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22 May 2003 Minutes

Board of Scrutiny

Minutes of the Meeting Held at Noon on

Thursday 22 May 2003 at Selwyn College

 

Present: Stephen Cowley, Christopher Forsyth, Robin Lachmann, Elisabeth Leedham-Green, Susan Lintott, Jack MacDonald (from 12:30 pm), Timothy Milner, Oliver Rackham, Jennifer Rigby, John Spencer, Helen Thompson

 

Apologies: David Howarth.

 

1)      Minutes of the meeting of 8 May 2003. The notes of 8 May 2003 were accepted. The Secretary apologised for the fact that the minutes were behind on being placed on the WWW. It was agreed that something should be done about the support officer.

 

Action: David Howarth to write a person specification and to forward it to the Chairman.

 

2)      Matters arising.

 

a)      Visit to Anne Campbell MP. This is to take place at 14.00 on Friday 23 May 2003 at Alex Wood Hall, Norfolk Street. The delegation will consist of John Spencer, Christopher Forsyth, Timothy Milner, Helen Thompson, Elisabeth Leedham-Green, Stephen Cowley and possibly Susan Lintott. It was agreed to meet at the Hall at 13.55. It was agreed that we would start by explaining the rôle of the Board of Scrutiny including some of our successes (e.g. the only official body to warn of CAPSA prior to go-live, our concerns about the accounts as regards CUP and UCLES). It was agreed that we would make clear that the Board agrees that we need a principal officer and external members. However, there must be appropriate checks and balances to ensure that the principal officer is accountable, and that the external members are informed and independent. The proposals that were voted on were flawed; as such their rejection actually indicates that our governance is working. The Board accepts that there is a need to tackle delays, but these are not to do with the democratic aspects of our governance.

 

Action: the Chairman to email members of the Board the second letter sent to Anne Campbell.

 

b)      Primate Centre. In response to the Board’s question as to whether members of the Council knew of the use of the primate centre, the Registrary had replied that members of Council thought it was inconceivable that they did not know.

 

c)      The Vice Chancellor’s refusal to provide the studies from the FWP Report. The Chairman had been informed that a letter from the VC was coming concerning the refusal. There was a discussion as to how to make a representation under Stature K5, and in particular of the time limit of 30 days.

 

Action: the Chairman to notify the Board once the letter has arrived.

 

d)      IPR. It was noted that there seemed to be widespread concern within the University re the possible securitisation of IPR. It was agreed that we would call for a public statement on this matter in the eighth Report. It was also agreed to question, at some point in the future, the Director of RSD on this point, and to ask possibly for all correspondence with Price Waterhouse.

 

Action: call for a public statement re the possible securitisation of IPR in the eighth Report. The Chairman and Robin Lachmann to question the Director on RSD on this matter.

 

e)      Letter to the Vice-Chancellor elect. A letter had been sent to the Vice-Chancellor elect wishing her a rapid recovery. It was reported that she will be in Cambridge during June but will be busy. A meeting between her and the Board may be possible in July.

 

f)        Board of Scrutiny election. It was reported that a number of those that the Board had approached to stand had agreed to. It was agreed that once the voting forms had been sent out members of the Board would encourage colleagues to vote.

 

Action: members of the Board to encourage colleagues to vote in the elections for members of the Board.

 

3)      Financial Matters.

 

a)      Budget. It was reported that apparently the Finance Committee had not accpeted the allocations for the forthcoming year, and had asked the Planning and Resources Committee to think again. The Chairman reported that the terms of reference of the Finance Committee and the PRC are still under review; nothing has been reported yet.

 

b)      Financial Model. The Secretary reported on a conversation that he had had with the Director of Finance concerning the proposed financial model. The DoF had said that the financial model would cost £215000 to develop, most of which will be covered by a donation (a question was raised as to why the cost was referred to as approximately £800000 in the Finance Working Party Report). There was a discussion of the relative merits of financial models (e.g. it was suggested that the model should be validated by running it forward from say, 1983, and seeing how accurate it was). It was agreed to ask the DoF for the “selling points” of the financial model.

 

Action: the Secretary to ask the DoF for the selling points of the financial model.

 

c)      The HEFCE audit letter. It was reported that the Registrary did not initially understand our first request, but he had since provided HEFCE’s interim response to its audit. The ratings of the administration by HEFCE were noted. It was observed that apparently HEFCE think that the University needs a CEO. It was agreed to point out to HEFCE that the Board exists.

 

4)      Governance: External Members of Council and Membership of the Regent House. It was noted that the Council had proposed a scheme of appointing two external members of Council using a nominating committee with equal numbers drawn from the Council (including the Vice-Chancellor) and the nomination board. The Secretary reported that the Council had not apparently consulted internal experts on non-executive directors (and their appointment) as the Board had suggested. It was reported that the Secretary had written in an individual capacity to the Registrary concerning the part that academic-related members of staff could play in the activities of the Regent House.

 

5)      Cambridge MIT Institute and the National Audit Office (NAO). The Chairman had contacted that NAO over a report in the Sunday Telegraph (since also picked up by the Guardian) suggesting that the Treasury had not carried out the tendering for the contract correctly. The NAO had informed him that they had not published a report, but had just written a private letter to an MP. It appears that the press had blown up this letter for its own purposes. It was noted that there had apparently been no rebuttal from the University’s press office; the view was expressed that in this case this might have been the best course of action.

 

6)      The Press Office: Visitor Centre. It was reported that a member of the Board has been asked to join the project working party for the visitor centre. The Colleges first heard of the project by means of a letter in March 2002.  Since then there had been various changes to the project, e.g. a change from two to three business units. There had been various draft business plans at different stages, but it was not clear that the plans had kept up with changes to the project. There had also been an information trip to the USA (cf. CAPSA). There appears to be a case that the procedures adopted have not been ideal; e.g. at the beginning the principle of whether the University needed a visitor centre (and what it was for) should have been decided, and there should have been commercial input. It appears that the current proposals have been put forward without sufficient information (e.g. a lack of commercial input) to make a proper decision. It was thought that a full business plan has yet to be presented and it was not clear whether there would be a recurrent funding need. It was suggested that Heads of House were not happy, and that at present the Colleges were adverse to the project. It was agreed that the Chairman would seek the views of a Head of House.

 

Action: the Chairman to contact a Head of House re the visitor centre.

 

7)      Performance of RSD. There was a discussion of the performance of the RSD. It was noted that it was important to draw a distinction between the different roles of the RSD, e.g. the arrangement and drawing up of research contracts, and the licensing of IPR. The Board had been passed a letter from a Chairman of a School to the Research Policy Committee. The letter was critical of the performance of RSD on a number of fronts. It was agreed that the Chairman would consult a contact for further examples of interactions with RSD.

 

Action: the Chairman to consult his contact for examples of the performance of RSD.

 

8)      Response to the Seventh Report. It was noted that it took the Finance Committee until January to consider the Board’s seventh Report. It was not clear that either the PRC or the Audit Committee had ever considered the seventh Report, and it was believed that the Report had not featured on the agenda of Council until recently (it was agreed to ask for Council minutes in order to check this). It was noted that many of the Board’s recommendations had been acted upon in the period between publication of the Report and the Council’s response, although this was not necessarily clear from the Council’s response. It was agreed to note this timing explicitly in the eighth Report.  Suggestions in the Report that were not explicitly posed as recommendations were either not commented on and/or acted upon, e.g. induction procedures for new academic-related staff and some of the Board’s recommendations regrading the RAM.

 

9)      The Eighth Report. It was agreed that the Board would need to meet regularly until the Report is submitted.

 

a)      Governance. Timothy Milner would draft the section on governance.

 

b)      RSD. The Chairman and Robin Lachmann would try and draft a section on RSD. Comments on RSD should be sent to Robin Lachmann.

 

c)      UAS development plan. It was reported that a member of the Board had a copy of the UAS development plan. It was agreed to make a comparison between the plans and the implementation. It was noted that the needs requested in the plan were reduced as part of last year’s the cost savings exercise. There did not appear to be a cost benefit analysis or a detailed business plan. The claim that Cambridge spends less on administration and central services than other Universities was noted. It was thought that this claim does include departmental administration, but not the cost of Colleges’ administration. It was noted that the recent increase in the number of academic-related staff from 239 to 285 was relatively large compared with the increase in academic staff.

 

d)      The draft Report. A draft Report tabled by the Chairman was discussed. It was agreed to aim for a crisper start (since the first page looked rather defensive), and to move the discussion of the Board’s treatment by Council and the Vice-Chancellor to the end. The question arose as to when the Allocations Report was due to come out this year, since it might be helpful to refer to it. 

 

e)      CamSIS? There was a discussion of CamSIS, e.g. how much has been spent (this was thought to be about £200000 at present, but the final budget was thought to be about £8 million). It was agreed to attempt to find out what the Colleges know about CamSIS, to determine whether they are happy with progress.

 

f)        Finance. It was agreed that there were a number of comments in the auditor’s management letter that could bear repeating, e.g. the lack of a strategic plan (it was noted that the draft of last year was a strategic plan without a strategy). There will be a meeting of the Board’s finance subcommittee at 9.00 am on 30 May in Churchill College.

 

10)  Any other business.

 

a)      Ethnic policy. The Council’s Report on ethnic policy was noted. A question was raised as to whether the Report was overkill; it was thought that given the political climate there was little the Board could contribute.

 

11)  Date of next meeting. The next meeting will be on Thursday 5 June at Noon.