Leading article: The battle for Oxford continues

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The Independent Online

A number of college heads have been won round, including Dr Andrew Graham, the Master of Balliol. But most dons appear unimpressed. Their main concern seems to be that they will lose too much power to the vice-chancellor.

They agree that reform is needed; it's just that they don't like Hood's version. And a group have come up with alternative proposals, which were discussed at this week's meeting of Congregation, the dons' parliament. Instead of involving outsiders, they want a Board of Scrutiny of academics elected by dons to review the decisions of the university's managers.

All of which looks bad news for the reforming vice-chancellor from New Zealand. Far from agreeing with the Master of Balliol that the new proposals are an improvement, the dons seem to have been radicalised by their run-in with Hood earlier this year. Nicholas Bamforth, a law fellow at Queen's who helped to write the alternative proposals, says the new plan involves "disturbingly few checks and balances, making it just as difficult as it would have been under the Green Paper for ordinary academics to have any real voice in the government of the university".

When Hood arrived, he made it clear that he wanted to reshape Oxford to meet the challenges of global competition. That meant a clear strategy, structures that enabled decisions to be taken quickly, and getting a grip on the finances. However, he had reckoned without the dons. The two sides are in a bitter struggle about what makes a university great. The dons are convinced that their democratic, collegiate style of decentralised government will keep Oxford at the top of the international league table for teaching and research. We can only pray that they are right.

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