Patten to stand down as fellow of Oxford college

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The Independent Online
JOHN PATTEN, the Secretary of State for Education, is to stand down as a fellow of Hertford College, Oxford, where he used to lecture, after protests from academics that his policies were damaging the university.

Mr Patten said he did not wish to be considered for an emeritus fellowship, which would have stripped him of his voting rights in college business. A motion, before the college governing body last night, had been drawn up to effectively demote him from that body. The fellows did not vote on the motion after being told Mr Patten had withdrawn.

Sir Christopher Zeeman, the college principal, said: 'Mr Patten's current fellowship comes to an end at the end of April and he has expressed the wish not to be elected to an emeritus fellowship. The college has respected this wish.'

Asked whether the fellows would be glad to see the back of Mr Patten, Sir Christopher said: 'I don't think that is true on a personal level, but I think some of the fellows would not want to identify with his policies. The fellows who knew him were quite fond of him.'

Last night's decision follows months of deterioration in relations between the Secretary of State for Education and the university, where he used to teach geography.

Last month, students at Hertford College voted for Mr Patten's fellowship to be removed after he made a series of personal attacks on members of Oxford's academic community. A 10 per cent cut in student grants, announced in the budget in November, further inflamed the situation.

Mr Patten taught at the college between 1969 and 1979, and became a fellow in 1972. Former staff at the college usually become emeritus fellows a few years after they stop working there, but Mr Patten has, until now, been an exception to this rule. Recently, opinion at Oxford has been divided over Mr Patten's future role there. Some observers argued that the Government's education policies were detrimental to the interests of the university and that he should no longer have any say in its affairs. Others felt that personal loyalty to the once-popular don should be paramount.

Relations between Mr Patten and the Oxford students became strained after a demonstration on grants in December. In the Commons, he accused the protesting students of 'yobbishness' and then went on to attack the vice-master of Balliol College, Andrew Graham, when Mr Graham commented that the Secretary of State had over-reacted to the incident.