Controversial measures to reform the way the University is run were the subject of a heated discussion at a meet­ing of Congregation, the University’s governing body, on Wednesday.The proposals were part of a green paper, published in May, which highlighted flaws in the University’s existing struc­ture. Many of the concerns raised were due to recent financial and IT management problems. Susan Cooper, a Physics professor who spoke at the meeting, called these “major problems … [which] require urgent attention.”The suggested changes were amended after initial criticism from academics over the role of external observers in the process. The paper originally called for the establishment of a Board of Trustees, composed entirely of ‘external mem­bers’: people who, though alumni, are not part of the University. In the latest version, this was changed to a council composed of seven internal and seven external members, with the Chancellor of the University, Lord Patten, as Chair­man. After five years, an additional external member would be added, and one of the external members would then chair.This proposal has attracted criticism due to the apparent removal of power from Congregation. Nicholas Bamforth, an opponent of the scheme, warned that it would “concentrate power in the hands of the Vice-Chancellor and Pro Vice-Chancellors, without checks or balances.” He has also raised concerns that Congregation’s “sovereignty” would become “a nominal feature of the system”.Along with Cooper and another don, Gavin Williams, Bamforth put forward an alternative proposal which advocated adopting reforms which have recently achieved success at Cambridge.The counter-proposal rejects the plans for the involvement of external members, and instead calls for the establishment of a Board of Scrutiny: an internal body which would act in an advisory capacity and call upon external experts when necessary.They also emphasised the importance of greater transparency in dealings with the Congregation. In her speech, Cooper stated, “Council papers are now classified as either strictly confidential or confidential; there is no third category. The climate of secrecy must be broken.”Many dons, however, supported the proposals. In particular, the need for external input was strongly defended. David Noble, a proponent of the green paper’s proposals, stated, “If we have not learnt over the last two decades that we need powerful friends, with no conflict of interest, to fight on our behalf in the narrow corridors of financial and political influence then we have missed out on one of the major reasons for our failure to stop the slide towards a loss-making enterprise.”Currently, the University is governed by Congregation but the day-to-day business of the institution is dealt with by the Council, an executive body set up in 2000.Council delegates responsi­bility to various committees. Under the proposed scheme, Council would be split up into two bodies, one governing financial and administrative matters and the other academic affairs. Before the governance changes in 2000, the University’s executive was formed of the Hebdomadal (weekly) Council, which had existed from 1854, and the General Board of the Faculties.ARCHIVE: 4th week MT 2005