Dear John Patten: Do the decent thing and resign as a fellow of Hertford College, a graduate student of St Antony's College, Oxford, implores the Education Secretary
You came to speak at a meeting in Oxford 10 days ago. Having laid out what you yourself called 'Patten's 10 commandments on education', two of which were self-restraint and respect for others, you were asked by a student what you thought about the intellectual credentials of the Prime Minister. The student quoted a speech in which John Major undeniably contradicted himself within the space of a few paragraphs. OK, the students may have been heckling you a bit, but your reply transcended the limits of self-defence: 'I'd love to ring your tutor and get a read-out of your intellectual capabilities.' Is this what you call self-restraint and respect for others?
A committed Secretary of State for Education would not have allowed a reduction in grants to universities in the recent Budget, either. Is it really fair to have forced expansion upon universities, only to have them brutally cut back their intake this year? I pity the 20,000 more applicants fighting for 10,000 fewer places than were available last year.
Where you will really have left your mark, though, is on student unions. In fact, they are unlikely to exist by the time you have finished 'reforming' them. No more subsidised clubs, societies, debates, gigs or sports facilities. Thanks. Small wonder students demonstrate. Not just the Socialist Workers' Party, either.
The most worrying thing about all this from your old college's point of view is the supernumerary fellowship you hold there. Although it does not give you any voting rights, you still have the prerogative to take up your old post at Hertford when you retire (and when will that be, I wonder?) Resigning from the fellowship would be your first constructive move towards British education since taking up the post of Secretary of State. It may save your face, too, as the governing body of Hertford is meeting next month to decide whether to renew the fellowship, and the principal of the college does not seem too keen on you or your policies. So go on, do the decent thing.
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