Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6327

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Vol cxliv No 10

pp. 112–137


Report of the General Board on the establishment of a Stephen W. Hawking Professorship of Cosmology

The General Board beg leave to report to the University as follows:

1. Research into Cosmology and Gravitation has a prominent place in the work of the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP). Members of the Department are global leaders in advancing modern cosmology and gravitation and have developed many of the most important ideas in these subjects. Current work focuses on mathematical theories of the fundamental physical events associated with the Big Bang and Black Holes, confronting them with observational data to gain new insight into the fundamental structure of the Universe and its origin. These areas remain among the most exciting and rapidly advancing fields in the physical sciences. Theoretical cosmology and gravitation are flourishing fields and the decades ahead will see enormous further opportunity for confrontation between theory and datasets from future space missions and ground experiments. The continuing importance of this subject area to DAMTP has been acknowledged by the formation in 2007 of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology (CTC), which has strong links to activities elsewhere in the University, including to the Kavli Institute for Cosmology. Cosmology and gravitation continue to be a central part of undergraduate and postgraduate teaching in DAMTP.

2. Professor Stephen Hawking has for the past 50 years played a unique and pivotal role in research into cosmology and gravitation in the University and also in the wider life of the University. His life has been recognized by unparalleled intellectual achievement and physical insight and by a remarkable ability to communicate his grand scientific vision to a wider public. Professor Hawking’s scientific legacy is associated with the two circumstances in which the hidden basic fabric of the Universe is violently shaken and unveiled: in the enormous temperatures and densities of the Hot Big Bang and during the extreme collapse of massive stars to form Black Holes. Professor Hawking has contributed more than anyone else to our fundamental understanding of Black Holes and their unique properties, and his closely related contributions to Big Bang cosmology and the primordial seeds for the large-scale structure of the Universe are similarly foundational. The evaporation of Black Holes (Hawking radiation) goes to the heart of the relationship between quantum theory and general relativity and it is generally recognized that no understanding of quantum gravity will be complete without accommodating it. To maintain the pre-eminent reputation of DAMTP in theoretical cosmology and gravitation that has resulted from the work of Professor Hawking and his colleagues it is important that there is the opportunity to recruit from time to time scientists of the highest international level of achievement.

3. The late Dennis Avery and Sally Wong-Avery are important benefactors to the University of Cambridge and its Colleges. In 2006, a £1m gift from Dennis Avery established the Stephen Hawking Trust Fund (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 839), which led to the creation of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within DAMTP. This followed earlier donations beginning in 1998 to support the research activities of the Gravitation and Relativity (GR) group in DAMTP. Substantial donations by Dennis Avery and Sally Wong-Avery to Trinity Hall included support for a major building project for student accommodation on the Wychfield site (Storey’s Way). Dennis Avery received the Chancellor’s 800th Anniversary Medal for Outstanding Philanthropy, with the citation noting the support of Trinity Hall and University projects in Mathematics and Stem Cell research. Mr Avery died in July 2012.

4. As a result of a further generous benefaction from the Avery-Tsui Foundation, which has been received subject to the Regent House approving its terms before 1 March 2014, the General Board now propose the establishment of a Stephen W. Hawking Professorship of Cosmology. The Foundation has donated, through Cambridge in America, $2m as the core endowment for the Professorship. The Foundation has donated a further $4m to a new charitable trust linked to the University, the details of which have been approved by the Finance Committee, and the accounts of which will be incorporated in the University’s accounts. The donations are interdependent and would both be returnable in the event that the arrangements set out in the agreement with the donor were not approved by the Regent House. The Trustees of the new charitable trust are three ex officio University appointees, being the Registrary, the Chair of the Audit Committee and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Institutional Affairs), and a nominee of the Avery-Tsui Foundation. The Trustees are obliged to invest the $4m in the Cambridge University Endowment Fund, and to provide from this investment a salary supplement, which (it is proposed) would be paid directly by the Trustees to the Professor, as well as support for the Professor’s research in DAMTP. The provisions relating to the payments by the new Trust are further explained in paragraphs 7 and 8 below and are set out in the Trust Deed Agreement,1 and the risks and proposed operational arrangements are identified and discussed in the Guide for Trustees,2 both of which were drawn up by specialist external lawyers.

5. In agreeing the terms of the gift, the donor specified that the Professor should be appointed for an initial term of seven years, renewable for five years, and in an exceptional case for a final term of five years. These conditions are contrary to the University’s normal practice that Professors are elected without limitation of tenure to hold office until the statutory retirement date. The General Board have agreed that the appropriate way to proceed, on the occasion of an appointment to the Stephen W. Hawking Professorship, would be to recommend the establishment of a single tenure Professorship for the individual concerned (where the individual did not already hold a Professorship to the University). The person so elected would hold the title of Stephen W. Hawking Professor for the period of her or his appointment in accordance with the Regulations for the Professorship, a draft of which is attached as Appendix I, and on the expiry of that period continue to hold office in the single tenure Professorship or, revert to the individual’s underlying office, in the case of someone who already held a Cambridge Professorship. The donor also specified that in the first instance the core endowment should be used to support the Directorship of Research in DAMTP held by Professor Hawking, and that the salary supplement provided by the new trust should be payable to Professor Hawking, for so long as he continued in post. Provision for this use of the core endowment is included in the draft regulations.

6. The General Board recognize that the structure of this donation is unusual and exceptional, largely as a consequence of the untimely death of Mr Avery before the terms had been fully settled. Nevertheless, the total gift of $6m represents very significant additional resources for the support of cosmology in the University reflecting the Mr and Mrs Avery’s wishes and their longstanding association with Professor Hawking and their admiration for his scientific work. The arrangements are the result of exhaustive negotiation within the constraints imposed by Denis Avery’s death and are not now considered to be susceptible to any revision.

7. The University stipend of the Hawking Professor will be determined under the University’s applicable processes. In addition, the Trust Deed Agreement provides for the Trustees of the new charitable trust annually to make a payment to the Hawking Professor of such amount as may be necessary in their judgement to secure or retain the best possible candidate (termed the Crown Distribution by the donor), up to a limit of 2.6% of the balance of the endowment (a maximum annual gross3 amount of £67,000 at current values) and provided the University stipend exceeds a specified level, i.e. that it is ‘equal to or greater than the average salary and benefits received by other Professors of similar years of service, or rank who hold appointments in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics.’ It is intended that the average would be calculated on the basis of the stipends, including contribution increments and market supplements, of all holders of Professorships in the Department. Any portion of the 2.6% not needed for this purpose must be added to the separate distribution of 0.4% of the balance of the endowment which the Trustees are obliged to pay annually to DAMTP to fund academic support requested by the Professor, or for the general purposes of DAMTP, if the Professor does not request such support.

8. In determining the size of the Crown Distribution to the Professor, the Trustees would expect to take advice from relevant University bodies and officers (e.g. the School of Physical Sciences) and to have regard to the University’s criteria for determining professorial salaries, as well as relevant market data for professorships of equivalent standing in the broad field of the Hawking Professorship. The payment made by the Trustees is expected to be net of income tax and national insurance contributions and any employer’s pension contributions. The Crown Distribution will cease to be paid to the Hawking Professor when he or she ceases to hold that office.

9. Although the mechanism for the payment of the Hawking Professor represents a departure from the University’s normal arrangements, the total remuneration of the Hawking Professor will not necessarily be out of line with the levels of supplemented remuneration offered by the University to recruit professorial staff of the highest international academic distinction.

10. A number of concerns have been raised in the course of discussion of the proposal:

(a)On ceasing to hold the Hawking Professorship a Professor may seek to have the equivalent of all or part of the Crown Distribution incorporated in their University stipend. This possibility is considered at Paragraph 13 of the Guidance to Trustees. The General Board consider the legal risk in this regard is low provided, as recommended by the external lawyers, appropriate safeguards are included in the Professor’s contract of employment and the procedures for determining salary, according to the University’s normal criteria, and administering the distribution of the Crown are kept separate.

(b)The University may have to meet the full employment costs of any former holders of the Professorship until their normal retirement age (see 5 above). The General Board recognize that this may be a possibility. However ultimately the management of the financial consequences would rest with the Council of the School of the Physical Sciences who can limit the School’s and the Department’s exposure by declining to support the filling of the Hawking Professorship until any such inherited commitments in respect of former holders of the Professorship have been reduced.

(c)The question has been asked whether the donor would be involved in the appointment or reappointment. The regulations provide for appointment and reappointment decisions to be made by the General Board on the advice of a specially constituted committee, including the Master of Trinity Hall. The Board intend that such a committee would be constituted in the same way as an ad hoc Board of Electors: members would be selected on the basis of the academic standing in the field and no commitment has been given to include a donor representative.

11. The Faculty Board of Mathematics has agreed the strong academic case for the establishment of a Stephen Hawking Professorship of Cosmology. The School and Department have agreed to support the costs of the Professorship through suppression of posts or other contributions, as negotiated on a case by case basis.

12. The contents of this Report have been reviewed and approved by the Avery-Tsui Foundation, and the trustees of the new charitable trust.

13. The General Board recommend:

I. That approval be given for the establishment of a Stephen W. Hawking Professorship of Cosmology with effect from 1 March 2014, and its assignment to the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, as set out in this Report and the regulations attached as the Appendix.

25 November 2013

L. K. Borysiewicz, Vice-Chancellor

Simon Franklin

Duncan Maskell

Philip Allmendinger

David Good

Patrick Maxwell

H. A. Chase

Robert Kennicutt

John Rallison

M. J. Daunton


Stephen W. Hawking Professorship of Cosmology

1. The gift of $2m from the Avery-Tsui Foundation to commemorate the scientific work of Professor S. W. Hawking, Emeritus Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, shall be used to establish the Stephen W. Hawking Professorship. The Professorship is assigned to the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and the Professor shall be concerned with the study of cosmology which, for this purpose, shall include analysis as to the origins of matter and of the universe, theoretical cosmology and gravitation, and all other fields of academic scholarship as may from time to time be generally considered cosmology and theoretical physics.

2. The sums received from the Avery-Tsui Foundation for the endowment of the Stephen W. Hawking Professorship shall constitute a fund called the Avery Tsui Fund.

3. The income of the Fund shall be used for the payment of the stipend, national insurance, pension contributions, and associated indirect costs of the Professor (or of the post of Director of Research during such period as Emeritus Professor Stephen W. Hawking holds such post) payable by the University.

4. Any income not spent in a financial year may be added to the capital of the fund for a period of 21 years from receipt of the gift from the Avery-Tsui Foundation.

5. A Professor shall be elected in accordance with Statute D, XV, 1(c)(iii) by the General Board on the advice of a committee which shall be established as if it were a Board of Electors constituted under Statute D, XV, 4, but including the Master of Trinity Hall as an additional member. A Professor so elected shall hold the title of Stephen Hawking Professor for seven years in the first instance. The General Board, on the recommendation of a committee constituted for the purpose, shall have the power to extend that period for five years and, in an exceptional case, for a further five years.

6. A person who has held the Professorship for over eleven and a half years and who remains an employee of the University or who has retired under the Statutes or Ordinances may use the title of ‘Stephen W. Hawking Professor Laureate’ or ‘Hawking Professor Laureate’ and this title may be used in conjunction with any other title or titles.