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Board of Scrutiny

Helen Thompson
Stephen John Cowley
Social & Political Sciences


of Scrutiny


Thursday 22April



Garden Room



Present: Stephen Cowley (Acting Secretary), Christopher
Forsyth (Chairman), Nicholas Holmes, Elisabeth Leedham-Green, Saskia
Murk-Jansen, Timothy Milner, David Phillipson, Jennifer Rigby, Roger Salmon,
John Spencer.


Helen Thompson (on leave).


Welcome to the Vice-Chancellor (VC). The VC made some introductory
remarks, inter alia touching on the practical and political difficulties
associated with animal experiments. She indicated that she would be providing
an annual report to Council relating to the goals that she herself set at the
beginning of the year. She noted that she would withdraw from Council for the
discussion of her report.


The VC also observed that since
the establishment of the Board, there had been a significant increase in the
amount of time that the Central Bodies were required to spend on accountability
issues, e.g. there were very many more requests from HEFCE and other external
institutions than before. In addition the Audit Committee had a revised
membership, the University now had a committee on risk management, and of
course there were still Reports and Discussions. An argument could be made that
there was too much time spent being seen to be accountable (i.e. too much
scrutiny with a little ‘s’), and too little time spent moving forward.


Members of the Board agreed that there was a danger
of too much scrutiny (especially given the apparent accountability mania
spreading across Europe), were keen to work together with the central bodies,
and agreed that the Board should focus on major issues rather than minutiae. It
was noted that members of the Board should, on the whole, be better informed
than average members of the Regent House given the access the Board has to
documents. Several members of the Board also observed that the Board had a good
track record of identifying problems, and it might be of benefit to the
University if the Board’s Reports were given greater consideration. The VC
noted that there was a difference between identifying difficulties and correcting
them, e.g. the consolidation of accounts was proving to be time consuming; the
Board agreed.  However, she hoped that
future Reports of the Board would be dealt with constructively by the central


The Board noted that its recent Reports had
apparently been successful in being the instrument in explaining the financial
position, etc. of the University to the Regent House; the point was made that
the central bodies ought to be able explain itself. Given the pressure of
business on Council, it was suggested that Scrutiny might find it easier to see
the wood for the trees; the point was made the as a result of the Council’s
retreat, etc., matters might be improving on that front. The VC emphasised that
the central bodies were developing a strategic plan for the future, but this
was very much work in progress and was not covered by a single document similar
to Oxford’s recent draft plan. The VC emphasised that planning documents had
gone out from the central bodies for consultation, and issues were bubbling up
from the compilation of the risk register. A strategic roadmap for the
University was being developed that the University should hear more about in
the next year. Several members of the Board had not been aware of these
discussions of broader issues, and wondered whether it might be helpful the
Regent House might also be informed of them.


There was a discussion of the need to control the
University’s resources, especially its finances. It was emphasised that while
money is a trigger, and that an integrated financial plan should help with
strategic thinking, it was important not to lose sight of the aims of the
University, and for the need for the University to continually evolve. There
was still a large amount to be done, and the University and Colleges needed to
ensure that they were not doing more than they could afford. A combination of
revenue increases, efficiency savings, and a change in the mix of what the
University and Colleges do, were all likely to be ingredients in getting the
University and Colleges on an even keel. 
It was going to be difficult to keep everyone happy.


It was emphasised that the Board needs to be careful
in its Reports, so that the press cannot twist phrases out of context.


The VC left after about 90 minutes. The Board
thanked her for a positive and fruitful meeting.


Minutes of the Meeting of 11 March 2004. The Board agreed that corrections
to the
agreed that
corrections to the minutes of the meeting of 11 March 2004 should be emailed to
the Acting Secretary.




The Chairman reported
that three applications had now been received for the position of support
officer. It was agreed that the Chairman, Acting Secretary and Jennifer Rigby
would form the selection committee. It was agreed that a task would be set for
the applicants.


on the Consultative Report of the Council on the Finance Committee and the PRC.
There was a discussion of the draft speech. It
was noted that the VC was not to be a member of the PRC, that the proposed PRC
was possibly too large to make effective decisions, that the Chairmen of the
Schools would sit on the RMC, PRC and GB, that it had taken nearly two and a
half years (since the CAPSA reports) to come up with these proposals, and that
the Board was firmly of the opinion that the committee structure should be in
Ordinances but not in Statutes. It was agreed that the Board would not make a
recommendation as to the restructuring of the committees, but it would point
out that there were at least two alternative models. For instance, a case could
be made that the Chairmen of the Schools should not be on PRC, but should make
their cases for funding to the PRC. It was agreed that we should observe that
just because you are not in the room, does not mean that you are not consulted.
It was agreed to move the paragraphs on buildings towards the end of the


of the Annual Report.
Because of a lack of time,
most of the remaining items of the Agenda were deferred until the next meeting.


The Chairman noted that he now had
three copies of the blue book. Jennifer Rigby asked for one of them to be sent
to her.


It was agreed to mention the Press
Office in the forthcoming report, and in particular whether it should be more
fully integrated into the UAS.


Planning. It was agreed to ask for the consultation documents that have been circulated by
the central bodies.


Comments. It was requested that comments on the draft sections of the Report be
circulated by Tuesday 27 April 2004.


Date of
the Next Meeting.
Thursday 6 May 2004 at
noon in the Linnett Room (not the Garden Room), Robinson College.