Cambridge academics set to vote on governance reforms

January 17, 2003

The task of determining the future shape of Cambridge University fell to its academics as ballot papers on governance and management reforms were sent out this week, writes Caroline Davis.

The vote coincides with chancellor Gordon Brown's hint that he will give universities more resources only in exchange for management reforms.

The 3,000 members of Regent House - the ultimate governing body of the university - will take part in the vote, which has already been delayed by a month.

The motions include:

* Extending Regent House to up to 5,000 members, including postdoctoral researchers and administrative staff

* Changing the membership of the council and audit committee to include external members

* Increasing the vice-chancellor's authority and extending the term of office from five years plus an optional extension, to seven years

* Increasing the number of pro vice-chancellors from two.

Gordon Johnson, provost of Wolfson College and a member of the university council, said many members of the university did not feel the reforms went far enough.

He said: "The university is now bigger and more complicated than it has ever been and is exposed to fiercer demands, both from within and from outside, requiring more explicit, open and better management."

The university's Board of Scrutiny urged academics to vote against the reforms to the vice-chancellor's role.

It argued that the proposed balance of power between the vice-chancellor and the elected council, particularly over control of university finances appeared to be "a recipe for confusion and administrative impasse".

It also warned that there was no practical route to remove a vice-chancellor who was either incompetent or "a dictator who (was) less than benign".

* Academics this week criticised Cambridge University plans for developing green-belt land in a Regent House discussion.

They claimed they were not consulted over plans to build high-density housing and accommodation for the computer industry in northwest Cambridge.

A spokesperson for the university's planning department said Regent House would be asked to approve any plans before they went for planning permission.

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