Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6497

Wednesday 28 February 2018

Vol cxlviii No 21

pp. 411–440

Report of Discussion: Tuesday, 20 February 2018

A Discussion was held in the Senate-House. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Dame Carol Black was presiding, with the Registrary’s deputy, the Senior Proctor, the Senior Pro‑Proctor, and nine other persons present.

The following Reports were discussed:

Report of the Council, dated 30 January 2018, on the membership and terms of reference of the Audit Committee

(Reporter, 6493, 2017–18, p. 360)

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

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the collapse of Carillion happened only after warning indicators had been ignored and in the wake of audit approval by KPMG, one of the big four audit firms. KPMG currently claims to ‘work with over 100 universities’,1 Cambridge was among them, but ‘KPMG slammed in Cambridge probe’2 said a headline at the time of the CAPSA collapse.

The internal auditors, as reappointed by the Council, are now Deloitte. In 2016–17 they earned (including VAT) £383,286 for internal audit work for the University and £66,600 for ‘other work’ (Estates fact-finding investigation). They identify levels of ‘Priority’ where they see room for improvement but these do not appear to be easy to find. The Council’s Annual Report for last year notes that review of the University’s ‘cyber security arrangements’ had ‘attracted some Priority 3 recommendations’ in a report to the Audit Committee in January 2015.

The external auditors, reappointed by the Council,3 are PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). This year they found, reassuringly, that the University is a ‘going concern’, since ‘the Council considered it appropriate to adopt the going concern basis of accounting in preparing the financial statements’. PwC was, however, not prepared to ‘guarantee’ that that would continue to be the case.4


The other information comprises all of the information in the Reports and Financial Statements other than the financial statements and our auditors’ report thereon. The Council is responsible for the other information. Our opinion on the financial statements does not cover the other information and, accordingly, we do not express an audit opinion or, except to the extent otherwise explicitly stated in this report, any form of assurance thereon.5

It hardly seems worth raising a serious concern about the future of Cambridge as a going concern. A university may find that it cannot attract sufficient students to bring in the necessary tuition fees it desperately needs now that the teaching element of the old block grant has largely disappeared. The New Statesman was already exploring this possibility in February 2017.6 An alarm was sounded in The Guardian on 30 January 2018,7 naming in particular London Metropolitan University, the University of Cumbria, Kingston University, and the University of Wolverhampton. A second article followed the next day quoting Vice-Chancellors’ warnings.8 Cambridge is hardly short of applicants but it now publishes a calculation of the cost of an undergraduate education in which it notes a ‘funding gap’ approaching half of the total between receipts from tuition fees and HEFCE and the actual cost.9 A second area of emerging risk for many institutions is over-reaching themselves on building and other capital projects. Cambridge may yet come to regret that giant bond.

Among the duties of the Audit Committee are many which amount to keeping an eye on both the internal and the external auditors. The ground rules for this auditing process have been set under HEFCE’s Financial Memorandum, now its Memorandum of Assurance and Accountability. What will be required after April when HEFCE leaves the scene and is replaced by the Office for Students? Could the Council tell us what it knows in its reply?

Topic of concern to the University: Hobson’s Brook

(Reporter, 6494, 2017–18, p. 378)

Professor R. E. Goldstein (Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, and Churchill College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Topic of Concern that is under discussion today was signed by some 70 members of the Regent House who are concerned about an ecological issue that lies at the doorstep of the University. The matter at hand is a request by the City of Cambridge, on behalf of one Nigel Harris – who represents himself and four other members of a so-called ‘Bridge Group’ – for the University’s permission to erect a footbridge across Hobson’s Brook. This bridge would connect the Accordia Development south of Brooklands Avenue in Cambridge to the historical footpath on the west side of the Brook known as Finch’s Walk. As I will detail in the remarks to follow, this is an outrageous proposal on numerous levels. We strongly urge the Council to deny permission for this footbridge. As I have spent considerable time over the past eight years defending the University’s interests in this matter, I will begin by summarizing the history of this issue.

Hobson’s Brook was built in the early 1600s to bring fresh water to the City of Cambridge. It runs from many miles south of the city into the centre of town, roughly parallel with Trumpington Road, ultimately passing by the University Botanic Garden up to Lensfield Road, at which point it goes underground. A deed of 1610 establishes the University of Cambridge and the City of Cambridge as joint leaseholders for 1,000 years on the six feet of land on either side of the brook for the purposes of maintenance and preservation of the watercourse. In 1963, Trinity College established a covenant forbidding any bridges across the Brook in the area under discussion. That covenant is attached to key properties in the area, including the Accordia development and the Bunker,1 now owned by the University.

The entire Hobson’s Brook Corridor is recognized as an area of national ecological importance and uniqueness. It was the subject of a 28-page ‘10 Year Vision’ document2 produced jointly by the City of Cambridge and the Hobson’s Conduit Trust, following on from a 116-page assessment prepared by Suffolk Archaeology CIC3 at the request of Cambridge City Council. Both documents repeatedly emphasize the need to maintain and preserve the watercourse and its surroundings in the face of developmental pressures. Hobson’s Conduit is a listed monument4 and is an endowment of the University of Cambridge.5

In 2003, when the Accordia development (now, with nearly 1,000 residents) was in planning stages there was discussion in the City Council6, 7 about a possible footbridge as part of a greater plan for pedestrian and cycle access in the area. Sustrans actually advocated for the bridge in order to help utilize the footpath along Hobson’s Brook as a cycleway, but the plan was abandoned in the face of the Trinity covenant and environmental issues. In subsequent representations the idea of improving the footpath for cycling was vehemently opposed by the Cambridge Cycling Campaign,8 who said

Nothing should be done which would encourage its use by cyclists or which would spoil its rural character and value as a wildlife corridor.

The idea of a footbridge was first raised anew in 2010 by the Bridge Group, through the announcement to Accordia residents that a public meeting would be held under the auspices of the City Council to discuss the matter. More than 50 residents of Accordia immediately produced a petition objecting to the plan. The public meeting was extremely contentious, with the vast majority of speakers voicing unequivocal opposition to the idea, primarily on the grounds of threat to the precious environment of the Hobson’s Brook Corridor.

Despite all of these objections, Mr Harris submitted the first application9 for planning permission in August of 2012. The fact that this proposal derives from a few self-interested residents and generated considerable acrimony was reported by Chris Havergal (now News Editor at the Times Higher Education) in the Cambridge News of 21 September, 2012 as

Plans for a new bridge over Hobson’s Conduit have left residents at one of Cambridge’s most prestigious developments at loggerheads. Some homeowners at Accordia, off Brooklands Avenue, want a crossing to be built over the historic waterway near Empty Common allotments, to make it easier to walk or cycle to Trumpington Road. They have submitted an application …

In the subsequent consultation period, local residents and landowners in the area overwhelmingly voiced objection to the proposal. These include:

1. Empty Common Allotment Society,1 which said, in part,

…However, this makes it ever more important to protect Empty Common and the environs from yet further disturbance and degradation of the environment. The green corridor along Hobson’s Brook, of which the allotment site is part, is precious to allotment holders. Bridging the brook would inevitably lead to this changing the very nature of the western side of the brook which the allotment holders and local community value so much. The potential for increased cycle use is also of particular concern should this lead to pressure to upgrade the current pedestrian path. Essentially, this proposal could be a catalyst leading to increased urbanisation in the future of this green corridor. We note that the area is perfectly accessible to all at present.

2. Residents of the Bentley Road, Newton Road, Rayleigh Close area, known as BENERA. In their submissions to the consultation and afterward, more than 95% of the respondents voiced objection to the proposal,1 citing ecological damage, increased cycle usage along the path, risks to unsupervised children crossing over the bridge, and the increased pressure for parking in the BENERA area from those residing or working in or near Accordia.

3. The majority of residents in Accordia who responded to the consultation. They repeatedly cited ecological issues, safety issues for unsupervised children crossing the brook, and privacy matters for residents whose properties face the brook. It should be noted that ACRA, the Accordia residents’ association, has from that time to the present never endorsed this project, in the face of the acrimony generated by the proposal.

4. The Hobson’s Conduit Trust. Again, in the 21 September 2012 Cambridge News we read that the Trust

had major reservations over the likely impacts, focusing on the potential ‘loss of the sense of semi-rural tranquillity’.

Ignoring these objections and many others, the City granted planning permission in 2012, subject to consents. The report of the planning officer is riddled with factual errors and mischaracterizations, as we have detailed in a document presented to the City.1

In its original location directly adjacent to the Bunker, the bridge would have landed on Clare College land (Clare Wood). Faced with clear liability issues, Clare College fenced off Clare Wood for their own legal protection, thus stopping the project. You need only read the minutes of the Clare College Finance Committee from late 2014 into 2015 to see the details of their deliberations,10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and later in this Discussion a representative of Clare College will speak to this issue directly.

The applicant then submitted a new planning request15 to site the bridge about 50 metres north, landing squarely on land subject to the 1610 deed (see maps1). All the old objections were raised again and additional stakeholders made comments. These include objections from:

1. Clare College, through its agent Bidwells. This objection will be read later in these proceedings, so here I will simply note that it speaks to issues of ecology, safety, and liability.

2. The residents’ association BENERA. This objection will be reiterated later in this Discussion by Professor Windeatt, Chair of BENERA, and Vice-Master of Emmanuel College.

3. A representative of Hobson’s Conduit Trust, who contacted me directly to say the following:

I am one of the trustees and am very concerned about this bridge and I am in complete sympathy with your objections. We discussed it at the trustees meeting and I know that my fellow trustees seem to be of the view that we have gone as far as we can with our objections. I am not of that view and feel that everything possible should be done to object to the bridge, which is neither necessary or desirable. My own view is that the course of Hobson’s Conduit is a valuable wildlife corridor, which in the present climate of rapid development should be preserved at all costs. If we can maintain this green corridor, then it will be of great ecological value in the future. The bridge will simply serve to increase the intensity of usage of the path and it may become a short cut between the Accordia site and Trumpington Road. Increasing usage and access is not always in the best interests of conservation and this is certainly the case in this situation. I believe that the trustees should be vigourously opposing this bridge, in their role as guardians of the environment of the conduit.

Since the start of 2016, Hobson’s Conduit has seen three significant planning applications all of which could seriously damage the environment of the brook. The only conclusion I can come to is that the Council needs to formulate a policy to protect it from these changes. This would need to be included in the local plan so that they carried legal weight and I think that the City Council are now looking to put in place a Vision for the conduit and have started the consultation process.

The Vision document mentioned above is the very one I cited at the beginning of my remarks. It was ultimately completed in late 2017, a full five years after the first planning application for the bridge, and yet it contains not a single mention of the proposed footbridge.

A group representing BENERA, Accordia residents, and Clare College met at length in early 2016 with city planners and the Head of City Planning to express our continued concerns about the footbridge and the attitude the City had taken to those objecting to it. We also pointed out with voluminous documentation the legal status of the land in question (including the fact that the University would have to grant permission for it) and liability issues. In particular, we noted that to build a disabled-accessible bridge that lands on a muddy path that even able-bodied people often find difficult to use is an invitation both to severe liabilities and the inevitable pressure to upgrade the entire path, thus spoiling its character and inviting further cycle use.

Although the original application by Mr Harris indicated that the costs of the footbridge would be provided by the environmental trust Veolia, by this point in time that promise had disappeared, and the city then sought to use s.106 money for the project,16 originally seeking some £35k. When I learned of this, I contacted the relevant planning officer to see if he was aware of all of the objections raised in the past, and in particular all the documentation we gave the city in early 2016. He was not, but after he eventually located it I was told that the City’s legal division was considering the matter. In the spring of 2017 I repeatedly asked the City for a status update, only to be told that analysis was still ongoing, and that the City Council was assessing the ‘risks’ in building the bridge. When I asked about the nature of those risks my question was treated as an FOI request. One month later, my request was denied on the basis of attorney/client privilege. As it was I who brought the issues to the City in the first place I appealed, but was again denied my FOI request. Why such secrecy? What was the City so afraid of revealing?

On 15 January 2018 the South Area Committee held a meeting17 at which the City announced that it was taking over the project from Mr Harris, although keeping him on as the official applicant of record for legal purposes, and would need an additional £25k. City planners also admitted that they have been seeking consents from two relevant parties, naming one as the University. In my discussions with Estate Management I have learned that the University is seeking indemnification by the City of liability associated with the bridge and derogation of the Trinity Covenant. We also learned that the City has been paying the legal expenses of parties with which they are in discussion for consents. But most importantly, the City has not explained to the University in any way the voluminous objections to the bridge that have been raised over the past eight years.

In closing, I would like to refute claims made by the Bridge Group regarding the benefits of building this footbridge. The planning applications claimed:

1. That the bridge would allow Accordia residents access to Clare Wood. This is false. As I have demonstrated, Clare Wood is no longer accessible to the public precisely because of the planning permission granted by the city.

2. That the bridge would give BENERA residents access to the Accordia Shop, a small market in the development. This is false. The Accordia Shop longer exists – it was closed several years ago and the property has been converted into flats.

3. That the bridge would dramatically cut walking times for Trumpington Road residents going to the station. This is false, as can easily be seen by consulting the two routes I have plotted out in the accompanying maps.1 For a person travelling from the corner of Barrow and Trumpington Roads to the intersection of Brooklands Avenue and Shaftesbury Road (the northeast corner of Accordia), the distance travelled by the existing route is 1.09 km, while the route that passes over the proposed bridge and through Accordia is actually significantly longer (1.47 km)! Anyone living further south than Barrow Road will easily find a shorter path to the station by taking the existing path south of the Clare College playing fields to the footpath along the Guided Busway.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I have gone on at great length here to document the overwhelming objections to this bridge proposal, so there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that there is no public support for the project from the surrounding communities. I also want to make it clear that the City has repeatedly dismissed those objections and hidden their own actions from the public. I bring this up because in 1852 a University syndicate declared that the 1610 lease

…was granted by Mr Chaplyn from a generous motive, and in furtherance of a benevolent purpose, namely, the maintenance and preservation of the watercourse…the Syndicate cannot advise the University to acquiesce in any attempt to establish, by a legal and technical construction, rights which are clearly beside the purpose of the grant, and which would, if so established, be prejudicial to the interests of the proprietors of the adjoining lands, who must be considered, and, as it appears to the Syndicate, ought to be treated, as representing the original grantor. [emphasis added]

When we look around at the present owners and occupiers of the adjoining lands, they all say no to this bridge!

In summary, let me reiterate that this is not a proposal by the City of Cambridge. It is a proposal by a small number of private individuals for an amenity that would benefit a few to the detriment of the many. Over and over again, those objecting to this proposal have pointed out that it is the thin end of the wedge that would destroy the essence of the corridor. Does the University actually propose compromising the fundamental nature of one of its most well-known ecological endowments on the basis of a proposal that has such overwhelming opposition?

In a famous piece, the singer Joni Mitchell said

Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone

They paved paradise

And put up a parking lot

Should the University Council be minded to approve this proposal, we respectfully request that it issue a Report on the matter, and not a Notice.


Miss E. R. Easterbrook (Clare College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, during the consultation period of the application for a footbridge across Hobson’s Brook in 2015 Clare College asked its agents, Bidwells, to submit comments on Clare College’s behalf stating its objections. These comments were submitted on 21 December 2015 by Bidwells on behalf of Clare College to the Local Authority in response to Planning Application 15/2232/REM as follows:

We, Bidwells, as agents for Clare College, object to the proposed footbridge across Hobson’s Brook on the following grounds:

(i)Clare College already has an ongoing problem with trespass into Clare Wood. This has been an issue to the point where the College were forced to fence off the woodland. The fence has been vandalised on numerous occasions and it is clear there are still people gaining access. This issue will undoubtedly exaggerate when there is a larger public footfall coming from the Accordia Site via the proposed bridge.

(ii)As highlighted in the Design and Access Statement, Hobson’s Brook offers a very diverse habitat to a vast array of wildlife, some of which is rare. This is an environmentally important area, particularly so when considering the proximity of the site to the city centre. Indeed Clare Wood contributes to the wildlife environment and at present the current use of the ‘footpath’ is sustainable in terms of its environmental impact. Therefore, we are not only concerned about the impact the bridge itself will have, but also that the increased footfall will have a detrimental impact on the flora and fauna along the Brook. We are not convinced that this has been given the appropriate and detailed consideration by the relevant authorities as consultees to this application.

(iii)The footpath running along the western bank of Hobson’s Brook is commonly used by cyclists and we suspect they will use the bridge. To reiterate, this isn’t a bridleway and cycling is therefore not permitted. The condition of the footpath is not conducive to cycling and the proximity of the path to the Brook coupled with the increase in footfall and cyclists are a significant concern to the College. As members of the public are already aware, the College were forced to fence off the woodland to protect their liability should someone be injured on their property. Therefore, the College are naturally concerned about safety along the Brook given the enhanced use over the public footpath that this bridge will deliver.

Professor B. A. C. Windeatt (Emmanuel College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I’m speaking as the Chair of the Bentley Road and Newton Road Residents’ Association (BENERA), in order to represent the views of the residents living nearest to the Hobson’s Conduit on the opposite, western side of the conduit from Accordia, which lies on the eastern side. Our members include College Fellows and members of the University as well as others quite unconnected with it. Let me leave you in no doubt of my neighbours’ objection on environmental grounds, and in the strongest and most unequivocal terms, to this proposed Accordia Bridge.

It is all the more important to us to make our concerns known in this place since our interests and those of other concerned parties have been systematically ignored by the City. The Planning Officer’s report in 20121 ignored the objections of more than thirty BENERA households (section 7.8), and this was repeated at the planning process for the same bridge in a different location in 2016. Indeed the most recent Southern Area Committee meeting minutes (15 January 2018) record that local residents’ concerns have been ‘discounted’.

Our objections are ongoing and continue to this day. They derive from an altruistic concern to protect a unique natural and historical environment. Many BENERA residents have over the years given of their time to maintain and improve the woodland.

The Hobson’s Conduit corridor between Brooklands Avenue and Long Road is a precious survival (within a few minutes of busy, noisy, urban roads) of what can be enjoyed by all as a country path beside a stream, with adjacent wooded areas and paddocks. It has a distinct natural environment and ecosystem, with some scarce flora and fauna. It is also part of the historic monument which is Hobson’s Conduit – an inspired example of early urban planning and a notable aspect of Cambridge’s history. As a chalk stream, the City’s Ten-Year Vision document,2 which has been referred to already, calls the conduit ‘an internationally rare habitat’.3

But now that the southernmost section of the conduit from Nine Wells to Long Road is skirted by intensive new residential development, the section of the conduit between Long Road and Brooklands Avenue is the last surviving unspoilt part of the conduit. The Ten-Year Vision document says its environs here are ‘bucolic, sheltered and tranquil’.4

BENERA’s concern is to promote the safeguarding of this fragile natural environment as an entity, and particularly to oppose whatever encourages increased use of the footpath by cyclists, which the environmental nature of this path makes unsuitable.

The declared purpose of this proposed bridge is to facilitate access from Accordia to the Hobson’s Corridor path. At present, like everyone else, Accordia residents need to walk a short way along Brooklands Avenue to gain access to the path so the possible expenditure of over £50,000 of public funds is therefore to enable Accordia residents to enjoy increased ‘permeability’ and ‘connectivity’ in the City’s words. But since the location of the bridge had to be moved some 50 metres northwards after Clare College fenced off Clare Wood, the proposed new bridge is now situated – absurdly – within two minutes’ walk of Brooklands Avenue. Some residents of Accordia have calculated that from the mid-point of Accordia to the mid-point of Empty Common via the proposed new bridge route, rather than via Brooklands Avenue, would entail a saving of 80 metres.

Over the years the City has never succeeded in establishing what wider public benefit there might be from this vanity project. All the supposed benefits are exclusively in one direction: in order to benefit and convenience the residents of Accordia, that truly underprivileged and deprived district of our city.5 In the 2016 planning application the bridge was justified at least six times because it would improve movement or access westwards from Accordia. At least three times the bridge was justified because it would enable easier access westwards for Accordia residents to allotments in Empty Common. For the planners, it is as if no one lives near the other side of the conduit, but then, the difference between our side and Accordia’s is that no city councillor lives on our side of the conduit.

We conclude that there is no public benefit, as the current access is the most consistent with the nature of the current path and environment.

The City has never established a case to justify the bridge on the grounds that anyone wishes for access in an eastwards direction (because they don’t, why would they?). This does not stop the City’s planning documents still – as in January 2018 – mendaciously arguing that a bridge will enable access eastwards to a shop in Accordia which closed long ago, or that it will facilitate travel eastwards to the railway station. It would only do so for those who enjoy walking to the station by meandering routes and who don’t mind reaching their London appointments with shoes muddy from the Hobson’s path.

This proposed bridge would not provide access to anywhere that is not already easily accessible. The most recent city document (15 January 2018) claims the bridge is to give Accordia residents ‘space for recreational and leisure enjoyment’ of the Corridor, as if they don’t have that already. What is the logic in providing a shortcut for those who supposedly want to walk or jog the Hobson’s path for leisure or exercise?

What the City’s case always betrays is that those promoting this bridge are really thinking, in the long-term, of cycleways. The BENERA archives show that one of my predecessors, as long ago as 2004, was receiving evasive answers from councillors on this matter. Everyone locally knows that the real purpose of this bridge is to provide a shortcut southwards to Long Road for Accordia cyclists, and everyone knows that the proposed kissing gate on the planned bridge will not deter determined cyclists.

But the existing path is not a bridleway, and because the path has been left for environmental reasons as a bare earth path, it soon becomes muddy in autumn and winter. This is only natural to its environment but means that it cannot be allowed to become a de facto cycleway without being churned up and spoilt for others by excessive and unsuitable use.

Cycleways are good, but there are already well-lit purpose-built cycleways southwards on Trumpington Road, as too along the guided busway. Allowing the Hobson’s Brook path to become a cycleway by default is both unneeded and would eventually be destructive to the Hobson’s path as an environment.

But there would be further consequences: once the path became unacceptably muddy for Accordia cyclists each winter (as well as being lethal for wheelchair users), there would be pressure for the path to be surfaced. Then there would be pressure for lighting, and probably for other safety measures. All of which would destroy the present natural environment of a rural path.

We also note that the new bridge is sited very near the main gauge that regulates drainage of part of the Accordia site during heavy rains, but we note, with incredulity, the present proposal is to waive the 1-in-a-100-year flood level which is officially advised.

In justifying the bridge, the City planning documents always talk about ‘permeability’, and ‘connectivity’ and ‘linkages’, as if these are good regardless of context. The City’s Ten-Year Vision document, when discussing bridges over the conduit in the newly developed area south of Long Road, acknowledges that ‘bridges will introduce greater levels of activity … this will mean small incremental physical changes that will change the character as a whole’ and goes on ‘with greater usage of areas that were once rarely visited, wildlife that is not tolerant of the presence of people and pets are likely to vacate the Brook permanently’.6

So it is rather weaselly of the document to make no mention of the Accordia bridge and no assessment of pressures from the increase in footfall that must follow from facilitating access from potentially one thousand extra users. It defies common sense that the nearly one thousand residents of Accordia, their children, and their dogs and their faeces, will not have an adverse impact on that green space.

Why do we care so passionately? Because the Corridor is a fragile survival. It has retained its uniqueness because, by chance, its position happens to give it the quality of a reserve, slightly apart and distinct from the dwellings so near to it on either side. Everyone has to walk for a while to get to it – it is roughly the same distance from the nearest Accordia dwellings as it is from the nearest dwellings on our side. No one planned it this way, but it has been crucial in protecting what is believed to be one of only several hundred chalk streams in the world and a seventeenth-century infrastructure project for the city’s water supply which is now an unusually living kind of ancient monument.

As the minutes of the City’s South Area Committee on 15 January 2018 make clear in listing legal implications:

The project is dependent on consents being obtained from relevant land-owners for building the footbridge on their land.

Elsewhere the document admits that these legal costs have added considerably to the mounting costs of the project.

In other words, whether this project proceeds is now the responsibility of the University. The experience of my predecessors and myself in BENERA’s long campaign against this bridge is that sadly the City cannot be relied upon to take long-term, far-sighted views of the right thing for the Cambridge environment. Long ago, Trinity College wisely acted to preclude the damaging provision of more bridges over the conduit by its covenant. We urge that in this generation the owners of the land will at last start to listen to the unanimous concerns of all local parties who oppose this unnecessary and destructive bridge.

Dr P. A. Haas (Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, and Magdalene College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the previous discussants have covered the extensive legal and ecological ramifications of building a bridge over Hobson’s brook. Entertaining as these legal quibbles may appear to a mathematician who would not recognize a covenant if it danced on the steps of Senate-House, my main concern is that the rather beautiful footpath running along the brook would effectively be destroyed by a bridge that would turn it into a mere glorified thoroughfare.

I discovered this path as an undergraduate seeking solace from revision in Easter Term, when only occasional shafts of light piercing the shrubbery would allow a glimpse of the dark Satanic mills that straddle the path. I for one would like to see this magic preserved for future generations passing through the University.

Professor J. M. E. Hyland (Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, and King’s College), read by Dr Haas:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I hope that the University will block the construction of a bridge over Hobson’s Conduit in the area of Empty Common. I discovered the path along the brook as a student 50 years ago. It is a wonderful secret place. Walking from town, one passes the allotments to find a wild section with the solace of birdsong; after the track to the Clare College grounds the path is broader, eventually opening into a field and then along that to Long Road. It is a lovely walk. It may not be one of Robert Macfarlane’s ‘old ways’ but it has its own magic. The area along the brook provides a retreat for the soul because it is a special wildlife sanctuary. All – the residents of the Accordia development included – will be diminished by the bridge. It will create a ‘new way’ and by opening up the most private core of the area will inevitably change the character of the whole.

The University has reason to be proud of its Environmental Sustainability Vision; and it should act in the small local matter of Hobson’s Conduit as it does on a larger scale. The City displays an irresponsible disregard for the environment in pursuing the idea of a bridge. The University has an equal interest in the matter. The area in question is very precious. I urge the University to maintain its commitment to the environment and not to allow any further development within the Empty Common area.

Professor J. P. Haseloff (Department of Plant Sciences), read by Dr Haas:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I wish to add my objection to the proposed construction of a bridge over Hobson’s Conduit between the Accordia housing development and the footpath adjacent to Clare Wood. I am a nearby resident, and our garden backs on to Parson’s Brook and Clare Wood. The proposed bridge will create a new avenue for access to an environmentally sensitive area that currently provides one of the few remaining refuges and corridors for wildlife in Cambridge – a reserve that has been in place for centuries.

There do not appear to be strong benefits that would arise from the creation of this new point of access. It may be of minor benefit for some residents of Accordia who could use it as a shortcut when walking their dogs. However it would also create a new and obvious path for pedestrians and cyclists who would be travelling from the areas of Trumpington and the new housing developments south of Long Road into central Cambridge or the rail station. This would have the effect of pulling more traffic through the reserve alongside Parson’s Brook and Hobson’s Conduit, and create a new thoroughfare for traffic through the Accordia site.

In addition, the bridge will create a passage to Cambridge Assessment’s new facility where there are approximately 200 parking places for some 3,000 employees. It is likely that this will contribute to extra car parking in the streets located on the West side of the brook and additional foot traffic across the environmental reserve.

The woods form a narrow strip alongside the two waterways, and are home to deer, foxes, hedgehogs, birds (including waterfowl, woodpeckers, and owls), and the other animals, insects, and plants that sustain them. It is one of the few remaining natural areas near the centre of Cambridge. The proposed bridge will create a new urban thoroughfare, with likely future calls for a sealed path to cope with increased traffic over what is currently a muddy single-track footpath, and widening for shared pedestrian and cycle traffic. It would contribute to the degradation of this refuge and irreversible loss of a precious natural setting – for little clear benefit. Alternative routes exist on surrounding roads and cycle paths.

As lessors of this land, I hope that the University can take a stand for conservation of this area, and not allow construction of the bridge to proceed.

Dr A. I. Pesci (Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, and King’s College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the proposal that we are discussing today and that is now in the hands of Estate Management, relates to the request made by the City Council on behalf of one Mr Harris,1a resident of Accordia, for permission to construct a footbridge over Hobson’s Brook in an environmentally sensitive section where the University has interests and is a lessor of the adjacent six feet of land along the watercourse.2 Mr Harris has tried to install this bridge for the past eight years with very little success, and in the face of strong opposition from the residents of this town. The features of the structure and its location have been changed numerous times after being either rejected or blocked. In its latest incarnation its main distinguishing characteristic is to exhibit each and every one of the shortcomings from previous versions and a few new ones of its own. Due to time constraints I will describe only the four issues that I find most worrisome.

By the agreement of 1610, now an endowment of the University, it was stipulated that no opening or break in the hedges bordering the six feet of land adjacent to the brook would be permitted.2, 3 There are only two possible ways to place a bridge connecting the west and east banks: either the bridge will break through the hedges, or it will open onto the six feet on the east side. In the first case we would be in breach of the agreement of the endowment; in the latter case it would lead to foot fall on University shared land and would create a de facto right of way with all its legal implications. That the legal issues involved with granting a right of way are not a straightforward matter was discussed in this University starting in 1908 when the City Council approached the

University Authorities to see if they will be willing to join the Corporation in the application to Trinity College to grant a right-of-way for foot passengers along the Western bank of the Stream.4

At that time Courtney Kenny, a fellow of Downing College and the Professor of the Laws of England, felt compelled to write to the Vice-Chancellor a letter with the following comments, that could very well have been said about the present situation:

The Master of St John’s and I had an interview with the Town Clerck as to Hobson’s Conduit. The matter is evidently a complicated one; even as of regard the existing legal rights of the Corporation and the University; which are neither so definite nor so simple as the document, which was sent this morning to the Council, gave us to understand.5

That was not the first time the University was confronted with a situation in which the City Council tried to take unilateral action over this shared endowment. In fact, quoting from the book Hobson’s Conduit, by W. D. Bushell,

Quite a bitter quarrel raged in town in 1851 and 1852 as to whether there was or was not a right-of-way for the public along the banks of Hobson’s river.

On that occasion, a Syndicate, headed by the then Vice‑Chancellor, produced a thorough report that was adopted through a Grace.6 In that report the Syndics wrote that the lease was granted for the maintenance and preservation of the watercourse, and furthermore, that the University should not acquiesce in any attempt to establish rights which are clearly beside the purpose of the grant, and which would be prejudicial to the interests of the proprietors of the adjoining lands, who must be considered, and ought to be treated, as representing the original grantor.7 There are five proprietors of adjacent lands if we include the renters of the allotments who voiced their opposition to this project from the very beginning.8 The other four proprietors are: Clare College, the residents of BENERA, the residents of Accordia, and the University. There is no doubt about Clare College’s opinion on the matter: they decided to fence their land to protect it and to prevent construction when it was expected that the bridge would land on their property. All the minutes of their discussions over this matter are publicly available.9 The residents of BENERA through their association, made it clear by a vote of 29 to 1, that they oppose the structure and gave an extensive list of reasons for their opposition.10 Accordia, from where the initial push for this bridge came, also has an association which has not taken a position because the residents are bitterly divided with a majority voicing opposition.11 The last proprietor is the University, who own a grade II listed building expected to house archaeological material, and who has not yet made its opinion known. Given the strong and continued opposition from the overwhelming majority of the proprietors of the adjacent lands and the recommendations in the Syndics report, it would seem that the only proper course of action is to reject the request.

Moreover, because the City is obliged to make all new construction disabled-accessible there are again two possible options. Either leaving the path in the shape it is now (and according to the planning officer’s own words: ‘the bridge would be on a ‘user beware’ basis and most local residents of Accordia’ would already know the danger) or improving the path, turning it without consultation into a de facto thoroughfare. The first option sounds almost criminal, and surely a magnet for lawsuits,12a not to mention discriminatory towards any residents of the city who do not live in Accordia. The City itself in one of its own reports has admitted that the second option is the most likely to occur.12b This would mean that the University will have to ignore its own agreement that explicitly established the path as a non-bridleway and bear the burden of responsibility for the obvious environmental consequences that such a change will cause.

Finally, the area where this bridge would be built has been declared of national importance. According to a December 2016 report from Suffolk Archaeology, commissioned by the city of Cambridge

Hobson’s Conduit is listed as a ‘building of special architectural or historic interest under Section 30 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947’13

This area is also within a flood zone 3a, which is DEFRA’s high flood risk, as shown in the maps published by the City Council itself.14 Because of this, the first planning officer who dealt with the matter, in fulfilment of the governmental guidelines, wrote that

the soffit of the bridge must be higher than the 1 in 100 year floo[d] level +20% for climate change with a minimum freeboard of 300mm.15

After Clare College denied permission, the proposed bridge was moved some 50 metres north to another location that had been previously discarded because, according to the analysis the City adopted,

It is not a very easy place to modify the ground levels to provide the ramping up or down at the bridge approach. Other bank in Conservation Area.16

That is, the East bank of the conduit, which is part of our endowment, is in a Conservation Area, and in their own words: ‘a bridge here would also compromise the vulnerable Finches [sic] Walk’.17 The above mentioned serious challenges make it impossible to meet the legally required grade for the path, unless the bridge is lowered. Thus, the new planning officer from the City waived the recommended 300mm cited in the government guidelines and allowed the structure to be lowered by 33% to 200mm over the 1-in-a-100-year flood level.1b When I met with the drainage officer he would not give me information about his calculations; I only obtained from him a local map he used on which the buildings were mislabelled, and also a statement saying that the street level in the area was 500mm above the brook.1c After inspection of a cross-sectional architectural drawing it was obvious that he had been mistaken by more than 500mm. Two random samples show that the probability of finding at least one error in each sample is 100%, and that the error in at least one of the officer’s input data is larger than the magnitude of the quantity to be calculated.

It would now seem that the decision about this complicated matter could be made unilaterally by the University’s administration following Estate Management’s advice. The information we were given by Estate Management seems to indicate that this proposal is being considered without engaging legal counsel on behalf of the University, which seems unwise. We already know what happened the last time we consented to a request for a footpath: we lost control of a portion of our endowment. Now the City Council is coming for more. We should be concerned that this decision could:

(1) give consent to an action that would be in breach of the terms of the endowment of 1610, and further diminish our control over it;

(2) without consultation, it would overrule the Grace that confirmed the Syndics report by allowing actions contrary to the recommendations of the Syndicate,

(3) could change the terms of the right-of-way agreement and convert the area into a thoroughfare that would be located just 50 metres away from a grade II listed building belonging to the University and which is expected to house archaeological material;

(4) allow a structure that is in potential violation of the UK national guidelines for flood zones to be built in a conservation area designated as of national interest and listed under Section 30 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947.

How does the University propose to honour the agreement of 1610 to avoid losing legal control of the endowment? If we lose control: what message would this behaviour be sending to our donors?

What would be the practical and legal implications for the University’s self-governance if the administrative side is allowed to unilaterally take actions that violate a ruling adopted by Grace?

What are the legal implications of allowing the creation of a thoroughfare on land connected with one of our endowments, and how are we planning to handle its proximity to the grade II listed building?

What would it do to our reputation and to our status as a charity to be found in potential violation of government flooding mitigation guidelines in an environmentally sensitive area? If we cannot be trusted with protecting our own environmentally sensitive areas how can we justify the claim that we are leaders in environmental issues? How would these actions not open us to charges of gross negligence and hypocrisy?

On 26 October 1610, more than four centuries ago, our predecessors in this University, in partnership with the town’s people, created the New River from land that was generously donated. The New River became an endowment of the University and was bequeathed to us to be its keepers. During the past 167 years the town council has periodically and aggressively tried to unilaterally take charge of this shared endowment. Every time, our forefathers protected it by honouring the word their own predecessors gave to our generous donor. Now, once again, we are being forced by the town council into making a decision; this time about a matter that goes against the will of the majority of the very townspeople they claim to represent. But that is not correct: the decision was made for us long ago by the scholars that came before us, who not only saw fit to preserve the New River, but also made sure that the memory of their decision would survive the passage of time by recording it as a Grace approved in this House.

They told us:

that the lease was granted by Mr Chaplyn from a generous motive, and in furtherance of a benevolent purpose, namely, the maintenance and preservation of the watercourse, [emphasis added]

and furthermore, that they

cannot advise the University to acquiesce in any attempt to establish, by a legal and technical construction, rights which are clearly beside the purpose of the grant, and which would, if so established, be prejudicial to the interests of the proprietors of the adjoining lands, who must be considered, and, as it appears to the Syndicate, ought to be treated, as representing the original grantor. [emphasis added]

This land has now become a sanctuary for all the wild creatures fleeing the relentless human encroachment on their original habitat; they have become the rightful proprietors of the adjoining lands. As the stewards, it is now our moral duty to see that the deeds of those who came before us were not done in vain, and to ensure that this land with all its creatures shall not perish from the Earth.

Should the University Council be minded to approve this proposal we respectfully request that it issue a Report on the matter, and not a Notice.


Dr E. Eiser (Department of Physics, and Sidney Sussex College), read by Dr Pesci:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I wish to add my objection to the many others that have been raised. I object to this bridge for many of the same reasons that all the other speakers have put forward. In particular, it is hard to understand why the University would consent to build this unnecessary structure in an area where there is a natural reserve that we have protected and preserved for more than four centuries. If we allow this bridge the area will become a thoroughfare with the obvious detrimental consequences for the wildlife living in the reserve.

We are a learning institution and we also pride ourselves in being at the forefront of environmental science. How could allowing this pristine area under our care to be open indiscriminately to such use be consistent with our environmental vision as an institution? It is our duty to save Hobson’s brook for future generations.

Dr S. J. Eglen (Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, and Magdalene College), read by Dr Pesci:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I very much share with others the concerns at the proposed bridge over Hobson’s Conduit. Disturbing the calm and quiet of the area around Empty Common would surely have a grave impact on the wildlife taking refuge there. There is enough precedent in our own historical records to indicate that our predecessors have been the protectors of this land. We should follow in their footsteps and continue our good work to make sure that the area is properly preserved.

One of the most pressing issues that we need to confront as an institution is the impact of our actions on the environment. We claim that we wish to act responsibly: here is an opportunity where we can show with actions that our claims are truthful. We should protect this area declared of national interest due to its ecological features and deny permission for the erection of this bridge.

Professor M. Gross (Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, and King’s College), read by Dr Pesci:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I very much share everyone’s concern about the proposal to build a bridge over Hobson’s brook and near Empty Common. I periodically go for a stroll along Finch’s walk to enjoy the calm and quiet of the area. Some time ago during one of my walks I was shocked to notice a new fence erected on the perimeter of Clare Wood. I learnt later that this was the first casualty of this proposed bridge.

I believe that in matters related to environmental issues taking risks should be avoided at all costs. We have already had a taste of what the consequences are of taking a risk with this very same protected area. Trying to erect this bridge was a risk, and we are already paying for this risk-taking by having lost access to a previously open space and a transit route for wildlife. If this is the unintended and unanticipated outcome when the structure is not yet in existence, how can the University support an action that could cause further unforeseen negative environmental impacts to the detriment of us all?

Dr J. A. Neufeld (Department of Earth Sciences, and St Catharine’s College), read by Dr Pesci:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I oppose granting permission for the erection of a bridge over Hobson’s Conduit. This unnecessary bridge would be located in an area that is protected, and has been declared of national importance, facts that make the desire for such a structure even more puzzling. The increasing human footprint upon the Earth makes it more necessary than ever to preserve landscapes where the human intrusions are minimized to ensure that wildlife can find security and safety.

The primary purpose of declaring a wild land to be an area of national importance is to preserve its natural condition and its pristine character. It is about exercising humility and restraint, so that the other living beings that share the planet with us can have a viable home. It is obviously not for creating short-cuts or recreational opportunities.

The University should lead by example in environmental matters and show that we are worthy of being entrusted with the care of our own environmentally sensitive lands by denying permission for this intrusive bridge, and by making sure that this conservation area is left untouched.

Report of the Council, dated 7 February 2018, on membership of the Regent House for Directors of Research and Principal Research Associates

(Reporter, 6494, 2017–18, p. 385).

Dr S. R. Kell (Department of Computer Science and Technology, and Christ’s College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I commend Council for its efforts to improve fairness and inclusion in the Regent House. The Ordinance on membership of the Regent House under Statute A III 10(e) is a particularly crucial device that is not as widely understood as it ought to be. Fixing its flaws is long overdue.

Council has made clear that the primary intention of the proposed change is to enfranchise retired University officers who continue to be employed in an unestablished research role.

This is a fine move which I support – but not in isolation. By itself, it will amplify the inequities perpetuated by other clauses of the Ordinance. Specifically, I am referring to the arbitrary exclusion from the Regent House of large numbers of postdoctoral researchers.

Since I anticipate that not all Regents will be aware of the present situation, allow me to recap briefly.

The Ordinance identifies certain staff groups eligible as Regents by virtue of their position. These positions include, among others, Research Associate and Senior Research Associate. Such staff automatically become Regents if they are employed at departments not under the control of any Faculty. Such departments include Chemical Engineering, Land Economy, the Sainsbury Laboratory, and others. In the case of positions that are under a Faculty, there is a catch. The final clause of the Ordinance gives Faculties the option of filtering out such staff from the Regent House by omitting them from their Faculty Roll. Note again that this is properly an act of exclusion, since Regent House membership is automatic to those equivalently employed at departments not under a Faculty. This option to filter out postdoctoral researchers is exercised entirely according to Faculties’ whims. There is no consistent policy among Faculties, nor any clear basis for the diverse policies currently in operation. This ‘Faculty lottery’ is wholly unequitable and unjustifiable.

It is by virtue of my being employed under an enlightened Faculty that I am here today as a member of the Regent House, following my inclusion on the relevant Faculty Roll, first as a Research Associate and latterly as a Senior Research Associate. My Faculty so choosing not to exercise its filter has allowed me to participate in the University’s democracy, to serve on the Board of Scrutiny, to cast ballots, sign Graces, and so on. Contrast this with the many research staff who are neither in the Regent House nor graduates of the University. Such staff do not even become members of the University.

The University is constantly on public record about how much it values its postdoctoral community, how they are a so-called ‘engine of research’, and on the vital importance of projects such as North West Cambridge. However, the University has been reticent in taking even simple steps to genuinely include postdoctoral researchers in University life – such as, for example, granting them membership of the University’s ‘community of scholars’ and participation in its democratic processes. Research staff of doctoral standing should not be subject to an administrative lottery on these matters; these things should be offered as a matter of course.

Finally, I note in passing that the present haphazard state of affairs not only creates inequities among research staff, but also happens to disproportionately affect women, since many large Faculties with female-heavy research staff, such as Clinical Medicine and Biology, presently do not add them to the Faculty Roll.

I suspect that Council’s first response to my remarks will be to suggest waiting for the completion of the ongoing governance review. However, it cannot be both ways. The change currently under discussion has not been held back until after the governance review. It makes no sense to boost immediately the representation of members past the retiring age, while punting into a hypothetical future the measures necessary to properly include staff of suitable standing at the younger end of the spectrum. This is especially so now that another boost to the ageing end of the Regent House demographic, namely the 51-member Grace on eliminating the age limit, is already in progress. The changes required to abolish the Faculty lottery are small, and are an essential counterweight to the changes proposed in the present Report.

Professor R. J. Anderson (University Council, Department of Computer Science and Technology, and Churchill College), read by Dr Kell:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, being an academic is a vocation, not a job. And just as retired vicars still go to church and often conduct services when called on for years afterwards, so many University and College staff continue to work well past the retirement age. Just this term I have been supervising Computer Science Tripos projects with my old friend and colleague Jean Bacon, with whom I have been doing this for about a decade, and who continues despite retiring three years ago. Another friend and colleague, David Wheeler, who wrote the world’s first computer program in 1949, had an office opposite mine and came in just about every day until he died. His thesis adviser, Maurice Wilkes, who built the world’s first proper computer, came in every week until his early nineties.

I declare an interest; I am now 61, and I plan to do just the same. The only way you’ll get rid of me is in a body bag.

The University and Colleges should welcome the hundreds of volunteers who work for nothing, sustaining themselves in most cases from their pensions. As we baby-boomers start to retire, our contribution to the University is likely to rise in both absolute and relative terms.

In the past, however, the welcome has sometimes been mixed. I therefore welcome the recent decision of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Eilís Ferran, to abolish the Voluntary Research Agreements which placed onerous and unjustified conditions on research volunteers. I also welcome the recent 51-member Grace which will extend membership of the Regent House to College Fellows who are over the age of 70.

I welcome, too, the proposal under Discussion today, which will enfranchise those University teaching officers who take soft-money posts as Directors of Research or Principal Research Associates after reaching the retirement age.

However, the glass is still only half full.

First, as Dr Kell has pointed out, Faculties are permitted to exclude Research Associates from the franchise by failing to submit their names for the Roll of the Regent House. My Faculty does not behave in such a mean and unpleasant way, but a number still do. As Regents decide the policy of the University, not of the Faculties, it is quite wrong for Faculties to take it on themselves to exclude some of our voters.

Second, neither measure will extend the vote to volunteers who retired as University Teaching Officers but who do not hold a College Fellowship, either because they never held one or because their College gives retired Fellows something less than full Fellowship. This is also quite wrong. Again, it is something for the University to fix, not the Colleges, as it is our electorate.

Third, depending on whether the Council amendment to the 51-member Grace prevails or not, there may be issues for retired University staff who now supervise in Colleges, or retired College Fellows who now volunteer in a University lab.

Fourth, trying to deal with this problem by writing ever more pages of regulations will be hard. It’s been suggested that emeritus staff get the vote if still engaged in our affairs, but at least one friend who is still engaged retired before the age of 60, which excludes him from the title ‘emeritus’.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the simple way to remedy these wrongs is self-certification. Let anyone who was a Regent, or who would have been a Regent under our current rules, and who is still engaged in the affairs of the collegiate University, declare their engagement and opt in to the Roll of the Regent House.

The numbers will not be large. Behavioural economists assure us that most people go with defaults; they mostly don’t opt in and they mostly don’t opt out either. But by giving the people who volunteer to help with research and teaching the chance to volunteer to vote as well, we will right a number of basic and obvious wrongs.

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

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the age-limit of 70 on membership of the Regent House was approved only in 1996, close in date to Oxford’s debate of January 1997 about restoration of membership of Congregation to the age of 75.1 So neither is a rule of notably long-standing. In both universities the question at issue has been the need for those with the vote to be demonstrably still active in the affairs of the University. Since 2010 the Equalities Act has presented a challenge by way of the new law preventing age discrimination and that (EJRA notwithstanding) is likely to mean in-house challenge to the lawfulness of the age of 70 or the age of 75.

Both universities are now grappling once more with the question of membership of their legislative governing bodies. Oxford’s rules have been less exact than those of Cambridge because Oxford has very few University officers. But Cambridge is now contemplating the tip of an iceberg and forced to wonder how much under the water will need to be thought about in addition. The present Report makes a constitutionally significant step forward for Cambridge by awarding membership of the Regent House to non-University officers (paradoxically ex officio).

It is a useful beginning but the whole position of unestablished academic postholders surely needs further review.

Professor D. S. H. Abulafia (Emeritus Professor of Mediterranean History, and Gonville and Caius College), read by the Senior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I must express my great surprise at the way this straightforward issue is being handled – straightforward, because the Council has recognized that the case for terminating membership of the Regent House at the age of 70 will not stand up. The matter is also straightforward because the Statutes and Ordinances, which bind the Council as much as the rest of the University, make it plain that a vote should have been held by the end of last term. That has not happened. We thus have the extraordinary spectacle of the Council acting in breach of the very rules it is supposed to uphold. I was myself a member of the Council a few years ago; I stood for election because I am a passionate believer in the principle of self-government which makes us almost unique and which is, in my view, part of the secret of our success. When I put this recently to a very senior officer of the other self-governing university, which competes with us for a place at or near the top of the international league tables (for what they are worth), she chided me with the words, ‘You should not confuse correlation with causation’. I hope that those who have been charged with the day-to-day government of this University do not think in similar terms, all the more so when we have a brand-new Vice-Chancellor and a brand-new Registrary. Quite simply, neither they nor the Council are above the law.

I have looked at the Special Ordinance and can see no reason at all why this matter has been deferred. The obvious course was to put the issue to the vote and, if the Regent House supported the proposal, then to think through the ways it might be implemented. When I was on the Council, the phrase ‘collegiate Cambridge’ came into use, and it is therefore bizarre to find a reference in a footnote to the Notice in the Reporter of 7 February 2018 to ‘Fellows of the Colleges who have no formal connection with the University’. A big part of the problem is a failure to understand what a University is, at least a great and ancient one like ours: a community of scholars young and old, engaged in the pursuit of learning. Nowhere, indeed, is that sense of a community that crosses the artificial boundaries between disciplines greater than in the Colleges, where Fellows (among others) can and should engage in debate with those who operate far beyond their own Faculty or department.

One might think the timing of the vote is a small procedural point. But even an issue on this scale becomes important if it reveals a sort of contempt among those who exercise power for established rules. The Regent House is there to act as a restraint on such behaviour. It is therefore appropriate that this constitutional issue is concerned with nothing less than the membership of that Regent House.