Structure of the University (also wider Oxford eg council + Labour?)
Talk about university as “the collegiate university”
Colleges are independent institutions – this refers to both university and constituent colleges
Make sure right terminology is used when structuring campaigns
University has highly devolved authority/decision making, so different parts are allowed to make their own decisions (to a degree)
Over 200 committees etc, oversight done by council with congregation (“the parliament of dons”) technically in final control. Every academic over a certain pay grade is allowed to be part of congregation, and this is supposed to be the sovereign body of the university. Supposedly over 5,500 members, and non academics can also be a part (as well as other routes, see uni statute/regulations).
Congregation normally delegates authority to council, but has occasionally mobilised around issues
Arcane rules about congregation vis a vis timeline etc, must be published in the gazette and so on
There is also convocation, which is all congregation members as well as alumni
Congregation normally chaired by VC or someone delegated by her. Speeches for and against resolutions must be performed, and submitted in advance. Votes done in person and by postal ballot
Council upholds strategic plan, oversees finances of university, sets budget, takes reports, and can propose amendments to statutes and regulations (then must go through congregation, but normally swift signoff). They are the university trustees as a charity, has elected positions (by congregation), heads of division – observers (non voting members) also present, like university officers and student reps (SU pres, VP grads and one other). They delegate a lot of responsibilities to the committees beneath them, and normally just sign off on these decisions
Proctors and assessor are full time positions responsible for scrutiny (supposed independent) principally of university governance structures and student matters. Proctors have complaints and academic appeals, exams, conduct (ie disciplinary), oversee sport/university clubs. They can attend and request papers for any of committees of university – some better than others at holding others to account.
There are 3 proctors, with colleges on a rotation system to propose them (from governing body), and they hold the position for a year. Often have very different perspectives on their purpose. Outgoing proctors are from Hertford, Balliol and St John, and provide report on significant issues and recommendations. Incoming are from Magdalen (Simon Horibin), St Annes (Freya something) and St Hildas (Helen Swift, assessor)
Assessor generally responsible for finance and welfare, often hardship etc
Committees responsible for monitoring, strategy etc for their divisions.
Planning and Resource Allocation is about uni estate, about many big plans like building projects
Education is anything related to students (like welfare)
Research and Innovation about research agenda, has included planning for Brexit and new landscape of research funding
SABS allocated as student representatives to a variety of committees. Pres on PRAC and GPC, Grad VP on RIC, some others on Education, and SRIRC etc
Divisions have a fair amount of authority – they have student reps (undergrad and grad), set their own budgets, and have final says about how their departments are run
Divisional heads appointed by council, then other positions within divisions
There are college reps on all committees, with most of the rest of members drawn from congregation
Conference of colleges described as consultative committee on many issues. 39 Colleges and 6 PPHs. Colleges are self governing independent bodies, while PPHs have religious affiliation and are generally governed by the Christian denomination that established them. They don’t have their own endowments. They can become colleges, like Mansfield and Harris Manchester, but need endowments (ie a lot of money) to do so. St Cross, Parks College etc are actually ‘societies’ don’t have royal charter and don’t have endowments, so legally they’re departments rather than colleges. This means they could be subject to university policies that other colleges are not. Linacre became a college from a society basis. Issues around union recognition etc
Conference sees itself as forum where all colleges come together, gather views, establish consensus where it exists, and put forward a coherent view to the university. Very little power for them to actually impose decisions upon colleges
Conference itself is normally just the heads of colleges, then important sub groups made up of various bursars (estates and domestic), senior tutors and graduate tutors
Student reps on conference typically from SU, but also officers from common rooms and presidents
Miles Young from New is current head of conference, but they normally don’t do much
Admissions Executive and Admissions Tutors in Admission Committee generally decide approach to admissions/access
Joint groups do exist but predominantly just hold advisory capacity
UAS – University Admissions and Services. Also known as the central admin, or as Wellington Square. These are effectively the civil service of the university, those who work behind the scenes. This includes Pro-Vice Chancellors – worth seeing diagram with who holds these positions. One of the most powerful is PCV for Planning and Resources (David Prout) who controls much of uni funding and direction
Registrar is Gillian Aitken, is secretary of council and effectively VCs second in command – she heads up most of the rest of the ‘civil service’
Samina Khan and Gillian Hamnett generally more favourable towards students
UAS decides curriculum, student welfare and support, propose much of broader policy surrounding most university issues also
They hold much power, as if they don’t support something they generally control papers of committees and write pros and cons – a lot of the time this is who you are really trying to convince, as committee members look to those who serve them for advice
Difficult to find out more about UAS as in best interests of them for obfuscation of how they operate
Most of the university income comes either from government or student fees. Also funding from OUP which is technically a department of the university but very different structures in how they run. Capital transfer from OUP is a major source but problematic as publishing not a flourishing industry. OUem manages the endowment, but while the university has a large endowment (~£1.2bn) and assets around £4bn, but £4.9bn aggregate endowment of colleges and £6.3bn in assets. Colleges have a near monopoly on donations/fundraising, with the university only being allowed 3 weeks a year to ask for funds from students. This is one of the reasons that larger donations like Schwarzman are often seen as future of university funding.
As devolved institution, many people pass responsibility on to other sections, eg divisions blame departments, blame faculties, blame lecturers but then don’t allow much pushback. They find ways within the system to block change, generally designed to stifle change.
External members of council very important and appointed by another committee
Congregation generally mobilise best when they feel that they weren’t consulted about an issue, especially if it affects them eg pensions
UCU Teach Out: Who runs the university? 2/12/2019 Delivered by two UCU representatives.
Permission granted to share information from this talk.
Can strike on a college level if you balloted college members but hard because staff all have
Very top – congregation around 6000 members of staff, don’t have to be above a certain pay grade,
dons and senior administrators. Ultimate authority. Doesn’t meet frequently and regular meetings
usually cancelled. Convoluted in terms of how to call a meeting, complicated statutes. Strategy
used by the university to prevent it from exercising its authority, weaponises technicalities of
Congregation can tell uni’s council what to do. Heads of academic divisions, vice chancellor, reps
from other bodies eg SU (as observers).
Proctors and assessor – students encounter with complaints and about exams. Scrutinise how the
uni runs and to ensure that the statutes and regulations of uni are upheld. Can appeal to proctors if
you think that isn’t the case. Elected on a cycle – three colleges each time. Can attend all
committees of council and sub committees. Independent bc only around for three years. Recently
obliged to take on more student admin work.
[see handout above for list of committees] nested structure in which authority is passed down and
devolved. There is autonomy on lower levels – faculties and departments can make decisions
about their finances. Means it can be difficult to get top layers to make decisions that would bind
At side of diagram, conference of colleges. Each college can make their own decision but come
together at this conference. There are multiple committees of conference. But the conference
doesn’t make binding decisions for colleges. Came together to use the same tools eg OxCORT but
it is rare.
Chancellor (honorary role) and vice-chancellor. Heads of divisions and services report to vice-
Pro-vice-chancellors map onto committees of council. Donations, fundraising, alumni, public
PVC for education (Martin Williams) one of the most important people. Sits at head of education
committee, everything that comes under student experience.
David Prout spends the money and plans future expenditure. Friends with vice-chancellor. No
experience in higher education before this post. These heads all have large teams of people
working to keep things running.
PVC roles filled by people looking to go onto vice-chancellor roles.
College frameworks: governing body, trustees and fellows. St Cross and Kellogg – known as
societies. PPHs – religious foundation.
Colleges have their own endowment and governing structures.
Colleges independent charities and developed at different times.
Democracy run by academics bc they sit in on congregation.
University Press is technically a department and reports into council. Out of the loop in other
respects. Give a sum of money each year – props up uni financially, main source of income.
Q: Who decides payment? Short-term of long-term contracts?
Nationally agreed pay system, spine-point increments. Salary grades fitting into a spine-point
dependent on institution. At the top of the scale, you’re allowed to employ people off the scale of
pay. Vice-chancellor would be paid more than a Grade 10 salary. Uni claims they don’t have the
power to change the nationally agreed spine-points. True. But they could move people up the
scale. Could shift everyone’s pay proportionally. Striking to get the spine-point raised by 1.8% to
adapt to inflation.
Top salaries decided by committee for senior salaries. Membership publicly available and no
Q: Power mapping for different student campaigns. Advice on who to communicate with on student
issues? PVC for education?
PVC would bounce you to someone else. Oxford SU ambassadors sit in on these committees
(sometimes as members, sometimes as observers). Point of access into central administration,
sabs are crucial. Supposed to be undergrad and postgrad reps in department and faculty boards.
Collegiate nature of university means that less engagement in departmental decision-making. Hard
to get volunteers for departmental reps.
Q: Request to talk about pitfalls and possibilities of intervening in structure. Centralisation and
Advises tackling from all angles. College-specific campaigns eg divestment as well as sabs
pursuing it in SU and at councils.
Best way is to put forward for something to be discussed at congregation.
Hard to mobilise congregation. How do you reach out to 6000 people? Arcane rules block attempts
Student members are given a different agenda and information is redacted.
Congregation timeline hard to organise bc announced at a late date and the meetings are few and
Current vice-chancellor moved office from Wellington Sq to Clarendon Building. Division between
academia and admin?
Motion to congregation: minimum twenty members. Submit. Council advertise things they want to
pass in the gazette and take them to the meetings.
Once motion is submitted, if they think it shouldn’t go through, the registrar contacts the proposers
and persuade them to change their motion, often convinced not to pass at all.
Info on university statutes and regulations website. Application for membership of congregation.
Statute 4: members of faculties. Nothing about grade. Anyone can become a member of a faculty
who is hired by the uni to undertake teaching or research. Each college has the right to make
members of its own staff members of faculties.
Uni makes it hard for people to become members of congregation because taken off lists of faculty
members bc of misunderstanding. Departmental lecturers are specifically listed as being eligible for
membership of congregation but told they aren’t. UCU needs to clarify this. Could complain to
proctors bc statute not being upheld.