Letter: Why Oxford voted to save a playing field

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The Independent Online
Sir: James Archer draws attention (Letters, 19 November) to the recent rejection, by the Congregation of Oxford University, of a proposal to release a playing field as site for a business school. As mover of the opposition I should clear up a misunderstanding.

The opposition case rested on the principle pacta sunt servanda. A stretch of land had been acquired by the university on the explicit undertaking that this playing field would remain as open space "in perpetuity".

The subsidiary points we made were two: that the proposal to breach the undertaking had been prepared in a secret manner which looked from outside like an attempt to steamroll public discussion by a fait accompli; and that the proposed building, to be sited at the heart of the university, would be the property of trustees mostly appointed from outside the university.

None of the matters mentioned in Mr Archer's letter formed any part of our case. Some were raised by one speaker from the floor, and were the subject of placards held by a group of students outside the debating chamber. But it was the three points indicated above that formed the substance of the debate and decided the vote. A broken undertaking did not seem the best foundation for a school designed to teach the world how to do business.


University College, Oxford