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Board of Scrutiny, meeting on Thursday 10 October at Selwyn College

Stephen John Cowley
university of cambridge


of Scrutiny

Minutes of the Meeting Held at Noon on

Thursday 30 January 2003 at Selwyn College


Present: Stephen Cowley, Christopher Forsyth, David Howarth, Elisabeth
Leedham-Green, Susan Lintott, Robin Lachmann, Timothy Milner, Oliver Rackham,
Jennifer Rigby, John Spencer, Helen Thompson.


Apologies: Jack MacDonald.


1)      Minutes of
the meetings of 5 December 2002 and 16 January 2003
. It was agreed that the Chairman would
circulate edited minutes for approval in the next few days.


2)      Matters
. The Secretary
apologised for not having sent the letter on harassment, and would do so in the
near future.


3)      The
Discussion of Reports held on 28 January 2003.
It was reported that the Board’s three
speeches had been delivered. The Secretary had replied to some points raised by
the Treasurer, who had announced that there was to be a committee to
investigate the inter-relationship between the accounts of the University, the
Press and the Local Examination Syndicate (a matter which the Board has raised
a number of times in the past). It was noted that Professor G.R. Evans had
raised the issue of “risk” and the risk committee.


The statutory position of the
Secretary-General and the Treasurer
The Board hoped that, following the loss of the vote on the Grace, Council would
act. The Board was of the opinion that the new Vice-Chancellor should have an
input as regards the long-term solution of this matter.


4)      The visit
to BoGS
. It was reported
that the problems last summer had been acknowledged, but that Prof. Brown and
Laurie Friday were now of the opinion that matters were much better. The origin
of last summer’s problems lay in the fact that there was an ever-increasing
workload as a result of more and more applications, combined with the loss of
key staff. Computerisation was being implemented which should help, but it had
been stressed that there seemed to be no real strategy within the University
that linked, for instance, the increase in the number of programmes/degrees run
by the University and the extra places that are consequently needed in
Colleges. There is no guarantee that in view of the increasing difficulties in
placing students in Colleges that some of last year's problems will not
reoccur. Further, this difficulty in placing students might increase if a RAM is
introduced with the wrong incentives. It was agreed that the lack of a strategy
for student expansion should be mentioned in our next Report. The question was
also raised as to what had happened to the University’s strategy document.


5)      The visit
to EMBS.
It was agreed
that the presentation to the Board had been well prepared. It was reported that
there was a new procedure for major building projects, however EMBS are not
responsible for including the income flow, and it is not clear that all the
expenditure is accounted for. The Director had agreed to forward an example of
such a plan to the Board. The buildings committee seems to be working more
effectively, inter alia, because of
the presence of external members. There are now formal procedures for appointing
architects and builders, and the University jointly chooses subcontractors now
(as opposed to leaving that task to the primary contractor).


method of tendering had been described in detail to the Board’s
representatives. Some expenditure is necessary at an early stage before a
Report is laid before the Regent House, e.g. to produce the primary tenders
(tendering being a two-stage process). It is apparently usual practice to sign
the formal contract after the building has been started, and hence the
key-stage as far as the University is concerned is when a letter of intent is
sent out (there may be more than one letter of intent if the building is


Director of EMBS had been asked about progress as regards the ground water
pollution on the Downing site. There is apparently a recent paper on the
University’s environmental liabilities.


6)      Preparations
for the visit to Registrary and Treasurer on February 11 to discuss Graces on
The Board noted
that as regards the primate building for experimental psychology, the Report
and Grace did not indicate the likely use of the building. The Board agreed to
make it clear that the Board holds a neutral position on the use of the
experimental psychology building.


regards the English building, the Board would like to know the chronology of
what happened when, and how the contractual processes tie in with the necessary
statutory processes.


7)      RSD: the
Secretary’s correspondence with the Director.
The Secretary reported on his correspondence with the
Director of RSD concerning what was said at their meeting in Lent 2002. The
Secretary was in the process of agreeing a date for a meeting with the Director
of RSD.  


8)      Possible
meeting with the Director of Finance
A meeting with the Director of Finance had been agreed provisionally for 27
February. However, that might be a better date for Malcolm Grant to come and
talk to the Board about the outcomes from the Financial Working Party.


was agreed to raise the matter of risk and the risk committee when the Board
meets the Director of Finance. It was also agreed to question the Director of
Finance on the exact position of the assistant staff pension fund.


9)      The White
. The publication
of the White Paper was noted. Attention was drawn to the facts (a) that 6*
research departments are proposed, (b) the HMG accepts that taking the
University sector as a whole, students from different social classes but with
the same A-level grades have an equal chance of being accepted into higher
education, (c) that there is a proposal that changes to statutes may no longer
have to be approved the Privy Council.


10)  Any other
. It was noted
that a Sunday Times article alleged that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was
concerned as to how efficiently and effectively the CMI money had been spent,
however there was also an official denial of this allegation.


It was also noted that a student newspaper had
alleged that two members of the University had acted corruptly. It was thought
that this was a matter for the audit Committee and not the Board.


was noted that there was a governance report by an external body that had been
commissioned by the University.


11)  Date of
the next meeting
. The next
meeting will be on Thursday 13 February 2003.