Cambridge looks to beef up leadership

April 27, 2001

Cambridge University faces one of the biggest management shake-ups in its history after the governing council admitted that its leadership is "under-strength".

The appointment of two more pro vice-chancellors, a bigger executive role for the vice-chancellor and a new tier of administrative "professionals" leading new "divisions" are all being considered.

Dons will debate the moves in the Senate House next week.

In a report on the planned changes, the university's elected council said the catalyst had been last year's disastrous implementation of Capsa, a financial accounting system that brought Cambridge to a virtual standstill. "The council has previously made plain its assessment that the administration has been under-resourced for the needs of a modern university," the report says.

The council referred to its earlier report on Capsa, which says: "It is inevitable that the university will have to invest more in the way it does its business."

Many are questioning Cambridge's ability to keep up with Oxford University, which modernised its management and governance after 1998's North report.

In 1999-2000, Oxford's external research income was £130 million. Cambridge earned £118 million, less than Imperial College and University College London. In the past three years, Oxford academics have set up 20 companies worth £9.5 million. Cambridge had been lax in securing rights to its academics' inventions, the university's director of research services said recently.

"The availability of effective administrative servicesI is on the critical path for the continued success of the university's academic and educational mission," the council report said.

"The senior management team of the university is still under-strength, and its capacity can and should be enhanced," it added.

The report proposes appointing two more pro vice-chancellors to bring the total to four. A group has been set up to "give specific consideration to the vice-chancellorship", which will consider founding the new posts.

New divisions would include: academic; finance; management information; personnel; and research services. Each division will be headed by a "senior professional" reporting to the registry.

The university's treasurer and secretary general will be relieved of some administration responsibilities "so as to allow those officers to devote more time and energy to their advisory roles as well as providing a clearer management structure".

The report said both would report to the vice-chancellor, outside the existing administration structure. The treasurer would focus on acquisition, development and exploitation of university assets, and the secretary general would focus on learning and teaching.

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