Chalk Talk: A new start for universities? Oxford dons are not so confident

Academics at Oxford University are planning to debate a motion of no confidence in the Universities Minister David Willetts. The debate, which will be conducted with all due pomp and ceremony at the university's congregation – its "parliament of dons" – is expected to take place within the next fortnight.

The motion was triggered by comments made by Mr Willetts in national newspapers, including The Independent, two weeks ago. He was forced to deny there were plans to allow rich parents to buy places for their children at top universities by paying the overseas rate to get them in. He also suggested that some universities planning to charge the maximum £9,000-a-year tuition fee would either have to cut their prices or offer incentives to fill their places.

Already 177 academics have signed the motion. All 4,000 of the university's academics and senior staff are allowed to take part in the debate. It should be a lively affair, and timely with the Government's White Paper on higher education due out next month. Some critics, however, believe it would have been wiser to have waited until they had seen the White Paper before passing judgment.

* Last week's survey of final-year students' job prospects painted a revealing picture of the modern undergraduate. It showed, for instance, that they are possibly not cut out for jobs as interpreters or with the diplomatic service in a foreign country. Nearly three-quarters of UK students can't speak a foreign language, the annual survey by High Fliers Research revealed. Even at Oxford and Cambridge, the numbers who can are only 29 per cent and 28 per cent respectively.

Surely scrapping compulsory language lessons for 14 to 16-year-olds – as agreed by the last Labour government – was not the way to deal with this?

* A piece I wrote two weeks ago about the unexpected surge of successful state-school applicants to Cambridge university, following its insistence on at least one A* grade, has struck a nerve. The headmaster of a state school in a Spanish village tells me of a similar story in his locality.

He is in direct competition with neighbouring independent schools. Yet, despite the fact his students perform better and achieve higher degree passes, there is still a myth there that private is better.

Don't know whether to laugh or cry. (Actually, I do.)

r.garner@independent.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Imperial College London: Safety Training Administrator

£25,880 – £28,610 per annum: Imperial College London: Imperial College London ...

University College London: Client Platform Support Officer

£26,976 - £31,614 per annum: University College London: UCL Information Servic...

Guru Careers: Instructional Designer / e-Learning Designer

£30 - 32k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking an Instructional / e-Learning De...

Recruitment Genius: Schools Education & Careers Executive

£30500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Schools Education & Careers Executive ...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor