Reports of Advisory teams

The reports of advisory teams are now coming in. These reports provide the information, on the basis of which Council must reach its momentous decision. As in any form of scholarship, there is a great deal to be said for looking at original sources. These reports, the raw data for decision making, are not appearing on the official UCL web site. We shall, therefore publish them here, complete and unfiltered by higher levels of committees, as soon as they become available.

Advisory Team for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS)
"39. The Team have considerable misgivings over the future of AHSS within a combined IC/UCL, these are: Relations with the University of London and with other colleges 'Brand' and image of AHSS Departments; A sense of being submerged in a science led institution; how the merger appears to the students and alumni and potential sponsors; The sense that we have been caught at a vulnerable moment, (finance and issues around the post of Provost); there may be other possibilities; The sense that merger may be inspired by the wrong reasons.; 40. In any negotiations we must be clear who we are (a great international research-led University) and be clear what we want. The team concluded that there was a case for a vote of confidence in the future of UCL."
Click here for the full AHSS report, and here for the filtered version

Advisory and Negotiation Committees for Biomedicine
" (e) Merger is not seen as a prerequisite for achieving these desirable changes and a consequential improved financial position. UCL Biomedicine would expect to see such changes implemented from within UCL under the direction of the present Provost and a successor equally committed to the future development of the College. Co-operation in many areas with IC should be encouraged."
Click here for the full Biomedicine report

Report from Physics,Astronomy,Space &Climate Subject Group
"The strongly felt view of the subject group members and of staff,after considerable consultation within the departments,is that the risks of a full teaching,estates and research merger substantially outweigh the benefits,but that there are attractive long-term prospects for interdisciplinary research collaboration."
Click here for the full Physics report (pdf format)

Issues on merger for Library Services
Read extract

Advisory Team for Teaching and Learning
Read conclusion

Imperial College - University College London Merger Proposal

Meeting of the Advisory Team for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) 6 November 2002



Professor Michael Bridge (Dean, Laws), Chair
Dr Michael Otsuka (Philosophy)
Professor Henry Woudhuysen (English)
Professor Theo Hermans (Dutch)
Dr Paul Ayris (Library)
Professor Ian Dennis (Laws)
Professor Julian Hoppit (History)
Dr Ada Rapoport-Albert (Hebrew and Jewish Studies)
Professor Michael Rowlands (Anthropology)
Dr Robin Aizlewood (SSEES)
Professor Susan Hockey (SLAIS)
Professor Richard Munton (Geography)
Dr Brian Balmer (STS)
Dr Christine Hoffman (Language Centre)
Professor Tim Mathews (French)
Professor David Forgacs (Italian)
Professor Stephen Machin (Economics)
Professor Bob Sharples (Classics)
Dr Helen Margetts (SPP)
Professor Peter Ucko (Archaeology)
Alan Smith (SSEES)
Professor Mary Fulbrook (German)
In attendance Mrs Julia Abbott (Vice-Provost's Office)


Professor Helen Weston (History of Art)
Dr David Henn (Spanish and Latin American Studies)
Professor Hugh Clout (Dean, SHS)
Professor Gerard O'Daly (Dean, Arts)
Professor John Aiken (Slade)
Professor Wendy Davies (History)

The Minutes of the Meeting 24 October were agreed as a correct record.

Role of the Advisory Group, Terms of Reference, reporting mechanism

The Chair thanked members for submitting 'vision statements' and those who had responded to the 'key questions' paper from the Humanities and Social Sciences Sub-Group.

The Chair outlined the role of the AHSS Advisory Group as designated to give advice to the Sub-Group for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (Co-chaired by Professors Worton and Birley). To carry out this role the Team should:
Concentrate on the key issue; the advantages/disadvantages of merger
Consider the Sub-Group's 'key questions', but not regard these as exhaustive
Be a forum for free and frank discussion where Departments could articulate their thoughts.

3.1 The Team agreed to shape their discussions around the following key emerging issues for AHSS:

The practical advantages of merger
The practical disadvantages of merger
Relationship with the University of London (including the UoL Library and SAS) and other Colleges.
Agreed that issues of the structure, particularly the Faculty structure, of a united institution
were for later consideration.

3.2 The Chair reminded the team of the general short Terms of Reference for each Merger Sub-Group and Advisory Team.

The Advisory Team agreed that the Dean of Laws should present their views to the Arts and Humanities Sub-Group.

The next meeting scheduled for 19 November is after the deadline for the Sub-Board's Reports; it was agreed that this would be a useful forum to take forward any further issues.

Benefits/advantages of Merger

6. The Chair invited members to give their view on the benefits/advantages of merger with IC.
The following points were made:

7. The benefits of merger are difficult for those Departments to assess which are not directly affected, (i.e. have no IC counterpart). The Vision Statements are a wish list. There is little real sense of the opportunities or practical benefits and some Vision Statements could be written outside the framework of the proposed merger.

8. The Team agreed that there was an information vacuum on such things as benefits in funding and space allocation, which made it difficult to see the role of AHSS in the new institution.

9. AHSS should be conscious of their potential as an important pillar of the new community and that in this context all subject groups could expand and be strengthened.

10. The possibility of partnership with other institutions should also be considered: why IC? The identity of AHSS Departments could disappear in a strongly science led institution. As only 8% of a new University it would be difficult to sustain an identity; the AHSS area would need to be significantly larger, 15% or more.

11. The Team raised the fear of possible sale of property on the Gower Street Campus (increasing in value post the Kings Cross rail link), as a source of revenue.

12. The assumption that AHSS Departments could expand if they wished should not go unquestioned; the issue of adequate recourses for expansion has not been fully explored and some clear evidence on issues such as space and staffing would aid discussion. At the moment the benefits to AHSS are being presented in too generalised terms; once a merger goes through Departments may be back in competition for resources and the AHSS may not be beneficiaries.

13. The Team agreed that it would be useful to see a business plan for the merger and to have information on the extensive 'due diligence' process being undertaken.

14. Library: the UCL Library needs more space and there is no more room on the Gower Street site. The Library has to find 1.5 miles of shelving per year and is also down the list of UK HEI Library spend. Colleagues at IC have indicated there is very little room in South Ken, so it is difficult to see how more Library space could be realised.

15. Agreed that Sir Richard Sykes be invited to come and speak with the Advisory Team and that members should send their questions in preparation to Professor Bridge. It would be helpful to record the discussion.

16. Language Departments are struggling to maintain numbers against a drop in language teaching in schools; there are fears that the merger would result in 'service language teaching' and that UCL staff would be redeployed. This would be a grotesque use of language teachers and is a genuine and widespread concern.

17. For the Department of Economics the merger presents potential opportunities, but these are difficult to evaluate in the absence of a business plan.

To not go ahead might place UCL in a poor competitive position
The merger presents an opportunity for change and for some areas of programme development to move ahead
There is some synergy with IC environmental sciences
'Do nothing' could mean that opportunities are missed.

18. Laws would also resist any move towards 'service teaching', and would consider the Faculty in a strong enough position to say 'no'. There are also potential development opportunities for Laws.

19. The Team noted that there was no clear indication that the merger would solve the current financial crisis. The Provost has indicated that the UCL current deficit may now be only £4M, but there is as yet no accurate costing of the merger although £100-£200M has been mentioned. The Team expressed concern that there would be a drain on revenue short term post merger.

20. Downsizing: the Team considered that the possible reduction in staff, both academic and administrative was not being addressed openly. The statement that there would be no forced redundancies was beginning to lack credibility.

21. The Departments of Anthropology and Geography are concerned that their specialist areas could be broken up. Geography can see the possibilities in strategic alliance for environmental work, but Environmental Science is perceived as a weak IC Dept and in RAE terms not desirable as a merger partner.

22. Tuition Fees: the Chair advised the team that the issue of tuition fees was really outside the merger and that the delayed Government White Paper would indicate national policy. The CSR had indicated that there would be an increased spend on sciences in 2004/5 and thus a substantial benefit to the new University.

23. Some Departments, (Laws, Economics, French, Institute of Archaeology) would welcome the opportunity for expansion of staff and PG students, but this was not anchored in merger.

24. Most departments would strongly favour co-location.

25. The Team noted that AHSS was not a potential high revenue earner, but that these areas could benefit from re allocation of resource. Should the new engineering building not be required for the engineers, there would be an area for the possible development of the Library.

26. An opportunity to totally overhaul the Finance System was a benefit, but the move to a Recourse Allocation Model is already being undertaken and is not driven by merger.

Disadvantages/risks of merger

27. Brand and image: the Team considered the merger to be a threat to the 'brand' and reputation of very distinguished AHSS departments, and that potential staff and students would perceive the new University as a science institution. Departments would lose public profile.

28. Uncertainty about relationships with the Federal University of London. The following serious concerns were raised:

IALS is used extensively by Laws, and any loss of access would be very serious
The SAS is very important to Departments in AHSS area
History shares resources with other London Colleges and these would need to be maintained by re negotiation
Classics has extensive inter collegiate work and this would also be threatened
Philosophy is an intercollegiate programme, some discussions on the implications of merger have taken place, but the level of reassurance it has received on continued co-operation post merger does not convince the Department. Secession from the University of London would be very problematic
. The interdepartmental MA in Film Studies, which is supported by four other colleges would have no advantage in a link with IC.

29. Risks: the team noted that a level of risk was already being experienced as Laws had lost a potential Masters development. Also small Departments need to be sustained by partnerships and these were being put at risk.

30. The future relationship with University of London Library is particularly important; the collection is necessary to UCL which has 6300 registered members. UCL pays the major subscription and this investment could be lost. There is a case for the new institution to run the Library. The merger presents both a significant opportunity and potential for disaster.

31. The Team agreed that an alternative model to merger should be considered:

One that was not 'competitive'; merger might make some AHSS departments appear too small to attract students
A collaborative model of subject areas across the University of London would not be the status quo and would provide support for growth 'inter college'.
AHSS could provide a powerful group within the University of London.

32. Agreed that secession form the University of London was on the whole undesirable for AHSS.

'Show Stoppers'

33. Merger would change the political landscape; e.g. would the re grouping lead to the LSE and Kings merging? This could be a significant threat. The team considered that there was a case for allying with SOAS to bring up the proportion of AHSS in the new institution, though the complexities of the combined unit would be considerable.

34. Certain AHSS areas should be 'ring fenced' against re distribution in any merger, it should not be an opportunity for internal dismembering but for constructive collaboration.

35. There is a real threat of loss of distinctiveness. Merger would result in 'MIT' image, not 'Harvard'.

36. In the view of the Team the mood of the College had changed; merger was no longer a bright vision and there must be other ways forward, the community was not being offered a 'plan B'. The merger discussions may well have damaged the prospect of recruiting a new Provost.

37. The Team expressed doubts as to the choice of IC as a partner, and felt this had originated with Sir Richard Sykes.

38. A 'show stopper' might well be the loss of staff morale, only staff good will could make the merger work, and also that students and alumni were against the merger.


39. The Team have considerable misgivings over the future of AHSS within a combined IC/UCL, these are:

Relations with the University of London and with other colleges
'Brand' and image of AHSS Departments
A sense of being submerged in a science led institution
how the merger appears to the students and alumni and potential sponsors
The sense that we have been caught at a vulnerable moment, (finance and issues around the post of Provost); there may be other possibilities
The sense that merger may be inspired by the wrong reasons.

40. In any negotiations we must be clear who we are (a great international research-led University) and be clear what we want. The team concluded that there was a case for a vote of confidence in the future of UCL.

The filtering effect in action

Compare paragraphs 33 - 40 of the Advisory team report (above) with the summary of it written a day later (Merger Board Minutes, 7th November, 2002),

'3.1.3 Academic: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Joint Chairs – Professor Birley and Professor Worton. The sub-group, in conjunction with its advisory teams, has formulated a set of questions to which responses from each department have been sought. No showstoppers have been identified as yet.' (our emphasis)

Is that a fair summary?

Consensus View of the Advisory and Negotiation Committees for Biomedicine on the Proposed UCL-IC Merger

(interim: to be updated after meetings with the IC Negotiation Committee and Richard Sykes)

At the meeting of the Merger Advisory Committee Biomedicine Sub-Board on November 12th, 2002, the potential advantages and disadvantages for Biomedicine of the proposed UCL-IC merger were considered. Following our initial interest, and with a very real wish for broad discussion concerning the implications of merger, we have now come to a point where we are unconvinced that the advantages of merger are outweighed by the disadvantages. Where potential advantages were identified, it was examined whether a merger, rather than cooperation without merger, was actually needed to obtain the advantage. A consensus view was reached on how the merger would affect research, teaching, administrative structures and financial income, as detailed below. In addition a consensus view on how the biomedicine community at UCL views the potential merger was agreed, and a potential way forward for the future was developed.


Faculty of Life Sciences Research activity at UCL mainly complements that at IC although there is overlap in some areas. A few small groups of researchers at IC might benefit from moving to UCL and vice versa. Although some opportunities exist for synergy in applying for funding for large scale facilities in (e.g.) proteomics, bioinformatics, functional imaging etc., the consensus view was that this synergy could be achieved just as effectively by cooperation rather than merger.

Faculty of Clinical Sciences UCL and IC have clinical researchers working in related areas, but there is little opportunity for relocation of teams to obtain a critical mass of activity because of the need to maintain location-based clinical provision. Access to large groups of patients for trials or epidemiology could be arranged through collaboration without merger. No advantage to merger was seen.

Post Graduate Institutes Research in the principal UCL PGIs depends on their close integration with their associated NHS Trusts. Although benefits could result from increased collaboration with IC, this is not contingent on merger. Any disruption of the relationship between PGIs and their Trusts, or diminution of the multi-disciplinary research breadth, would threaten the continuing success of PGI translational research.

Bids for funding of large projects The argument that competition between UCL and IC for funding of large projects reduces the total sum of money received by the two institutions, was rejected. The total amount of funding flowing to UCL plus IC was thought likely to be larger if the institutions do not merge, since funding bodies will often fund two large projects at different institutions in London, but would only award one such project to a merged institution.

It is pertinent that from the list of benefits/downsides provided by the Merger Biomedicine Sub-Board (second meeting, 30 October) nearly all of these can be considered to have both positive and negative aspects to merger and thus should not be simply summed and then concluded that ‘benefits outweigh downsides’. Generally, there is little or no evidence to suggest that the proposed merger is necessary to bring the benefits suggested over and above that which could be accomplished by measured and close collaboration.


Medical course teaching A combined entry of 700 students will be extremely hard to accommodate on one site. Maintaining teaching on two sites would hinder any economies of scale. Such a large entry is likely to deter students from applying, and is a major disadvantage of merger. Merging would help IC by improving the teaching of science to their medical students, but offers no advantage to UCL.

Non-medical course teaching This is mainly complementary at UCL and IC, so that there is little opportunity for a merger to generate economies of scale. Exceptions are the Biology and Biochemistry programmes, but joint UCL + IC programmes could not be delivered on one site without substantial investment in teaching infrastructure (especially at UCL; see below) and would be unlikely to generate the same number of students entering merged courses as currently enter UCL and IC separately. Consequently merger is not advantageous.

Quality of student experience at UCL and IC Student opinion holds that the students have a better experience at UCL, with more contact with staff, more feeling of belonging to an academic institution, better pastoral care, and many more course options than at IC. Merger might reduce these advantages and make the combined institution less attractive to students, leading to fewer applications and reduced fee income (see below).

Delivering teaching more efficiently To achieve any economies of scale in teaching would require enormous investment to relocate lecturers and build new teaching facilities - otherwise travel of lecturers and/or students between sites would be massively inefficient. It is unlikely that sufficient funding for this would be available (and might be dependent on a diversion of SRIF that would consequently not be available for other purposes). The effects of a rapid imposed convergence of course content in a merged institution would be extremely disruptive, and would decrease applications, with significant financial consequences. These negative consequences of merger greatly outweigh any minor advantages for the delivery of teaching. The consensus view was that UCL could and should improve the efficiency of its teaching (see below), but that this should be done over a period of several years and without merger.

Administrative structures

Some advantages to the administrative and financial structures at IC were perceived, but at the cost of more top-down control being imposed. The consensus view was that such advantages could be obtained by alterations to UCL’s own administrative structures without necessity for merger.

Financial implications for biomedicine

Would a merger produce a significant increase in income? The following consensus viewpoints were established. (a) The effects of anticipated changes in the funding environment for UK Universities, including possibly radical changes in arrangements for meeting the costs of tuition, are currently uncertain.
(b) Merger might result in an overall reduction in student numbers. This would be particularly serious in the case of Medicine. There is a possibility that applications for a merged medical course with an entry of 700+ will fall.
(c) Selling off buildings and consolidating research and (a smaller amount of) teaching in fewer buildings, possibly on the IC site, might generate capital for investment but was not seen as a desirable strategy because it would make future expansion more difficult.
(d) Staff reductions might be possible if courses were merged and teaching was streamlined, but this was not seen as a good strategy because: (i) it would decrease the quality of the students’ experience (see above) which will lead to a fall in demand (and hence fee income); (ii) the staff likely to be lost are the ones currently doing a disproportionate amount of teaching - this is undesirable because it will mean that research active staff will have to be diverted to doing teaching, decreasing their research output.
(e) Merger would not increase, and would probably decrease, in the short term the total amount of donations from alumni because of a loss of identity of the two institutions.

The conclusion was reached that the financial advantages of merger are uncertain.

View of the biomedicine community at UCL

For the merger to work, the biomedical community has to see advantages and be committed to it. The general view, backed up by departmental surveys, was that 80-90% of the community are against the merger, for the following reasons. (i) The advantages of merger as so far stated have not been convincing.
(ii) Merger will bring a period of great disruption to research and teaching, for uncertain and possibly little gain.
(iii) No clear vision has been portrayed of the future structure of the merged university, nor of where people will be located, nor of how the merger will improve the financial position. Staff do not accept that these are details which can be worked out later.
(iv) There is a clear difference of ethos between the academic communities and administrative structures at UCL and IC, with the UCL ethos being seen as more democratic, supportive of individual researchers and student-friendly.
(v) The two institutions are not seen to be merging as equal partners (because the UCL Provost will leave when the institutions join, and the IC Rector will take over).
(vi) There are fears that compulsory redundancies will rapidly follow merger.
(vii) Most staff do not think it prudent to commit to merger on the basis of the limited information currently available and uncertainty over the impact on finances and student recruitment.

Current view of the joint Advisory/Negotiating Groups

(a) Advantage of a merger is not seen to outweigh the risks at present.
(b) Views remain fluid and may change after the meeting with Sir Richard Sykes.
(c) Merger discussions have strongly sharpened the awareness of weaknesses in UCL’s management, administrative and financial organisation and of the need for change.
(d) Changes inter alia in financial and general management (especially budgetary control), in the efficiency and cost effectiveness of undergraduate teaching (with a long term reduction in staff numbers through natural turnover), in how we represent ourselves to prospective overseas students and how we organise for research and infrastructure provision are seen to be necessary.
(e) Merger is not seen as a prerequisite for achieving these desirable changes and a consequential improved financial position. UCL Biomedicine would expect to see such changes implemented from within UCL under the direction of the present Provost and a successor equally committed to the future development of the College. Co-operation in many areas with IC should be encouraged.

Issues on merger for Library Services


"Opportunities : Move to a campus-based approach for the location of stock and services. Science and Technology can be run from Kensington. Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences can be run from Gower Street. (But this may not be as straightforward as this if the location of academic activity is not this neatly rationalised). Medicine is problematic and will be dispersed . . . "

This appears to be saying that, unless all science is absent from Gower Street, some scientists will have their library miles away in South Kensington. No comment is needed on an idea quite as barmy as this one

Meeting of the Advisory Team for Teaching and Learning,Graduate School, (8 November 2002)


The final paragraph states:
"The Group identified a considerable range and scale of difficulties,but very few real benefits; those that have been identified are strongly conditional on other circumstances."