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Board of Scrutiny


What is the Board of Scrutiny and what does it do?

The Board of Scrutiny was established in 1995 to 'ensure the accountability of the Council (and through it of the other central bodies) to the Regent House'. It can be thought of as an internal watchdog body, analogous to the relationship between the Public Accounts Committee and the government, ensuring transparency and accountability in all aspects of the University's operations. Every year, by power of Statute, the Board scrutinizes, on behalf of the Regent House:

  • The accounts of the University;
  • The annual report of the Council (including the annual report of the General Board to the Council);
  • Any report of the Council proposing allocations to the Chest.

In carrying out the above, the Board has the right to examine the policies of the University and the arrangements made for the implementation of those policies – and inspect documents and accounts that are relevant to such enquiries.

So financial scrutiny is at the heart of what it does?

While the stewardship of the University's finances, and any potential risks associated with its financial strategy, are a key area of focus, the Board considers a wide range of topics. Recent areas of interest have included postgraduate numbers, the Universities Superannuation Scheme, the North West Cambridge Development, the importance to the University of developing an estate strategy, open access and the University Sports Centre.

Who sits on the Board?

The Board comprises eight elected members of the Regent House, together with the two Proctors and two Pro-Proctors. The elected members serve for four years, with four being elected every two years (see the current membership). Elections are held in the Easter Term in odd-numbered years.

How does it carry out its functions?

The full Board usually meets three or four times a term, interviewing University officers on a range of topics. Recent guests have included the Vice-Chancellor, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Strategy & Planning, the Registrary, and the Academic Secretary. The Board also functions using a system of seven working groups, which focus on the following areas of University life: HR, Governance, Estates, Finance, Research, Education and Systems & Processes. Working groups conduct separate meetings with University officers as required throughout the year and report back to the main Board.

These interviews help the Board understand individual perspectives on key issues and to make important connections. They also serve as a warning system: for example, if a range of different people raise concerns about the same issue. Members of the Regent House can also contact the Board individually to raise a matter of concern, and do so fairly frequently. The Board also presents an annual report, published to the Regent House in The Reporter, outlining its investigations and giving its recommendations on governance and the implementation of policy. These reports are considered by the Council and are the subject of a Discussion by the Regent House. The Council usually publishes its response to the Board in The Reporter.

Does the Board make a genuine difference to the way the University carries out its operations?

The short answer is yes. It is at the heart of the University’s governance, and interacts with the key members of the University’s senior leadership. The Board seeks to conduct its business in a constructive way, interacting with both individuals and the University Council to develop mutually supportive outcomes on behalf of the Regent House.

What are the benefits of serving on the Board?

It is a very good training ground for finding out about how decisions are made in the University. It can be a good thing to do for those who are interested in developing their career in this area, especially if you have an interest in serving on the University Council. Right now we are especially keen to attract more University Teaching Officers and women – it is important that there is diversity in the Board’s membership.

What should I do if I am interested in becoming a member of the Board?

Contact the Board’s Secretary or Chair for further information.

How do I find out more about the role of the Regent House?

Visit the governance site, which provides information about the Regent House and other governance-related matters.