsewhere, which provides a common starting point for staff and student disputes?

And given the inevitable major changes in prospect nationally in connection with the defining of the relationship between individual and ‘systemic’ (‘causes for concern’) complaints from students, and the consequent need for all universities to review the working of their Public Interest Disclosure procedures, should the revision of the statutes try consciously to stay ‘ahead of the curve’ on that one?

5. What is to be the legislative status of the ‘frequent sub-headings in the Statutes’ proposed under (5)? Are they to constitute mere rubrics or finding-aids, or form classes of domestic legislation, or what? It may be important to have that clear.

6. I note that the Council has gone with the grain of the recommendations of the Committee of University Chairmen in adopting a Statement of Primary Responsibilities (annexed to this Report) which it ‘intends to review and adopt’ annually (reporting, I hope, on any changes). How exactly will this fit with the statutes?

Publishing reports

There is a welcome promise in the present Report that in the case of reports and other documents which have not yet reached the stage of being Reports to the University:6

A list will be published periodically in the Reporter of the reports that were accessible under the new policy and, from the Reporter’s digital edition, a reader will be able to click through to the report in question from that list.

But will this list appear only in infrequent clusters long after the event? I hope not.

More of this topic when I speak on the General Board’s Report.

Professor R. J. Bowring (read by the Junior Proctor, Dr J. Spencer):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Board of Scrutiny in its Fifteenth Report made some suggestions as to the chairmanship of Council. These were not received with rapture by all, and in any case we have a new Vice-Chancellor and it would not be fitting to comment any further on that matter at this stage, although we welcome the arrival of two new external members, and note that such service represents a not inconsiderable gift of both time and effort. Their advice will undoubtedly be of great benefit as the University faces up to a whole series of challenges, from pensions, indirect costs recovery on research grants, loss of graduate fees, and the government’s drive to shift responsibility for the funding of teaching from the state to the individual. On top of all this, there is the difficult task of ensuring that the right decisions are made about the North West Cambridge site. To serve on Council at such a time is service indeed.

Annual Report of the General Board to the Council for the academical year 2009–10 (Reporter, 2010–11, pp. 219–22).

Professor R. J. Bowring (read by the Junior Proctor, Dr J. Spencer):

The General Board report concentrates on the academic aspects of all this change. A major restructuring of the social sciences is underway. It is no surprise that this kind of exercise is difficult in such a democratic institution as ours and we should expect some rough water ahead on this issue. There will be those who chafe against what appears to be obstructionism, but it should be remembered that such concerns stem from a strong commitment to subject and to quality of teaching. Such a commitment is laudable in the face of what can only be called a drive to downplay the status of teaching in favour of research, driven by funding mechanisms that are imposed from outside. It is to be hoped that our present obsession with research rankings does not end up doing a disservice to our other mission: educating the next generation. One does not pretend that everything that is done at Cambridge is beyond criticism, far from it; but genuflection can become a habit that is hard to break. We are not quite yet servants of the state.

There is mention of a number of new courses at the Master’s level. Courses of this type are a relatively new phenomenon, and recent vigorous expansion in this area is something to be carefully watched: hiding behind the cash cow one may find the occasional cow pat. Lastly, on the matter of international activities, the Board of Scrutiny is pleased to note that the General Board is increasingly sensitive to the importance, and indeed difficulty, of negotiating safe passage between the benefits and the risks of collaboration and partnership. The name and fame of the University of Cambridge is an asset that should be both used and jealously guarded.

Mr N. M. Maclaren:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, paragraph 3.6 notes that the results of the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey gave cause for concern, in that Cambridge graduate students’ expectations were, in a number of areas, met less well than the sector-wide average, particularly in relation to ‘supervisory support and guidance’. This fails to surprise me. I know from speaking to my colleagues in many Departments that we have very serious problems in this area, and they are getting worse.

The specific aspect that I personally encounter most often is the lack of support provided by this University for the teaching of basic ‘transferable’ skills which, in the areas I see, are typically mathematical. Students can often get a first-class degree in many subjects, including economics, biology, and even physical sciences, with very limited mathematical skills, but then may need those skills for their research. This problem is widespread, serious, and increasing; indeed, some undergraduate courses are now having to include some remedial mathematics or science teaching.

As an example, some of the courses I teach are on mathematical computation. Even a few years ago, I could expect students not to know the fairly advanced mathematics associated with some of those topics, but recently it has been common for them to lack even basic mathematical skills. An actual example is that I now need to start a course of computational linear algebra by ‘reminding’ students of basic matrix arithmetic, before I even get onto numerical linear algebra.

The General Board accepts this as its responsibility, together with the Board of Graduate Studies and Senior Tutors’ Committee, in paragraphs 6 to 8 of the Teaching and Learning Strategy, 2009–12, referred to in paragraph 3.3 of this Report, and it is very briefly referred to on page 4 of the progress report on the action plan. Unfortunately, this issue was completely omitted from the Teaching and Learning Support Services report, dated July 2008, that seems to have been used as a basis for the Strategy.

However, there seems to have been no contact with those of us who actually provide such teaching, despite the situation being pointed out in the Discussion of 7 July 2009 and in other contexts. It should not be necessary to use the Freedom of Information Act to find out information that directly concerns us – or, indeed, provide the information that is needed to produce a report of reasonable quality.

Please could this situation be remedied before we have a repetition of what happened with the Teaching and Learning Support Services report?

Professor G. R. Evans:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, from the Council Report:

Public funding in the UK, including the public funding of higher education, particularly for teaching, is under huge pressure.

In the present Report, the General Board Report, at (24) we read:

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. . . . Crisis measures are to be avoided as far as possible.

Let me say again that it is good to have had some reasonably rapid action on the promise to review policy on publishing reports and other documents which have not yet reached the stage of being Reports to the University.1 But an essential aspect seems to have been lost sight of. The focus has been upon the disclosability under the Freedom of Information Act of documents ‘in progress’. What about the equally important question of work in progress which represents policy formation and which moves ahead towards the implementation of policy without informing the Regent House? The matter which prompted the indignation about non-publication of reports with a small ‘r’ is mentioned in the General Board’s Report, under the heading of ‘Teaching and Learning Support Services’, where it is noted that ‘proposals have been approved for the incorporation of the Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies (CARET) within the University Library’ and that further aspects of the scheme are being taken forward. The Regent House got in on all that pretty late in the day.

And lessons do not seem to have been learnt. Now in informal but wide circulation is a ‘leaked’ document, PRC WG 1125, which has not been published or listed in the Reporter for internal online scrutiny, though it says that the ‘Working Groups are of the view that the proposals in this paper should be the subject of wide consultation as soon as possible’. It contains plans for saving running costs in the face of present funding cuts. It took from May 2010 to November 2010 for the proposals from the working groups established in May to reach the Planning and Resources Committee (PRC).2 But the idea was (and still is) to recommend implementation in detail to Council by this coming Easter.

The General Board received a report from the PRC Working Group at its meeting of 1 December (Paper 10.B.21). Minute B3 records that ‘the proposals had the broad support of the relevant intercollegiate bodies’. It is not clear from the Minute whether these proposals were concerned with bursaries or PRC 1125 matters, but there must be a presumption that Cambridge will be charging the ‘Higher Amount’, £9,000, since that is the default position.3 The General Board Minute concedes that ‘further thought would have to be given to the University’s position were unacceptable conditions or hurdles proposed by OFFA’. The Government may be playing its cards close to its chest. The General Board and Council should not be doing so.

I ask the Council to ensure that PRC WG 1125 and 10.B.21 are quickly made available online so that Cambridge may make its cost-saving moves in full sight of its students and staff, and under the direct control of the Regent House. For the PRC 1125 working paper contains proposals which would make real in Cambridge some of the most frightful speculations in the national press on the consequences of the tuition-fee rises and the funding cuts. It would be absurd to suggest that there is no room for economy. However, to cut one’s hair and one’s fingernails is normal; to amputate one’s limbs is not. Cambridge’s plans should not verge on body dysmorphia.

The proposals for achieving efficiency savings in the UAS are sketchy, and I would have thought the academic community would wish to know much more about what can be done there before allowing retrenchment in academic provision. Students may want to know why courses are to be cut and supervisions turned into seminars before the UAS is to be cut down to a size commensurate with its proper proportion to the academic work of teaching and research. Their tuition fees will be helping to pay UAS salaries. Proposals for outsourcing IT infrastructure and support are worrying, not only because that may merely transfer expenditure from one head to another in the Financial Statements, but also because the outsourced computing support would have access to emails and much else which we can trust our computing staff to protect for us. I would be unhappy to see commercial operations get access to our traffic.

It is suggested in PRC 1125 that Cambridge could manage with fewer academics by, for example:

reducing examining load through, for example, reduction in the number of papers or changes to the method of examining (e.g. use of MCQs/short note answers, reduction in double marking [the QAA won’t approve of that!], abolition of classing of first year exams)


reducing teaching load by, for example, reduction in lectures per module/paper or abolishing papers with consistently small numbers of candidates.

How will this play when students realize that in return for their greatly increased tuition fee they are to be offered a poorer student experience? There are also proposals for departmental mergers with bigger prospective savings, but for financial and not academic reasons.

I am not saying that none of the suggestions has merit. I remember a year when it turned out that, I think, four of us were lecturing on Augustine of Hippo in different Faculties, and I am sure we could have co-ordinated our efforts and saved some lecture-slots for other uses. But some of the proposals seem downright dangerous. That notion of allowing only unpaid sabbaticals (which would mean changing the contracts of existing staff and that would not be easy to achieve). Sabbaticals are not periods of rest. They are designed to allow University Teaching Officers to fulfil the duties of their office under Statute D, and deriving from the Oxford and Cambridge Act 1877 by keeping their teaching refreshed and up to date and pushing at the boundaries of knowledge in their research. And the controversial powers the General Board has now taken to itself to reconfigure the University’s libraries come into focus in the proposals on Libraries at (4). Cuts now, gaps on the shelves forever, because books were not bought for a time.

Other proposals could lead to the end of the undergraduate supervision as we know it, as supervisions are turned into small-group seminars. This could help to save problems arising about the future funding of the teaching Colleges pay for, but to end supervisions forever under passing financial pressures could mean a long-term change for the worse in what is special about Cambridge. That could leave Oxford alone offering this distinctive form of teaching through its tutorials.

The loss to students of the wielding of the axe will be real. Cutting subjects and courses and whole M.Phils. because few students opt for them is exactly what will happen in less (comparatively) wealthy universities. Is Cambridge to sacrifice its breadth and its claims to remain one of the few places in the UK where rare subjects may be studied? This year’s unpopular may become next year’s mainstream, and leading academics with the relevant expertise cannot be brought in to teach a subject at a moment’s notice, and probably not on short-term contracts either. (Charging general staff costs to research contracts as proposed automatically means increasing the proportion of short-term contract staff.)

Thought also needs to be given to the costs of achieving the ‘savings’. Oxford has spent £1,200,000 on external solicitors in employment cases over the last five or six years, on top of the salaries of a dozen staff in its legal services office. When the ‘voluntary’ severance battles begin, how much is Cambridge going to be spending on such expertise in dispute-resolution and settlement negotiations? Cambridge’s two previous schemes for voluntary redundancy to save money – the first in the early 1980s, the last period of huge public funding cuts for higher education – cost more than they saved. Why should this time be different? Tuition fees will be contributing to covering all this.

Finally, let me come back full circle, to the importance of keeping the whole community in the picture, and consulting through the University’s constitutional provisions, not only by working party and committee. At 3.1, the present Report explains that the General Board:

through their Education Committee, have responded to various national consultations about educational standards and future quality assurance arrangements, including those which arose from parliamentary and media concern about standards across the sector and perceptions of ‘Classing inflation’.

If things are being put forward as the University’s view, I think the Regent House should be allowed to see what is being said in its name. These should not be executive decisions. Decisions about changes to courses will require Reports and Graces. The final decision about the setting of the University Composition Fee must be made by Grace of the Regent House, so why not ensure the legislative body gets a chance to debate the proposals ahead of 31 March?

Reports and Financial Statements for the year ended 31 July 2010 (Reporter, 2010–11, pp. 223–58).

Professor R. J. Bowring (read by the Junior Proctor, Dr J. Spencer):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, last year the Board of Scrutiny complimented the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Planning and Resources) and the University Finance Director for the clarity they have brought to the publication of the Annual Accounts. Once again, the Board would like to commend the manner in which the Accounts have been presented to the University.

Professor Steve Young provided an excellent synopsis of the risks and uncertainties that will affect the financial position of the University in the Financial Review and, given the very uncertain economic environment that we face, it is the Board’s opinion that this year the financial results for the University are very good. The University was close to break-even, with a deficit of only £1m on continuing operations in 2009–10, compared to a restated deficit of £22m last year. This improvement was despite a £10m decline to £18m in the reported endowment and investment income. The Board would like to note that actual distributions from the Cambridge University Endowment Fund (CUEF), set according to the Total Return policy, exceeded the reported income by £40m. If the financial results had been calculated using investment income on a distribution basis, which happens to be the basis upon which we budget, the operating surplus would have been £39m or approximately 3% of total income.

One reason for the good financial results this year has been the diligent cost and expenditure control that has been in place. The Board would like to congratulate the University Director of Finance for the efforts that have been taken to manage costs more effectively. As an example of the work that has been done, in the year 2009–10, Central Administrative Departments expenditure declined by £7.5m to £135.6m when compared to the previous year. The other critical drivers behind the improved results this year was the growth in profits at Cambridge Assessment and the recovery in profits at Cambridge University Press. Income grew by 12% at Cambridge Assessment, and by 7% at the Press, while the former generated a surplus of £34.5m and contributed an additional £14.9m to the Chest. The Board has commented on numerous occasions in the past that the University is very reliant on the annual transfer from Cambridge Assessment. It certainly continues to be the case that the examination and assessment services are a very important, and possibly critical, source of income to the University. The sustainability of this income stream must be kept under review, but for the time being it is clear that this business continues to thrive, and while there are competitive threats, it has a very strong position in a market that is growing at a steady pace.

The performance of the investments held in the CUEF was very strong in the year to 30 June 2010. The total return achieved was 19.2%, which far exceeded the long-term return target of RPI plus 5.25% and also the performance of most comparable funds. While the Board would like to congratulate the Cambridge Investment Office for achieving such an excellent result, in future years we would like additional information to be provided, especially relating to performance attribution and the risks that have been taken in Fund to achieve these returns. We feel that such information is important to provide clarity as to the manner in which the assets are being managed.

Despite the challenging economic environment, the Board has relatively few concerns about the Financial Reports and Statements for 2009–10. However, there is one concern that we must highlight, and that is the potential risks that the University faces with future pension obligations. Higher pension contributions for current staff contributed to the growth in staff costs over the last year and there is a concern that contribution rates will rise further in future. As the Fifteenth Report of the Board of Scrutiny stated, the biggest risk that the University faces is that its principal scheme, the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), is a ‘last man standing’ scheme and despite the fact that it is not possible for the deficit of the USS to be reflected in the University’s balance sheet, the potential risks to the University are huge. It is in fact the one risk that should keep us all awake at night.

Report of the General Board, dated 1 December 2010, on the establishment of a Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics (Reporter, 2010–11, p. 357).

Professor J. A. Hawkins:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I would like to comment on the General Board’s proposal to merge the Department of Linguistics and the Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics into a new Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, within the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages.

There are potential benefits from this merger, as outlined in the General Board’s Report, especially for MML, and the University is now clearly committed to proceeding with it. The merger brings with it many complicated changes for the Research Centre, however, as a result of its very different administrative arrangements, endowment-based financing, and research rather than teaching contracts. Some of these changes are not actually beneficial for members of the Centre, and the manner of their proposed implementation has resulted in considerable anxiety, turmoil, and often anger over the last nine months, which has made my job as Director very difficult.

There have been factual errors in the review process regarding important details of staff contracts, and painful delays over many months in clarifying the future. The proposal to convert our Assistant Directors of Research into University Lecturers in the new Department, when all the existing staff within Linguistics are at Senior Lecturer level or above, creates a highly unequal merger, with Linguistics staff on top and most of the Research Centre staff on the bottom, which is quite unjustified on the basis of their respective accomplishments. There is no equivalent of the Senior Lecturer grade in the University’s research contracts, and our argument that several Research Centre staff should be considered for Senior Lecturer rank at the outset has been rejected out of hand. Staff morale is at an all-time low and I expect several departures.

My personal view is that these and many other complications and negatives outweigh the potential benefits of the merger, for the Research Centre at least, and that a less radical solution involving enhanced collaboration between the two units, and a contribution by the Research Centre to the MML Tripos, would have been preferable. But the University has decided otherwise and so we must go along with their decision.

I will make two quick recommendations, which, if followed, will enable us to make the transition to the new Department smoother.

First, it is important that this should be perceived as a merger between two equal units, Linguistics and the Research Centre, and not as a takeover of the Research Centre by MML. This means regular consultation, and respect for the prior practices and future needs of each unit, and a sensitivity to the aspirations of our respective staff and their desire for equal career opportunities.

Second, the Research Centre’s current space in the English Faculty was purpose-built for our research and teaching needs, and was in part purchased through our endowment and through HEFCE funds that were awarded to English as a result of our presence in the building. This space must remain available to Applied Linguistics staff for the conduct of their research and teaching, sharing of this space with new colleagues in the new Department must be by mutual agreement, and this space cannot be assigned to staff outside the new merged unit.

Finally, the Research Centre has made substantial progress in recent years in achieving goals that the University values. We have initiated cutting-edge interdisciplinary research in the language sciences with many other Departments and Schools, and we have established an impressive track record in external grant funding, we have forged a mutually beneficial collaboration with Cambridge Assessment, and we have developed a new set of Ph.D. courses in the language sciences that have been opened up to the campus as a whole. We look forward to building on this record within the new Department and to moving beyond the turmoil and demoralization of the merger process.

Professor S. C. Franklin:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, since 1988, the University has been home to two separate institutions specializing in various aspects of Linguistics: the Department of Linguistics, in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages; and the Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics. Each of these institutions has admirable and distinctive qualities. However, two Teaching and Learning Reviews, and then a subject review of Linguistics, also identified significant weaknesses in such an institutional division.

The proposed merger, and the consequent creation of a single Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, should bring about substantial benefits for education and research at all levels. It has the support of all the relevant bodies: the Faculty Board of English, the Faculty Board of Modern and Medieval Languages, the Management Committee of the Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics, as well as the Council of the School of Arts and Humanities, and the Education Committee of the General Board.

Like any institutional change in Cambridge, it involves a number of logistical difficulties in its implementation. For example, the two institutions have different staffing structures, and operate according to different business models. Genuine integration presents genuine challenges. However, these transitional, short-term issues are more than outweighed by the clear medium- and long-term advantages of creating a single, larger, more robust Department. I commend the Report to the University.

Dr N. J. White:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as Chair of the Faculty Board in Modern and Medieval Languages, and as a member of its French Department.

I commend to you the Report of the General Board, dated 1 December 2010, on the establishment within our Faculty of a Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, via the marriage of MML’s existing Department of Linguistics and of the Research Centre in English and Applied Linguistics, the latter currently sitting outside our Faculty. This poses a great many challenges, certainly for academics and support staff within both units, and in particular for the Faculty’s and the School’s administration, which would be heavily involved in implementation. I nevertheless applaud the General Board and the Council of the School of Arts and Humanities for their courage in thinking strategically about how best to facilitate excellence within linguistics as a subject in Cambridge. In recent times, I have had considerable contact with a number of colleagues within the Research Centre, and I have been extremely impressed by their professionalism and intellectual quality, and I should say on behalf of the Faculty how much we look forward to welcoming them into our midst.

In keeping with the matrimonial metaphor, some might choose to recall the wisdom that love is the meeting of two weaknesses. But if the Research Centre receives proper leadership in the months running up to the merger on 1 August of this year, then there is every likelihood that linguistics as a subject can thrive within the Faculty and within Cambridge.

Report of the General Board, dated 1 December 2010, on the establishment of an MRC Research Professorship of Cognitive Psychology (Reporter, 2010–11, p. 359).

No remarks were made on this Report.

Report of the General Board, dated 1 December 2010, on the establishment of a Professorship of Finance (Reporter, 2010–11, p. 360).

No remarks were made on this Report.

Report of the Council, dated 20 December 2010, on external financing for the development of its land holdings in North West Cambridge and other building projects (Reporter, 2010–11, pp. 403–05).

Mr N. M. Maclaren:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the third paragraph of the Report states that the sale of part of the area for market housing will pay for the project. That was very plausible in 2005, but will it be the case in 2013 to 2021, as envisaged in paragraph 102 of the Green Paper? For the University to make an adequate profit on this housing, there must not be a surplus of available housing of the sort being sold, and there should preferably be a sellers’ market in it.

This has been so for some considerable time for most sorts of housing in the Cambridge area, and the demand is still fairly strong, but the massive Northstowe project was shelved at the beginning of 2009 because the demand no longer justified the investment. While it is currently being worked on, the developers are showing no signs of haste.

Let us also look at the official estimates of the growth in demand. The mid-2008 population of Cambridge was 117,700, and had increased by 1% per annum since 2001.1 Page 10 of that document estimates the increase for the whole of Cambridge by 2021 to be 36,000 people – which assumes that the growth rate will average 2% from 2008 to 2021. Given the current economic situation, that assumption looks less robust than it did, and the rate of 1% may well continue, which would lead to an increase of only 16,000 people, but let the estimate of 36,000 pass.

Let us now consider the situation with the supply, for just the local area and period up to 2021. The NIAB site will provide 1,600 dwellings, just a mile away. The development of the southern fringe has already started, and will provide 4,000 dwellings, in a location only four miles away and with much better access, especially to the railway station, the Addenbrooke’s site, and London. Also, if the growth in demand picks up again, the slightly closer Northstowe project will restart, which will provide another 9,500 dwellings. That is over 15,000 dwellings, corresponding to a population increase of 35,000–40,000 people, using the estimated ratio of people to dwellings in the planning documents.

So the supply increase within five miles of the North West Cambridge site is already planned to exceed the demand for the whole of Cambridge until at least 2021. A surplus of available, comparable housing seems almost certain, even without the extra housing that this project will add.

There is another serious problem. The NIAB and Northstowe projects have been told that they can release only 20% of their housing until the A14 is upgraded. While it will doubtless be claimed that the North West Cambridge project will not be so limited, and so there will be a shortage of supply, I rather doubt that the Highways Authority will regard the sites on the two sides of the road as entirely different in impact. It is extremely likely that the same constraints will be applied to the NIAB and North West Cambridge projects.

The North West Cambridge Project Director said in an interview with the Cambridge Evening News2 that the cancellation of the A14 upgrade is a problem, and that it might mean restricting car ownership; that is a serious problem in a location with such poor access for non-drivers. There are no buses that run directly to the railway station or Science Park, nor to Addenbrooke’s at weekends; even if there were, the scheduled time would be half an hour, and the actual time would depend on congestion.

It should be noted that the southern fringe will not have the same disadvantages. It is not being limited by the Highways Authority, and the schemes have obtained permission without requirements to restrict car ownership. Furthermore, the Guided Bus is likely to be operational by 2013, providing fast, congestion-free access to the railway station and Addenbrooke’s. So, for almost all buyers except those that work at North West Cambridge itself, the 4,000 dwellings on the southern fringe will be more attractive than the North West Cambridge site.

What was a fairly conservative proposal in 2005 has turned into a wildly speculative gamble in 2011.

Professor R. J. Bowring (read by the Junior Proctor, Dr J. Spencer):

The Board of Scrutiny welcomes this Report and, in particular, that the amount of external funding likely to be needed for the University to proceed with its major capital projects has finally been quantified. Members of the Regent House will recall that the Board has been urging the Council to take advantage of historically low long-term sterling interest rates, and to borrow in the bond markets for the last three years. Indeed, the promptings in our Fourteenth Report are reproduced in Council’s Report here.

The Board is glad that this opportunity still seems to be available at potentially attractive rates, though with current concerns about the level of UK inflation, it can only be a matter of time before this window begins to close. We are aware that we have been warning of this for some time and that it has not yet happened, however, nobody will be surprised that the Board wholeheartedly commends the proposed action and would wish to encourage the Regent House to declare its approbation as soon as it is formally asked.