Board of Scrutiny
Noon, Thursday 28 April 2005
New SCR, Selwyn College
Present: Stephen Cowley, Nicholas Holmes, John Little, Timothy Milner, Saskia Murk-Jansen, David Phillipson, Nick Pyper, Jennifer Rigby, John Spencer, Helen Thompson
In attendance: The Vice-Chancellor, Tessa Payne
Nick Downer, Margaret Glendenning,
2. Meeting with the Vice-Chancellor
The Vice-Chancellor discussed with members of the Board a wide range of issues.
This included the process of the Council, General Board and Finance Committee and their identification of strategic issues, the need to agree timetables to deal with them, and to regularly assess achievements. Additionally, progress is being made on strategic planning at School and non-School level. A report on the progress of strategic planning is expected in the next few months.
The Vice-Chancellor confirmed that the appointment from 1 June of a Director of External Affairs and Communications was a key move to address the issue of internal and external communications. His responsibilities will include bringing together those concerned with internal and external communications within the University, and identifying with them not only what needs to be communicated but how this should be done.
Key policy activities at present include the proposals for Pay and Grading, IP rights, changes regarding the management of the Amalgamated Fund, and the launch of the 800 Campaign. The issue of governance is also under preliminary discussion both by Council and the Audit Committee, who are considering the matter in terms of risk and opportunities. Additionally, the Vice-Chancellor has asked Lord Wilson of Dinton, together with a small working group, made up of Lord Simon, Professor Badger and Professor Bell, to provide advice to her in this area.
The Vice-Chancellor confirmed the importance she attached to the inclusion of the Colleges within University processes and her desire to emphasise the collegiality of Cambridge. The Colleges would be heavily involved with the 800 Campaign, and, in fact, work was ongoing with the Colleges on a number of issues with the goal of improving communication and co-ordination.
In terms of the roles of the Pro Vice- Chancellors (PVCs), the Vice-Chancellor confirmed that there was now in place a regular schedule of meetings between the PVCs, and the PVCs and senior managers, and that it was important that they convened without, as well as with, the Vice-Chancellor. The Vice-Chancellor emphasised the need for clarity of role and team working at this level, and the need to look at the strategic landscape. She confirmed that the role of the PVC was still evolving and that the PVCs were appointed by Council and formally report to Council. Regular meetings are also held between the Chairs of Schools, to which the Registrary is also invited on a regular basis. Each School now has a financial manager who also reports to the UAS. This arrangement appears to be working well and consideration is being given to extending this model to other roles. The Vice-Chancellor confirmed that a view was forming that indicated that it could be beneficial to put the service providers where the service was required, and that this may lead to a degree of rational decentralisation. However, any such move would need to be implemented with great care, due to the complexity of the University.
The Vice-Chancellor confirmed that she expected the implementation of the new pay and grading structure to take place on time. She acknowledged that the task is difficult and complex, but that the appointment of a consultant project manager has strengthened the overall process. Even when the structure has been agreed, the full benefit of implementation would take time to become apparent. It has been important to have undertaken a wide consultation exercise, and to provide reassurance to staff.
The meeting discussed a concern regarding the proposed timing of the publication of the Grace relating to the new pay and grading structure, and the probability that the Grace may be published at a time when many staff would be on holiday. The importance of the University being in a position to do business for more than eight months a year was noted by the Vice-Chancellor and agreed, but it was hoped that there could be a degree of flexibility regarding this particular issue.
The Vice-Chancellor confirmed that the projected budget deficit for the financial year ending 31 July 2006 was better than expected, and that she expected to see modest surpluses within two years, which it was anticipated could accommodate the implementation costs of the new pay and grading structure. However, there would still be a requirement for a substantial reconfiguration of financial underpinnings to accommodate, for example, salary enhancements and any further pension deficits. However, such moves would demonstrate externally that the University is properly managing its resources.
3. Minutes of previous meeting
These were agreed, subject to amendment of the action point on SC under agenda item 5, where it was noted that SC had agreed to obtain information from Andrew Reid (completed), and not to arrange a meeting with him.
4. Matters arising
Nick Holmes confirmed that a meeting with Professor Minson has been arranged at the Old Schools on 9 May at 5pm. Probable attendees would be SC, ND, NH HT (tbc).
5. New arrangements for the Pay and Grading Review for non-clinical staff
The Board welcomed the recent public consultations regarding this issue, but voiced concern that all the information given may not have been entirely correct, and that it is still not clear that the process will be transparent or fair. Members reported that concern continues to be voiced from various quarters. The turnout at the public consultations has been high, but it was noted that the presentations appeared to be directed at support staff and not academic staff, and this raised the question of whether the two groups have been dealt with separately?
It was agreed that an additional meeting of the Board should be scheduled on 2 June to enable consideration of the expected Discussion (on 30 May) on this issue.
6. Annual Report
It was agreed that the Board would aim to complete their Annual Report in July, and that this would necessitate additional meetings over and above those already scheduled.
7. Date of next meetings
The next meeting will be held on Thursday 12 May in the New SCR, Selwyn College.
8. Any other business
It was noted that David Phillipson would be unavailable for around one month from 23 June.