38. It is on local structures that most comments received in the consultation process have focused.
39. In the life sciences there is a widespread view, which has the support of all the faculty boards concerned, that two divisions are required, one for Clinical Medicine, Physiological Sciences, and Psychological Studies, and the other to combine the existing Anthropology and Geography and Biological Sciences Boards. It is thought that the working party's proposed Biological and Medical Sciences Division would be too large to be manageable, and this point is reinforced by the decision, which the working party did not foresee, of the Anthropology and Geography Board to wish to remain together and not form a part of the arts groupings. The alternative proposed by the relevant faculty boards achieves the integration of the Medical School, and creates a relatively large new 'Life and Environmental Sciences' Division which has a strong environmental element and reflects the views of the Departments of Plant Sciences and Zoology on their future orientation. Most importantly the proposal seems to command very widespread and committed support across a very broad subject area, and the working party endorses it.
40. The working party is aware that concerns have been expressed about the consequences for the overall balance of the new structure, and for the position of the arts, of this move to three science divisions. The presence of traditionally arts-based disciplines in a fifth division will not entirely allay these concerns, and the working party has addressed them by careful consideration of the composition of Council and its committees, formulating detailed proposals which will retain the balance of influence between the arts and the sciences whatever decisions are eventually made on divisional structures (see para. 57 below).
41. Elsewhere there has been some concern in Mathematical Sciences over its proposed grouping with Physical Sciences in the remaining science division. Because of the range of its interactions with other units, the Mathematical Sciences Board would in principle have preferred to be part of a single science division. This, however, is not a popular option overall (save perhaps with certain chemists - see para. 42 below), and it seems fairly clear that if there are to be three (or even two) science divisions, Mathematical Sciences will see its future as lying with Physical Sciences (the Computing Laboratory and the Department of Statistics have already declared themselves in this sense). The working party believes that the residual reservations within Mathematical Sciences over such a 'remarriage', which relate in part to the perceived difference of Mathematics itself (with its CUF structure) and in part to financial issues, ought to be allayed by the principles set out in paras 15-21 above on resource allocation, not least in so far as they protect small units (such units, the working party notes, having moreover flourished under the existing Physical Sciences Board) and imply movement towards similar funding patterns for cognate units.
42. Certain chemists (but not the Physical Sciences Board) see the working party's proposals as unfortunately perpetuating divisions between Chemistry (and Physics) on the one hand and Biochemistry, Biophysics, and other life sciences on the other. They would prefer a single science grouping as proposed by the Commission of Inquiry, or even a Division of Molecular Science. This is a clear minority view, but the working party does believe that, in general, interdivisional contacts will be important in the new structure and that those with concerns in this particular area should develop appropriate structures designed to foster interdisciplinary approaches involving Chemistry.
43. In the arts there is a balance of opinion as to the acceptability of moving to a Humanities Division and a Social Sciences Division. In very general terms, those arts bodies broadly favouring the divisional structure are English (which sees divisions as an enhancement of the means by which clear planning strategies might be made and implemented), Modern History, Theology, Educational Studies, and the Ruskin School. Those unconvinced are Oriental Studies and Social Studies, and, for rather different reasons, Law and Management Studies (see para. 44 below). The inter-faculty committees are also generally opposed, noting that much of their work spans what would be the new divisional boundary. The Literae Humaniores and Modern Languages Boards have been non-committal.
44. The working party has given careful consideration to a proposal from Law and Management Studies that they should form a separate division of 'professional schools'. The working party has noted that part of the argument in favour of this was the perceived need for higher salaries, higher fees, and a higher standard of accommodation in those areas, and that concerns about financial autonomy also played a part. The working party does not believe that Law and Management Studies constitute a large enough block on their own to justify divisional status (with the devolution of resources and ex officio representation on the central bodies which this entails), and does not support this proposal (noting that arguably similar 'professional' areas such as Clinical Medicine and Engineering have no interest in pursuing it). It believes that Law in particular does not conform closely to a recognisable professional school model, and has more obvious affinities with other CUF-intensive faculties. The working party thinks that the divisions will be sufficiently diverse, and will have a sufficiently devolved management structure, to accommodate schools with a greater external focus; and overall the new structure will not preclude cross-divisional consideration of the common interests of such 'professional' bodies. The remarks on resource allocation in paras 15-21 above may alleviate some of the concerns which Law and Management Studies have over funding (and it is also the working party's clear view that additional revenue deriving from additional local activities, for example in professional updating, would normally broadly be retained by the subject area in question, although the activities themselves might be subject to central monitoring procedures).
45. Returning to overall structures in the arts, the working party has noted that, where it exists, opposition to divisionalisation is based on a perception that the divisional board would simply be an additional layer of bureaucracy (and that if the divisional board did in fact have real power this would diminish still further the ability of sub-units like faculty boards to control their own affairs). Some respondents also do not perceive a commonality of interest in the groupings proposed, and fear that the financial regime in particular will be less favourable and sympathetic.
46. The working party does not share these concerns (but recognises the uncertainty they have caused as to the best way forward). The working party believes that it is highly desirable in principle to create academic divisions in the arts as well as the sciences. Crucially, too, it believes that it is vital to enhance decision-making powers at the level below the division, with existing faculty boards and departments in the arts achieving something like the degree of delegated operational authority already enjoyed by science departments. But such devolution, and the even more important movement towards greater concentration on broad policy at the centre, presuppose the construction of divisions to produce the necessary strategic focus across broad subject areas which cannot be achieved at the centre or the narrow departmental/faculty level. In the view of the working party the detailed arguments in favour of divisionalisation include:
- the desirability of issues of policy which affect broad subject areas being determined across that subject area by those involved and by those best informed: such matters in the arts might include issues raised by the predominance of college-based undergraduate teaching; facilities for academic staff; departmentalisation; relations with the Arts and Humanities Research Board; interaction with the academic services (libraries, IT, museums); and the desirability of fostering existing interdisciplinary collaborations within larger subject groupings;
- the principle of subsidiarity, which defines the relative roles of central, regional, and local bodies and which limits the need for individual day-to-day local decisions to be subject to higher approval, while maximising local involvement in higher policy development;
- the empowerment and the liberation of innovation that would come from greater local responsibility and faster and better decision making and administration in a delegated system;
- the way the current system discourages local responsibility and accountability, lengthens decision-making lines, and hamstrings both the centre and the 'regions' through micro-management at the centre: this last point is very significant, since many of those who expressed concerns about divisionalisation also supported the creation of streamlined central policy-making bodies. In the working party's view such responses seriously underestimate the difficulty caused at the centre by the wish of a myriad of local bodies to preserve a 'direct line to the General Board', which encourages micro-management, and prevents the central bodies from concentrating on strategic issues.
47. The working party's support for divisionalisation implies that the role of 'sub-units' - i.e. faculty boards and departments (or whatever substructures particular subject areas wish to have below the divisional level) - will be enhanced rather than diminished. For in the same way that the central bodies can only concentrate adequately on university-level strategy by devolving responsibilities to the divisional level, the divisional level will concentrate primarily on 'regional' issues by devolving power and responsibility, broadly speaking, to departments in the sciences and faculty boards and departments in the arts. The principle of subsidiarity is crucial here: within approved plans, decisions on the running of individual subject areas and the resources to carry out these decisions will be devolved from the divisional board to the lower level. Moreover, in the same way that the central bodies will set overall policy, plans, and budgets in response to proposals from the divisions, the divisions will elaborate those proposals in response to initiatives from the subject level. The principle of subsidiarity means too that the number of issues on which decisions by subject areas need approval by the divisions, and the number of issues on which the divisions need approval from the centre, will be strictly minimised (within the context of approved plans and university guidelines). (Furthermore, the central bodies, divisional boards, and faculty boards/departments will all be required continuously to review the potential for further delegation of responsibility.) To make this clearer, the working party now sets out in the annexe to this report the roles not only of the central bodies and the divisions, but also of departments and faculty boards.
48. The working party notes that small units, and those involved in interdisciplinary activities such as the various area-studies interests overseen by inter-faculty committees, have been particularly concerned by the divisional proposals. Ironically this is often not because they feel well served by current arrangements, but at least these seem familiar. The working party has always been clear as to the importance of fostering existing interdisciplinary ventures, and indeed sees a wider divisional structure as one means of bringing together activities currently weakened by their formal location, or the location of relevant academic staff, under a number of different faculty boards. The working party also appreciates the anxiety of small units faced with the prospect of constitutional change. In order to safeguard the position of those who feel vulnerable it has revised the formal terms of reference of the Planning and Resource Allocation Committee and the divisional boards in order explicitly to recognise the need for the planning and resource allocation process to pay particular attention to the needs of small units and interdisciplinary activities. The principles which will underlie the new resource allocation methods, as indicated in paras 15-21 above, are also relevant here, as is the explicit provision in the suggested composition of the divisional boards (particularly in the arts) for co-opted membership to ensure that the range of activities and concerns in the broad subject area are represented (see para. 50 below).
49. In addition to restating the advantages of divisionalisation, the working party also now provides further indications about exactly how in its view the divisional structures would actually work.
50. The working party has considered how individual divisional boards should broadly be constituted, and has revised and fleshed out its original proposals. In general it envisages that the divisional boards should overwhelmingly comprise members directly elected by and from a number of constituencies reflecting the subjects under the board, usually on the basis of current faculty or sub-faculty organisation. The boards would be relatively large, with on average about 14 members elected in this way, plus the head of division, a member appointed by the Conference of Colleges from among the members of the faculties covered by the board, and two junior member observers (the Divisional Board of Medical Sciences would also have the Regius Professor/Dean of Medicine and an NHS representative). In addition - and the working party attaches considerable importance to this - each divisional board would be required to ensure that the range of activities and concerns in the broad subject area (not least, in the arts, in area studies) were adequately represented and would be able to co-opt up to two additional members to achieve this. The working party sets out in section 8 of the annexe to this report indicative suggestions as to how precisely each divisional board might be constituted. The working party reiterates a key principle from its first report, namely that authority at the divisional level must formally be vested in the divisional boards, not in the heads of divisions themselves.
51. The working party has also reconsidered how heads of divisions and sub-units should be appointed, again refining its earlier views. Departmental heads will emerge as at present, with the only difference that the nominee would be formally appointed by the divisional board rather than by the General Board. In non-departmentally organised areas, it will be for the relevant local body, be it a faculty board or a sub-faculty or a faculty, to appoint its chairman from among its own members as at present. Appointment of heads of division will clearly have to involve a much more formal process. The working party believes that individual appointing bodies would need to be constituted for this, composed of the Vice-Chancellor, two members appointed by Council, and two members appointed by the divisional board. These bodies would act like electoral boards in that their decision would not be subject to the approval of another body. It should be a relatively easy matter in principle for them to strike a balance (as selection committees currently often do) between reviewing applications received and acting as a search committee. The working party comments that it seems highly unlikely that the first heads of division would be appointed from outside Oxford.
52. In the light of its views on the desirability and meaning of divisionalisation and of the further details it has elaborated on divisional operations (and on resource allocation), the working party consulted the chairmen of faculty boards in the humanities and the social sciences at a joint meeting. The working party was encouraged by the response of the chairmen to confirm its own clearly preferred option, namely the creation of two divisions in the arts, a Humanities Division and a Social Sciences Division: it also subsequently consulted informally the chairmen of major bodies in the arts on their own preferences for allocation between these two groupings, and has reflected these as far as possible in section 5 of the annexe. However, in view of the divergence of opinion on this matter, the working party has elaborated an alternative model for the arts, and envisages that Congregation would in fact choose between this and the working party's preferred structure.
53. It would clearly be very awkward for either the existing central bodies or the new Council to have to deal with divisions on the science side and existing faculty boards in the arts. This would perpetuate the admixture of policy and detail which characterises the central bodies at present, would blur the strategic roles of the divisions, and would discourage local responsibility in the arts.
54. The alternative to creating two divisions in the arts would therefore involve a single division to oversee that broad subject area. Like the other divisions, this body would supervise, subject to agreed plans and operating statements, and to policies and guidelines developed by the new Council and its committees, the academic administration of existing faculty boards, inter-faculty committees, and departments in the arts; but it would also keep under review the appropriate structural model for the oversight of that sector, in the light of revisions to central structures and to structures in the sciences, and of concerns expressed in the consultation. It could - although it would not have to - lead over time towards the creation of smaller divisions in the arts, if this was democratically acceptable and operationally appropriate. Such a potentially evolutionary approach would effectively enable a longer period of transition in the arts.