Why should we taxpayers fork out extra money to educate the most privileged students when the colleges they attend are already unimaginably filthy rich?
I must say, I do admire your cheek. When it comes to sheer greed, hypocrisy, self-righteousness and financial disingenuousness, you make the chairmen of the privatised utilities look like the merest amateurs. When Bryan Davies, a Labour Party spokesman on education, publicised the fact that the state seems to be paying £4,900 a year to educate the average Oxbridge undergraduate, whereas mere students at lesser places of learning have to make do with an average of £2,800, you just waffled, claiming that you provided "value for money".

What you notably omitted to mention was that while the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge may need money, many of the individual colleges are not only stinking rich but profoundly averse to spending capital accumulated over the centuries on anything remotely resembling educational purposes (except in so far that boat houses contribute to the old educational ideal of mens sana in corpore sano).

The problem for simple taxpayers such as myself who want to find out if your colleges really are in need of state support is that over the centuries you have perfected a system of non-disclosure that would do credit to the Cayman Islands. The only financial information you publish is your income. But, in expansive moments, your bursars (the cosy Oxbridge name for financial directors) will admit that they minimise their actual revenue to the nth degree and that the income comes only from assets directly owned by the college. This can amount to £200m or more in the case of Trinity College Cambridge but excludes trust funds and other what you might call "off balance-sheet assets".

Your colleges' priorities can best be illustrated by your attitude towards the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Some years ago it became clear that this venerable institution needed £20m to house and preserve its precious stock of books. Had you and your colleagues been what you always claim to be, institutions devoted to scholarship, learning et al, you would have had a whip-round. In the event, of course, Bodley's librarian had to spend years, which could have been better spent on his professional duties, going round the world with a begging bowl.

Given the scale of such academic philistinism, hopes of appealing to your collegiate good nature are clearly pointless. Only brute force will do to redress an imbalance in which you - and your students - live high on the hog while there are thousands of students in lesser institutions forced to rely on soup kitchens for their sustenance (no, I'm not exaggerating, just ask the wretches at Huddersfield University, entre autres). And that is where Bryan Davies's boss comes in. By a happy coincidence Tony Blair was educated at St John's College Oxford, one of your best-heeled institutions. Now once young Tony has finished betraying socialism in the shape of Clause IV, couldn't he turn his treacherous eyes towards his alma mater and promise to remove all state funding of individual colleges until they produce a full list of their assets and show that they are in need of public support?

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