Cambridge advised to heed reform

first_imgThe Chancellor of Oxford University hasspoken publicly for the first time in support of attempts to reform the University.In a speech to an audience of alumni lastweek, Lord Patten suggested that Cambridge shouldfollow Oxford’slead and introduce sweeping reforms if it is to remain a world-classuniversity. He said that he hoped Oxford’sefforts would “make it easier for Cambridgeto follow us if we can get sensible proposals in place.” Cambridge declined to comment. Patten told Cherwell, “Oxford is a great university but we have toensure that our management is up to the task of keeping us world-class. John Hood’sreforms are the culmination of a reform process that began a decade ago. Istrongly support what he is doing which would help us to get more support frombenefactors and to persuade the government to be more generous.”Lord Patten’s comment comes ahead of ameeting of the Congregation on 1 November to examine a governance discussionpaper. The paper is a revised version of a May Green Paper produced by theWorking Party on Governance and led by the Vice-Chancellor entitled “The GovernanceStructure”. This paper proposed to separate academic and institutionalgovernance by having an academic council and also a board of trustees to lookafter the University’s administration, financial and property management. Theboard of trustees was to be composed exclusively of external members, an ideawhich many disliked.The latest discussion paper has replacedthe board of trustees with a council, which will contain seven external membersand seven internal members and will be chaired by Patten. The academic council, initially to becomprised of 150 members has also been streamlined to 36, among whom will betwo student representatives. This will be chaired by the Vice-Chancellor.A spokesperson for the University pointedout that under the existing system, the Vice-Chancellor is responsible for bothacademic and institutional governance and so there could be a potentialconflict of interest. By contrast, both the Green Paper in Mayand the reformed discussion paper will separate the two areas.The spokesperson added, “Under thegovernance proposals, the Congregation retain ultimate power: they can move a voteof no confidence in anything Council does.” She said, “The Congregation willhave the opportunity to discuss the proposals on 1 November, and that is aforum for a frank exchange of views, and an airing of any potential concerns,about the proposals, after which written responses will be received.” Andrew Graham, The Master of Balliol and anew member of the University’s Council, commented, “The new proposals fromthe Working Party on Governance show that there has been a great deal ofintelligent listening. There are still some points of substance todiscuss – and I shall want to hear what colleagues have to say in the debate inCongregation – but, in my view, we are now heading in the rightdirection.”The University spokesperson explained theneed for governance reform: “OxfordUniversity is a large andcomplex organisation with 17,000 students, nearly 8,000 employees, and aturnover, including OUP, of £880m, so it’s essential that the system ifgovernance is appropriate for the size and complexity of the institution. Sincethe governance structure was last reformed in2000, it has become clear that the current system is not entirely satisfactory andcan be improved. One of the main aims of the proposed changes is to ensure thatacademic decisions can be made in the fullest confidence that the Universityhas the best possible institutional framework (financial, legal andadministrative) in place to support and sustain the academic endeavour.”ARCHIVE: 3rd week MT 2005last_img read more