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Oxford University drops plans for committee to choose new chancellor

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Published Time: 16.05.2024 - 03:40:15 Modified Time: 16.05.2024 - 03:40:15

Lord Patten of Barnes, the former Conservative Party chairman, will retire from his role of chancellor at the end of this academic year Leon Neal Oxford University has abandoned plans for an internal committee to have powers to determine who is selected as its new chancellor

Lord Patten of Barnes, the former Conservative Party chairman, will retire from his role of chancellor at the end of this academic year

: Leon Neal

Oxford University has abandoned plans for an internal committee to have powers to determine who is selected as its new chancellor.

Lord Patten of Barnes, the former Conservative Party chairman, will retire from his role of chancellor at the end of this academic year.

However, the university has faced a backlash for substantially altering its election rules to find a successor so that a small committee of academics and university administrators – including the vice-chancellor – were able to choose who will go forward for election.

Neil O’Brien, the Conservative MP for Harborough and an alumnus of Christ Church, Oxford, branded the new rules a “stitch-up”, saying that the university had “decided to move away from democracy”.

The shift was a marked contrast from 2003, the last chancellor election, when anyone was permitted to stand for election as long as they had received a nomination by 50 members of the Convocation, which includes all Oxford graduates and academics and is comprised of around 350,000 people.

However, it is understood that on Thursday the university will officially announce that it has dropped plans for a committee to potentially disqualify candidates who propose themselves for election.

According to a leaked comparison of the old and new regulations for convocation elections, the university has also dropped a specification that the committee would have “due regard” to “the principles of equality and diversity” for applications.

The original rules stated: “The chancellor’s election committee shall oversee the election process”. However, this has been amended to the committee being able to “organise the election process” and “play no substantive role in the selection of a chancellor”.

Mr O’Brien said: “So many organisations are putting in place left wing ideas about so-called ‘positive discrimination’, which in reality is unfair and takes us away from the idea that the best person should get the job.

“It is good to see that this has at least been stopped on this occasion. I am really pleased Oxford have listened on this and changed their mind.”

The original rules also state: “After the closing date for applications, the committee shall consider all those it has received, and, having due regard to the principles of equality and diversity and the approved rule specification, shall determine which candidates are eligible to progress to the next stage of the election process.”

In comparison, the latest version says that the committee will have “due regard to the exclusion criteria only” and “put forward those candidates not excluded under the terms to the next stage of the election process”.

The exclusion criteria says that the new chancellor is not permitted to be neither a student nor employee of the university. They also cannot be a serving or declared candidate for election to an elected legislature – which would include politicians as well as a charity trustee.

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