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5 June 2003 Minutes

Board of Scrutiny

Minutes of the Meeting Held at Noon on

Thursday 5 June 2003 at Selwyn College


Present: Stephen Cowley, Christopher Forsyth, David Howarth (until 12.50pm), Robin Lachmann, Elisabeth Leedham-Green, Timothy Milner (until 12.35pm), Oliver Rackham, Jennifer Rigby, John Spencer, Helen Thompson


Apologies: Jack MacDonald, Susan Lintott.


1)      Minutes of the meeting of 22 May 2003. These were approved subject to a minor change.


2)      Matters arising.


a)      Visit to Anne Campbell MP. The Board had a good meeting with the local MP. She listened and appeared to be well informed e.g. she appeared to have read at least parts of the CAPSA Reports, and she was aware of the breakdown of trust between the central bodies and significant parts of the rest of the University.  She did not like ballots, and believed that they were a problem in that they slowed down decision-making. The members of the Board present agreed that if only the process leading to decisions and the Council worked efficiently then there might not be a demand (Anne Campbell might say need) for ballots. She noted that we both elect Council, and can then vote on their decisions; she seemed to think that it was sufficient to elect Council. In particular she was concerned about the range of policies/subjects that needed to be graced; she possibly seemed to think that only changes of Statute should be graced.  It was noted that accountability in the University appears to mean say “sorry”, and then continue as normal. She was keen that the Vice-Chancellor be given powers. The Board emphasised that if the Vice-Chancellor was to have further powers then there must be checks and balances (e.g. it must be possible to sack the Vice-Chancellor) and he or she must be made more accountable.


Action: the Chairman to write to Anne Campbell to thank her for the meeting.


b)      Board of Scrutiny elections. Members reported that they had encouraged their colleagues to vote. The Chairman had written to a number of Heads of Department and Heads of House asking them to emphasise the importance of voting.


3)      The Board’s appeal over the refusal of the Vice Chancellor’s to provide the studies from the FWP Report. There was a discussion of both a draft letter to the Vice-Chancellor and a draft appeal. It was agreed to ask the Vice-Chancellor if the procedure he had followed in coming to his ruling had been correct. It was also agreed to tone down the letter and appeal slightly.


It was agreed to send the letter and appeal to both the Vice-Chancellor and Council before the meeting of Council on Monday 9 June 2003. The Board expressed their thanks to Christopher Forsyth for the time he has spent on this matter.


4)      The Eighth Report.


a)      Allocations Report. It was noted that it would be best if some comments on this years Allocation Report could be made in our Report. It was reported that the Allocations Report would be discussed by Council on Monday 9 June 2003, and might be published that following Wednesday. (Secretary’s note: now due to be published on Wednesday 18 June 2003).


b)      OPM Governance Development Needs. This was a report commissioned by Council to comment on governance arrangements, and in particular how Council functioned (and was thought to have cost approximately £20,000). OPM interviewed members of Council and a few other senior members of the University. The Board’s opinion was that the people consulted were too very restrictive. Many of the recommendations just echoed back the views of the selected few that were interviewed, although other conclusions did make sense (e.g. where they echoed Shattock) and there was the odd home truth (e.g. the Council should question why they lost the governance vote). The report seemed to take no account of the democratic nature of the University, and took a top-down approach. The Board was surprised at the timing of the report, after the governance proposals had been decided but before the outcome of the vote was known. It was agreed that any quotes we used from the report would be run past the Registrary first when he saw the draft eighth report. The Secretary was asked to lead discussion of the report at the next meeting.


Action: the secretary to produce a summary of the report before the next meeting.


c)      HEFCE audit letter and other financial matters. There was a discussion as to whether we needed the permission of the Registrary and/or Council to quote from the HEFCE audit letter. It was agreed that as in the past we would write the Report and then forward a draft to interested parties for comment. It was agreed to copy both the HEFCE audit letter and the management letter to all members of the Board.


Action: the Secretary to copy the management letter to members of the Board. Jennifer Rigby to copy the HEFCE audit letter to members of the Board.


Susan Lintott had written a very helpful summary of the HEFCE audit letter and the minutes of the Finance Committee. It was noted that the HEFCE audit letter included an assessment of the University’s administration. There were four classes, with the bottom class being a fail. In each unit of assessment the University scored a third. It was noted that the TQA/SR results for teaching were published in the Reporter and it was resolved to suggest that a similar procedure was followed for the assessment of administration. It was agreed that we should refer in our Report to some of the key comments made in the HEFCE audit letter.


It was re-iterated that the Finance Working Party (FWP) Report seemed to have an over reliance on the RAM (indeed, the FWP Report seemed to be self-contradictory on this point). It was noted that given the parlous state of the University’s accounts the University needed more than just good housekeeping.


It was believed that the Finance Committee had sent the draft allocations for 2003-04 back to the PRC indicating that the projected deficits were too large. It was not known what had happened but the Board awaited the allocations report with anticipation.


It was agreed to include more from the management letter in our Report. It was also resolved to ask the Registrary for the progress report on matters raised in the management letter.


5)      Any other business.


a)      Primate Centre. There were indications that another grace would be proposed over the summer vacation.


b)      Milton Road. Professor Evans had emailed the Chairman and Secretary over a piece of experimental equipment in a building that the University was thinking of selling. The Board expected that due process would have been followed, but the Chairman agreed to informally check with a colleague.


c)      Trumpington Street. It was reported that certain University buildings on Trumpington Street were for sale. The Secretary reported that there had been a discussion of this sale on the ucam.change.governance newsgroup. In particular the question had been asked if the University had correctly obtained permission for the sale of all the properties since a number of different graces had been concerned. It was decided to take no further action at this point.


d)      Disposal of equipment. Douglas de Lacey had drawn the Secretary’s attention to the fact that thousands of pounds worth of equipment seemed to be thrown in skips when buildings were refurbished. He found this strange given that there was often not enough money for essential equipment. The Secretary agreed to take with matter up with the Director of Finance.


Action: the Secretary to email the Director of Finance over the disposal of equipment.


e)      HERA. The Secretary explained that as a job analysis scheme, HERA would determine salaries. He noted that there had been many studies that suggested academics were underpaid, e.g. even the Prime Minister accepted that we were 40% underpaid. If HERA was consistent with this, then the results of the analysis should indicate this underpayment. However, if this was the case then academics might argue the case in court using the HERA output. He was therefore of the opinion that it was highly unlikely that the output from HERA would predict that academics are 40% underpaid. However, if that was so and the HERA output were accepted, then it would mean that without a job re-analysis academics would be trapped with their current inadequate salaries. It was agreed to raise this issue with Peter Deer, but after the eighth Report had been finalised.


6)      Date of next meeting. The next meeting will be held at noon on 19 June 2003. The Secretary sent his apologies in advance.