The operational approach to matters falling under the aegis of each administrative body (Council, its committees, divisional boards, and their committees) would be characterised by maximum appropriate delegation and transparency. Committees would set policy frameworks (and have an overall monitoring role), and their officers would be able to take decisions as appropriate within those frameworks.
On delegation, constant attention should be given to ensuring that decisions are taken at the appropriate level. This is as important at the current stage of planning the broad operation of the new structure as it will be once that structure is in place and the detailed implications become clearer. The driving force behind the continuous review of decision-making processes should be the Registrar, working through individual administrators whose particular approach would be subject to the approval of the relevant committee.
This will involve a regular analysis of the business of each body (covering both what the body is considering and what it should be considering but isn’t), with a view to determining what further decisions could be delegated from that body, as well as what further decisions could be delegated to it (in areas in which the body hitherto has only been empowered to make recommendations to another body).
The general principle should be that authority for taking decisions should be delegated to the lowest appropriate level. This principle should apply at the structural level: Council should maximise the authority delegated to its committees, they should maximise the authority delegated to their subcommittees, the central bodies should maximise the authority delegated to the divisional boards, and the boards should maximise the authority delegated to their committees and, crucially, to their sub-units. This principle should also apply at the operational level: bodies should maximise the authority delegated to their chairmen and to their administrative officers.
On transparency and accountability, all of those concerned should be clear which body or individual is responsible for taking decisions and implementing them. When individual decisions are taken under delegated authority, they should be reported as necessary to the body which has delegated the authority; appropriate annual reports should be made to senior bodies on the general and detailed work undertaken on delegated authority; and individuals throughout the organisation should be aware not only of the decision-making mechanisms and ways of contributing to discussions, the actual decisions taken and the reasons for them, and policies and plans adopted, but also of ways of making representations and complaints about decisions taken. Transparency of material before committees is also important: papers should be short and to the point, and relevant officers should attend meetings as appropriate to provide further background and advice.
It will be essential for there to be a unified and integrated administration, servicing the central structures and the divisions and ensuring appropriate liaison, and for there to be appropriate and coherent systems to deal with, e.g., planning, finance, and personnel issues at both the central and the divisional levels. The administration will have to take a proactive role in the development of policy, the development of organisational structures, and detailed management. It will need to develop and maintain appropriate mechanisms to monitor and inform the operations of the divisions, with a high priority to be given to adequate management information systems, not least on the financial side.
One key objective in this process - in addition to streamlining administration for its own sake - is to enable academic staff to devote as much as possible of their time to their mainstream duties of teaching and research, while safeguarding the principle of academic self-government. That principle does not imply that academic staff have to have detailed involvement with all aspects of routine administration - indeed the current arrangements run a serious risk of so overwhelming academic staff with questions of detail that they are prevented from giving adequate attention to their academic duties or to important management issues.
Such an approach has clear implications for the way in which academics are involved in day-to-day administration. For the majority of academics, involvement in routine administration should be reduced.
Equally there will be important implications for the administrative structures which underpin committee organisation, but these are not straightforward. Fewer committees might require fewer administrators; more streamlined committees, which delegate more business, might require more. There may well be a need for a restructuring of the administration as a whole, with careful attention to the balance between senior, middle, and junior officers, and senior clerical staff.