Oxford passes vote of no confidence in Willetts

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The Independent Online

Dons at Oxford University have delivered a decisive "no confidence" vote in the Universities minister, David Willetts. There were cheers last night when the vote was announced in Oxford's Sheldonian Theatre – the first time a "no confidence" motion had ever been issued in a government minister by the university's Senate. It was carried by the massive margin of 283 votes to five.

During the debate, Abdel Takriti, a tutor at St Edmund Hall, called the Government's plans for further education – under which student fees would rise to up to £9,000 a year – "ill-articulated and incoherent".

Robert Gildea, professor of modern history at the university, proposing the motion, said proposals to introduce "off-quota places" outside the proposed £9,000 fee cap risked introducing a two-tier system.

"It's a red carpet entry for the rich and even more competition for everyone else," he added.

He said afterwards that the vote "marked a whole new phase in the national debate on higher education".

Professor Margaret MacMillan, warden of St Anthony's College, said government cuts would force Oxford to bring in more high-paying foreign students. She did not want Oxford to end up as a "finishing school for rich students around the world". "We want the best students not just the most affluent," she added.

Other universities, including Cambridge, are now set to follow suit.

Dons were most angry about the plans to allow more "for profit" universities run by the private sector.

They also attacked the proposals to establish a new private university for the humanities by Professor AC Grayling and leading academics which would charge students £18,000 a year.

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