Oxford Dons Reject Plan to Hand Powers to 'Oligarchy' of Outsiders ; HOME

By Brown, Jonathan | The Independent (London, England), December 2, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Oxford Dons Reject Plan to Hand Powers to 'Oligarchy' of Outsiders ; HOME


Brown, Jonathan, The Independent (London, England)


Oxford dons have rejected plans to hand over control of the 900- year-old university to business and political leaders.

The bitter row, which has rumbled on for much of the past year, split academics into opposing camps while allegations of dirty tricks and acrimony have shattered the peace of the famous cloisters.

But a majority of members of Oxford's Congregation - the so- called parliament of Dons - rejected the proposals in a postal ballot that has undermined the authority of the scheme's architect, the vice-chancellor, John Hood. His backers claimed reform was necessary to drag the institution into the 21st century and compete with the Ivy League colleges of the United States in an increasingly competitive global market for research and higher education. Those who opposed him said Oxford's historic independence was being lost and centuries-old democratic traditions were being flung away in favour of "oligarchy".

Dr Hood, a New Zealander and former businessman, is the first outsider to hold the vice-chancellorship. He insisted yesterday that he would not stand down. "I shall continue to work unstintingly as the ser-vant of a university with a great past and a great future," he said in a statement. Calling for unity, he said: "In all the challenges we face as a university, we shall fare best if we are able to work collegially on the basis of mutual trust and respect."

Nicholas Bamforth, a fellow of Queen's College who led the opposition to the plans during a three-hour debate last month in Sir Christopher Wren's Sheldonian Theatre, called for both camps to work together now. "Clearly people don't want disruption but I am sure that there are all sorts of useful things that could be taken forward.

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