Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6222

Thursday 5 May 2011

Vol cxli No 26

pp. 721–740



8 May, Sunday. Preacher, the Revd C. C. Rowland, JE and CHR, Dean Ireland’s Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture in the University of Oxford, 11.15 a.m.

14 May, Saturday. Congregation of the Regent House at 11 a.m.

17 May, Tuesday. Discussion at 2 p.m. in the Senate-House (see below).

21 May, Saturday. Easter Term divides.

22 May, Sunday. Preacher, J. J. Lipner, CLH, Professor of Hinduism and the Comparative Study of Religion (Ramsden Preacher), 11.15 a.m.

Discussions at 2 p.m.

17 May

31 May

14 June

5 July


14 May, Saturday at 11 a.m.

23 June, Thursday (Honorary Degrees) at 11.30 a.m.

30 June, Thursday (General Admission)

1 July, Friday (General Admission)

2 July, Saturday (General Admission)

23 July, Saturday at 11 a.m.

Notice of a Discussion on Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Vice-Chancellor invites those qualified under the regulations for Discussions (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 107) to attend a Discussion in the Senate-House, on Tuesday, 17 May 2011, at 2 p.m., for the discussion of:

1. Report of the Council, dated 18 April 2011, on undergraduate UK/EU fees, funding, and student finance (Reporter, 2010–11, p. 698).

2. Consultation on options following the abolition of the default retirement age: a joint consultative paper, dated 3 May 2011 (Reporter, 2010–11, p. 723).

Dates of Congregations for 2011–13: Notice

3 May 2011

The Vice-Chancellor gives notice that Congregations will be held on the following days in the academical years 2011–12 and 2012–13. Attention is drawn to the change in times for the Congregations in October, March, May, and July.


(on Saturdays at 2 p.m. unless otherwise stated)





Full Term: 4 October – 2 December

Full Term: 17 January – 16 March

Full Term: 24 April – 15 June

1 October (Saturday), 9.30 a.m.2

21 January

28 April, 11 a.m.

21 July, 10 a.m.

22 October, 11 a.m.

18 February

19 May, 10 a.m.

26 November

24 March, 10 a.m.

28 June (Thursday)3

29 June (Friday)3

30 June (Saturday)3





Full Term: 2 October – 30 November

Full Term: 15 January – 15 March

Full Term: 23 April – 14 June

1 October (Monday), 9.30 a.m.2

19 January

27 April, 11 a.m.

20 July, 10 a.m.

20 October, 11 a.m.

16 February

11 May, 10 a.m.

24 November

23 March, 10 a.m.

27 June (Thursday)3

28 June (Friday)3

29 June (Saturday)3


  • 1The date of the Congregation for the conferment of Honorary Degrees will be announced later. 

  • 2Address by the Vice-Chancellor; Election and Admission of the Proctors.

  • 3General Admission (LL.M., M.Eng., M.Math., M.Sci., Vet.M.B., Mus.B., B.A., and B.Th. Degrees only). Times to be announced.

Dr S. T. Lee Public Policy Lecture: Notice

2 May 2011

The Vice-Chancellor gives notice that Dr Tachi Yamada, retiring President of the Global Health Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will deliver the 2011 Dr S. T. Lee Public Policy Lecture, at 5.30 p.m. on Thursday, 2 June 2011, in Lecture Theatre LT1 at Judge Business School. The title of Dr Yamada’s Lecture will be Innovation in global health products and delivery.

The Lecture is open to all who are interested, and refreshments will be served afterwards.

Consultation on options following the abolition of the default retirement age: a joint consultative paper: Notice

3 May 2011


1. The Council and the General Board issue this consultative paper to seek the views of the University as to the changes (if any) which should be made to the retirement arrangements within the University following the abolition of the national default retirement age (DRA).

2. During 2010, the Government announced its intention to phase out the DRA with effect from 6 April 2011. The legislative changes will also remove all associated statutory retirement procedures, including those specifying the duty on employers to give a minimum of six months’ notice of retirement to employees and the right of employees to request to work beyond their normal retirement age. Transitional arrangements will enable retirements which are due to take place on or before 30 September 2011 to proceed under existing arrangements but it will not be possible to rely on the DRA to justify the retirement of employees who reach their normal retirement age on or after 1 October 2011. However, this does not mean that the University will no longer be able to retire members of staff. From October 2011, any employer will be able to retain a retirement age, providing the employer is able to show that it is objectively justifiable as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. A retirement age that can be justified in this way is referred to as an Employer Justified Retirement Age (EJRA).

Current position

3. The current retirement age for all University officers (with certain specified exceptions) is the end of the academic year in which they reach 67. This long-standing age limit for holding office is prescribed in Statute D, I, 11. For all other staff, the retirement age is the end of the academic year in which they reach 65. The Human Resources (HR) Committee approved the current retirement policy in 2006. The policy includes a procedure for considering requests from University staff to continue working beyond their retirement age. The policy has worked well and facilitated some staff working beyond the retirement age, providing flexibility for both the employer and the staff members. In addition, in October 2009 the HR Committee approved a policy for Voluntary Research Agreements. This has enabled established academic staff to retire but continue their research activity.

Working Group

4. The HR Committee set up a DRA Working Group in Michaelmas Term 2010. The membership and terms of reference of the Working Group are set out in an Annex to this consultative paper. The Working Group has met regularly since November 2010. In January 2011, an initial consultation was held with all categories of staff (Reporter, 2010–11, p. 395), which resulted in a small number of responses.

Removing the retirement age

5. The Working Group has considered the possibility of having no retirement age across the University. The complete removal of the retirement age would have the advantage of clarity. It would also guarantee full compliance with age discrimination legislation as it relates to retirement. However, it would most likely give rise to significant issues for the University, which must be taken into account in assessing the University’s response to the abolition of the DRA.

6. If the University were to make no provision for a retirement age, it would be up to each employee to decide when he or she retired. The University would have the power, as at present, to dismiss on grounds of one of the potentially fair reasons for dismissal specified in statute, including incapability (health or performance). The University could put in place enhanced performance management procedures to make up for the loss of the power to bring employment to an end through retirement. In order to avoid complaints of age discrimination, such procedures would need to be applied to staff of all ages. In effect, this could mean putting in place a system of regular, career-long performance reviews. There may be significant cost implications arising from the administration of such procedures, and an increased risk of litigation over dismissals or other action taken under them. There are also questions as to the appropriateness of such reviews for those engaged primarily in long-term research studies.

7. The Working Group has further noted that in universities which do not operate a retirement age, for example, in the United States, questions arise concerning the fair distribution of opportunity amongst staff of different ages. By way of illustration, it is reported that Harvard has a tenured faculty with more people over 70 than under 40, and that in 2004 the average age for scientists to obtain their first major research grant from the National Institutes of Health was 42, five years later than their 1980 cohort.1 From 1973 to 2003, the percentage of faculty in American universities at large aged 35 or under apparently declined from 25% to less than 10%.2 These data give cause for concern as to the impact which enabling staff to work indefinitely is likely to have on the age balance of a university and its ability to attract and retain talented faculty and other members early in their careers.

8. In light of these factors, the Working Group believes that, in determining its future policy, the University should give careful consideration before removing all provision for retirement on the grounds of age, in particular with regard to its academic staff.

Maintaining a retirement age

9. The Working Group has considered the alternative option of applying an EJRA.

10. There is at present little authoritative legal guidance as to the types of aim which may legitimately be relied on as constituting objective justification in relation to an EJRA. The issue is currently being tested in the courts and there is a growing body of cases which are potentially relevant to the University’s situation.3

11. A series of factors has been considered by the Working Group in relation to the need to show objective justification of an EJRA. The major justifications which have been regarded by the Working Group as being potentially persuasive are set out below.

(i) Inter-generational fairness

12. Many members of University staff hold highly prestigious appointments to which members of the academic community in the UK and across the world aspire. There is a relatively low turnover of staff, and senior offices are fewer at ascending levels of rank. If senior post-holders are not obliged to retire at a specified age, there is a risk of creating an imbalanced spread of ages across the workforce and of more junior cohorts of employees being denied the opportunity of promotion and appointment to senior roles. While this ‘log-jamming’ effect would be damaging throughout the University workforce, there are particular concerns about its potentially detrimental effect on academic staff (see also paragraph 14 below). The mean length of service of established academic and academic-related staff leaving the University over the period 2006–2010 has been 14.3 years and 12.2 years respectively. This is significantly longer than other staff categories. A retirement age would help to avoid scholars at the start of their working lives being ‘crowded out’ and those in junior positions being hindered in building their careers as a result of a lack of availability of positions at a senior level.

(ii) Career progression

13. This factor is related to inter-generational fairness. An EJRA would ensure that there are opportunities for new staff to join the University and to progress through the promotional stages in the course of their careers, thereby creating a balanced distribution of age, background, and experience within the University. A structured process of career progression of this kind helps the University in a number of ways. In particular, it facilitates more effective planning of human resource needs and enables administrative resources to be more efficiently deployed.

(iii) Innovation in research and knowledge creation

14. A balanced mix of collaborators across a range of generations is generally regarded as important to invigorating the academic dialogue which is necessary to the development and maintenance of high-quality teaching and cutting-edge research at a leading international level. The introduction of new fields of study and innovation could be inhibited if, as a result of the absence of a retirement age, there was a significant reduction in the appointment of new academic staff and a bottleneck in the promotions process, with early-career academics taking longer to obtain established posts and/or to make their way to senior positions.

(iv) Preservation of academic autonomy and freedom

15. The University is a self-governing community of scholars and the status and success of the University are dependent upon individual academics having the security to carry out research which may be controversial or unpopular without fear of sanction or recrimination. This requires an employment framework which gives unique and specific protections to preserve academic autonomy and freedom. These protections are not easily reconcilable with a system of regular, career-long performance reviews (see paragraph 6 above).

16. A retirement age provides an important mechanism for ending an academic’s formal employment with the University, which is not otherwise easily available, given existing and necessary safeguards to ensure academic freedom. It is arguably a necessary counterbalance to the relative benefits in terms of tenure and job security which an academic enjoys throughout her or his career, and it constitutes the essential complementing element which renders that arrangement both fair and feasible; in a sense, academic tenure and an EJRA could be regarded as two sides of the same coin.

(v) Equality and diversity

17. The removal of a retirement age would make it more difficult for the University to address the issue of historical gender, ethnicity, and age imbalances across the workforce. Those who would be in a position most immediately to avail themselves of the opportunity to work longer would be predominantly white, male members of staff, who comprise the majority of the University’s workforce aged over 60.4 Because posts within the University, particularly for established academic officers, are finite in number, fewer younger, female, and ethnic minority employees would either progress to more senior ranks, or obtain employment in an established or other permanent post in the first place.

18. By way of illustration, while 16% of established academic staff aged over 60 are female, the equivalent proportion in the age group 40–49 is 28%.5 The University has made considerable progress over the past 20 years in increasing the number of women in post within the University, as the statistics above show, but progress is slow due to the low turnover of staff. Removal of a retirement age would seriously hamper further progress on the diversification of staff within the University.

Proposals to maintain an EJRA

19. The Working Group has come to the provisional view that there are three options for retaining a retirement age (set out below) which warrant further wide consultation before a final decision can be reached and which members of the University are accordingly asked to consider, in particular with reference to the possible justifications for applying a retirement age discussed above. In parallel, consultation is also taking place with trade unions representing University staff.

(a) An EJRA is applied to established academic and academic-related staff (i.e. all University officers6)

All of the possible justifications discussed above might be considered to support a compelling case for maintaining an EJRA at least in respect of this category of academic and academic-related staff. A retirement age for established staff would enable the University to maximize employment and promotion opportunities for academic and academic-related employees at the early stages of their careers and to maintain a fair and steady career structure, which indefinite tenure would potentially compromise severely. An EJRA would also help the University to continue to address the disproportionate concentration of female and ethnic minority employees in less senior grades.

(b) An EJRA is extended to include unestablished academic, academic-related, and research staff on open-ended contracts

The case for applying a retirement age might be considered to be equally compelling in respect of these additional categories of staff members. While the danger of ‘log-jamming’ is likely to be particularly severe in the case of office holders, because the number of offices is highly restricted, the difference is one of degree, rather than being a fundamental difference of kind. A large number of unestablished academic, academic-related, and research posts are highly sought after and involve career progression, with fewer posts available at senior levels. Furthermore, the close relationship in the nature of the work carried out by established and unestablished academic and academic-related staff and permanent research staff argues in favour of a common retirement arrangement applying to all these groups of staff. Diversity is also a relevant consideration in the case of these groups.

However, it is also relevant to note that the employment of research staff on open-ended contracts is generally tied to external funding which supports the post in question, so these engagements will typically cease on expiry of the relevant funding. Similarly, it will generally be permissible to terminate the employment of staff appointed on a fixed-term basis at the end of the fixed period of their employment. It is likely, therefore, that arrangements for retirement will not generally be necessary in relation to this mode of employment.

(c) An EJRA is extended to include assistant staff

This option would extend the EJRA to all permanent staff within the University. While the aims of promoting inter-generational fairness, career progression, and equality and diversity, as well as considerations of collegiality and harmonized working practices, are potentially factors which are relevant to all categories of employee, the case for applying a retirement age on the grounds of academic freedom and innovation do not apply in the same way to assistant staff. Just as the Working Group has urged circumspection in connection with the possibility of abandoning a retirement age altogether, it similarly advocates a cautious approach to this third option of applying a retirement age universally.

Selection of retirement age

20. The Working Group considers that, if a retirement age were to be maintained, the appropriate retirement age to select for all categories of staff to which it applied would be the end of the academic year in which the employee becomes 67. This is in line with the University’s current retirement age for officers and would provide an additional two years in the case of other staff groups. This age exceeds both the occupational pension age and the state pensionable age (and will still do so when the state pensionable age rises to 66 by 2020, as proposed). It is recognized that any retirement age would need to be reviewed in the light of any future changes to the state pensionable age.

21. It may be helpful to bear in mind that an EJRA does not oblige any employee to work until that age. It may in due course be possible for an employee to move from full-time to part-time work and to access part of her or his pension in advance of retirement.

Requests to work beyond the retirement age

22. The Working Group recognizes that, despite the abolition of the statutory right to request working beyond the retirement age, any retention of a compulsory retirement age should continue to be accompanied by an arrangement to request working beyond the retirement age which is progressive and flexible, and which allows for the possibility of part-time working arrangements being agreed. The University would establish clear and transparent criteria for the assessment of such requests and provide reasons in writing for its decision in each case.

Review of an EJRA

23. Any EJRA would be kept under frequent review and its impact and other relevant factors, including legal, financial, and pension-related developments, would be regularly monitored.

Next steps

24. The Council and the General Board wish to carry out a consultation exercise during May 2011 in relation to the three options listed in paragraph 19 above and then to produce a Report setting out their final recommendations towards the end of the Easter Term.

25. The consultation exercise is intended to comprise open staff meetings in early May, soundings through Faculty Boards, and Discussion of the Regent House. The University will also conduct an Equality Assurance Assessment.

26. In determining the final proposals to be put to the University, the Council and the General Board will take into account the further deliberations of the Working Group in the light of responses to this consultation exercise, as well as legal considerations, on which the Working Group is taking advice.

27. Responses to this consultation are requested to consider the following points:

(a)Would you support the introduction of an EJRA for established staff?

(b)Would you support the introduction of an EJRA for unestablished, academic, academic-related, and research staff on open-ended contracts?

(c)Would you wish assistant staff to be included or excluded from an EJRA?

(d)If an EJRA were introduced, would you support the retirement age in all cases where it applied being the end of the academic year in which the employee becomes 67?

Staff are invited to attend open meetings which are scheduled as follows:

10 May 2011

1.15 p.m.

William Gates Building, LT1

11 May 2011

12.30 p.m.

Babbage Lecture Theatre

27 May 2011

12.30 p.m.

Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Lecture Theatre 2

Individual submissions can be made until 31 May 2011 to

28. This Consultative Paper will be brought forward for consideration at the Discussion on 17 May 2011.


The membership of the Working Group comprises:

Professor Ian White, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Institutional Affairs (Chair);

Professor Simon Deakin, Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, and Assistant Director, Centre for Business Research;

Professor Martin Daunton, Master of Trinity Hall;

Professor Chris Gilligan, Chairman of the School of the Biological Sciences;

Dr Joan Whitehead, University Lecturer in Psychology, Faculty of Education.

The Working Group is supported by Mr Graham Allen, Academic Secretary; Mr David Parsons, Deputy Head of Legal Services; and Mr Indi Seehra, Director of Human Resources.

The terms of reference of the Working Group are as follows:

To consider and recommend on what basis our employees will make decisions to retire.

With an ageing workforce there will be very real performance and capability issues which could arise. To recommend how these are to be managed in the future.

To consider workforce planning implications. The opportunities to bring in new people will be reduced.

To consider and recommend under what circumstances the University may wish to have an EJRA, whether this could be objectively justified, and the procedures and practices required to support this.

To consider and recommend whether our current policies regarding Voluntary Research Agreements (VRA) may no longer be appropriate.

Our pension schemes may need to better support a flexible retirement age.

To consider and make recommendations to the Pensions Working Group.

To consider the implications for posts funded on soft money, e.g. Directors of Research.

To consider the implications for staff on fixed-term contracts and the implications for the future use of fixed-term contracts.


  • 1‘Graying of US academia stirs debate’, Boston Globe, 27 December 2006

  • 2‘The ivory tower grays’, Nature Chemical Biology, Vol 3, No 2, February 2007

  • 3Seldon v Clarkson, Wright & Jakes (2010), (the Supreme Court has granted permission to appeal in this case); Georgiev v Tehnicheski Universitet (Case C-250/09); and Rosenbladt v Oellerking Gebaudereinigungsges mBh (Case C-45/09). In addition, two potentially relevant cases (Fuchs C-159/10 and Köhler C-160/10) were expected to be heard by the Court of Justice of the European Union in April this year.

  • 465% of the University’s workforce over 60 are male, of whom at least 82% are white.

  • 5The corresponding statistics for assistant staff are 53% and 61% respectively.

  • 6Other than the Chancellor, the High Steward, the Deputy High Steward, and the Commissary, who are excluded from Statute D, I, 11.