Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6274

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Vol cxlii No 39

pp. 803–826

Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

A Discussion was held in the Senate-House. Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Jeremy Sanders was presiding, with the Registrary, the Senior Proctor, a Deputy Proctor, and five other persons present.

The following Reports were discussed:

Joint Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 18 June and 6 June 2012, on the governance arrangements for the Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettle’s Yard (Reporter, 2011–12, p. 737).

Professor J. M. Rallison (Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this joint Report of the Council and the General Board recommends a transfer of responsibility for both the Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettle’s Yard from the Council to the General Board. There are two principal reasons for this proposal. First, the central bodies would like to see closer interaction between these Museums and University departments, not only the Department of History of Art, but also the many other departments that incorporate collections into their teaching and research. Such mutually beneficial interactions already take place, of course, but especially with future Research Excellence Framework submissions in mind, we see scope for further activity. These proposals will facilitate that ambition. Second, the central bodies see an important role for the Museums Committee in seeking external funding for the Cambridge Museums as a group, in administering such funding and reporting on it to sponsors, and in addressing issues (for example conservation and storage) that are common to all. The remaining seven University Museums and collections are all General Board Institutions, so the proposed change will provide a unified line of overall supervision. The Museums Committee has recently been successful in securing a substantial Arts Council bid for the Cambridge Museums. I should like to take the opportunity to pay particular tribute to Dr Kate Pretty for taking forward Museums’ governance during her tenure as Chair of the Museums Committee, and for her efforts in winning the funding.

The proposals in this Report have the support of both the Fitzwilliam Museum Syndicate and the Kettle’s Yard Committee. I hope they will also be welcomed by the Regent House.

Dr F. E. Salmon (Head of the Department of History of Art, and St John’s College):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as the Head of the Department of History of Art in order to convey the Department’s warm welcome of this Report. Although it is clear that both the Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettle’s Yard house materials that are of teaching and research interest to many persons across a range of institutions within the University, my Department is, naturally enough, singled out for particular mention in the Report.

Let me start by saying that the Department of History of Art owes its foundation (in 1970) to the then Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Professor Jaffé, and that we have ever since enjoyed good working relations with the Museum, and the Hamilton Kerr Institute, as well as with Kettle’s Yard. However, it is fair to say that, as the two museums have been institutions answerable directly to the Council whilst the Department has, of course, been answerable to the General Board, the relationship has not been as mutually profitable as perhaps it might have been. The Department has made such use of museum staff as their onerous curatorial obligations have allowed; the museums have made occasional use of Departmental staff in the mounting of exhibitions; and there have been research collaborations as and when interests have coalesced (the ‘Cambridge Illuminations Project’ of 2003–07 being the most recent example of this). But these collaborations have been occasional – the result of individual initiatives. The proposed transference of governance of the Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettle’s Yard to the General Board holds out the promise of making such liaisons endemic.

The Department welcomes in particular the recommendation that its Head should sit ex officio on the Kettle’s Yard Committee, and on the Fitzwilliam Museum Syndicate. This will ensure mutuality, since the Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum already sits ex officio on the Faculty Board of Architecture and History of Art, and the Director of Kettle’s Yard would now do so formally, rather than by invitation. I should add that the Director of the Hamilton Kerr Institute also sits on the Faculty Board and Degree Committee by convention, since it is through that Degree Committee that the Institute’s Postgraduate Diploma is regulated.

As this last point implies, transference of the Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettle’s Yard to the governance of the General Board may, at some future time, make possible new types of academic course and qualification within the University in the field of visual culture, as broadly defined. It might also make possible a more integrated form of undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, drawing on curatorial and academic expertise as the collections are exploited. In this regard, I cannot help noticing that the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford has recently announced a University Engagement Programme. Three postdoctoral Teaching Curators will be employed over the next three years to identify and develop teaching opportunities between the Museum’s collections and a range of Faculties that extends beyond the obvious ones to encompass medicine, law, and the sciences.

The Ashmolean’s initiative is being supported by a £700,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation – and this leads me to an important point about the Report that is under discussion today. It is clear that change of governance alone will not bring about the developments that I hope all would wish to see in Cambridge unless new resources can be found – and in present circumstances, those resources are likely to have to come from outside the University. My Department is very well aware of this – and I am sure that the same is true of the curatorial staff at the Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettle’s Yard. They will also not need telling that the Ashmolean has three times the curatorial staff of the Fitzwilliam, or that the long-standing integration of that museum with the University in Oxford means that Keepers there can, and do, hold professorial fellowships at Colleges.

It is clear, then, that if this Report is accepted today, it will create the potential for seismic change in the way this University utilizes the collections and staff of its two world-class art museums. We must all recognize, however, that we would only be at the very start of a process, and that without vision, leadership, commitment, and success in gaining new resources, the change of governance that the Report recommends will merely close the loophole by which the Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettle’s Yard currently sit outside of the institutions overseen by the University’s Joint Museums Committee.

Report of the General Board, dated 6 June 2012, on the establishment of an MRC Research Professorship of Mitochondrial Medicine (Reporter, 2011–12, p. 740).

No remarks were made on this Report.

Report of the General Board dated 15 June 2012, on the constitution of a Department of Psychology (Reporter, 2011–12, p. 740).

Dr D. A. Good (Division of Social and Developmental Psychology, and King’s College):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak today to welcome this Report, and make two observations about future developments, which I believe will be important if the University is to achieve its potential in this area. My background lies in both sides of the proposed merger, and so I should declare an interest in the proposal. I did my Ph.D. in the Department of Experimental Psychology, and when I was first a UTO, my post was formally assigned to that Department until the establishment of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences in 1988.

Some might take the view that Cambridge has been slow in developing psychology, but that would be wrong. It should be remembered that the University took a leading role in developing the subject in the 19th century, and that there are benefits in not having a single psychology department until now. Psychologists are to be found, and psychological research has developed, in all Schools across the University. As a result, Psychology in Cambridge has an important presence in related subjects, for example Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Linguistics, as well as in subjects where psychological ideas and methods can be deployed to good effect, for example in Economics, Engineering Design, and Criminology. Collectively, we have clearly been performing well, as shown by the QS World University Rankings, which place Cambridge Psychology second only to Harvard.

This leads me to my first observation about future developments. I believe it is very important for the future of Psychology here, in both education and research, that the dispersed but networked character of the subject be maintained, and that our successors do not try to tidy up the disciplines by moving every piece of Psychology into the new Department. The reorganization proposed in this Report will provide the University with an appropriate disciplinary core, which will provide significant benefits as the Report notes, but the distributed aspect must remain, in my opinion, if the subject is to maintain its vitality here.

My second observation concerns buildings. One does not need to be a psychologist or an architect to know that the buildings we inhabit have a major effect on the creation and maintenance of working relationships. The Report recognizes that for now, the distribution of the new Department across several locations leaves much to be desired. I would urge the relevant authorities to keep this matter under constant review, to seek ways of developing the necessary resources to address this issue, and provide a better home for the new Department.

Professor W. A. Brown (Head of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences) (read by the Senior Proctor):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences is delighted that Psychology will be united in a single Department. We are proud of the fact that Social and Developmental Psychology grew up within our School. It permitted teaching and research to locate psychological understanding in its social context. There have been anxieties about how far this perspective could survive among more experimental and neurological understandings of the mind. I must congratulate all those concerned in allaying these fears. I am reassured by the unanimous enthusiasm of colleagues in Social and Developmental Psychology for the merger with Experimental Psychology.

The associated creation of the Psychological and Behavioural Sciences Tripos will, I have no doubt, offer students a splendidly rounded approach to psychology of international distinction. The implications for new directions of research are exciting. My expectation, and hope, is that, despite moving to another School, access to psychological perspectives on social and political behaviour in our own School’s teaching and research will be undiminished. Not least, I hope that links with the Centre for Family Research will remain close and productive.

Professor S. E. Golombok (Director of the Centre for Family Research) (read by the Senior Proctor):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Centre for Family Research wholeheartedly welcomes the proposal for the merger. Situating the Centre’s academic and research staff within the new Psychology department will enhance the Centre’s long-standing research in child development, and links with the School of Biological Sciences more generally will increase the opportunity for collaboration on new developments in assisted reproduction, which is a key aspect of the Centre’s research profile.

Professor J. L. Scott (Head of the Department of Social Sciences) (read by the Senior Proctor):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Department of Social Sciences is very pleased to see the merger of Psychology. This will create a Department which will clearly be world leading. We are pleased that the joint Triposes of Psychological and Behavioural Sciences, and Human, Social, and Political Sciences will allow undergraduates to take courses from across the social sciences including psychology. We also welcome continued research collaboration in the areas where the subjects intersect, such as gender and the family.