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

Stephen John Cowley
university of cambridge


Board of Scrutiny

Minutes of the Meeting Held
at Noon on

Thursday 3 July 2003 at Selwyn College


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


Apologies: David Howarth, Jack MacDonald, Robin Lachmann.


Minutes of the meeting of 19 June 2003. These
were approved.


Plan for the Eighth Report. It was
noted that the Report should go to Council for the 21 July meeting. This would
mean that a draft copy should go to the Registrary on Friday 11 July. In the
light of this it was agreed to meet on 10 July 2003. There was then a
discussion of the draft report.


It was agreed that we need to get to the meat of the report
quickly. It was therefore agreed to move paras 3-6 to a new section towards the
end and to incorporate para 7 into the financial section. Susan Lintott was
writing a section on the accounts (e.g. commenting on the fact that they were
not true and fair).

It was agreed that the Board needed to make clear that its
work had been hampered by not receiving the full reports of the Finance Working
Party, but that this point should be made towards the end of the Report
(although flagged earlier).

It was agreed that we should observe that the University
still did not have joined-up budgeting. It was agreed to ask the Director of
Finance about progress on this point, and to ask how this compared with earlier

The Chairman and Secretary had received an email noting that
SRIF funding was for equipment as well as new buildings, and that Cambridge was
seemingly concentrating on buildings (possibly at the expense of departments
that needed equipment). There was a discussion as to whether this was wise
given the past cost of overruns and extra running expenses of new buildings. It
was agreed to check facts with colleagues, e.g. as to what extent EPSRC
equipment funds have been rolled into SRIF.

There was a discussion as to exactly how large the projected
deficit was predicted to be.  It was
agreed that there was an urgent need for a meeting with Andrew Reid.

Action: Secretary to arrange a meeting between the
Chairman, Secretary and Susan Lintott with the Director of Finance.

Regarding the RAM it was agreed that there was still a need
for a debate on small departments. It was noted that although departments, etc.
has done very well in the RAE, etc., it was those departments, rather than the
central administration that were being asked to bear the burden of the cuts.
The administration needs to be under the same financial disciple as the
academic departments and cannot excuse itself from economies.

It was agreed that we need to ask the Director of Finance
and the Registrary about the progress on Shattock and Finkelstein’s
recommendations, and to then comment on them in the Report.

It was agreed to emphasise the need for a sensitivity
analysis of the RAM before it is introduced. The need for a strategic plan also
needs to be emphasised, e.g. there is a need to identify proper funding of core
activities and not to waste money on opportunistic activities that are not
central to the key aims of the University.

It was suggested that one of the main problems at present is
not with governance per se, but with the bit between governance and
administration. It was agreed to make a favourable reference to Oxford’s North
Commission of Inquiry as a considered means of reforming governance (rather
than looking for quick fixes).

There was a discussion of the Press Office, and in
particular of Mike Clark’s comments on the Press Office during the IPR
Discussion in October 2002. The Chairman agreed to follow up this matter with
David Secher and the Press Office.


It was noted that the Press Office
had recently circulated a media guide recommending that in dealing with the
Press members of the University not say anything off the record. A discussion
of the way that the governance proposals were explained to the Press ensured.
It was agreed to again emphasise in our Report of the need for the University
to present its case honestly and transparently. There was a discussion of the
leaks at the time of the election of the new Vice-Chancellor. It was agreed
that although what happened was deplorable, there was little to be gained by
raising the issue again.


There was a discussion of the proposed visitor centre, and
in particular the chronology of events. It was thought that the idea was first
proposed in March 2001, that the College Bursars had not initially been
enthusiastic, that some form of business plan had been drawn up towards the end
of 2002 (after the involvement of consultants and a visit to the USA), but that
after revisions to the proposal, the business plan had not been updated
(possibly when it went to the PRC in March 2003). It was thought that the
proposal had been put forward as self-financing, but if so there was a question
as to why the Colleges had been asked for £5000 each (it was not known if this
would be recurrent). It was noted that if we were to comment on the Visitor
Centre then we would need to be sure of our facts. However, it did seem that
the proposal had not evolved in a coherent manner and that the aims of the
project were not clear (e.g. would a visitor centre in the middle of Cambridge
really improve the access of students from the East End of London, or from the
North East, etc.). It was not clear that the messages from CAPSA had been


Any Other Business.


A meeting has been arranged with the Vice-Chancellor elect
on 17 July 2003. It was agreed to send her the draft report.


It was noted that Dr Branson was retiring. Arrangements for
his successor do not seem to have been finalised.


I was noted that while the University has serious financial
problems, Imperial is apparently in the black.


The financial difficulties of University Assistant Lecturers
(UALs) were commented on. It was noted that UALs were to be abolished, but that
it was still very difficult for newly arriving staff at almost all levels to be
able to afford housing.


4)      Date of
next meeting
. The next meeting will be held at noon on 10 July 2003.