Promotions put on hold

November 20, 1998

Cambridge University has frozen its entire annual round of personal promotions to readerships and chairs next year because of objections to its proposed procedural reform.

At a discussion in the university's Senate House last week, six academics raised objections to the university's attempt to make the system "transparent and fair". Objections were raised that, among other things, there were no proper appeal procedures; that the names of expert referees would not be available for scrutiny by applicants; that there is insufficient provision for feedback; and that there are to be no face-to-face interviews.

Psychology lecturer Donald Laming said the planned procedures needed "substantial further amendment in the interest of fairness and reliability". Constitutional expert Anthony Edwards said university managers had substituted "unstatutory managerialism for the proper government of the university". Lecturer Roger Dawe called the plans "absurd". The critics threatened to force a ballot of the whole university on each detail of the plans.

In a letter to departmental heads this week, David Livesey, Cambridge's secretary general to the general board, said: "The board, with great reluctance, in view of the remarks made and the likelihood that a ballot will be called forI have no alternative but to suspend the 1999 promotions exercise. The board must make this decision if the democratic and legal principles on which the university's constitution is founded are to be observed."

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