Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6573

Wednesday 22 January 2020

Vol cl No 15

pp. 192–292

Annual Reports of the Council and the General Board

Annual Report of the Council for the academic year 2018–19

The Council begs leave, in accordance with Statute A IV 1(c), to report to the University as follows:


The Council presents this Annual Report on its work for the academic year 2018–19 to the University. The Report is delivered in three sections. The first section focuses on the main strategic developments that have engaged the Council and its committees; the second part includes brief reports of the work of some of the Council’s committees and working groups; and the third part provides an overview of changes to the University’s Statutes and Ordinances, committee membership and senior positions. The Council’s Report should be read in parallel to the Annual Report of the General Board to the Council for the academic year 2018–19 (p. 202), which sets out the University’s academic activities overseen by the Board and its committees in 2018–19.

I. Strategic Developments

Strategic Priorities Framework

The Council discussed an early draft of the Vice‑Chancellor’s Strategic Priorities Framework in September 2018. This Framework seeks to set out fundamental opportunities and risks for the University of Cambridge over the next decade or so, and to highlight specific initiatives and actions needed to seize those opportunities and to mitigate the risks. It draws insight from many conversations across the collegiate University, especially the University-wide ‘mycambridge’ consultations that took place in 2017–18.

In April 2019, the Council drew on a revised draft of the Priorities Framework to help identify the top priorities for action. In July 2019, following further refinement, the Council saw a first draft ‘programmes of action’ for the next three years. Over the summer, the Vice-Chancellor circulated the draft programme to various groups for consultation and the senior leadership team met to discuss the draft alongside indicative costings. An updated version with an outline of costings returned to the Council in September 2019.

Financial matters

Financial sustainability

During the year, the Council and the senior leadership team considered how the budget deficit could be managed and how the University could move towards a more sustainable financial position. To be sustainable, the University needs to match costs and revenues over time, generate a sufficient overall surplus to invest in people and facilities, and decide where to prioritise its spending and investment.

The Council welcomed a paper from the Chief Financial Officer, setting out some preliminary ideas and illustrative figures as to how the financial position of the University could be improved by generating significant income streams. Work is also ongoing to establish more effective processes for prioritising capital projects so that the commitments made are affordable. Planning for the next several years will be informed by the development of a draft ‘Priorities Framework’ (see above), which sets out fundamental opportunities and risks for the University.

However, major challenges remain, including: the ongoing changes to government policy impacting student fees; the affordability of local housing, making it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain the best staff and students; risks arising from the prolonged Brexit uncertainties; and significant pressures around pay and pension costs.

Nonetheless, the Council recognised that the University remains comparatively well-positioned in the higher education sector to deal with financial risks. Total University income has grown substantially over the last five years and revenue streams are well diversified. These revenue sources provide significant resilience, as does the strong and liquid balance sheet that guards against short-term shocks and provides the scope to make the necessary operating adjustments.

University budget

The higher education sector continues to face a number of uncertainties that could have budgetary implications, particularly around the future of tuition fees, following the publication of the Post-18 review of education and funding. The financial forecasts in the 2019 Budget Report broadly reflect the University’s status quo; they do not yet include any assumptions about deterioration, for example in the event of a significant reduction in income from tuition fees, nor improvements arising from strategic action by the University. Against this backdrop of an uncertain financial environment, the Chest deficit is forecast to improve relative to the 2018 Report, but overall operating deficits are forecast to remain within a range of between £35m and £41m across the planning period.

While the financial position is manageable in the short-term, it remains vital to identify where to prioritise the University’s spending and investment, constrain and reduce expenditure, and generate new and additional income. The Council emphasised that efforts to reduce costs should be given at least equal weight to the efforts to increase income streams. It also welcomed both the work on developing options to improve the financial position of the University and the steps undertaken to enhance its approach to long-term financial planning and budgeting. The Planning and Resources Committee approved a revised process for agreeing the budget for 2020–21.

Carbon-neutral futures

Last academic year, in its response to the findings of the Divestment Working Group (DWG), the Council agreed a three-part strategy to enable the transition to a global carbon-neutral future. The three parts comprise: the implementation of a policy of considered divestment; a commitment to support further research into the emerging field of environmental impact investment; and the establishment of a Centre for a Carbon Neutral Future (now known as Cambridge Zero1). During 2018–19, the Council received updates on the progress made towards implementing its response to the DWG recommendations throughout the year.

The Council strongly endorsed the emphasis in the DWG’s report on bringing together the multiple strands of research on sustainable energy, taking place across the University, through creating a Centre for a Carbon Neutral Future. In April 2019, climate scientist Dr Emily Shuckburgh OBE was appointed as the Initiative’s first Director. Dr Shuckburgh has spent her first months in post meeting with key stakeholders and developing a strategy for the Initiative. The Council notes that the formal launch of the Initiative will take place during Michaelmas Term 2019.

Separately, Dr Ellen Quigley was appointed to work with the Chief Financial Officer to establish a programme of research into responsible investment. The research programme considers the practical actions that the University and Colleges could take in relation to land use, impact investing, active ownership, risk assessment, and energy efficiency. The Council also commissioned Dr Quigley to produce a report examining the advantages and disadvantages of a policy of divestment after receiving a Grace on this matter in April 2019. The Council will publish its report or a progress update by 16 October 2019.

As part of its response to the DWG’s report, the Council also asked the Environmental Sustainability Strategy Committee (ESSC) to consider whether it was feasible for the University to become carbon-neutral by 2040. The Council received the ESSC’s report in June 2019. It welcomed its findings and accepted its recommendation to adopt a 1.5 degrees Science Based Target for carbon reduction, making it the first University in the world to do so, and to commit to the University being zero-carbon by 2048.

Student matters

Access and participation

The University and its Colleges are committed to improving access to, and widening participation in, higher education. The University set out how it intends to attract and support students in applying to, and studying at, Cambridge, in its 2020–25 Access and Participation Plan (APP).2 The Plan contains a number of ambitious and challenging targets on admissions that will further diversify the University’s intake by school type, POLAR43 and Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) quintile. Key targets include: a target of 16.6% for students from POLAR quintiles 1 and 2 (i.e. the 40% of postcodes which have the lowest participation rates in higher education); a target of 21.2% for students from IMD quintiles 1 and 2; and a state/maintained sector target of 69.1%. The Council approved the APP for submission to the Office for Students (OfS) and thanked everybody involved in preparing the Plan for their work. The OfS subsequently informed the Council of its ‘provisional decision’ to approve the University’s APP, with two conditions attached, which the Council accepted.

The Council also received an annual report on undergraduate and postgraduate admissions for the completed 2017–18 cycle. During the 2017–18 undergraduate admissions cycle, applications to the collegiate University increased by 6.9% on the previous year. The proportion of students admitted from state/maintained sector schools (65.2% of intake), under-represented areas using POLAR quintiles 1 and 2 (12.2%), and ethnic minorities (23.5%) was the highest on record. Growth in applications for postgraduate study increased at similar levels during the 2017–18 cycle, closing at 22,867 applications (+5.0% on the previous year).

Both undergraduate and postgraduate admissions are subject to strategic reviews, with the aim of improving admissions processes and systems, in line with the strategic objectives of the collegiate University.

Student mental health and wellbeing

The Council and the Colleges’ Committee approved a Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy in the Michaelmas Term 2018. Implementation of the Strategy is being guided by a Project Board chaired by Ms Sara Weller, an external member of the Council, with representatives from the Colleges, the University and the Students’ Unions. Work focussed on the development of proactive measures to support positive mental health and wellbeing, but also included an audit of the current system in supportive, therapeutic and crisis modes. Recommendations of the audit will be used to inform any future improvements needed to ensure that the support system provided by the Colleges and the University is robust and sustainable and able to provide targeted, accessible, effective and timely services to support those students experiencing difficulties sustaining their mental health or wellbeing. The Council considers this area to be a high priority and will receive a progress update in Michaelmas Term 2019.

Revised student disciplinary procedure

In the Easter Term 2019, the Council and the General Board published a Report proposing a revised student disciplinary framework and a change to the standard of proof to be applied under that framework, from beyond reasonable doubt to on the balance of probabilities. The proposals, made on the recommendation of its Review Committee (p. 200), took into account guidance on student disciplinary procedures issued by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) in autumn 2018 and comments received during a consultation by the Committee in the Easter Term 2018 and Lent Term 2019 on drafts of the provisions to govern the new framework. The Council called separate ballots on the two main proposals, both of which were approved (Grace 1 on the new framework: 546 in favour; 142 against; Grace 2 on adoption of the civil standard of proof: 474 in favour; 203 against).4

The changes place the main responsibility for student discipline under the General Board, with the Council and the Regent House maintaining oversight through an overarching framework in Ordinance. That framework includes new rules of behaviour, which provide clear definitions of the different types of misconduct including sexual and physical misconduct. The new student disciplinary procedure also splits the role of University Advocate into the Student Discipline Officer, responsible for commissioning investigations, dismissing cases, imposing minor sanctions and referring cases for consideration to the Discipline Committee; and the Investigating Officer, responsible for investigating concerns and presenting investigation findings to the Student Discipline Officer and the Discipline Committee. Guidance on sanctions will now be captured in a guidance document and the outcomes of Discipline Committees will no longer be published in the Reporter. The new framework came into effect from 1 October 2019.

Risk management

In Easter Term 2018, the University embarked on a review of its set of key risks and its approach to risk management. This took place in consultation with the University’s senior leadership team and with support from the University’s internal auditor, Deloitte.

The Council approved a proposal for a new risk management process in January 2019, together with a new risk management framework. The framework is designed to allow the senior leadership team to consider the University’s key risks in a more meaningful way, and within the context of the University’s evolving priorities, before the University’s risk register is scrutinised and approved by the Audit Committee and the Council.

In parallel to the review of the risk management framework, the University’s senior leadership team identified a revised set of University risks that are considered to be fundamental to the University’s ability to deliver its mission. In May 2019, the Council approved the revised risk register upon the recommendation of the Audit Committee. The risk register was subsequently shared with Schools, Non-School Institutions, the Colleges and relevant Committees for information. A copy of the University’s risk register is available on the Registrary’s Office webpages5 to all members of the University.

Under the new risk management framework, the Council will receive updates on the management of risks, and will scrutinise and approve the University risk register twice a year.

Property-related matters

West and North West Cambridge developments

The Council received quarterly updates from the Board of the West and North West Cambridge Estates (BWNWCE) including the project’s progress against Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and financial metrics. The Board is responsible for the management and operation of the North West Cambridge Development, known as Eddington, and the West Cambridge site. Its purpose is to deliver quality, affordable accommodation for staff in a sustainable and vibrant community, in order to attract and retain the best people to the University.

During 2018–19, the final key worker accommodation within Phase 1 of the development was handed over to the University for occupation. Over 700 key worker properties are now occupied and the first private residents have joined the community, taking the Eddington population to approximately 1,600 people. The occupancy rate on University key worker housing is consistently above 99.5% and there is a waiting list for a property at Eddington. Storey’s Field Centre is delivering a full community programme and public festivals, tours, and open events have attracted large numbers of visitors to Eddington. Planning permission for the hotel was granted in early 2019, and the appointed contractor is scheduled to begin work in the summer 2019. Ongoing market engagement continues with developers and operators for further market housing and the care village.

In July 2019, the Council received the BWNWCE’s proposal for the procurement approach for Phase 2 of the North West Cambridge Development project. It agreed with the Board’s proposal for a market tender exercise as a means to provide greater cost certainty, and a preferred delivery route, for Phase 2. The outcomes of the exercise will inform the development of the Phase 2 Business Case.

The BWNWCE approved a Commercial Research Strategy in December 2018. The Strategy will mobilise opportunities for supporting entrepreneurship and innovation through developing commercial research space on the University’s sites. The business case for the first phase, focused on West Cambridge, is being prepared.

Property entity

At its meetings in December 2018 and March 2019, the Council considered a proposal to create a property entity to provide effective management of the University’s expanding non-operational estate (i.e. land and property held for the general purposes of the University, such as residences). This new structure would enable the University to charge the property entity with the detailed design, costing, delivery and ongoing management of the non‑operational estate. Discussions on the proposal are expected to continue in 2019–20.

Cambridge University Endowment Fund
(Investment Office)

The Investment Office manages the Cambridge University Endowment Fund (CUEF), with the guidance and advice of the Investment Board. In its response to the Divestment Working Group’s report in June 2018, the Council committed to enhance reporting about the CUEF and instructed the Investment Office to report to the Council on an annual basis. The Council received the first such annual Investment Office report in July 2019. The report set out the performance of the CUEF, the investment flows and asset allocation, as well as the governance changes to the Fund. In the year to 30 June 2019, the CUEF performance was 4.7% and £118m was distributed for spending. Net new capital of £166m was received from investors. The Office of External Affairs and Communications also worked with the Investment Office to prepare a publicly accessible Annual Report on the CUEF, available from a new University-hosted website, which went live in September 2019.6 In consultation with investors, the Investment Office also reviewed the CUEF distribution formula during the academic year.

The Council welcomed the report and thanked the Investment Director, Nick Shaw, and the Deputy Chair of the Investment Board, Ross Reason, and the team for their stewardship of the CUEF during the last year. Following an extensive discussion, the Council approved in principle the establishment of a new supervisory body to carry out the functions of Trustee of the CUEF. This governance change is intended to separate the roles of representing the University as the corporate trustee of the CUEF; as parent entity of Cambridge Investment Management Limited (CIML); and as investor in the fund.

The Council also recommended in a Report to the Regent House that the measure of inflation should henceforth be the Consumer Price Index (rather than the Retail Price Index), and that the target rate used in the distribution formula should be reduced from 4.25% to 4%.7

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS)

The last year has seen ongoing national discussion over USS benefits, contribution rates, and the best approaches to valuing the Scheme. Negotiations concerning the 2018 valuation have recently concluded and new contribution rates for employers and members have been implemented from 1 October 2019 (replacing higher rates that would have been introduced under the 2017 valuation). Benefits remain unchanged.

The Council takes its responsibilities to the University’s USS members very seriously. In 2018–19, it received written updates and oral briefings from the Chief Financial Officer on the USS at every meeting and discussed and approved the University’s consultation responses. The Council reported to the Regent House on its work on the USS in a Notice in June 2019 and the University made its consultation responses available to staff on submission.8

In October 2018, the Council supported the recommendations of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) as a potential short-term solution to the disputed 2017 valuation of the USS.9 In June 2019, it indicated to the USS (via Universities UK) that its preferred conclusion to the 2018 valuation would be to replace the significant increase in contribution rates imposed after the 2017 valuation (to 35.6% of salary) with a more moderate increase to 30.7% of salary, and a moratorium on employer withdrawal, until the next valuation in 2020.10 It believed this the best available short-term option, maintaining benefits while providing time for the JEP to complete its work on valuation approaches; it expects the 2020 valuation to draw on the JEP’s findings.

Looking forward, the Council believes that alternative approaches to the USS’s valuation methodology represent the most promising way of providing a more stable framework for long-term Scheme funding and benefit provision without steep rises in contribution rates. In March 2019, it contributed its views on alternative approaches to the USS (via UUK) and in June submitted these views to the JEP.11 It looks forward to engaging constructively with the Panel’s recommendations as it continues to work towards an acceptable and sustainable future for the USS over the coming year.

Pay negotiations

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Institutional and International Relations provided updates to the Council throughout the academic year on pay negotiations. The 2019–20 national pay negotiations concluded in August without agreement from the trade unions on the national negotiating committee. However, as recommended by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), the University implemented the national final offer of 1.8% for most scale points in September.

All three unions at the University announced they would be holding ballots in September and October. UCU and Unison conducted two separate but concurrent ballots: one on pay and one on pensions. The UCU ballots were for strike action and/or action short of strike; the Unison ballots were for strike action only. Unite balloted only on pay and for strike action only. UCU secured a mandate for industrial action over pay and pensions, and agreed that this would take place from 25 November to 29 November and 2 to 4 December 2019.

Following these recent ballot announcements, the University has reconvened its Industrial Action Taskforce. The purpose of the Taskforce is to ensure a coordinated response across the University to the management and impact of industrial action. The Taskforce is co-chaired by Professor Graham Virgo, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education; and Professor Eilís Ferran, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Institutional and International Relations.

Preparations for Brexit

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research provided oral updates to the Council throughout the year on preparations for Brexit. The updates covered the range of activities undertaken to mitigate the risks to the wider University. This included preparations made by the EU Working Group (EUWG), focused on anticipating disruptions that a no-deal Brexit may cause. The EUWG brought together experts from different teams across the University, with College Representatives, and partners from Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Assessment and Addenbrooke’s Hospital. It also worked in parallel with the University’s Silver Team, an operational response group chaired by the Registrary, and engaged with neighbouring institutions, such as Anglia Ruskin University and Cambridge City Council.

Between October 2018 and February 2019, the Vice-Chancellor and members of the senior leadership team also hosted a series of open meetings to brief staff and students on how the University was preparing for Brexit and how it was mitigating against potential negative impacts. The Office of External Affairs and Communications set up EU webpages with key relevant and up-to-date information for staff and students. This website became the main source of updates and information ahead of the exit deadlines.

Inclusive Cambridge

In June 2019, the Council received an update on the strategic initiatives and work streams that have been developed in support of improving inclusivity within the University. The initiatives focus on promoting health, wellbeing, appropriate behaviour and supporting individuals to feel engaged and valued.

Building on the ‘mycambridge’ University-wide consultation process, Phase 1 of the ‘ourcambridge’ programme began in October 2018 and is due to conclude in September 2019. Its aim is to recognise and realise the potential of professional services staff by improving staff morale and job satisfaction, while also simplifying processes and introducing new ways of working.

To address dignity at work, a series of sessions were designed to enhance the skills and confidence of staff to create a culture in which inappropriate behaviour is recognised and action is taken. This included the delivery of ‘Where Do you Draw the Line?’ sessions across the University to promote a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct.

Central and local initiatives were also developed to provide a healthy working environment and to improve the wellbeing all staff. The HR Division set up a University‑wide network of over 100 Wellbeing Advocates. Advocates provide signposting for colleagues to relevant wellbeing support services who help deal with a range issues, such as mental or physical health and dignity at work concerns. They also organise and promote local and University-wide wellbeing initiatives.

The University achieved an Athena SWAN Silver Award in April 2019 and is delivering the comprehensive action plan to bring about gender equality. The University also became a member of Advance HE’s Race Equality Charter (REC) and designed a reverse mentoring scheme, in which six senior White staff members were mentored by six Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff members. A BAME Staff Network was established in 2018, enabling staff from under-represented groups to share experiences in a supportive environment.

Development and alumni engagement

The Development and Alumni Relations office reported to the Council in October 2018. The academic year 2018–19 was another successful period for the Dear World, Yours Cambridge campaign. By May 2019, fundraising had hit £1.59bn, reaching the three-quarters mark of the £2bn goal. During the Campaign, the University has increased its average annual funds raised by 127%, from £63m annually in the first three years to £145m annually during the last three years. Notably, £171m was raised for University initiatives this year, including 21 gifts over £1m.

The new funds raised by the collegiate University surpassed £250m in 2018–19, making this the second highest year on record. The £500m Student Support Initiative (SSI) was also launched as the first ever agreed collegiate University fundraising priority, under the leadership of the Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Dr Mark Wormald, Secretary to the Senior Tutors’ Committee. It involved six work-streams and the active participation of more than 50 colleagues from across the collegiate University. The Colleges and University raised £170m towards the SSI this year, including a gift of £100m, the largest gift ever from a British citizen to a British institution.

Alumni engagement continues to grow. The University now has a global community of 300,000 alumni and the alumni programme continues to expand. Global Cambridge events were hosted in nine cities around the world, in addition to the Alumni Festival in Cambridge, with more than 2,400 alumni attending engagement events.

II. Reports from Committees and Working Groups

Audit Committee

In 2018–19, the Audit Committee looked at key areas of operational risks including safety compliance, cyber security strategy, research costing and allocation, emergency and continuity planning, and student operations. Discussions were based on the findings of audits carried out by the University’s internal auditors Deloitte LLP, whose programme of audits is driven by the University’s key risks. Broader assurance across key areas of operational activity was also received through the annual departmental assurance survey.

In 2018, the University undertook a fundamental review of its risk management framework. A revised set of institutional risks and risk policy was endorsed by the Committee and approved by the Council in January 2019. The Audit Committee now plays a greater role in scrutinising the risks and challenging senior officers on the management of the risks. Other work of the Committee focused on reviewing and rationalising outstanding internal audit actions. The Committee approved a new approach in which senior officers reassessed actions on the basis of the level of risk presented by the underlying problems, the effectiveness of proposed actions and the available resources.

The internal auditor, Deloitte LLP, was reappointed for a further year until 31 July 2020. The external auditor, PwC LLP, was reappointed by Grace until 31 July 2019. In July 2019, a local firm, Peters Elworthy & Moore Ltd, was contracted to audit the University’s smaller subsidiaries.

Finance Committee

A key focus for the Finance Committee in 2018–19 has been the consideration of the University’s principal financial risks and uncertainties, with a focus on mid-term financial sustainability through scoping out the University’s financial envelope – the balance of unrestricted liquid funds that are available to fund operating deficits and capital expenditure (after deducting existing commitments and other anticipated near-term calls on those funds). The work is designed to support the Planning and Resources Committee (PRC) in determining acceptable outcomes to future Planning Rounds and in recalibrating an affordable Capital Fund. This understanding will continue to be refined, alongside work on a number of initiatives to reduce the overall operating deficit over the longer term (see p. 194).

The Committee received, as part of its annual business, the University’s Financial Statements, the University Budget, quarterly reviews of the University’s management accounts, and updates on the University pension schemes, with particular attention to the ongoing discussion on the future of the USS and responses to consultations, supported by the advice of the Pensions Working Group. The Committee’s work programme includes an annual consideration of University companies and trusts, the University estate, the performance of the University’s Endowment Fund (CUEF), internal controls, financial regulations, policies, and systems.

The Committee also received updates on the progress of a number of projects, including the North West Cambridge development, the pipeline of commercial projects expected to be eligible for support from the 2018 bond proceeds,12 the recruitment of a Chief Investment Officer, revised governance arrangements for the CUEF, and development of plans for a property entity to manage the University’s non-operational estate (see p. 196).

Remuneration Committee

The Remuneration Committee of the Council met monthly during the year under the chairmanship of Ms Sara Weller, an external member of the Council. Principal business for the Committee included the drafting of the first University Annual Remuneration Report. Publication of the report aimed to bring greater transparency to the work of the Committee and the University’s approach to the pay of senior post-holders including the Vice-Chancellor.

In line with the requirements of the Committee for University Chairs (CUC) HE Senior Staff Remuneration Code, the Committee developed a new policy in relation to payment of external members of University committees, which will be implemented from 1 October 2019.

The Committee continued to manage cases for market payments to grade 12 staff, and to oversee incentive schemes for staff in the North West Cambridge project team and the Investment Office.

In addition, the Committee advised on the development of the remuneration framework for the incoming Chief Investment Officer and co-ordinated the annual process for the review of the Vice-Chancellor’s performance against his objectives.

Planning and Resources Committee

The work of the Planning and Resources Committee (PRC) was defined by the budgetary challenges described above (p. 194), and their implications for operational and capital expenditure. Agreement of an operating budget for 2019–20 was the culmination of collaborative efforts and difficult decisions across the University. The Capital Plan was rationalised in light of the overall financial position, and PRC welcomed the efforts, led by the Director of Finance, to bring all of the University’s academic infrastructure within scope of a recalibrated Capital Fund. Further capital expenditure will be within an envelope of funding advised, and periodically refreshed, by the Finance Committee.

The Committee established a review group, chaired by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Strategy and Planning, to examine the University’s approach to distributing resources and allocating costs across Schools, institutions and central funds. The initial focus of the review will be to achieve greater financial awareness and clarity on the costs of the University’s core activities. Over the longer term, it will help to provide a more transparent view of total income and costs attributed to major activities, thereby enabling departmental and University management to understand the underlying surpluses and deficits generated and associated cross-subsidisation.

The Committee also had visibility of the University’s involvement in local and regional matters via the Estates Strategy Committee (ESC). The ESC continues to take a close interest in proposals and initiatives promoted by the Greater Cambridge Partnership and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, and has begun to explore the development of a masterplan for the University estate.

Human Resources Committee

The HR Committee oversaw developments to support the People Strategy across the areas of recruitment, talent management, reward and thriving and inclusive community. The Committee approved the publication of a Recruitment Policy for all staff categories to enable a more consistent approach to recruitment across the University and to ensure recruiting managers comply with legal and good practice principles. It also approved the implementation of a more modular approach to academic induction, probation and ongoing development, following a review of the existing Pathways to Higher Education Practice (PHEP) arrangements.

Work continued in support of the introduction of the new Academic Career Pathways (ACP) scheme. This included establishing broader excellence criteria and reviewing academic induction and probation arrangements before proceeding to consultation. Work commenced on both the Senior Researchers Promotion (SRP) scheme and the development of Teaching-focused Career Pathways, following on from the progress with ACP, while the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPdA) contributed to the revised Concordat to support researchers, published in September 2019. A mentoring scheme for administrators in grades 4 to 6 was also launched as part of the long-term programme of work underway around increasing access to mentoring.

In April 2019, the University published its gender pay gap report and launched two new development programmes in May, aimed at tackling issues of inequality, including pay inequality. The Inclusive Leadership Programme is designed to strengthen leadership skills and ensure fair and objective decision-making for academic, research and professional service leaders. The Professional Service Career Development Programme is open to all professional service staff and helps individuals develop strategies for identifying and achieving their career goals. Other initiatives designed to foster a thriving and inclusive culture are outlined on p. 197.

In March 2019, the first University-wide staff survey was conducted. The overall response rate was 70 per cent (8,679 respondents). A report on the findings of the Nurturing a Culture of Mutual Respect Survey – jointly undertaken by the University and trade unions in the summer of 2018 – was also published to accompany the results of the University-wide survey. Action planning to address the results is ongoing at University and School level.

Health and Safety Executive Committee

In spring 2018, the Council was made aware that improvements had to be made to the management, governance, and assurance of building compliance across the estate of the University of Cambridge. The Directors of Health, Safety, and Regulated Facilities (HSRF) and of Estate Management (EM) are continuing to develop robust systems to address these issues. Three separate and distinct levels of assurance are working at a local (EM), remote (HSRF), and external (Audit Committee) level. In addition, the University is testing a new system for information gathering and storage, to record built assets and demonstrate compliance with Health and Safety legislation as a foundation for a range of developments to maintenance processes. The updated method is to ensure that buildings are managed, maintained, and monitored systematically and in line with the legal requirements. Operational compliance work continues across the University estate. The Committee continues to receive regular updates on the progress of building safety compliance.

Investment Board

The Investment Board continued to act during 2018–19 on behalf of all investors in the Cambridge University Endowment Fund (CUEF). The Board is made up of senior figures active in investment markets, with strong connections and sympathies to the University. The external member experts continue to bring insights into investment markets, and new ideas and business to the Investment Office.

The Board received interim reports from the Investment Office and continued to advise the Council, through its Finance Committee, on matters relating to the CUEF. The Board monitored the performance of the CUEF against appropriate benchmarks and reviewed the portfolio to ensure adequate liquidity in the event of a market downturn. It submitted its annual report to the Council in July 2019 (see p. 196). It noted a volatile but satisfactory year. The 2019 CUEF performance was 4.7% and £118m was distributed for spending. Net new capital of £166m was received from investors.

During this period without a Chief Investment Officer in post, members of the Board assisted the University in monitoring the CUEF and in recruiting the Chief Investment Officer’s replacement (see p. 201).

Press and Assessment Board

The Press and Assessment Board met regularly throughout 2018–19 to oversee the management of the finance, property and affairs of the Cambridge University Press (CUP) and the conduct and administration of Cambridge Assessment (CA). Several acquisitions and investments were agreed by the Board during the year. This included the joint acquisition (by CUP and CA) of the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) from the University of Durham, which provides formative assessments of the educational needs of children. It also agreed to a joint investment in Emerge, an EdTech fund, and committed to joint product-development initiatives in digital formative assessment. A separate Academic Advisory Board was set up to advise on aspects of Press academic strategy.

The Board approved the two businesses’ accounts for their respective financial years and their three-year business plans. It also held an annual Away Day to allow Board members to explore future strategy with senior executives.

Committee on Benefactions and External and Legal Affairs

The Committee on Benefactions and External and Legal Affairs (CBELA) is primarily concerned with the scrutiny of sources of significant funding to the University from an ethical and reputational perspective. Amongst other business, it also exercises oversight of the University’s legal affairs and reviews the University’s policy on investment responsibility on behalf of the Council.

During 2018–19, the workload of the Committee increased significantly. The Committee positively reviewed over 42 donations totalling approximately £303m. It also advised that ten further potential benefactions could be cultivated, subject to the matter returning to the Committee prior to the University entering into any commitment, and that two benefactions should not be cultivated further. In relation to external affairs, the Committee reviewed 27 proposed external engagements, 19 of which the Committee agreed were acceptable and seven of which were found to be not acceptable.

The Committee has agreed to develop a framework of principles to act as a guide to its decision-making, in consultation with informed stakeholders. To facilitate this, it has organised a workshop to endeavour to define principles that will act as a guide to the Committee on whether to accept or reject donations and other types of funding from fossil fuel companies. This is likely to be followed by similar sessions focused on other areas of activity from which funding might be regarded as potentially carrying reputational risk for the University.

Committee on Prevent and Freedom of Speech

In November 2018, the Council approved changes to the name and remit of the Prevent Committee. The new Committee on Prevent and Freedom of Speech reflects its wider oversight of freedom of speech issues alongside those related to the University’s implementation of the Prevent duty. The Council received regular reports from the new Committee. It approved the submission of the University’s 2017–18 accountability and data return to the Office for Students (OfS), the sector’s new monitoring authority for the Prevent duty. In April 2019, the Vice‑Chancellor received confirmation from the OfS that the University demonstrated due regard to the Prevent duty and was not at higher risk of non-compliance. The University was subsequently selected by the OfS as part of the random sample of institutions for a Prevent Review Meeting; this took place in July 2019. After the meeting, the OfS reiterated that the University demonstrated sufficient evidence of due regard to the Prevent duty and highlighted some areas of good practice.

Review Committee on Student Discipline

After conducting consultations in Easter Term 2018 on the principles of a revised student disciplinary procedure, the Review Committee once again engaged with internal and external stakeholders and conducted collegiate University-wide consultations on the proposed procedure in Lent Term 2019. The Council and the General Board published a Report proposing a revised student disciplinary framework in Easter Term 201913 (see p. 195).

Governance Review Working Group

The Council established the Working Group in Easter Term 2017 to consider three specific aspects of governance: Regent House membership; Council membership; and Discussions.14 The Group met in November, December and March during 2018–19. It advised the Council on matters relating to the membership of the Regent House during the course of the year (see Section III below) and in January 2019 presented to the Council a report on its findings to date on its three topics. The Group expects to present a draft consultative report to the Council in Michaelmas Term 2019.

III. Graces / Changes to Statutes, Membership and Personnel

Graces and amendments initiated by members of the Regent House

Report on advantages and disadvantages of a policy of divestment15

In April 2019, the Council authorised submission of a Grace calling for the publication of a report providing information on the advantages and disadvantages of a policy of divestment, including the costs and reputational effects, which was approved as Grace 1 of 25 April 2019. The Council published a progress update on 23 October 2019.16

Age limit on membership of the Regent House and other related matters17

Last year’s Annual Report noted that a Grace concerning the age limit on membership of the Regent House had been set aside, following the withholding of consent to the change by a College. On the recommendation of its Governance Review Working Group, the Council agreed to publish a Report re-presenting the proposal that the age limit be removed, together with certain other changes, which were submitted as Grace 1 of 13 February 2019. Those other changes included proposals to enable self-certified non-continuous service to count towards the service requirement for Research Associates and Computer Associates in Grades I, II and III.18 An amendment sought to revise the Report’s recommendations concerning the service requirement, by widening its application to cover periods as a member or employee of the University. Following the Vice-Chancellor’s decision to withdraw Grace 1 of 13 February 2019, the Council agreed to submit a new Grace (Grace 1 of 20 March 2019) which narrowed the recommendations to those concerning the age limit and membership generally, removing the proposed changes concerning the service requirement. This Grace was approved by the Regent House, and the Colleges subsequently granted their approval to the statutory changes in Easter Term 2019.

Governance of postgraduate and graduate student matters19

The Vice-Chancellor received an amendment in August 2019 that sought (i) to postpone the implementation of changes to the governance structures for the oversight of matters concerning post-undergraduate students to October 2020 and (ii) to retain ‘graduate student’ as the term describing such students. The Council agreed to authorise submission of the amendment and a ballot will be held in Michaelmas Term 2019.

Changes to the University’s Statutes

The Statutes and Ordinances provide the constitutional framework that allows the University to govern its affairs. The Statutes contain the fundamental constitutional and governance provisions of the University and are subject to approval by Her Majesty in Council.

Amendments to Statute A III 11, concerning the membership of the Regent House, were approved by Grace in March 2019.20 The Regent House is the governing body of the University and currently consists of around 6,100 University academics, officers and senior College members. The changes, which remain subject to the approval of Her Majesty in Council, would remove the age limit currently applicable to certain classes of members and also transfer provisions concerning membership currently in Statute to a new Special Ordinance.

Ballots and topics of concern

A Discussion of a topic of concern on the future of the Investment Office was held during 2018–19.21 A request concerning the discussion of the University response to the climate crisis beyond divestment in Michaelmas Term 2019 was received in June 2019 and was discussed on 8 October 2019.22 As noted above (p. 195), proposals for a revised student disciplinary framework and a lower standard of proof were approved by ballot. A ballot was requested on Grace 5 of 24 July 2019 (organisational structure of student representation on Faculty Boards and other bodies); a vote is being held in Michaelmas Term 2019.23

Changes in the University’s senior leadership

During 2018–19, the General Board and the respective Councils of the Schools approved the appointments of Professor Chris Young, PEM, as Head of the School of Arts and Humanities until 31 December 2022, Professor John Dennis, SE, as Head of the School of Technology until 30 September 2022, Professor Anna Philpott, CL, as Head of the School of the Biological Sciences until 31 July 2023, and Professor Nigel Peake, EM, as Head of the School of the Physical Sciences for four years from 1 January 2020.

The Council also noted the appointment of Ms Tilly Franklin as Chief Investment Officer from January 2020.

It also thanks the following for their service: Mr Nick Cavalla, K, and Dr Jason Matthews.

Council membership, 2018–19

Council members (other than ex officio and student members) serve for four years from 1 January in two cohorts. Student members of the Council serve for one year from 1 July.

The Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor

Elected as Heads of Colleges

Professor Christopher Kelly, CC (from 1 January 2019)
The Reverend Dr Jeremy Morris, TH
Professor Susan Smith, G (until 31 December 2018)
Dr Anthony Freeling, HH
Professor Michael Proctor, K24

Elected as Professors or Readers

Professor Ross Anderson, CHU (until 31 December 2018)
Dr Susan Oosthuizen, W (until 31 December 2018)
Professor Richard Penty, SID (from 1 January 2019)
Dr Jason Scott-Warren, CAI (from 1 January 2019)
Professor Nick Gay, CHR
Professor Fiona Karet, DAR

Elected as members of the Regent House

Dr Sam Ainsworth, CHU (from 1 January 2019)
Dr Richard Anthony, JE (until 31 December 2018)
Dr Ruth Charles, N
Dr Nicholas Holmes, T
Dr Alice Hutchings (until 29 October 2018)
Dr Andrew Sanchez, TH (from 1 January 2019)
Dr Stephen Cowley, EM
Dr Jennifer Hirst, JE
Dr Mark Wormald, PEM
Ms Jocelyn Wyburd, CL

External members

Mr Mark Lewisohn, CHR
Mr John Shakeshaft, T (until 31 December 2018)
Ms Sharon Flood (from 1 January 2019)
Professor Sir David Greenaway
Ms Sara Weller

Student members

Ms Evie Aspinall, PEM (until 30 June 2019)
Mr Marcel Llavero Pasquina, G (until 30 June 2019)
Ms Sofia Ropek‑Hewson, PEM (until 30 June 2019)
Mr Alessandro Ceccarelli, M (from 1 July 2019)
Ms Poppy Cockburn, R (from 1 July 2019)
Mr Edward Parker Humphreys, JE (from 1 July 2019)

13 November 2019

Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor

Nicholas Gay

Edward Parker Humphreys

Sam Ainsworth

David Greenaway

Richard Penty

Madeleine Atkins

Jennifer Hirst

Andrew Sanchez

Alessandro Ceccarelli

Nicholas Holmes

Jason Scott-Warren

R. Charles

Fiona Karet

Sara Weller

Stephen J. Cowley

Christopher Kelly

Mark Wormald

Sharon Flood

Mark Lewisohn

Jocelyn Wyburd

Anthony Freeling

Jeremy Morris


Annual Report of the General Board to the Council for the academic year 2018–19


This Annual Report describes the major pieces of business which engaged the Board during the year, focusing on the following areas:

1.Higher education landscape

2.Education and learning


4.International and external engagement

5.Human resources

6.Health, safety and regulated facilities

7.Annual reports

8.Other matters

The Report includes major items of business considered by its reporting committees including the Education Committee, the Research Policy Committee and the International Strategy Committee.

1. Higher education landscape

(i) Post-18 review of education and funding: independent panel report

The long-anticipated ‘Augar Report’1 was published at the end of May and considered by the Board. The Report’s recommendations include a rebalancing of funding between higher education and further education, capping University tuition fees at £7,500, reintroducing a maintenance grant, and extending loan repayment terms from 30 to 40 years. The shortfall in funding implied by these changes would potentially be made up by the government in direct teaching grants, although the government would have discretion to allocate funding towards courses it considers to be costlier or strategically more important. As the government has not yet responded to the Report’s recommendations, the University has postponed modelling the implications of the recommendations. However, the Board observed that if the Report’s recommendations were accepted in full they would have considerable implications for the collegiate University.

(ii) Access and Participation Plan

Higher education institutions wishing to charge above the basic rate of tuition fee for students subject to regulated course fees must have an Access and Participation Plan (APP) approved by the Office for Students (OfS). Over the year the Board monitored the drafting of the University’s APP for 2020–21 to 2024–25 and endorsed, for its part, the final version submitted to the OfS (see the Council’s Report on p. 195). The Plan was prepared in accordance with guidance from the OfS after widespread consultation and extensive consideration by relevant committees of the collegiate University, which included representation from students.

(iii) Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework

In February 2019, the Board endorsed a response, prepared jointly with the Students’ Unions, to the independent review of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF). Publication of the report is anticipated in 2019–20 and will inform future arrangements in relation to the TEF. In the meantime, TEF ratings across the sector have been extended by a year to 2020.

(iv) Research Excellence Framework 2021

During the year the Board oversaw the preparations for the University’s submission to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021. Good progress was made, culminating in the preparation of a full draft of all four elements of the submission by each of the anticipated 30 Units of Assessment (UoA) covering the identification of eligible staff, provisional selection of outputs, identification of and preparation of drafts of the required number of impact case studies, and preparation of a draft environment template. The work undertaken to support the Strategic Research Review programme has proven very beneficial for the development of the research environment element of the UoA and Institutional submissions.

The Board approved the draft REF 2021 Code of Practice that was submitted to Research England in June 2019. The feedback received from Research England indicates that it will be approved subject to only minor amendments.

(v) Knowledge Exchange Framework

The University’s responses to Research England consultations on proposals for the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) and Knowledge Exchange Concordat were endorsed by the Board via its Research Policy Committee. The responses were informed by soundings with a cross-section of stakeholders from across the University.

Research England’s subsequent response to the consultation2 demonstrates that the key themes from Cambridge’s response were echoed across the sector. Decisions on the next steps for the KEF are expected to be published in 2019–20.

(vi) Other consultations

The Board also oversaw the University’s response to the Universities UK (UUK) consultation on the Concordat to support the Career Development of Researchers, and the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Wellcome Trust consultations on Open Access and Plan S.

2. Education and learning

(i) Education framework

Over the year, the Board discussed and endorsed a working Education Framework that was developed by the Education Committee and informed by feedback from the Colleges, Faculties, Departments, Schools and student representatives. The Framework is intended to guide the development of strategic thinking over the next decade in areas such as: undergraduate admissions; the future size and shape of the student population of the collegiate University; student mental health and wellbeing; and digital education and the launch of technology-enhanced learning.

(ii) Size and shape of the student population

A joint University and Colleges Working Group, chaired by the Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), is tasked with understanding collegiate University-wide aspirations for the future size and shape of the student population. The Group will consider the overall balance between undergraduate and postgraduate populations, and full-time and part-time provision, and the overall balance amongst the various disciplines taking into account the academic, financial and external drivers in each case. The financial and resource implications of changes, if any, are to be assessed as part of this major piece of work, which is also being integrated into the University’s strategic planning processes. The outcome of the Group’s first phase of work will be reported to the Board in 2019–20.

(iii) Student mental health and wellbeing strategy

The joint Colleges and University Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy was presented to the Council and the General Board in Michaelmas Term 2018. The Strategy drew attention to the heavy increases in demand on both the University Counselling Service (UCS) and the Disability Resource Centre (DRC). In the past six years, the UCS has experienced a 90% increase in the number of students applying to access the service, from 1,565 in 2013–14 to 2,978 in 2018–19. Over the same period, the DRC has found that the number of students formally declaring a mental health condition as a disability has more than quadrupled (252 in 2013–14 and 1,070 in 2018–19).

Following consideration and endorsement by the Board, the Council and the Colleges’ Committee approved the Strategy. Its implementation is being guided by a Project Board reporting to the Council and chaired by Ms Sara Weller, an external member of the Council, with representatives from the University, the Colleges and the Students’ Unions.3

(iv) Student conduct, complaints, appeals and revised student disciplinary framework

Over 2018–19 the numbers of complaints and appeals received rose by between 20 and 25% for each of a number of different procedures, following enhanced awareness and promotion of the complaints and appeals processes. The numbers of cases being upheld remained static at around 10% of those received. Further details will be reported to the Board in November 2019 through the annual report of the Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals (OSCCA).

In the Easter Term 2019, the Council and the General Board published a Report proposing a revised student disciplinary framework and a change to the standard of proof to be applied under that framework, from ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ to ‘on the balance of probabilities’, the civil standard. The Report’s recommendations were approved by ballot (see the Council’s Annual Report, p. 195). The changes place the main responsibility for student discipline under the General Board, with the Council and the Regent House maintaining oversight through an overarching framework. The new framework came into effect on 1 October 2019.

(v) Student admissions

In July, the Board received an overview of the undergraduate and postgraduate admissions position for the completed 2017–18 cycle, and the current position for the 2018–19 admissions cycle. During the 2017–18 undergraduate admissions cycle, the collegiate University received 18,378 applications (+6.9% on the previous year). The proportions of students admitted from state sector schools (65.2% of intake), under-represented areas using POLAR quintiles 1 and 2 (12.2%), and ethnic minorities (23.5%) were the highest on record. Applications in the 2018–19 cycle showed a significant further increase on the previous year.

In terms of postgraduate admissions, applications during 2017–18 had increased by 5% on the previous year. Applications in the 2018–19 cycle are slightly down on the previous year. Diversity data for postgraduate students was not currently reported beyond gender, fee status, disability and, for the first time this year, UK ethnicity.

Strategic reviews of both undergraduate and postgraduate admissions processes are underway. The undergraduate review will formally commence in 2019–20 and will be chaired by Professor Sir David Greenaway, an external member of the Council. The postgraduate admissions review was initiated in January 2019 and is well into its discovery phase. A review of arrangements for postgraduate funding is running in parallel. The Board expects that these reviews will lead to improved processes and systems that support the strategic objectives of the collegiate University.

(vi) Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning

The Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning (CCTL) was constituted within Education Services in August 2018, with teams specialising in Educational Development and Researcher Development. In addition to direct delivery of workshops, programmes and events, CCTL is developing capacity to focus on complex educational priorities and enable stronger communication and collaboration on educational enhancement across the collegiate University.

Guided by the Board’s Education Committee and by the Senior Tutors’ Committee, CCTL is working on projects which support a commitment in the Access and Participation Plan to investigate and address gaps in attainment and graduate outcomes, the development of inclusive curricula and teaching, the diversification of assessment and feedback practices, and an initial review of skills provision (in collaboration with the Careers Service).

(vii) Digital education and lecture capture

The Board, for its part, supported a pilot Technology-Enabled Learning Programme. This ‘proof-of-concept’ exercise will build the University’s capacity to produce high-quality digital content for learning and teaching for use on Cambridge courses, and provide effective support for remote learning in the online environment. The pilot, running until the end of the Lent Term 2020, brings together interested academics from across the University with technical support from Cambridge University Press specialists to develop new courses and teaching materials.

(viii) Transition Year

The Board can report that its Education Committee has been overseeing the development of a Transition Year through a Transition Year Project Board chaired by the Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education. The Transition Year will support a new field of talented students from backgrounds of disadvantage and prepare them for successful progression to undergraduate study. The year-long residential programme aims to equip students with a broad set of academic and personal skills through targeted preparatory tuition to ensure that students have appropriate knowledge and aptitude to embark on undergraduate study in their chosen subject. The Project Board will engage in a formal consultation on its proposals in the Michaelmas Term 2019. A Course Director has been appointed (from September 2019) to lead the development and implementation of the Transition Year programme. A number of Colleges have expressed an interest in supporting and accommodating Transition Year students. It is hoped that the Transition Year will be approved for launch (in pilot mode) in 2021, with the first intake of around 50 students in 2022, initially in subjects in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

(ix) Regulatory changes

The Board endorsed recommendations from its Education Committee to make several changes to Statutes and Ordinances in 2018–19, which were subsequently approved by the Regent House, including:

an amendment that enabled Lucy Cavendish College to reduce the age of admission from 21 and to admit both men and women from 2021; and

an amendment that enabled Master of Research degrees to be run as part-time programmes.

The Education Committee, on behalf of the Board, also approved a formal Memorandum of Agreement between Cambridge Judge Business School and Peking University, acting through Peking University HSBC Business School (PHBS). The agreement allows students from three PHBS Master’s programmes to be invited to apply for either the Cambridge M.Phil. Degree in Management or in Technology Policy.

(x) Student surveys

The Board’s Education Committee continues to monitor education quality and student satisfaction. As in 2017 and 2018, the National Student Survey 2019 response rate was affected by Cambridge University Students’ Union’s boycott of the survey. As a result, incomplete data have been published on the Unistats website. It is still unclear what the impact of incomplete National Students Survey data will be on future iterations of the TEF. Data from the 2018–19 Student Barometer, conducted in Michaelmas Term 2018, indicated that overall satisfaction for undergraduates and taught and research postgraduate students remained buoyant at just over 92%.

(xi) Learning and Teaching Reviews

During the year the outcomes of the Learning and Teaching Reviews for the Faculty of Mathematics and the Language Centre were considered by the Board’s Education Committee, which approved the institutions’ responses in each case. Further Learning and Teaching Reviews (LTRs) are now suspended pending a review by the Education Committee of the terms of reference for Learning and Teaching Reviews. Current proposals for revised LTRs aim to provide robust assurance on the quality of the University’s education, facilitate Department/Faculty enhancement, and support Faculties and Departments in their use and evaluation of data. This will assist in the preparation for the introduction of subject-level TEF ratings from 2020–21.

(xii) ‘Grade inflation

The Board’s Education Committee noted a number of reports and briefings on so-called ‘grade inflation’ in UK universities, in particular reports from UUK, GuildHE and the QAA, and UUK’s Statement of Intent in relation to maintaining the transparency, reliability and fairness of the UK degree classification system. The Statement of Intent calls on universities to review their processes for final degree classifications, to support opportunities for staff to work as external examiners, and to review and publish student outcome data. Work on meeting these expectations will be completed in 2019–20, and will be reported to the Examination and Assessment Committee.

(xiii) Level 7 Degree Apprenticeship in Applied Criminology and Police Management

In January 2018, the Board’s Education Committee approved the University’s first degree apprenticeship programme, a Master of Studies in Applied Criminology and Police Management adapted from a pre-existing programme.4

3. Research

The Board oversees research activity primarily through its reporting committee, the Research Policy Committee (RPC).

(i) Research funding and grants

The Board can report that the University has maintained its strong performance in competitive research funding in 2018–19. Income from research grants and contracts reached a new high of £552m which compares to £519m in 2017–18, or an increase of £33m. The value of new grants awarded was £576m, which represents a slight decrease on the last year but is still very robust in the current funding environment. Importantly, as the value of grants and awards won is higher than annual income, further growth in income can be anticipated. Major research grants awarded during the year include: the renewal of the core funding of the Cambridge Cancer Research Institute; significant funding from Innovate UK to establish a National Centre of Turbomachinery Research and reinforce the University’s role as a key hub of the Digital Built Britain programme; major grants from The Mark Foundation and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for the development of research and integrative cancer therapies and hard-to-treat cancers respectively; and renewal by the British Heart Foundation of the Cambridge Centre of Research Excellence. The University has also achieved significant success in renewal of and in some cases the winning of funding for new EPSRC Centres of Doctoral Training.

The University’s continuing success in winning competitive research funding is, however, not without challenges. The University’s research income in 2013–14 was approximately £400m, and the impressive figure for 2018–19 reflects a continuing trend of year-on-year growth in income of approximately 8%. This is placing increasing strain on the ability of the University’s block grant research income from Research England to make up the shortfall in the full economic costs of externally funded research grants, in turn reducing the headroom to meet the wider institutional costs of research. The Board and the RPC will be considering the implications of this increasing financial risk to the University in the coming year.

(ii) Strategic Research Reviews

The programme of Strategic Research Reviews (SRRs) continued, and over the year the Board considered completed reports for fifteen reviews. A further three reviews were undertaken during 2018–19 and will be considered by the Board in 2019–20. This will mark the completion of the SRR programme in five Schools. A further two reviews proposed for September 2019 and January/February 2020 will complete the programme overall. The reviews considered by the Board during the year have reinforced many of the common themes seen in earlier SRRs, for example, the need for greater focus on the development of research strategy in Departments, and the challenges that Departments face in maintaining their international competitiveness in research.

(iii) Research policy and strategy

The Board has overseen the ongoing process of implementation of revised policies and procedures required to comply fully with the requirements of Research England and other funding agencies. During the year the Board, through the RPC, also approved the establishment of an Open Research Steering Committee, the publication of a Position Statement on Open Research, and the recommendation that the University should become a signatory of the Declaration of Research Assessment as recommended by the Open Research Working Group. Through the RPC, the Board has also considered progress reports on the implementation of the Review of Research Administration. The Board will receive a final report, including details of the implementation of the pre-award research administration service, in the Michaelmas Term 2019.

(iv) Research ethics and integrity

The Annual Report of the University Research Ethics Committee and the Annual Research Integrity Report were received and endorsed by the Board in October 2018. The latter supports the annual assurance of compliance with the Concordat to Support Research Integrity.

4. International strategy and external engagement

(i) The Strategic Partnerships Office

During the year the Board approved amended Terms of Reference for the International Strategy Committee and an update to the General Board Protocol on International Agreements, to take into account the creation of the Strategic Partnerships Office (SPO). The SPO continues to develop its ways of working and capabilities to provide expertise and support to the University’s key partnerships and relationships, across the public and private sectors and across all disciplines, in order to maximise the value of these to the University.

(ii) Public international partnerships

The SPO has been facilitating the development of an International Strategy for the academic University with direction from the Vice-Chancellor, Pro-Vice-Chancellors, the General Board, the International Strategy Committee, Heads of School and other senior academic representatives from across the institution. The Strategy will be submitted to the General Board and the Council in the next academic year.

During the 2018–19 year, the Board received reports on many of the international partnership activities, including:

Africa: Following on from the recommendations of the Africa Strategy Working Group, new initiatives have been created to support not only the development of research, but also research administration with partner institutions in Africa. In June 2019, two different but complementary programmes were run to facilitate training and the sharing of good practice between administrators in African institutions.

China: The University entered into a partnership with Tsinghua University in China and established the Cambridge–Tsinghua Joint Research Initiative Fund for five years from 2019–20 to 2023–24. The two universities will provide RMB 1 million and £100,000 p.a. respectively, to strengthen research collaborations between academics in the two institutions. The initiative reflects the commitment of both universities to work together on addressing global challenges, such as climate change, food security and infectious diseases.

France: Opportunities for scaling up the relationship with the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) are being identified and developed. The Vice-Chancellor visited Sciences Po in April 2019 to sign a Memorandum of Understanding identifying further steps that could be pursued, and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Institutional and International Relations attended a summit convened by Sciences Po in Paris that will facilitate other interactions amongst academic-related staff.

Germany: The first funding call for projects supporting the University of Cambridge and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU) Strategic Partnership took place in autumn 2018 for projects commencing in 2019, with 42 projects across all six Schools being funded.

(iii) Business partnerships

During 2018–19, the SPO conducted a review of the University’s current processes for collaborating with business, engaging the views of academics, knowledge transfer professionals and business partners. As a result of the review, a number of phased actions will be introduced during 2019–20 with the goal of making it easier for the University’s staff and students to engage with business as an effective way of delivering strategic priorities across the University.

Growth in business partnerships has occurred across the six Schools during 2018–19, providing funding for innovative research, studentships and opportunities for the exchange of people and resources. Of particular note is a new, mutually beneficial partnership agreed with Aviva in March 2019 that will combine world-class research with frontline practice. The relationship will enable University researchers to investigate ethical, political and operational questions surrounding the use of data.

5. Human resources

The Human Resources Committee, as a joint Committee of the Council and the General Board, reports to both bodies, and detailed information regarding the work of the HR Committee and the HR Division can be found in the Council’s Annual Report (see p. 199). Amongst the HR‑related matters considered by the General Board during the course of the year were the Inclusive Leadership Programme and the Professional Service Career Development Programme, as part of the University’s response to reduce inequality, including pay inequality, after the publication of the gender pay gap report. As part of the race equality action plan, the University applied for an award under the Race Equality Charter. Work also continued in support of the introduction of the Academic Career Pathways (ACP) Scheme to replace the University’s Senior Academic Promotions (SAP) process. Aspects addressed during 2018–19 include establishing broader excellence criteria and reviewing academic induction and probation arrangements before proceeding to consultation.

6. Health, Safety and Regulated Facilities

The Health and Safety Executive Committee is also a joint Committee of the Council and the General Board, and the Board has been kept informed of its work via its minutes. Areas of focus included:

Occupational Health Service:
The Occupational Health Service has continued to experience an increase in its workload due to (a) the number of management and self-referrals of University staff and students; (b) the complexity of the health issues presented; (c) an increase in statutory health surveillance associated with workplace hazards; and (d) an overall increase in numbers of staff and students (via transfers of organisations into the University and increase in clinical students). This is having a significant impact on service delivery.

Staff Counselling Service:
During the academic year 2018–19 the Staff Counselling Service (SCS) received 741 referrals, an increase of 17% on the previous year. Of those referrals, 13% were identified as ‘of concern’ or ‘at risk’, reflecting the growing complexity of the cases.5 Staff Counselling was allocated additional resource to reduce client waiting times (from 11 weeks to 6–8 weeks) and a bespoke seminar, aimed at addressing generalised anxiety precipitated by the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, entitled Managing stress during times of uncertainty, has been attended by 500 University employees. The Staff Counselling Service will be relocating to a refurbished, purpose-designed building in Lensfield Road in 2019, and will be renamed the University Staff Counselling Centre to better reflect its current services and incorporate its future development strategies.

The Safety Office:
Following a staff restructuring and recruitment following retirements, the auditing process has been reviewed and revised, and now includes sports activities across the University.

7. Annual reports and presentations

Over the course of the year, the Board received the annual reports of the following institutions, accompanied by a presentation from the relevant Director.

(i) Cambridge University Press

The first annual presentation from Cambridge University Press (CUP) was made to the Board in January 2019.6 Mr Peter Phillips, the Chief Executive of CUP, and Ms Mandy Hill, Managing Director, Academic Publishing, outlined the ways in which CUP had been embracing radical change in academic publishing under four strategic themes: (i) Open Research – the launch of open access journals and books; (ii) Higher Education Publishing – digital sales; (iii) Impact – titles for a broader audience and more high-profile collaborations; and Innovation – through Cambridge Core, Cambridge Elements, and Blockchain.

(ii) University Library

The University Librarian, Dr Jessica Gardner, reported to the Board at its February 2019 meeting, detailing the ways the Library’s profile had been boosted through work towards open access requirements, the electronic deposit of doctoral theses, and the sharing of important library collections with the world.7 Over the course of the year, a new library management system had been introduced and a new state-of-the-art book storage facility in Ely had been opened. At its February meeting, the Board also received and approved the draft Strategic Framework and Priorities for Cambridge University Libraries 2019–24.

(iii) University Sports

The Director of Sport, Mr Nicholas Brooking, presented a summary of the operational and strategic work of the Sports Service and Sports Committee during the academic year 2017–18 to the Board at its meeting in February 2019.8 Mr Brooking reported on the successful transfer of sports club registration to the Sports Service, the official opening of two new hockey pitches at Wilberforce Road, and research into sport and academic performance.9

(xii) Institute of Continuing Education

The Director of the Institute of Continuing Education (ICE), Dr James Gazzard, presented the ICE annual report to the Board in February 2019.10 The Institute had grown by 30% year-on-year in terms of course fee revenue, and by 8% in terms of number of enrolments. During the year the Institute had taken steps to revise and extend the course portfolio and to engage with internal and external stakeholders.

(xii) Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettle’s Yard

In March 2019, the Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Mr Luke Syson, reported on the achievements of the Museum and its staff in 2017–18 under Professor Ward as acting Director.11 The Director welcomed the opportunity for the Museum to work in partnership with the University in achieving its research priorities, and noted that various modes of collaboration were being explored. A review to consider the Museum’s identity and aspirations was currently under way, which would generate a Masterplan Strategy.

Also at the March meeting, the Director of Kettle’s Yard, Mr Andrew Nairne, presented the annual report for Kettle’s Yard.12 The Museum had re-opened in February 2018 following completion of an £11m building project which had created new spaces for exhibitions, education and research. The Museum was exploring ways of contributing further to the mission of the University, and teaching and research in particular.

8. Other matters considered during 2018–19

(i) Establishment of new senior positions

The Board proposed the establishment (or re-establishment) of the following senior positions, in some cases supported by generous benefactions or other external funds:

Professorship of Accounting

Professorship of Digital Humanities

Professorship of Economics

Professorship of Geophysics

Professorship of Neuroendocrinology

Professorship of Ophthalmology

Professorship of Public Health and Microbiology

Nanjing Professorship of Technology and Innovation

Heads of School appointments are listed in the Council’s Annual Report (p. 201).

(ii) Cambridge Judge Business School Review

The Board initiated a review of the Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS) with the aim of defining a governance and operating framework that would enable the CJBS to thrive and contribute to the success of the wider University, while also maintaining a balance between transparency, accountability and autonomy. The Board agreed terms of reference and outline membership categories at its March meeting. A first meeting of the Review Group is scheduled for September, and the group is expected to conclude its business in Lent Term 2020.

(iii) Review of Student Societies

In May 2019, the General Board and the Council established a Group to review the governance and management arrangements for University student societies, including funding arrangements and the role of the Societies Syndicate. The review and consultation process is underway and the Group aims to make recommendations to the General Board and the Council by the end of the calendar year.

(iv) Emergency Action Plans

Following implementation of a new, more robust process for the oversight of institutional Emergency Action Plans (EAPs), the Board received its first annual report on the status of EAPs in General Board institutions. The report indicated that:

98% of General Board institutions had EAPs in place;

83% of General Board institutions had EAPs that had been updated in the last twelve months; and

more work was required on continuity plans and testing: 46% of General Board institutions had continuity plans in place and only 18% of General Board institutions had tested their EAPs at an appropriate frequency.

Work to follow up on the completion of continuity plans is to be completed by the end of the Lent Term 2020.

(v) Risk Register

Following the introduction of a new University risk management framework and policy in January 2019, the Board has taken on responsibility for oversight of the following risks:

(a)Risk 4 – Failure to communicate effectively with the Cambridge community; and

(b)Risk 6 – Failure to be an inclusive and diverse University.

The Board will review these risks on an annual basis and monitor the current and further mitigating actions and risk indicators for each risk at least once a term. Under the new Risk Management Policy, the General Board will also be provided with School and Non-School Institution risk registers during the Lent Term of each academic year.

(vi) Minutes / Committees reporting to the Board

The Board can report that, during the year, it received and noted the minutes of the following committees:

Biomedical Services Governance and Strategy Committee

Careers Service Syndicate

University Council

Education Committee

Environmental Sustainability Strategy Committee

Fitzwilliam Museum Syndicate

Health and Safety Executive Committee

Human Resources Committee

Information Services Committee

International Strategy Committee

Kettle’s Yard Committee

Library Syndicate

Museums Committee

Planning and Resources Committee

Postdoctoral Matters Committee

Committee on Prevent and Freedom of Speech

Research Policy Committee

University Sports Committee

5 November 2019

Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor

A. L. Greer

Richard Rex

Philip Allmendinger

Nicholas Holmes

Graham Virgo

Kristine Black-Hawkins

Ali Hyde

Mark Wormald

Ann Copestake

Patrick Maxwell

Chris Young

John Dennis

Anna Philpott