Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6535

Wednesday 30 January 2019

Vol cxlix No 17

pp. 355–384

Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

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 Junior Proctor, the Deputy Senior Proctor and ten other persons present.

Unless otherwise stated, all remarks at the Discussion were made by the contributors in a personal capacity.

The following Reports were discussed:

Annual Report of the Council for the academic year 2017–18, dated 19 November 2018

(Reporter, 6530, 2018–19, p. 181).

Mr D. J. Goode (Faculty of Divinity, Wolfson College and Chair of the Board of Scrutiny):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am making these remarks in my capacity as Chair of the Board of Scrutiny.

So as to spare you having to listen to me say more or less the same thing several times (in this capacity at least), I will say it once now about the first three Reports down for Discussion today. As always, the Board of Scrutiny takes a keen interest in the Annual Report of the Council, the Annual Report of the General Board to the Council, and the Reports and financial statements for the year. We are looking into a number of matters arising from all three of them, and will report to the University in due course.

Before I sit down, though, I will make one observation. Until this year, the Reports of the Council, and of the General Board to the Council, have always been for the previous ‘academical year’1. For some unexplained reason this year they are for the ‘academic year’2. Next year, may we please have our academical year back.

Professor R. J. Anderson (Department of Computer Science and Technology and Churchill College), read by the Junior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, along with four Council colleagues, I signed a dissent to the Annual Report of the Council. Following the divestment petition, Council was assured that we had ‘only homeopathic quantities’ of shares in oil and gas, and it was therefore a shock to learn via the Paradise Papers that we actually owned some £30m of shares in Shell through an offshore company.

I therefore demanded to see the papers of the Investment Board. Council standing order 11(ii) empowers Council members to see all the papers of subsidiary committees, and I used this power in 2015 to investigate why the North West Cambridge project ended up about £100m over budget and more than two years late – a failure that would otherwise have been covered up (Reporter, 6403, 2015–16, p. 140). This led to the departure of the Director of Estate Management and in due course the Registrary took early retirement. The right to see papers is both important and established; without it members of Council cannot discharge our duty as the charitable trustees of the University.

I reported to this House on 28 January last year that my demand for access to the Board’s papers was repeatedly stonewalled (Reporter, 2017–18, 6493, p. 371) and warned that I would be unable to sign the 2018 Annual Report unless the papers were made available. I am afraid to report that the sorry saga has continued. Despite repeated demands for access, the Vice-Chancellor has failed to comply. On various occasions he has promised to raise the matter with the Board, promised disclosure to Council shortly, and even once claimed that he thought we’d already been given the papers.

The excuse offered, when one was offered at all, was that some aspects of our portfolio are commercially sensitive, and so the papers cannot be made public. This argument was and is entirely disingenuous as at all times we sought full access in confidence, as with the papers for the North West Cambridge fiasco. In that case, following legal advice, the Council decided that my report must remain confidential until after the last of the project litigation is settled. Council members can and do receive confidential information and respect those confidences.

Professor Dame Athene Donald’s Divestment working group has had a similar experience; in her report (pp. 13–14 and recommendation 6) she calls for transparency to be improved.

I note that the Chief Investment Officer has left us, along with three senior members of his team. I hope that this will bring about the necessary change, and I sincerely hope that our senior management team are not hiding anything untoward.

I must report to the Regent House that when the external auditors were preparing their opinion on the financial statements, they asked for assurances from all Council members that I was unable to give, because of the failure to give us access. I explained the whole story of the opacity of the Investment Office and the Investment Board’s failure to comply with our rules. The audit partner and I eventually agreed a form of words that gave him sufficient comfort to sign off on the accounts, and I did ask him whether he was sure that all the investments were present and correct. I did not receive a categorical assurance on that point.

The responsibility for ensuring that the Investment Office is properly run lies with the Chief Financial Officer as its line manager and with the Vice-Chancellor as the accounting officer. In the absence of cooperation I could do no more, and my term on Council is now over.

My final comment is this. At any time in the past fourteen months, the Vice-Chancellor could have dealt with the matter by calling a Council vote to suspend standing order 11(ii) in respect of Investment Office business. He did not do so, despite having a good working majority on Council. I find this contempt for our rules deeply unsettling. The University of Cambridge, like any charity, company, or modern nation state, is a creature of law; in our case, of Statute, Ordinance and Standing Orders. If the executive is to be held to account, then the rule of law matters. One might have thought that now the Vice-Chancellor, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Registrary are all members of the legal profession, there would be some appreciation of this. Yet we seem somehow to have traded the rule of law for rule by lawyers.

Professor N. J. Gay (Department of Biochemistry, Christ’s College and the University Council):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am one of five Council members who dissented from the Annual Report of the Council. I endorse the remarks made by Professor Ross Anderson and add some further observations.

The Report states that the Investment Board is populated by individuals who have ‘sympathies to the University’. Members of the Regent House may therefore be surprised that one Board member is an ardent Brexiteer who donated £3m to the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign. My friend the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research has described the impact of Brexit on the University as ‘bad, very bad or catastrophic’. So I find it difficult to understand how a Board member can be sympathetic to the University when they sponsored the pathetic lies that have placed more than £500m of research funding in jeopardy and led directly to the constitutional crisis we face presently. This state of affairs illustrates the current disjunction, lack of oversight and alignment that Council has with the Investment Board and the Cambridge University Endowment Fund (CUEF), as outlined by Professor Anderson.

The Annual Report also states that CUEF shows a ‘cumulative monetary outperformance of £300m to the agreed benchmark’ in the last decade. As part of a campaign of glasnost, Council members were last week invited to a ‘teach in’ about CUEF at which the performance of the fund relative to the agreed benchmark was presented. When pressed a senior member of the Investment Office admitted that, far from £300m, the outperformance of CUEF was just £30m since 2008. In fact relative to other relevant benchmarks such as global equities the fund could be viewed as underperforming in this period. It seems to me that Regent House has been seriously misled and I urge the Council to investigate this matter and to correct the Report.

The departure of Mr Cavalla as Chief Investment Officer provides an opportunity for a thorough review of how the Investment Office operates. It is very much to be hoped that this leads to an investment policy that is better aligned to the values and purposes of this great and ancient University. I look forward to debating this more as a topic of concern on 5 February.

The Rev’d J. L. Caddick (Emmanuel College), read by the Junior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Council are the charitable trustees of the University. They have, as they remind us, weighty responsibilities to promote the aims of the University as a charity. It is worrying therefore that this Report reveals that they are falling short in the discharge of their responsibilities in two important respects, both concerned with the management of the University’s investments.

The eyes of readers of the Report cannot help but be drawn to the Note of Dissent at the end. Professor Anderson has repeatedly asked for access to the papers of the Investment Board and has been refused. How can the Council discharge its responsibilities if it not only does not know, but is actively prevented from knowing how the investments are managed? This is completely unacceptable and needs to be corrected forthwith. Only five members of the Council have signed this Note of Dissent. The question here, members of the Council, is what the rest of you have been doing. Can you seriously say, hand on heart, that you have been discharging your responsibilities when you have no idea what is going on?

The truth of the matter, of course, is that the University administration is terrified of the people who have been running the Investment Office and have done little to challenge them or to hold them to account. Those people have now taken their ball and gone to play elsewhere. Can the Council now reassure the Regent House that in repopulating the Investment Office they will find the moral courage to stand up to the money people and put in place mechanisms for greater openness and accountability?

The second aspect of the Council’s responsibilities as trustees that I’d like to talk about has to do with their actions in response to the call for divestment from fossil fuels. The Grace calling for divestment was passed in January of 2017 but was not implemented because the Council told us that they were the trustees and as such only they could make a decision on such matters. (How different from when they are dealing with the Investment Office). They acknowledged that the appropriate thing to do was to commission ‘a report specifically into the advantages and disadvantages of the policy of divestment’1 A Working Party was convened, whose terms of reference strangely did not ask the group to look into the advantages and disadvantages of such a policy. Nor did the Council’s response to this published last June. Instead it spoke about almost anything else – all the other initiatives that are proposed to address climate change. The Council did not even accept the Working Party’s modest proposal that 10% of the Endowment be invested in ethical funds, so terrified were they of the Investment Office.

Instead they came up with a policy of ‘considered divestment’. This term is a monstrosity of duplicity and bad faith, and the members of the Council should be ashamed of themselves for allowing it to be used. Voltaire famously said that the Holy Roman Empire is ‘neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire’; ‘considered divestment’ is neither considered nor divestment. It is not ‘considered’ for the reasons that we have already seen. The Council are not able to consider the working of the Investment Office even if they should show an inclination to, and as we have seen they have an established record of running fast in the opposite direction when anything of the kind is suggested.

Neither is it ‘divestment’ because nothing, but nothing, has changed. The much trumpeted policy of not investing in thermal coal or tar sands was arrived at before there were any calls for divestment. The Council’s response to the Grace was an exercise in doing nothing about the way the University’s endowment is invested, and of trying to divert attention elsewhere by means of other initiatives.

Members of the Council, you are fooling no-one with this term ‘considered divestment’. It is misleading and I can only assume that it is intended to mislead. Such disingenuous green-washing, members of the Council, only serves to harm the moral authority of our University, and to harm your standing within it. I urge you publicly to retract the term and to apologise to the Regent House.

Dr D. R. Thomas (Department of Computer Science and Technology, Peterhouse and the West Cambridge Active Travel Group), read by the Junior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, in the Annual Report of the Council for the academic year 2017–18 it states:

The Council also noted that the NWCD team successfully negotiated with the local authority to agree refinements to the rental model of the affordable housing for staff members at Eddington.

However, it does not mention the fact that the NWCD is projected to make a £4 million annual loss when full and hence will never pay off the loans taken on for construction. It also does not mention what proportion of accommodation is presently filled or when it is anticipated that all the accommodation will be filled.

Annual Report of the General Board to the Council for the academic year 2017–18, dated 31 October 2018

(Reporter, 6530, 2018–19, p. 190).

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

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Oxford and Cambridge Act 1877 was passed at a time when, as its introduction put it, ‘the revenues’ of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were ‘not adequate to the full discharge of the duties incumbent on them respectively’. At that time the wealth lay in the colleges and the Act had the purpose of ‘enabling or requiring the Colleges in each University to contribute more largely out of their revenues to University purposes’.

In this rebalancing the University’s purposes, like those of the colleges themselves, were to be strictly educational, namely giving ‘further and better instruction in art, science, and other branches of learning’. The ‘purposes’ were stated more fully in s. 15 of the Act, which required that those making statutes for University or College ‘shall have regard to the interests of education, religion, learning and research, and in the case of a statute for a College or Hall ‘shall have regard, in the first instance, to the maintenance of the College or Hall for those purposes’.

Little of that Act remains unrepealed, though there is still a Universities Committee of the Privy Council and the Cambridge Chancellor may still ‘settle doubts as to the meaning of University statutes’ and the University and colleges may still make their own domestic laws, subject to Privy Council Approval. However the wording of clause 15 survives in Cambridge’s own statutes. In the present Statute C I 4 you may read:

It shall be the duty of all holders of University offices entitled to leave under a Special Ordinance made under Statute C I 1(a) to devote themselves to the advancement of knowledge in their subject, to give instruction therein to students, to undertake from time to time such examining of students as may be required by the Board, Syndicate, or other body which is chiefly concerned with their duties, and to promote the interests of the University as a place of education, religion, learning, and research.

Those who have read the Annual Reports regularly for some years cannot have failed to notice profound changes in the priorities they record and the language they use. It is of course true that the regulatory environment of English higher education has changed and there are numerous requirements of accountability which must now be met. My question is whether the University is going the right way about protecting its deeper purposes. The expectations of 1877 did not include forming industrial and commercial partnerships, initiating start-up companies, bringing in external project research funding, ensuring that students were prepared for high-salary employment. But should those be being fostered at the expense of the purposes of a university still stated in its Statutes?

Though Cambridge, unlike Oxford, has so far refrained from agreeing an overall Strategic Vision, ‘strategy’ or ‘strategies’ appears 17 times in the Council’s Report and 20 times in the Report of the General Board. The University’s ‘senior leadership’ now includes a Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Strategy and Planning), but the Reports indicate that he is not the only Pro-Vice-Chancellor busy with strategy-making.

There are Council mentions of strategies ‘to support the generation of new and additional income to the Chest, and constrain and reduce expenditure’, ‘strategies and objectives with a view to maximising value (in the widest sense) for the University as a whole’ for CUP and Cambridge Assessment’, strategies for infrastructure, divestment, the ‘postdoc community’, Brexit, commercial research, student wellbeing, employed ‘People’, and so on. There is also a strategy ‘for excellence in education and research’, but no mention of academic freedom to pursue it.

The General Board’s Report is full of miscellaneous ‘strategies’ too, none of them involving the protection of academic freedom against managed plans. It is true that there is to be a detailed ‘Education Strategy’:

to reflect the collegiate University’s values and priorities for education, both as a statement to the wider public audience and as a reference point for internal discussions and activity,

and to include ‘strategic objectives’ and an ‘action plan’. This was to be put to the Education Committee last Michaelmas Term. The Education Committee’s Minutes have been published only up to its March 2018 meeting so perhaps the Council can tell us in its Notice in reply where this strategy has got to.

‘Strategic research reviews’ are under way too:

The [General] Board can report good progress on the delivery of the programme of Strategic Research Reviews. A total of fourteen reviews were undertaken in 2017−18.

The ‘remaining reviews are scheduled to be completed in Lent Term 2018−19, with a report to the Board scheduled for Easter Term 2019. Is there any reason why this should not be published as a Report to the University for Discussion?

‘Management’ is to be found 14 times in the Council’s Report and 8 times in the Report of the General Board. I cannot be the only person disturbed by the conjunction of ‘management’ with the newly-introduced People Strategy word ‘talent’. The word ‘talent’ appears twice in the Council’s Report and twice again in the General Board’s Report, in three out of the four instances in the phrase ‘talent management’. One is bound to wonder what the framers of the 1877 definition of the purposes of a university would have made of a mindset which seems to belong in the entertainment industry, where ‘talent’ is used to describe overpaid celebrities of limited value and doubtful virtue. Academic freedom and ‘talent management’ seem likely to be uncomfortable bedfellows.

It was bad enough when line-management of academics was introduced in the University along with a written contract for University Officers, speedily destroying the long-standing conventions of a collegial method of working. The General Board is taking ‘line manager education’ seriously:

Line managers have a vital role in tackling the gender pay gap and promoting gender equality. To support line managers in this task, a professional line management training programme is under development in consultation with institutions, with streams for both academic and professional roles.

It is not stated whether this training is to include the ‘managing’ of ‘talent’ as well as gender equality (surely likely to be made difficult by the introduction of free personal gender-choice).

Neither the Council nor the General Board seems to be making the connection between rising staff stress, these recent radical changes to the relationship of the University with its academic staff and the knock-on effect upon student wellbeing. ‘Wellbeing’ is used 5 times by the Council in its Report and 21 times in the General Board Report, where it is also noted that ‘demand for the Staff Counselling Service has increased 7% from the 2016−2017 academic year. The newly formed College Counselling Service, launched during the Lent Term 2018, accounted for an additional 4%’.

Waiting times have grown considerably:

The SCS service provision expectation is a 52-day waiting time. A reduced waiting time is a priority of the Service, aimed at preventing staff from entering a phase of sickness absence or, where they are already absent, helping them to return to the workplace. Of the 636 referrals during the year, 63 were ‘Red Flagged’ for clients with complex psychological needs; including those considered a ‘danger to themselves or others’, victims of domestic abuse, or those raising child protection concerns. This growing cohort proves particularly challenging as well as time-consuming for the Service.

The response is to appoint more counselling staff to meet the need and run counselling groups.

One can only wonder whether an easing of ever-increasing top-down control in favour of a return to the academic freedoms in teaching and research Cambridge’s academics enjoyed until quite recently might not be worth a try.

Reports and Financial Statements for the year ended 31 July 2018

(Reporter, 6530, 2018–19, p. 201).

Mr D. J. Goode (Faculty of Divinity, Wolfson College and Chair of the Board of Scrutiny):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am making these remarks in a personal capacity.

Some three months after receiving an open letter on 1 October 2018 from the University and College Union (UCU) and UNISON, the Vice-Chancellor finally replied on 6 December.1 He began that reply by saying:

The demands of the October open letter were difficult to address in a way that would have been satisfactory to the UCU and UNISON because I was not prepared to come out publicly and forcefully against a pay award, as requested.

He ended his reply by saying:

I recognise the strength of feeling among UCU and UNISON members, but am hopeful that over the coming months we can all make the compromises that will allow us to move forward.

The following week, on 11 December 2018, the University’s financial statements were published, and the Notes to the Accounts for the year ended July 2018 show, on p. 2342, that the Vice-Chancellor’s total remuneration for the year was £428,000.

You will recall that the Vice-Chancellor said he wants us all to make compromises. The compromises that UCU and UNISON members – and indeed the overwhelming majority of staff of the University – are being forced to make are very clear: ten successive years of pay cuts, which means that our pay has dropped by 21 per cent in real terms since 2009.

In 2009 the remuneration for the office of Vice-Chancellor was £246,000.3 After ten years of annual real terms pay cuts imposed on us, the value of the remuneration for the office of Vice-Chancellor for 2018 compared to 2009 is more than 170 per cent.

As I said, our compromises are very clear. What compromises is the Vice-Chancellor making?

Dr D. R. Thomas (Department of Computer Science and Technology, Peterhouse and the West Cambridge Active Travel Group), read by the Junior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, in the Financial review it states of the Eddington development:

Phase 1 involved a peak cumulative investment by the University approaching £380m in 2017–18, as the bulk of rental income streams began.

However, it does not state the original budget. It is important for transparency to include such information as otherwise an overly positive view is shown. We need to be honest about what has worked well and what has not worked so well so that we do not repeat past mistakes.

The Financial Review also states:

The high-quality and environmentally-sustainable build specification, combined with a deliberately sub-market rental model, has resulted in a net revaluation of £(50.4)m below the book value.

This glosses over many things. One of those things is that the rental income was based on a proportion of staff salary and modelling of future rental income assumed that staff salary would increase at least in line with inflation. Consequently one of the reasons for this devaluation is the failure of the University to maintain the real value of staff salaries. There were a variety of other issues which unexpectedly increased costs or decreased revenues, many of which I am not privy to. The quoted statement gives the impression that the devaluation was intentional or unavoidable but I do not believe either of these to be the case.

The Financial Review later states:

While the University faces pressure on its pension schemes’ costs and risks (in particular, on the USS) and on staff costs more generally given the pay restraint of recent years, it is relatively well positioned in the sector to handle these potential challenges in the short term through the reprioritisation of funds.

The phrase ‘pay restraint’ is offensive to staff who have been subject to it; ‘given the pay cuts of recent years’ would be a much more accurate statement.

One of the listed responses to the risk area of

‘Inability to attract and retain the best academics and adequately resource professional and administrative staff’ is ‘The University is also focusing on the provision of transport, nursery schooling, and housing, with the Eddington development designed to ease pressures.’ This is an admirable goal. However, I note that while there are many good or even excellent aspects to the Eddington development in all these areas, there are also aspects of these where the quality of delivery is poor.

For example, while Phase 1 of Eddington has delivered two junctions of Eddington Avenue with Huntingdon Road and Madingley Road, a later phase will have to pay to completely rebuild these junctions as they are both dangerous to cyclists. The former contains a reverse‑s‑curve where an HGV’s rear section would crush a cyclist in the cycle lane even if the front section passed them safely. The latter puts cyclists heading straight on to High Cross to the left of left-turning motor traffic: inviting left hooks.

Hidden in the ‘Notes to the accounts for the year ended 31 July 2018’ there is a section on ‘Remuneration and pay ratios of the Vice-Chancellors’. This indicates that our current Vice-Chancellor is receiving both higher employer pension contributions than the previous Vice-Chancellor and £37k of payments made in lieu of pension. Annual pay for our current Vice-Chancellor in his first year is £36k more than the previous Vice-Chancellor received. This is equivalent to one full time employee on Grade 8, so our current Vice-Chancellor is one whole person more productive in his first year than the last Vice-Chancellor was in his last year. I find this improvement in reported productivity rather impressive.

However I also see that the total remuneration for key management personnel is up from £1,535k to £2,025k: the key management personnel got one whole Vice-Chancellor more productive in one year. An astounding achievement.

In the same period staff on the salary spine received a real terms pay cut, indicating that the University finances are in a bad shape. Consequently it does not appear that the key management personnel are deserving of a bonus if they are requiring all other staff to take a pay cut.

Report of the Council, dated 10 December 2018, on the age limit on membership of the Regent House and other related matters

(Reporter, 6531, 2018–19, p. 278).

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

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, it would be perverse of me not to welcome this Report for it endorses the suggestion I made in the Discussion in December 2010 of the Report of the Council on membership of the Regent House (age-limit). The Council had proposed extending the membership of the Regent House to a class of former members continuing in University employment beyond the age of 67 and quite probably beyond 70. Because of the age-limit of 70 it also proposed that, like Heads of Houses, the new class should be exempt from the limit.

I made no objection to the extension, observing only that what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander, and that there were some qualified Fellows of Colleges over the age of 70 who should then be exempted in the same way. But in the light of changing attitudes to age discrimination (the Equality Act was also 2010) I proposed the simple solution of removing the age-limit for all classes anyway. It had been introduced as recently as 1996.

There is no need to recite how successive Councils managed to spend eight years getting from there to here, for in a sequence of ‘Notes from Cambridge’ in the Oxford Magazine I have described it. To be specific, in numbers 386, 388, 394, 395, 399 and the current one 403.

Though I shall have one comment to make on the draft regulations, my main reason for speaking today is to view any consideration of the membership of the Regent House in the context of its long-term decline as an appropriate governing body for the University of Cambridge.

The Regent House was created in 1926 by the Statutory Commissioners appointed under the Oxford and Cambridge Act of 1923. Its primary purpose was to end the constitutional arrangements going back to the Act of 1856 under which the Senate, consisting of all Masters of Arts, wielded the power of voting on Graces, all the University’s decisions being taken by Grace. A Council of the Senate with the sole power and function of authorising the submission of the Graces was elected by the resident members of the Senate listed in an Electoral Roll.

But times were changing and financial pressures on the University were growing. A reform movement, started before the First World War, culminated in the Royal Commission of 1919 followed by the 1923 Act and the essentials of our present constitution. My contention is that the Regent House, the Senate’s successor as the governing body, is itself now too large and too widely-constituted for its present purpose. But to hold this view is not to oppose a particular change such as is proposed in this Report which is to be welcomed. Rather it affords an opportunity for a look at the causes of the expansion.

The Regent House has grown from an original 544 members to 5670 on the 2018 Roll. Established in the 1926 Statutes it consisted principally of two constituencies, the Heads and Fellows of the Colleges on the one hand, and the combined University Administrative and Teaching Officers as defined by the new Statutes on the other. The national interest was reflected in the fact that the University could only change Statutes subject to their approval by His Majesty in Council after having been laid before Parliament.

But the Statutes leaked. They stated that further Administrative Offices could be created by Ordinance as the need arose. So when in 1932 it was felt necessary to include in the Regent House the first two Assistant Directors of Research (ADR), Chadwick and Kapitza, and others similarly appointed on outside funds, the post of ADR, not being a University Office by Statute, was declared to be an Administrative Office by Ordinance. In 1934 the Statute itself was then changed so that not only Administrative Offices but Teaching Offices could henceforth be created by Ordinance. The post of ADR was subsequently joined by those of Assistant in Research (AR) (1938) and Senior Assistant in Research (SAR) (1952).

Although it was the custom to Grace each individual Teaching Office as the need arose, there was no such restriction for Administrative Offices, and by the time the two classes were combined into the single class of University Office in 1974 the Statutes had lost control of the membership of the Regent House. Today the Council can create as many administrative University Officers as it likes. In the 2017–18 Officers Number of the Reporter there were 426 administrative officers in the University offices (small ‘o’). The General Board can similarly add to the numbers.

It should also be mentioned that further opportunities for growth were built in from the start with particular categories, most importantly the teaching members of Faculties who were members of the Senate but neither University Officers nor College Fellows.

But the problem of research workers on outside grants would not go away. By 1977 they numbered about 450, and the General Board set up an ad hoc ‘Committee on research assistants’ to advise them what was to be done. Its members were Professor Sir Peter Swinnerton-Dyer, Professor Sir Brian Pippard and Professor Zangwill. They observed

Research assistants have no mention in the Statutes and Ordinances of the University, and the Committee consider that this is an anomalous situation for so large a body of people employed by the University, albeit in an unestablished capacity.

They recommended the adoption of titles for research assistants, ‘Senior Research Associate’ at the level of ADR and ‘Research Associate’ at the level of SAR and AR together.

In most respects these ‘appointments’, as they were called, were just the same as ADRs, etc., had been before they were absorbed into the University Office category, but they differed in one vital respect: they were not approved by the University by Ordinance. When the recommendations of the Committee were approved by the General Board they were modified on the recommendation of the Secretary General by the removal of the draft Regulations through which the proposed new titles would have entered Ordinances.

The resulting Notice that appeared in July 1977 proposed no legislation at all: the Board had created the titles of ‘Senior Research Associate’, ‘Research Associate’ and ‘Research Assistant’ without authority. And the Board was of the opinion that ‘it would be wholly inappropriate to propose changes in the Statutes to give research workers automatic membership of the University, or membership of the Regent House’.

The matter could hardly rest there. A class of University employees who were graduates and who held ‘appointments’ which appeared to have official titles was unlikely long to remain silent, and early in 1985 five members of the Regent House requested a Discussion in the Senate-House on the ‘Structure of the academic profession: terms and conditions of employment and status of contract research staff’. Dr T. D. Lamb was the lead speaker, and, addressing the question of status and the desire for membership of the Regent House, he suggested the creation of ‘one or more classes of University office ... into which to appoint academic research staff’ and he observed that this could be achieved by Ordinance.

The Council took nearly a year to reply, and when they did they would go no further than distancing themselves from the General Board’s 1977 opinion to the extent of suggesting that perhaps just the Senior Research Associates might be granted membership of the Regent House, and they promised to prepare a short Report. This appeared on 30 April 1986, proposing an ingenious route for admitting SRAs to the Regent House without actually mentioning them in Statutes and Ordinances.

The Council’s Byzantine scheme was to add a new class to Statute A, II, 3 (Membership of the Senate) and a new Ordinance about the Status of Master of Arts giving SRAs that status and thus membership of the Senate, contingent on SRAs being approved by Grace as appointments for the purpose of the new class. As members of the Senate, they could then be made members of Faculties and thus of the Regent House.

I pointed out in the Discussion that this would not work, because the Grace was legislative and not just an Order, and therefore would be an Ordinance for SRAs, which was what the Council was trying to avoid. SRAs were only to be mentioned in footnotes saying they had been approved under this scheme. Like Dr Lamb, I suggested that SRAs should be made University Officers instead, in their case ADRs, the post which, sixty years earlier, had been created precisely for this purpose.

Of course my fear was that from this small beginning a new class would grow consisting of people in unestablished posts who, it seemed to me, should not be members of the Regent House because of the large numbers likely to be involved in the future. The November 1985 Roll already had about 3,080 members.

The Council was unmoved. SRAs ended up in a footnote in Ordinances as planned (with the ultimate status symbol, an entry in the index). In the 1995 Statutes and Ordinances there was further progress: the footnote in Ordinances was replaced with a footnote which referred to a new footnote in Statutes: SRAs had finally achieved the status of a statutory footnote by an editorial adjustment.

Meanwhile, the General Board had been quietly promoting Graces adding to SRA in the footnote. By 1991 ‘Lecturer (unestablished)’ and ‘Assistant Lecturer (unestablished)’ had been added, and by 1995 the new footnote in Statutes included ‘Research Professors’ and ‘Research Associates’, duly indexed. The next year, 1996, ‘Reader (unestablished)’ appeared. In November 1995 the Roll contained 3,521 names, and the following year, with the new age-limit in force, 3,299.

As we have seen, it is now 5,670, too large to be an effective and responsible governing body. Just as the reforms of the 1920s replaced the Senate by a Regent House a fraction of its size, now once again a smaller body is necessary. Nor can the present size be held since the processes for adding further members and categories of member are quite out of Statutory control. No argument is ever advanced as to why a new category should join the governing body. If being employed by the University seems now to be justification enough, what about the Assistant Staff?

Before the advent of postal and then electronic voting senior administrators would sometimes voice their fear of an ambush in the Senate-House by a determined group of voters. But it never happened. With electronic campaigning and voting and an oversize Regent House it certainly can and probably will. I made this point in ‘Notes from Cambridge’, Oxford Magazine, Fifth week, Michaelmas Term 2014, in connection with proposals for introducing electronic voting for the Senate’s election of the next Chancellor:

[it] would make it too easy for a determined and computer-literate group to mount a politically-motivated campaign for their chosen candidate whilst most of the ‘international alumni’ expressed no interest.

Sounds familiar? The danger in the present Regent House is that this process can accentuate the ease with which a particular interest-group gets its way, which may not be in the interests of the University.

Finally, a comment on the phrase ‘active participants in the University’s affairs’ in the draft Special Ordinance. It first appeared in the notorious proposal to remove from the Regent House the Fellows of the Colleges qualified qua Fellows. It was supposed by many, including me, to mean actively participating in University governance (‘the University’s affairs’). The flysheet arguing against the amendment that had introduced it remarked on this and the lack of a definition. But eventually it became obvious that in the minds of the Council it meant ‘working for the University’. Moreover it evidently included those College officers who were doing work that in another university would be a university responsibility. It was as if the ‘work’ of the Oxford and Cambridge Colleges was contracted to their Universities.

Caveant collegia.

Mr T. N. Milner (Darwin College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I make these remarks in a personal capacity and merely wish to raise the case of College Chaplains in relation to membership category (f). In many Colleges Chaplains will be Fellows and qualify as such, but in some I believe it is custom or policy that even if full-time and playing a significant pastoral role, they should not be Fellows. That is of course entirely a matter for the College concerned. Nevertheless, noting that persons holding the office of Tutor, Assistant Tutor, Steward or Bursar or Assistant Bursar; or College Lecturer (if held full time in a College or Colleges) qualify for membership regardless of any Fellowship, might Chaplain also qualify? Appointments may be part-time or shared between Colleges, so inclusion in the same manner as College Lecturers, i.e. if full-time, might be appropriate?

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

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the introduction to the Oxford and Cambridge Act 1877 spoke about the need to adjust the ways in which college Fellowships were to be ‘attached’ to Offices in the University and also ‘to make provision for regulating the tenure and advantages of fellowships not so attached, and for altering the conditions on which the same are held’.

It seems worth putting on record a lingering concern about the failure of the University so far to meet the need envisaged in 1877. University Teaching Officer was the standard academic appointment a generation ago. While I am happy to see the practical solutions which have been arrived at in the present Report, the changes it recommends have surely been made the more necessary only by an enormous increase in the proportion of academic staff in unestablished posts?

Surely the way the University is to respond to this trend needs hard thought and more careful review? If a University Teaching Office with its constitutional protections is no longer to be the academic norm the consequences for the work of the University in teaching and research are likely need active monitoring. As it is, the General Board’s Annual Report discussed today mentions ‘emerging risks regarding the longer-term sustainability of research at the University’.

Dr A. J. Hutchings (Department of Computer Science and Technology), read by the Senior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am a University Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and Technology. I was a member of the University Council until my resignation on 29 October 2018. I resigned on principle as I believe that the requirement for three years’ service for Research Associates and Computer Associates to be eligible for Regent House membership is discriminatory and therefore unlawful.

I welcome the changes proposed in paragraph 4 of this Report, namely the inclusion of a grandfathering clause, to ensure that existing Regents would not be disenfranchised, and the removal of the requirement that service be continuous. However, as stated in my letter of resignation, these changes do not alter the discriminatory nature of the qualifying period.

First, under the Fixed Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations, those on fixed-term contracts – such as Research Associates – cannot be treated less favourably than other employees. If there is a qualifying period for those on fixed-term contracts, there must be a qualifying period for all members of the Regent House.

Second, the amendment introduces age discrimination, through the use of a qualifying period, and, as women are less likely to qualify as Regents (the retention of women in higher education is negatively correlated with seniority), indirect gender discrimination, as defined in the Equality Act. The arguments for a qualifying period before enfranchising Research Associates are baseless and are not supported by the evidence. Not only are they without merit, they are also not proportionate, and do not support a legitimate aim. Therefore, they are not valid justifications for discrimination under the Equality Act.

For these reasons, I requested a review of the amended Grace under Statute A IX 1(a), on the basis that it is unlawful. The Vice-Chancellor is required to give his decision ‘promptly but in any event within three months’. This has not yet happened, but I look forward to receiving the response within the next week.

In my view, the qualifying period should be removed entirely, and all Research Associates should be enfranchised. If the qualifying period were in place five years ago, I would not have been entitled to stand for election to the University Council, as at the time I had been a Research Associate for little under a year. Furthermore, the University would not have benefited from the contributions made by some of my excellent colleagues, including serving on the Board of Scrutiny, remarking at Discussions, signing fly-sheets, Graces, and amendments. This has often involved spending considerable personal time working to address issues that have been overlooked, with outcomes that have been positive for the entire academic community. They have been actively involved, in contrast to many academic Regents.

I know many research staff who are constructively engaged with governance and policy matters. We should be ensuring that research staff, who so wish to make positive contributions to this academic community, are not left out. Let us not forget that this university attracts some of the best and brightest minds. Let’s include them in governance, not exclude them. I argue that we should ensure all Research Associates are members of the Regent House, with no qualifying period.

As a community of academic scholars, we should all be valuing the contributions made by our research staff. One regular complaint I heard from those who attempt to contribute is that they felt their input was not being acknowledged or taken into consideration. On a personal level, I can relate to these apprehensions. I raised the issue of discrimination for the amended Grace repeatedly, at the University Council and the Governance Review Working Group. I felt that my concerns were not engaged with and the overall response was dismissive, if not hostile. In the future the University Council can do better to ensure that its policies and actions are not discriminatory or unlawful.

Professor R. J. Anderson (Department of Computer Science and Technology and Churchill College), read by the Senior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I support Dr Hutchings’ view that the exclusion of junior staff from the Regent House amounted to unlawful discrimination and I hope that this House will revisit the issue in the light of the review requested from the Vice-Chancellor under Statute A IX. If there is to be a qualifying period, it should apply to all – including not just postdocs but University Teaching Officers and senior administrators too. Limiting Regent House membership to staff in grade 9 and above, as some propose, would do even more harm to the gender balance.

It is our postdocs who do much, if not most, of the work in research and scholarship that constitutes our core mission and that brings in much of the money. It is our postdocs who are most exposed to economic hardship, and who are the focus of much of our policy activity, from subsidised housing through childcare. That the Council’s action was unlawful is bad enough; that it harms our mission makes it worse still.

Dr S. R. Kell (Department of Computer Science and Technology and Christ’s College), read by the Senior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, my remarks concern the changes to the eligibility of Research Associates for membership of the Regent House. I commend the Council for its move to grandfather existing Regents and to drop the requirement for continuous service. I would like to echo Dr Rutter’s remarks of 23 October 2018 (in the Discussion of the Board of Scrutiny’s latest Report) that the recent and ongoing changes should not be perceived as binding by the Governance Review. Rather, they have been an interim measure triggered by unusual circumstances. Since those circumstances are not yet a matter of record, I would like briefly to explain them here.

At the Discussion on 20 February 2018 of the Report on membership of the Regent House for Directors of Research and Principal Research Associates, I queried why this matter was being given special priority when it surely fell under the remit of the ongoing Governance Review. I noted an apparent double standard, whereby retirees from University offices were being given a priority that was not clearly due, while the rights of Research Associates languished in an unsatisfactory state. Since Council failed to respond meaningfully to my Remarks, I gathered the necessary signatures for an Amendment which would enfranchise all Research Associates. On presenting my Amendment, I was asked by the University Draftsman whether I realised that the Report’s changes were not only being made for the reasons given in the Report but also because of the risk of legal challenge, of which mention had been deliberately omitted. Indeed I did not. How could I, when this fact had been deliberately omitted? Noting that my earlier remarks had attracted a mysteriously content-free response, with Council not even taking the opportunity to remind me of this supposedly hypothetical legal risk, the sudden priority accorded to this issue remains unexplained and inexplicable by what has been disclosed to us. I will let others decide whether this is an acceptable way for a supposedly democratic University to do its business.

The rest is well known, culminating in the ballot on Grace 1 of 27 June 2018. Since even the proponents of the accepted Amendment consider it to be imperfect, I would be happy to see the Governance Review address those imperfections that remain, which the modest improvements in the present Report only begin to address. In particular, I note that the last time a qualifying period was discussed, in 2003, it met with many objections that remain valid.

When we debate the rights afforded to the holders of certain posts, we are necessarily debating a reaction, or lack thereof, to a funding regime which creates such low-status posts in large quantities. I was astonished to read the claim, in a fly-sheet to the same ballot, that ‘UK science funding is responsible for this, not the University’. Of course it’s nothing to do with us; we only take the money. This complacency shows a deep failure to connect present circumstances with the systemic effects which underlie them.

Among the other dubious arguments in favour of the qualifying period is the willingness to confuse commitment with contractual position. Dr Hutchings, in her letter of resignation from Council, has raised the question of whether the qualifying period is illegal under the law around fixed-term contracts. I would draw attention to a different legal question relating to Research Associates, many of whom are in fact on so-called ‘permanent’ or open-ended contracts – as a function of EU laws whose stated aim is to prevent the abuse of fixed-term contracts. When a Research Associate in the University receives such an open-ended contract, it comes with a letter detailing the expected date on which funding will be exhausted. However, in practice this date may be chosen by the grant-holder; it need not reflect the actual availability of funding. By choosing these dates conservatively, Principal Investigators are acting rationally to maximise their control of future spending. However, the wider system which permits this arbitrary date-picking has the effect of allowing the very abusive behaviours which the legislation was intended to prevent. Aside from the obvious artificial scarcity of job security, such date-picking could presumably be used, for example, to curtail paid maternity leave by artificially initiating redundancy.

These problems and others arise from a funding model based on overly thin slicing of money. I wager that even those of us who are academics would, when pushed, mostly agree that this is not only bad for staff but bad for research outcomes. As a leading recipient of these thinly-sliced grants, Cambridge has a moral duty to show leadership. It is not good enough to repeat blandly that research staff are important. I therefore ask Council what representations the University has recently made, and what representations it plans to make, to the UK government and/or its Research Councils and Funding Councils on this subject. I am referring specifically to the subject of future changes to funding policy, to be made with the intention of inducing healthier career structures at early- and mid-career stages.

Dr D. R. Thomas (Department of Computer Science and Technology, Peterhouse and the West Cambridge Active Travel Group), read by the Senior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the removal of the requirement for continuous service and the grandfathering of existing members of the Regent House is welcome. However, the proposed strategy for people to indicate they have three years non-continuous service is probably sub-optimal as the lists of members are initially put together by departmental secretaries and it would probably be more straightforward if the departmental secretaries were to ask the Research Associates in their departments with less than three years continuous service if they had more than three years non-continuous service. This way Research Associates would become aware of the fact that they could be eligible whereas if there is a form which you have to seek out then a Research Associate would not know they should go looking for it unless they had read the Statutes and Ordinances for fun.

However, the proposed criterion for Research Associates and Computer Associates remain unlawful under both the Fixed-term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations and the Equality Act. My understanding is that the University acknowledges that the proposals before the Regent House today are still unlawful. Hence, I will preemptively outline why a likely candidate policy would be a bad idea. The Clinical School’s approach to Regent House membership was to include those on Grade 9 or above (and so exclude Research Associates on Grade 7 who would otherwise have been included by default). This was a bad policy. Research Associates can be promoted to Grade 9 Senior Research Associates if they meet the eligibility criteria and there is adequate funding and their Principal Investigator (PI) is willing to spend that available funding on an increase in salary. Hence, many Research Associates may be eligible to be Senior Research Associates if their area of research was better funded or if their PI was more generous. As a consequence a Grade 9 restriction would discriminate on the basis of gender (due to our gender pay gap) and field. The way to attract and retain diverse and excellent staff is not to exclude staff from University democracy on the basis of funding availability.

Having said all that, there is also no evidence of any problems being caused by Research Associates being members of the Regent House, as they have been for many years. There is evidence of many benefits. Continuing efforts to exclude Research Associates and Computer Associates are backward.

Report of the Council, dated 10 December 2018, on members co-opted to the Finance Committee

(Reporter, 6531, 2018–19, p. 280).

No remarks were made on this Report.

Report of the Council, dated 10 December 2018, on the governance of the remuneration of the Vice-Chancellor and senior post-holders and other pay-related matters

(Reporter, 6532, 2018–19, p. 297).

Mr D. J. Goode (Faculty of Divinity, Wolfson College and Chair of the Board of Scrutiny):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am making these remarks in a personal capacity.

It is extraordinary to see a Report published by the Council which is signed by only fourteen of its members, with a Note of Dissent signed by eight members. One would have thought that this, in itself, would have given the Council pause for thought; but seemingly not, the fourteen Council members have pressed on, and here we are discussing a Report of the Council which was supported by barely more than half of its members.

That the Council should be proposing to continue concealing from the University the total remuneration of all but a handful of senior post-holders, and to introduce a policy for making unspecified financial inducements to obtain external members for committees, at all, never mind at precisely the same time that members of the University and College Union are being balloted on taking action against the imposition on the overwhelming majority of staff of a tenth successive year of pay cuts – with our pay now worth, in real terms, 21 per cent less than it was in 2009 – seems to me to be in very poor taste.

Dr N. J. Holmes (Department of Pathology and University Council):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am a member of the University Council but the remarks I am making today are given in a personal capacity.

I signed a Note of Dissent to this Report and I want to take this opportunity to explain to Regents why I did so. This is the first time I have felt compelled to sign a Note of Dissent. I would not do so lightly, but this time I believe that Council are leading you entirely in the wrong direction. Transparency and openness are principles which I hold dear and which I promised to advance. On both counts, I must try to correct what I perceive as a basic error in these proposals.

I have no quarrel with the majority of the Report’s proposals. You will read that this Report presages another reform, whereby the responsibility for scrutinising, and approving or otherwise, market payments to most grade 12 staff is planned to transfer from Council to the Human Resources Committee, more specifically to a new sub-committee of the Human Resources Committee, tentatively called the Pay Committee in the Terms of Reference of the Council’s Remuneration Committee, which this Report seeks to add to Ordinances.

So, while it is not fully articulated in this Report, it is intended that in the near future the Council’s Remuneration Committee will focus on a much smaller group comprising our most senior role-holders, those reporting directly to the Vice-Chancellor along with the Vice-Chancellor him- (or her-) self. The result of this refocusing, along with the plan to make consideration of the remuneration of these few senior role-holders comprehensive, will be that Council will in future be directly responsible for setting the remuneration of only ten or so people. Because I do not expect there to be a reconsideration of the remuneration of these role-holders frequently, it seems likely that at most only two or three decisions will be required each year in respect of the senior role-holders (the Remuneration Committee has and will have other duties as set out in the Terms of reference). Why then should Council not make the decisions in respect of the senior role-holders’ remuneration on the recommendation of its Remuneration Committee? The volume of business is certainly low enough for Council to cope. Why is it thought necessary to delegate the decisions to the Remuneration Committee rather that task that body with making recommendations?

Here we come to the area where the Report reduces transparency. Naturally, all discussion at Council concerning the remuneration of individuals is confidential. However, I do not think it is indiscreet of me to say that in the past four years, Council have discussed the remuneration of Vice-Chancellors, both present and former, and market payments to some other senior role holders. I believe that Council have handled these matters in a responsible, respectful and sensible manner. Yet, as I read the Terms of Reference, except for approving a range on appointment, in future we will not discuss any role-holders’ remuneration other than the Vice‑Chancellor’s. I think that a few moments thought will show Regents that any serious consideration of market payments is impossible unless one compares the total remuneration with market benchmarks, so the statement at paragraph 6.3 of the Terms of Reference will prevent any meaningful scrutiny by Council.

Indeed paragraph 6.3 suggests that not only will Council not be asked to approve any details of the remuneration of most of these senior post-holders, we will only be told in general terms what decisions have been made on our behalf by the Remuneration Committee. Precisely what Council will be told is actually a little opaque and more transparency would certainly be welcome here.

I want now to consider the wider context. There has been much comment in the press and elsewhere about senior pay in Universities. At one point last year, the Universities Minister suggested that all staff salaries above £150k p.a. should be reported. In the end, the Office for Students backed down from this. The UK government publish a good deal of salary information about public servants. The Scottish government go a good deal further and have a website devoted to ‘pay transparency’1 with links to data on the pay of all senior civil servants and staff in non-departmental public bodies. All quoted UK companies provide details of their Directors’ remuneration and in fact all private companies disclose full Directors’ remuneration in their accounts filed at Companies House which are available to anyone for a pound. Charities are obliged to disclose all payments to trustees in respect of their duties as trustees. The University does not pay its trustees (which the Charity Commission take to be the members of Council) for acting as such, but for the avoidance of doubt, if the University did decide to disclose the remuneration of those trustees who are employees, I would welcome the increase in openness.

The point is that all the trends, especially in respect of public or quasi-public bodies, have been for more openness and disclosure. Council often hear a lot about ensuring that our ‘direction of travel’ is in the right direction. Well I suggest that this time we have got it entirely wrong and that this Report is taking us in the wrong direction.

Next week will see the publication of the University’s Equal Pay Review and Mandatory Gender Pay Gap Report. They do not make comfortable reading. I believe that secrecy around pay has hindered progress on gender pay equality. Statistics are one thing, but when you know that your close colleagues are treated differently, it makes the focus sharp. The BBC has shown that this often leads to action.

In summary then, I make a heartfelt plea to my fellow members of Council who signed this Report to think again. If the Council can exercise its responsibility to approve the remuneration of the Vice-Chancellor, then I believe it can also do the same in respect of the handful of senior post‑holders for whom it will remain responsible. Eight members of Council signed a Note of Dissent to this effect while fourteen signed the Report. If anything, the fact that five of the eleven Regent House-elected members dissented while six consented, should cause Regent House members to think seriously whether this Report is taking us in the right direction.

Dr S. J. Cowley (Faculty of Mathematics, Emmanuel College and University Council), read by Dr Holmes:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am a member of the Council but I speak in a personal capacity.

I was one of those that drafted the Note of Dissent to this Report, and I was one of eight signatories. As stated in the Note, I welcome the publication of the Remuneration Committee’s Terms of Reference, but I do not believe that those Terms of Reference are aligned with the third principle of the Higher Education Senior Staff Remuneration Code of the Committee of University Chairs, namely ‘transparency and accountability’.

As my fellow member of the Council, Dr Nick Holmes, notes, at one point the Universities Minister at the time suggested that all staff salaries above £150,000 p.a. should be reported. In the end, the Committee of University Chairs and the Office for Students bottled out, or should that be were lobbied out. The government publishes pay ceilings and floors (a £5,000 band) of senior civil servants and senior officials in departments, agencies and non-departmental public bodies earning £150,000 and above, while the BBC publishes details of expenses, gifts and hospitality and declarations of personal interests for all senior managers who earn £150,000 or more.

Personally I believe that the University should take the lead from the government and publish the total remuneration, possibly in the £5,000 band, of all senior post-holders. At the very least, the remuneration of senior post-holders should continue to be disclosed to the Council, but I would prefer if it was the Council that both determined the remuneration and conditions of service, and approved incentive schemes and the severance terms, of senior post-holders. I would hope that the Regent House would support that view.

In the interests of transparency, I also support the publication of the remuneration of those members of the Council (who as such are Charity Trustees), who are paid by the University. Indeed, the University maintains a ‘Register of Interests’ of members of the Council, and for the ten years that I have been a member of the Council I have voluntarily and routinely declared my University salary (sadly much less than £150,000). For those that are interested, my entry can be found online.

Professor R. J. Anderson (Department of Computer Science and Technology and Churchill College), read by the Deputy Senior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, along with seven Council colleagues, I dissented from this Report.

While the details of individual pay negotiations are at present confidential, I can tell this House that on three of the four previous occasions when the Remuneration Committee brought to Council a proposal for a pay increase for one or more senior office-holders, we voted to reduce it. In one of these cases, the reduction we ordered was almost completely offset by a payment made in lieu of pension contributions.

I served a total of twelve years on Council, and in all this time the Remuneration Committee seemed to be constituted, as if by magic, of people who are more sympathetic to senior pay arguments than the Council as a whole. And I believe that the Council is more inclined to be sympathetic than the average member of this House might be. The outcome is that senior pay increases at an accelerating rate, just as our colleagues in astronomy tell us is happening to the size of the universe. I will leave it to scholars of politics and of public-choice economics to work out what kind of dark energy might be responsible in the terrestrial case.

The only control that appears likely to work is shame. Regents should learn the salaries of all the senior management team; not just the Vice-Chancellor, but the Pro-Vice-Chancellors, the Registrary, the Chief Financial Officer and the Chief Investment Officer, for starters. In fact I would propose that their salaries be Graced so that Regents could vote on an amendment if this should ever appear to be needful.

Dr R. Charles (University Information Services, Newnham College and University Council), read by the Deputy Senior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am one of the eight members of Council who dissented from this Report. Our note of dissent makes it clear that we view this as a matter of transparency.

More often than I would like the Council is informed that it is necessary to make additional pay awards to individual senior academic or administrative staff through the market pay mechanism. We are always assured that such payments are imperative for recruitment or retention, reflecting the dedicated service and exceptional value of each individual’s endeavours at the University. This practice is by no means confined to the small number of most senior posts mentioned in the Report before us, and extends further across the University.

I have observed to the Council that the same characteristics of dedication and relentless hard work hold true for many hundreds of our academic, academic-related and assistant staff who are rewarded solely in accordance with the University’s published salary scale. Over the past decade median salaries in British universities have declined in real terms between 11.4% (measured by CPI) and 17.4% (measured by RPI). In September, as in many previous years, our staff received a below inflation ‘pay rise’ of 2%. The matter of providing, in the words the Report ‘a fair, appropriate and justifiable level of remuneration; procedural fairness; and transparency and accountability’ must extend across the full range of University stipends.

Dr S. C. James (Faculty of History, Christ’s College and President of Cambridge University and College Union), read by the Deputy Senior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, in June of last year, the Committee of University Chairs published a ‘Higher Education Senior Staff Remuneration Code’ (hereafter ‘the Code’) with a view to

promoting transparency around how resources are used in our sector and to ensuring that the pay of the most senior staff in universities is fair.1

While the reforms proposed in this Report comply with the letter of the Code, it cannot be said that they are consistent with its spirit. Indeed, the Code itself is insufficient to secure the outcomes at which it aims, since key aspects were weakened in the course of its drafting, and its basic aspirations not translated into detailed recommendations.

The Code was introduced in response to revelations that some Vice-Chancellors were being paid more than £400,000 per annum at a time of high student debt and stagnating wages for the majority of higher education staff.2 It identified three basic elements of fair and appropriate remuneration: ‘(1) a fair, appropriate and justifiable level of remuneration; (2) procedural fairness; and (3) transparency and accountability’.

A 2017 draft of the Code characterised the Code’s third ‘element’ – transparency and accountability – as a prerequisite of informed debate, reading as follows:

Transparency will increase the confidence, support and participation of stakeholders and all parties concerned with an institution. Greater transparency, disclosure and explanation will allow a more rational and informed debate on remuneration, and enable stakeholders to hold institutions to account. Accountability also reassures, and challenges, thereby ensuring better decision making.3

The 2017 draft Code’s discussion of ‘transparency and accountability’ further asserted that:

To reflect the collegial nature of institutions and the fact that institutions’ success is the product of collective efforts by the staff, the process for determining senior post holders’ remuneration needs to take account of the relationship between senior post holders’ remuneration and that of all other employees. In that context, aggregate senior post holder remuneration would normally be expected to increase no faster than the average of all HEI staff.4 (emphasis added)

On the remuneration of Vice-Chancellors specifically as a multiple of median earnings of the whole workforce,5 the 2017 draft noted that more than 80% of institutions currently paid their Vice-Chancellors 4.5 to 8.5 times that median, and asserted that institutions wishing to go beyond such a multiple could expect to be asked for special justification by both stakeholders and their regulator.6

Even in the 2017 draft, there were signs of a troubling gap between high-level vision and detailed recommendations, particularly in the narrow focus of the latter on the post of Vice-Chancellor. The final, briefer version of the Code, published in 2018, however, lacks even the high-level vision of its predecessor.

The discussion of ‘transparency’ in grounding informed discussion across the University and beyond has been pared back, with the word ‘debate’ no longer mentioned. The recognition that ‘accountability’ is about the substance as well as the transparency of decisions – specifically, that ‘aggregate senior post holder remuneration would normally be expected to increase no faster than the average of all HEI staff’7 – has gone. Instead, it is merely suggested that

[s]enior post holder remuneration should be determined in the context of each institution’s approach to rewarding all of its staff, and […] consideration should be given annually to the rate of increase of the average remuneration of all other staff.’8 (emphasis added)

A suggested rule of thumb for the outcome of remuneration decisions has thus been translated into a matter merely of process, the consequential effect of which may well be zero.

Similarly, where the 2017 draft mentioned a specific range of 4.5–8.5 for the multiple of Vice-Chancellor-to-median pay, the final 2018 Code said only that ‘[i]nstitutions will adopt a range for their chosen pay multiples that they regard as acceptable’, with those in the top quintile needing to ‘provide additional explanations […] as to why this is desirable’.9 For reference, total remuneration of the Cambridge Vice-Chancellor is currently 12.4 times the median total remuneration of staff, up from 9.9 for the previous Vice-Chancellor.10

Current proposals for governance of senior post-holder pay in this University fall short of the spirit of even the weakened 2018 Code. Proposed revised terms of reference for the Remuneration Committee make no effort to ensure that senior post-holder pay remains in some reasonable relation to that of pay across the wider University, while they limit even the reporting of the Remuneration Committee’s business, either to the University as a whole or to Council.

In particular, they provide that, even in reporting to Council, ‘no individual’s salary figures shall be stated other than when reporting to the Council the salary figures of the Vice-Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor-Elect.’11 A member of the Council can request to see Remuneration Committee papers on application to the Secretary, for the purposes of discharging his or her duties as a Council member;12 and the University publishes annually lists of the number of individuals receiving more than £100,000 p.a. (divided into various increments), but the precise salary of senior post-holders other than the Vice-Chancellor or Vice-Chancellor-Elect will not be routinely communicated to Council. This appears inconsistent not only with the spirit of the Code but with a condition on which Council delegates authority to the Remuneration Committee, namely that ‘the Council shall receive regular written reports of decisions made under that delegated authority’.13

In the short term, as the eight Council members who dissented from the Council Report argue

[C]hanges to the Remuneration Committee should increase transparency rather than reducing it, and the practice used in the case of the Vice-Chancellor’s remuneration should be followed for other senior post-holders. At the very least, the remuneration of senior post-holders should continue to be disclosed to the Council (since delegation does not relieve Council of the responsibility for the decisions).14

The letter of the Code focuses largely on the Vice-Chancellor, yet remuneration granted to other senior post-holders – including at Cambridge the Pro-Vice-Chancellors, the Chief Financial Officer, Investment Office staff, and project staff for the North West Cambridge development –is of just as much concern to staff and the larger community as is the Vice-Chancellor’s pay. If there are reasons for the salaries of these senior post-holders to be withheld, these reasons are not cited in the Report. They should be articulated and debated.


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

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, listening to these interesting remarks on this Report takes me back some twenty-five years when, as a member of the Council, I sat through meetings discussing the stipend of the Vice-Chancellor.

The problem was put to us that when we employed seven-year Vice-Chancellors – of which there was the immediate prospect after the Wass Report – it would be necessary that negotiation would have to take place between the University and applicants to the office on the question of stipend. Some of us did not agree with that procedure and so we pointed out that the stipend of the Vice-Chancellor was, since he was a University officer, determined by the Regent House and that there was a regulation which made that take effect. So the Council decided that the regulation would have to be changed and a Grace was put up to do that.

The Council itself called a ballot, and I wrote and promoted the only non-placet flysheet. It was a time when voting in person in the Senate-House had just ceased and it must have been one of the first occasions on which there was a postal vote. I think the total vote was something like 1,000 or 1,100. I lost the vote by thirteen votes.1


  • 1The result of the ballot on Grace 2 of 15 May 1991 was confirmed as: placet 650, non-placet 637; the Grace, ballot result and fly-sheets are published at Reporter, 1990–91, pp. 655, 867 and 888 respectively.