Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6370

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Vol cxlv No 14

pp. 298–316

Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

A Discussion was held in the Senate-House. Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Jeremy Sanders was presiding, with the Registrary’s Deputy, the Junior Pro-Proctor, the Deputy Junior Proctor, and three other persons present.

The following Reports were discussed:

Report of the Council, dated 18 November 2014, on a Garden Room for the Botanic Garden (Reporter, 6365, 2014–15, p. 148)

No remarks were made on this Report.

Joint Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 24 November 2014 and 5 November 2014, on revisions to the arrangements for the contribution-based review of Professorial pay (Reporter, 6366, 2014–15, p. 182)

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

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, once upon a time academics employed by Cambridge as University officers climbed a fixed salary scale by year of service. There were Readerships and Professorships for a few, mostly established and appointed to by bodies of Electors, but University Lecturer was the career grade. That was how it was when I put my own foot on a lowly rung in 1980. Then it was felt by a well-meaning Vice-Chancellor and Registrary that it might reward academics better if more single-tenure Readerships and personal Chairs were made available. After some dispute of the late 1990s an actual procedure was graced by the Regent House to replace the previous secrecy about the mode of choice of the lucky ones, when the High Court required the University to ensure that the General Board were ‘able to see how recommendations had been arrived at so that, without repeating the entire exercise, they could either approve the recommendations or, if they so wished, consider the basis on which any of the recommendations had been made’, wording still printed in the Board’s annual Report on Senior Academic Promotions.1 After a few years, in 2002, the Regent House trustingly allowed that procedure to be changed without further reference to itself:

IV. That the General Board be given authority to make such changes in the procedure as they consider necessary from time to time for the fair and efficient management of the promotions exercise.2

Meanwhile, in 1997–8, the grade of Senior Lecturer was introduced,3 adding a rung to the ladder of academic ascent. Professors, once they had arrived at the title, used to get a flat professorial salary. With the introduction of Senior Lectureships came the moment when supplementary payments for Professors were approved and the Regent House unaccountably agreed on a ballot that the names of those receiving such awards should remain ‘confidential’.4

The University of Cambridge, like other universities in receipt of HEFCE funding, was forced a few years later to adapt its arrangements through the HERA process for paying its University Teaching Officers, and create a single ‘pay and grading’ scale which would embrace all employees. That change brought with it the assumptions that some would henceforth be more equal than others in new ways: recipients of ‘market’ payments, recruitment and retention incentives and other devices.

The logic has always seemed disjoined to me. If it is a good thing to create a single published salary scale for all categories of staff, why is it desirable to destroy both transparency and consistency by secretly handing out sweeties (whole family-sized packs indeed) to some individuals on the assumption that the rewards of having freedom to do interesting work in a great University are not enough and only a lot more money will entice them to stay or bring them to Cambridge at all? Only no one must know about it. I have met few scholars in a lifetime motivated to that extent, or at all really, by money.

So where are we now? The present Report notes that ‘the complexity of the arrangements have (sic) grown following the amendments to the pay structure approved in 2013 (Reporter, 6302, 2012–13, p. 423)’. It is proposed to make still more changes to the procedure. But how?

In the current arrangements about stipends, ‘procedures’ are ‘approved by the competent authority’, ‘the University’, or procedures may be ‘recommended by the Finance Division’.5 The Regent House is not asked for its consent to this quasi-legislation. Now we have a recommendation that ‘revisions’ to these ‘procedures’ should be approved according to a lengthy paragraph (3) which features a hypothetical ‘would’ rather than ‘shall’ in its proposals. This seems much too woolly for safety in a legislative process.

The custom in Cambridge is to lay proposed legislation on matters of importance before the Regent House and solicit its consent to the creation of a Statute or Ordinance. Indeed it is a constitutional requirement. Legislative certainty seems desirable in any process designed to reward some of the University’s servants but not others with generous but secret acknowledgements of their ‘contribution’. The Regent House should not be asked to Grace mere hypotheses about how this is to be achieved. Nor is it wise for it to be quite so free with its delegation of its legislative powers.