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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

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


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


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
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.


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


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


3)      Financial


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
. 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


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


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


9)      The Eighth
. 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


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
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.


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


a)      Ethnic
. 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
. The next meeting will be on
Thursday 5 June at Noon.