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No 6348

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Vol cxliv No 31

pp. 558–592

Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

A Discussion was held in the Senate-House. Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor John Rallison was presiding, with the Registrary, the Deputy Senior Proctor, the Deputy Junior Proctor, and eight other persons present.

The following Reports were discussed:

Report of the Council, dated 14 April 2014, on the period of office of a Pro-Vice-Chancellor and the conferment of the title of Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Reporter, 6344, 2013–14, p. 465)

Dr S. J. Cowley (University Council and Chair of the Faculty of Mathematics):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am a member of the University Council, and signed this Report. However, at Council I mentioned that I felt that one particular aspect of the Report, namely how the pensionable payment additional to stipend of any Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor was to be fixed, needed tuning.

In the Report of the Council on the stipends of Pro-Vice-Chancellors of 16 July 2003, it was proposed, and then accepted by the Regent House, that the stipend for the office of Pro-Vice-Chancellor should be determined by Grace. In the subsequent Report of the Council on the stipends of Pro-Vice-Chancellors of 3 October 2007 (a Report that I signed), it was proposed, and then accepted by the Regent House, that the stipend for the office of Pro-Vice-Chancellor should be determined by the Council.

It is now proposed that in addition to being able to determine the stipend for the office of Pro-Vice-Chancellor, the Council shall have the power to authorize pensionable payments additional to stipend to an individual Pro-Vice-Chancellor on whom the Vice-Chancellor has conferred the title of Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor. I am very uneasy about this.

In the case of most other payments under the regulations for Payments additional to Stipend, the additional payments are specified in a regulation, e.g. Heads of Department and Chairs of Faculty Boards (I declare an interest), or are determined or approved by the General Board or other authority, and published by Notice. At the very least any pensionable payments additional to stipend authorized by the Council should be published by Notice. However, I am not convinced that this is sufficient.

In the case of senior roles in the University, the members of the Council are deciding on payments to officers with whom they, in general, have good working relationships. From my observations in over seven years on the Council, there is a tendency to be generous, and in many respects that is understandable. Now, one might argue that the existence of a Remuneration Committee, chaired by an external member of the Council, may alleviate that generosity, but the impression I have1 is that the workings of the Remuneration Committee could still be tuned and can, at times, be somewhat difficult.

On a wider stage, it is clear that Remuneration Committees in business have resulted in excessive salaries and, sometimes, have rewarded failure (on the ‘you rub my back and I’ll rub yours’ principle). Indeed, Remuneration Committees have not necessarily been a success in Higher Education, as evidenced by anyone who studies the stipends of Vice-Chancellors published annually by the THE (Times Higher Education supplement) and, more pertinently, by the need for Vince Cable and David Willetts to observe in the HEFCE Grant letter of 10 February 2014:

We are concerned about the substantial upward drift of salaries of some top management. We want to see leaders in the sector exercise much greater restraint here as part of continuing to hold down increases in pay generally.

To my mind Cambridge is free from the worst excesses of the sector, possibly because some members of the Council (and, surprisingly, quite often internal members) are not as generous as others. However, in the case of individual cases who are colleagues, it can be difficult to argue for greater restraint as part of continuing to hold down increases in pay generally. On the other hand, and as a footnote, I might note that some of those who attend Council have little trouble arguing for greater restraint for the faceless majority of employees of the University: 1%, 1%, 2%, and a pension scheme under serious threat.

For the above reasons, I am now of the opinion I made a mistake. I should not have signed the Report of the Council on the stipends of Pro-Vice-Chancellors of 3 October 2007. In my inexperience (I had been on the Council for less than a year, and was probably trying to ingratiate myself with someone), I must have had a rush of blood to the head. In the case of senior officers with whom the members of the Council have to have regular dealings, stipends should be set by Grace, and should be set for a role, and not an individual. The discipline of having to justify the case of a particular level of stipend in a Notice, with any excessive proposal possibly subject to a ballot, would I think be a helpful and necessary check and balance on natural, and understandable, generosity, and a welcome level of transparent accountability. Indeed, publication of stipend arrangements would, I think, place a useful brake on the pleading of special cases.


  • 1Impression because, possibly unsurprisingly given the gist of this speech, my repeated offers for first-hand experience have been declined.

Professor G. R. Evans (Emeritus Professor of Medieval Theology and Intellectual History), read by the Deputy Junior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, ‘The expansion of the team of Pro-Vice-Chancellors’ (which required an amendment to the then Statute D and Privy Council approval), was approved by Grace on 26 February 2003’,1 so it is still quite recent. A Pro-Vice-Chancellor was to be a temporary officer, appointed by the Council, with a maximum term of six years. It is now proposed that in ‘exceptional circumstances’ that should be extended to eight years.

This all began during Cambridge’s own ‘governance row’ in the early 2000s, and under the auspices of the wide-ranging Report of the Council on Governance.2 A Notice of July 2003 set out the proposed role of the Pro-Vice Chancellors:

the role of Pro-Vice-Chancellors will be to drive strategy and policy development, with access to the full range of support available through the Unified Administrative Service. Pro-Vice-Chancellors will thus either lead activity or will help ensure that it goes forward under other academic leadership.3

What is now Statute C III 17 offers only the most minimal definition of their powers and duties:

A Pro-Vice-Chancellor shall perform such duties as may be prescribed by Statute or Ordinance, and such other duties as may be determined by the Council, or the Vice-Chancellor.

In the period when all this was happening, Cambridge Pro-Vice-Chancellors acquired ‘portfolios’, not without some comments in Discussions about the dangers of that development and the arrival of ‘sofa government’.4

The team now apparently needs a team leader, who is to be ‘Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor’, ‘in recognition of that individual’s responsibility for leading and co-ordinating the work of the team of Pro-Vice-Chancellors’. This is not to be a University office like that of Pro-Vice-Chancellor, merely a ‘title’ (though it should be noted that in Oxford one may be an Emeritus Pro-Vice-Chancellor so that will surely come in Cambridge too). It is not entirely clear how the Senior one is to be selected from the ‘team’. One can imagine some Pro-Vice-Chancellorial resentments about being passed over because it is proposed that the money should be better for the one chosen.5 Possibly the arrangement of the sofas in the Vice-Chancellor’s Office will need to be rethought. Certainly an eye will need to be kept on the direction of development of this role.


  • 1

    1. There shall be such number of offices of Pro-Vice-Chancellor as shall be determined by the Council subject to a maximum determined by Ordinance. The Pro-Vice-Chancellors shall report to the Council through the Vice-Chancellor.

    2. Each appointment or reappointment to an office of Pro-Vice-Chancellor shall be made by the Council after consultation with the General Board, on the recommendation of a Nominating Committee constituted by Ordinance. A Pro-Vice-Chancellor shall hold office for not more than three years and shall be eligible for reappointment, provided that no person shall hold the office of Pro-Vice-Chancellor for a total period of more than six years.

    3. A Pro-Vice-Chancellor shall perform such duties as may be prescribed by Statute or Ordinance, and such other duties as may be determined by the Council, or the Vice-Chancellor.

  • 2

  • 3

  • 4For example,

  • 5‘The Council shall have the power to authorize pensionable payments additional to stipend to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor on whom the Vice-Chancellor confers the title of Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor under Regulation 1 of the regulations for Pro-Vice-Chancellors.’

Professor A. W. F. Edwards (Gonville and Caius College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, when the Council of the day proposed that the stipend of the Vice-Chancellor should no longer be determined by Grace, I was in Dr Cowley’s position as a member of the Council and signed a note of dissent. My non-placet flysheet,1 signed by many distinguished members of the Regent House, sounded much like what I hear from Dr Cowley. In a turn-out of 1,287 I lost by thirteen votes.


  • 1Reporter, 5477, 1990–91, p. 888.

Report of the Council, dated 14 April 2014, on revised committee arrangements for estate strategy and buildings (Reporter, 6344, 2013–14, p. 467)

No remarks were made on this Report.

First-stage Report of the Council, dated 14 April 2014, on the replacement and rationalization of facilities covered by the University’s Home Office establishment licence (Reporter, 6344, 2013–14, p. 469)

Professor P. H. Maxwell (Head of the School of Clinical Medicine and Trinity College), read by the Deputy Senior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, as Head of the School of Clinical Medicine, I strongly support these proposals.

The School of Clinical Medicine undertakes research into the treatment of all of the major areas of human health and disease, including cancer, cardio-vascular disease, metabolic disorders and obesity, neuroscience, psychiatry and ageing, and infectious diseases and immunology. In all of these areas, our academic staff work across three main modalities of research: bench-based biology, animal models of disease, and clinical research using human subjects. Our ability to work in these three ways on the same campus is one of the key drivers of our success in the understanding of human health and disease and the development of novel therapies and treatments. However, our facilities are ageing and falling behind the state-of-the-art. It is increasingly difficult to locate new imaging technologies in our existing facilities, for example. Moreover, it is both difficult and costly to refurbish ageing facilities in order to keep pace with developing best practice in animal welfare. Our current facilities are, in short, reaching the end of their lifetimes. The proposed new facilities will be efficient and sustainable and will secure the future in terms of both our research capability and animal welfare.

The University of Cambridge is widely acknowledged for the contributions which it has made to both basic biology and clinical medicine. These have impacted enormously on human health and well-being. Not only for patients in Cambridge and the UK, but throughout the world. The proposed new facilities will play a critical part in ensuring that the University continues to do so.

Professor D. J. Maskell (Head of the School of the Biological Sciences and Wolfson College), read by the Deputy Junior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, as Head of the School of the Biological Sciences, I strongly support these proposals.

Research involving animals continues to be essential to understanding basic biology, and underpins our understanding of processes acting in healthy and diseased bodies. The use of animal models is fundamental in a wide range of biological research areas. While researchers in the School of the Biological Sciences are committed to the 3Rs, (Reduction of the use of animals in research, Replacement of animal experiments with other methodologies, and Refinement of the methods used to improve the welfare of the animals used), it is clear that animal experimentation will continue to be essential to our research for at least the intended lifetime of the proposed facilities.

As the Council’s Report makes clear, the School of the Biological Sciences, along with the School of Clinical Medicine, receives a great deal of income which is contingent upon the availability of facilities for animal research. The motivation behind the development of these facilities is not, however, financial. The motivation is two-fold: first, it is to ensure that Cambridge remains at the cutting edge of biological research, and continues to be able to attract world-class biologists by offering them the facilities that they need to undertake effective research, and second, it is to ensure that the facilities in Cambridge offer the very highest standards of animal welfare.

Without these facilities biological sciences in Cambridge will suffer badly, to the extent that the discipline might no longer be viable. A modern university that is not operating in the biosciences is not tenable. I therefore think that there is absolutely no alternative but to build these facilities.

Dr M. C. Vernon (University Information Services), read by the Deputy Senior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, experimenting on animals is a controversial and emotive issue. Researchers have tended to avoid speaking about their work in this area, intimidated by extremists who oppose all animal experiments. The effect of this is that public perception is formed only by those who oppose animal experiments: the testing of cosmetics on animals was banned in the UK in 1998, yet (if a recent feature in Times Higher Education is to be believed) only a third of people know it’s illegal.1 Thus most people when they read ‘animal testing’ think of bunnies having cosmetics dropped into their eyes, rather than sophisticated experiments designed to help address significant human health issues.

In recent years, the scientific community has slowly started to reverse this trend, with 40 organizations involved in bioscience in the UK (including this University) signing up to a Declaration on Openness on Animal Research in 2012, and a recently released Concordat on Openness on Animal Research.2 The University, as a signatory to this Concordat, has committed to enhance its communication about its use of animals.

This Report is hardly a model of openness. Whilst I do understand the anxieties around research on animals, I think the secrecy surrounding this Report is harmful: it hampers effective scrutiny, risks us spending a substantial sum on facilities that do not fit our researchers’ needs, and suggests we have something to hide.

We are asked to approve spending of around £150 million, on the basis of an external review undertaken in 2012 that is not available for inspection. The procedure to inspect the outline plans was tiresome, especially for those who do not work in the middle of town; when I went to look at them, I was the only person to have attempted to arrange to do so. To attempt to discuss the merits or otherwise of the proposed sites would rapidly descend into farce, since presumably the intention is that nothing that might meaningfully identify each site ends up on the public record? This is hardly model governance. The rationale for closing our existing facilities and moving to these new facilities needs to be meaningfully made, not merely asserted.

How is Council sure that the new facilities will meet the needs of our researchers? I understand that the faculty board of at least one department affected by these proposed changes has not discussed them. A colleague in one of the research groups that would be impacted by these plans (since their lab is not on one of the proposed sites, they would have to move) tells me that no-one in their group has been consulted about them, and most of the group members as non-Regents cannot even attempt to inspect the plans.

Council should ensure that the proposed facilities (including whereabouts in Cambridge they are situated) are suitable world-class facilities for their users. I suggest that the only way to do that is to meaningfully consult those users.

Finally, Council should consider the impact of their approach on public confidence in animal-based research. At the moment, it looks like Council considers animal experimentation to be a dirty secret, something to be ashamed of and hushed up. Yes, there is a risk from extremists to be managed, and we need to construct secure facilities for experimental animal housing and so on; but we must also show that animal experimentation is an important and respected part of our research portfolio. By effective consultation, building world-class facilities, and careful public engagement we can build public support locally and more widely for necessary research on animals, and ensure that this £150 million is money well spent.

First-stage Report of the Council, dated 14 April 2014, on the construction of a new building and refurbishment works for the Cambridge Judge Business School (Reporter, 6344, 2013–14, p. 470)

No remarks were made on this Report.

Report of the Council, dated 31 March 2014, on space reconfiguration to accommodate the Proctors’ Office in the Old Schools (Reporter, 6344, 2013–14, p. 472)

Professor A. W. F. Edwards (Gonville and Caius College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, as a former Proctor I both welcome the existence of this Report and the recommendations it contains. The drawings displayed in the Schools Arcade are most helpful.

I should like to be reassured that, as is probably the case, the proposed work will neither interfere with nor add to the cost of the ultimate removal of the Regent-House Combination Room lift. The possibility of constructing an alternative lift in the more suitable location of the south-east stairwell of the Old Schools should always be kept in mind.

Thinking of the future leads me to ask about the Council’s current view of the Wass Syndicate’s Paragraph 11.5.4:1

We also think it important that the University should provide better office accommodation for its administrative staff. The Old Schools, where the greater part of the central administration is housed, is an inconvenient building, ill adapted to modern conditions of work; moreover, it has little capacity for expansion or for rearrangement of office space to meet new demands.

The argument is presumably even stronger now than twenty-five years ago.

It would be wonderful to see the fine first-floor rooms round the Cobbled Court available for the great occasions that the University now embarrassingly consigns to a tent in Senate-House Yard, incidentally obstructing what Sir William Ridgeway described as ‘the finest academic view, not only in this country but in Europe’ at the Discussion in 1921 in which he proposed the present site of the University Library.

The Cobbled Court should also be accessible as it used to be until a few years ago; better still, the two entrances to it, one at each end of the Arcade, now blocked by wooden screens and doors, should be open as they were in the eighteenth century. It really hurts that one is able to visit Oxford’s Schools Quadrangle but in Cambridge not able to enter what Ferguson, Haycraft and Segal in their 1987 book called ‘one of the most evocative corners of Cambridge. It has been the heart of the University, the resort of its finest scholars, for six centuries’.

I hope the proposals sail through, notwithstanding the fact that the time interval ‘in due course’ in Recommendation II appears to be negative if paragraph 5 is to be believed.


  • 1Reporter, 5399, 1988–89, p. 633 (19 May 1989).

Professor G. R. Evans (Emeritus Professor of Medieval Theology and Intellectual History), read by the Deputy Junior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, it is proposed to move the Proctors’ Office to place it in the Old Schools.1 Now your Cambridge Proctor is not your Oxford Proctor. The Cambridge Proctors (C IV in the new Statutes) have fewer duties and responsibilities and they do not deliver an annual Oration on demitting office. Nevertheless, they are the University’s guardians of the observance of the Statutes and Ordinances, of the proper conduct of examinations, of probity in the counting of votes in ballots of the Regent House, of the maintenance of public order, and the protection of freedom of speech.

Their real and perceived independence is vital. The proposal is to move their offices into the Old Schools, to save the £17,000 rent currently paid for their accommodation, at a cost of £142,000 to adjust for the Proctors’ use some of the office space currently used by Human Resources in the UAS (Unified Administrative Service). The reason given is twofold. It is ‘estate strategy’ to reduce the amount of leased property. But also, and potentially more worryingly from the point of view of the perceived independence of the Proctors from the UAS, the move is ‘to improve communication with the central administrative offices and to provide a more accessible site, it is proposed to relocate the offices to the Old Schools’. A recent similar shift of portions of Proctorial activity into the arena of the UAS has caused some concern in Oxford though it is too soon to say what its consequences will be.

Dr W. O. Saxton (Deputy Senior Proctor and Murrary Edwards College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Proctors have been consulted about this proposal from an early stage, see advantages in a move of their Office to a carefully-chosen and historically appropriate position at the front of the Schools, and so wish to give this Report their support.

As well as the cost to the University of renting space on the open market, the current Proctors’ Office at 1 St Mary’s Passage has practical disadvantages. Although centrally located, the accommodation itself is at first-floor level and must be entered via a narrow passage directly from the street and then up a winding staircase, offering no possibility of ready access for the disabled. The lavatory (downstairs) is shared with other users of the building and requires possession of a key to use it. Substantial quantities of academical dress and uniform for the University Constabulary are stored in a low attic up still more winding stairs. The location and nature of the building make it difficult for any emergency clerical support, such as sickness cover, to be provided.

The Report offers improved office space for the Proctors (including the Special Pro-Proctor for Motor Vehicles, the University Marshal and the Marshal’s Secretary, and Clerk to the Proctors) and for their archives and records, as well as a store-room for dress and uniforms, both of which are at ground-level and next to the Senate-House. In addition to its primary purpose, the small meeting room to be created in the lift lobby should, along with the store-room, serve as a waiting and robing area for the Vice-Chancellor’s Deputies at Congregations. These currently robe and wait in the Old Schools Meeting Room, without sight of the Senate-House or into the Yard. During the first three days of General Admission, which are ordinary working weekdays, this also bars the room to all other users.

As independent officers the Proctors believe it highly important that both they and their visitors should have separate access to their Office, something ensured in this proposal by the direct entry from Senate-House Yard. In turn the Proctors should enjoy easier access to useful facilities and support (including IT support) available nearby.

The proposed space, situated where the Proctors’ and Taxors’ Court was once held if the evidence of the Loggan Print of c. 1688 is correct, puts the Proctors back alongside the Senate-House, the Yard, and the University Combination Room, places where Regents still congregate and public business is done.

Report of the General Board, dated 27 March 2014, on the establishment of a Readership in Probability (Reporter, 6344, 2013–14, p. 472)

No remarks were made on this Report.