Letter: Universities left to fly blind

Wednesday 02 March 2011 01:00 GMT

We write as 681 deeply concerned academics working in both Oxford and Cambridge. Both universities have in the last weeks held meetings of their respective senates (Congregation in Oxford and the Regents of the Senate in Cambridge) to discuss aspects of the changes currently under way in the funding of higher education in England.

We note with dismay and alarm that universities are being forced to take major decisions, with unknown consequences, at a breakneck speed. We are being asked to "fly blind" over matters of the utmost importance in respect of our ability to continue to deliver world-class education and research.

We, along, with all serious economic analysts, accept that the form and shape of an economically advanced nation's HE system is crucial to its capacity for future growth. But we fear that the proposed new model by which "the money follows the student" will produce random effects in the HE sector, depriving some courses of income streams, and decimating the funding for teaching in some institutions, without any coherent and publicly announced policy in regard to which of these institutions and courses the Government believes should be left to fail. As has been publicly announced, this is to be left to the market to decide.

If, as David Willetts and Vince Cable have said, the HE sector needs to be more diverse, there needs to be an informed and open public debate on how that diversity is to be shaped, what it may consist of and the aims and objectives for wanting to introduce such diversity. Under the current proposals we see the Government's preferred mechanism for delivering these outcomes – "student choice" – as an extremely risky and irresponsible experiment. It appears to rest on no more than an article of faith – a belief in the absolute wisdom of the market.

Given this we ask Mr Willetts and Dr Cable to halt the current plans for implementing this enormously risky legislation with undue haste and until such time as the possible outcomes and consequences of these proposed changes have been coherently and rigorously examined. We believe that a public commission of inquiry is urgently required, properly and fully consultative, and charged with the responsibility of examining these issues. We ask them to set in motion such an inquiry.

Cambridge signatories:

Dr Harry Adamson

Dr Sebastian Ahnert

Dr Mike Aitken

Dr Anne Alexander

Dr Stephen Alford

Dr Salim Al-Gailani

Dr Lori A. Allen

Dr Richard Ansorge

Dr Houshang Ardavan

Dr Gareth Atkins

Dr Hugo Azérad

Dr Michelle Baddeley

Dr Alexi Baker

Dr Michael Banner

Professor Zygmunt G Baranski

Professor Graeme Barker, FBA

Dr Horace Barlow

Professor Sir Patrick Bateson

Professor Sir David Baulcombe, FRS FMedSci

Professor Sir Christopher Bayly

Dr Susan Bayly

Dr Felicitas Becker

Bruce Beckles

Dr Andrew Bell

Duncan Bell

Mr Toby Benham

Amira K. Bennison

Professor Lionel Bently

Emeritus Professor German E. Berrios

Dr Eugenio Biagini

Dr Robin Boast

Dr S. R. Boss

Dr Nazim Bouatta

Dr Deborah Bowman

Professor Richard Bowring

Dr Rowan Rose Boyson

Dr Rob Bracewell

Sir John Bradfield, CBE, PhD

Dr Cecilia Brassett

Dr Michael Bravo

Professor Sarah Bray

Professor Ted Briscoe

Dr Chris Brooke

Dr Jude Browne

Dr Nick Bullock

Mr Christopher Bunn

Dr Anita Bunyan

Ms Joanna Burch-Brown

Dr Brendan Burchell

Dr Bill Burgwinkle

Dr Catherine Burke

Christopher Burlinson

Dr Jeremy Butterfield

Dr Gilly Carr

Professor John E. Carroll

Dr Stefano Castelvecchi

Dr Nigel Chancellor, MA PhD DL

Professor Hasok Chang

Dr Ruth Charles

Professor Monojit Chatterji

Dr Anson Cheung

Christopher Chippindale

Dr Mike Clark

Professor Nicola S. Clayton, FRS

Dr Margaret Cone

Dr Philip Connell

Professor Anne Cooke

Professor Helen Cooper

John Cornwell, MA (Oxon) HonD.Litt, FRSL

Dr Stephen J. Cowley

Dr Joanna Craigwood

Dr Joseph Crawford

Mr T. J. Cribb

Dr Nathan Crilly

Dr Carly L. Crouch

Professor Jon Crowcroft

Dr Martin Crowley

Dr R. A. Crowther, FRS FMedSci

Dr Graham Cunningham

Dr Devon Curtis

Dr Richard Dance

Dr Susan Daruvala

Professor Peter de Bolla

Soraya de Chadarevian

Professor Nicholas de Lange, DD

Dr Sabine Deiringer

Dr Lucy Delap

Professor James Diggle

Ms Jo Dillon

Dr Liz Disley

Dr Martin Dixon

Dr Beci Dobbin

Dr Elizabeth Drayson

Dr Caterina Ducati

H. J. Easterling

Professor P. E. Easterling

Colin Edwards

Dr Karin Ekholm

Dr Mark Elliott

Dr David Ellis

Dr Harri Englund

Dr A.L. Erickson

Dr Ben Etherington

Dr Dafydd Wyn Evans

Professor G. R. Evans

Dr Georgina Evans

Dr Paola Filippucci

Professor Alison Finch

Dr Roy Flechner

Professor John Forrester

Dr Alastair Fraser

Dr Colin Fraser

Dr Andrew D. Friend

Christophe Gagne

Ms Frances Gandy

Dr Sinéad Garrigan Mattar

Professor Vic Gatrell

Professor Philip Gibbard

Dr Nicholas J. S. Gibson

Dr A. M. W. Glass

Heather Glen

Professor Ian M. Glynn

Dr Julia Goedecke

Professor Simon Goldhill

Mr Martin Golding

David Goode

Professor Michael J. C. Gordon

Professor Robert P. Gordon

Professor Usha Goswami

Professor D. O. Gough

Dr Emily Gowers

Professor Hans-F Graf

Dr Mia Gray

Dr Felicity Green

Professor Roger Griffin

Timothy G. Griffin

Dr Boris (Berry) Groisman

Dr Jonathan Grove

Dr Jochen Guck

Revd Dr Malcolm Guite

Dr Dr Khatuna Gvaradze

Dr Maximilian Gwiazda

Dr Cesare Hall

Professor E. W. Handley

Professor Chris Haniff

Professor Philip Hardie, FBA

Dr Philippa Hardman

Dr R. M. Harris

Dr Victoria Harris

Dr Louise M. Haywood

Dr Vanessa Heggie

Dr Alan Hendrick

Ms Maruta Herding

Dr Anita Herle

Dr David Hillman

Dr Catherine Hills

Professor Boyd Hilton

Professor Melissa Hines

Dr Edward Holberton

Dr Marian Holness

Dr Theodore Hong

Dr Nick Hopwood

Dr Alex Houen

Dr Sarah Houghton-Walker

Dr Jana Howlett

Dr Michael Hrebeniak

Dr Hugh Hunt

Dr Emma Hunter

Professor Arieh Iserles

Professor Mary Jacobus, FBA

Hubertus F. Jahn, MA, PhD, Dr. phil. habil.|Dr Lila Janik

Professor Nick Jardine, FBA

Professor Simon Jarvis

Dr C. V. Jeans

Dr Richard Jennings

Ms Sarah Jennings

Ray Jobling

Dr Stephen John

Mr Aylmer Johnson

Dr Charles A. Jones

Dr Mike Rodman Jones

Dr Neil Jones

Mr Peter Jones

Professor Richard Jozsa

Dr Alexandre J. Kabla

Dr Eivind Kahrs

Dr Anne-Sophie Kaloghiros

Dr Johannes Kaminski

Dr Shireen Kanji

Dr Geoffrey Kantaris

Dr Natalie Kaoukji

Dr Shruti Kapila

Dr David Kemp

Dr Kate Kennedy

Professor Simon Keynes, FRHistS, FSA, FBA

Dr Jean Khalfa

Anny King

Dr Lawrence King

Professor Jacek Klinowski

Dr Andreas Kontoleon

Professor Peter Kornicki, FBA

Dr Sandra Korte

Dr Olga Kucherenko

Professor Richard Lambert

Professor Christel Lane

Dr David Lane

Professor Anthony Lasenby

Dr Joan Lasenby

Adrian Lashmore-Davies

Dr Msry Laven

Dr Clive Lawson

Dr Sian Lazar

Lois Lee

Melanie Leggatt

Dr David Lehmann

Professor Angela Leighton

Dr Emily Lethbridge

Dr Tim Lewens

Dr Hallvard Lillehammer

Dr Pei-Yin Lin

Professor M. M. Lisboa

Mrs Corinne D Lloyd

Martin Lucas-Smith

Dr Raphael Lyne

Professor Alan Macfarlane

Dr Robert Macfarlane

Dr Mirca Madianou

Dr Marta Magalhães

Dr Janet Maguire

Dr Alyce Mahon

Dr Jonathan Mair

Dr Nicholas Marston

Dr Stuart Martin

Professor Jean Michel Massing

Dr Neil D. Mathur

Dr Emma Mawdsley

Professor I. Nicholas McCave

Dr Maryon McDonald

Dr P. G. McHugh

Professor David McKitterick, FBA

Professor Rosamond McKitterick

Dr Jane McLarty

Dr Laura McMahon

Mr Allan McRobie

Dr Leo Mellor

Dr A. C. Metaxas

Dr D. R. Midgley

Thomas Jeffrey Miley

Dr Perveez Mody

Dr Iris Moeller

Professor Keith Moffatt

Niklas Möller, PhD

Ms Sarah Monk

Professor James E. Montgomery

Brian C. J. Moore, Ph.D, FMedSci, FRS

Revd Dr Jeremy Morris

Ruth Mugford

Dr Craig Muldrew

Dr Kevin Musselman

Mr Robert Myhill

Dr Ayesha Nathoo

Dr Yael Navaro-Yashin

Professor Robert Neild

Dr Máire Ní Mhaonaigh

Jane Nolan, Ph.D.|Dr Isabel Noronha-DiVanna

Anastasia Norton-Piliavsky

Dr Sarah Ogilvie

Dr Roger O'Keefe

Dr David Oldfield

Professor Robin Osborne, FBA

Dr Stephanie Palmer

Mr Richard Partington

Dr Unai Pascual

Dr Kanak Patel

Dr Ian Patterson

Professor Roger Paulin

Professor Lawrence C. Paulson

Dr Kate Peters

Dr K. C. Plaisted Grant

Professor Christopher Prendergast

Dr Andrew Preston

Dr Claire Preston

Professor Michael Proctor, FRS

Mr J. H. Prynne

Dr Sadiah Qureshi

Dr Robert Ralley

Dr Adam Ramadan

Dr Gabriela Ramos

Dr Roland E. Randall

Revd John Rawlinson

Dr Sophie Read

Dr Nicky Reeves

Dr Alastair J. Reid

Dr Alice Reid

Dr Richard Rex

Michael Rice, MA (Oxford), PhD (Cambridge)

Professor Keith Richards

Professor Ian Roberts, FBA

Dr Eleanor Robson

Dr Pernille Røge

Dr Julius Ross

Dr Lucia Ruprecht

Dr James Russell

Dr Steve Russell

Professor Kenneth Ruthven

Dr Peter Sarris

Professor Simon Schaffer

Dr Pia Schober

Dr Jason Scott-Warren

Professor Ken Siddle

Professor Brendan Simms

Dr Jon Simons

Professor Ajit Singh

Dr Christina Skott

Mr Brian Sloan

Dr Peter Smith

Peter Sparks, MA dip arch ARB RIBA

Ms Michelle Spear

Dr Kate Spence

Mrs Debra Spencer

Dr Thomas Spencer

Professor David Spiegelhalter

Ms Michelle Spring

Professor Peter Spufford, Litt.D., F.B.A.|Nathalie Squire

Dr Florian Steinberger

Dr Adam Stewart-Wallace

Dr Jacopo Stoppa

Alan Strathern

Dame Marilyn Strathern

Dr Zoë Svendsen

Professor Simon Szreter

Dr Trudi Tate

Dr Angie Tavernor

Dr Alice Taylor

Miss Katie Taylor

Ms Emily Thomas

Dr Christopher Tout

Daniel Trambaiolo

Dr Nick Treanor

Dr Gail C. Trimble

Professor David Trotter

Dr Andrew Truman

Dr Oksana Trushkevych

Professor Lorraine K. Tyler, FBA

Stefan H. Uhlig

Dr Olga Ulturgasheva

Mrs Isobel Urquhart

Dr Danielle van den Heuvel

Dr Helen Van Noorden

Professor Megan Vaughan

Sridhar Venkatapuram, MSc MPhil PhD

Dr Vincenzo Vergiani

Dr Piers Vitebsky

Dr Adam Wagner

Dr Marcus Waithe

Dr Jennifer Wallace

Professor Alexandra Walsham, FBA

Professor David R. Ward

Professor Mark Warner

Dr Helen Watson

Dr Peggy Watson

Dr Roger Watson

Dr Ruth Watson

Mr Steve Watts

Dr Teresa Webber

Dr Darin Weinberg

Dr Judith Weiss

Roberta S. Wells

Dr T. O. White

Dr Ruth Williams

Dr Daniel Wilson

Ms Lydia Wilson

Dr Edward Wilson-Lee

Dr Stuart Wimbush

Dr Matthew Wingate

Professor Glynn Winskel

Dr Phil Withington

Professor Daniel Wolpert

Dr B.C. Wood

Mr Vince Woodley

Professor John B. Young

Dr John Young

Ms Mary Young

Dr Nicholas Zair

Dr Nicolette Zeeman

Dr Andrew Zurcher

Oxford signatories:

Ruth Abbott

Dr Michael Abecassis

Mrs Genevieve Adams

Dr Frédérique Aït-Touati

Dr Rowena E. Archer

Dr Walter Armbrust

Dr Matthew R. Arthington

Dr Laura Ashe

Dr Suzanne Aspden

Dr Mark Atherton

Mr Alain Ausoni

Dr Anita Avramides

Dr Jennifer Baines

Professor Ros Ballaster

Professor Marcus Banks

Dr Andrew Barry

Dr Chimène Bateman

Dr Robert Belshaw

Dr Lisa M. Bendall

Dr Mette Louise Berg

Dr Giles Bergel

Dr Michael Biggs

Professor Elleke Boehmer

Mr Andrew M. Boggs

Dr Guido Bonsaver

Professor Georgina Born

Dr Carole J. A. Bourne-Taylor

Dr Rory Bowden

Professor E. L. Bowie

Dr Joy Boyce

Dr David Bradshaw

Dr Timothy Bradshaw

Robin Briggs, FBA

Professor Susan Bright

Dr Marc Brightman

Dr Helen Brookman

Professor John Broome

Dr Catherine Brown

Lesley Brown

Mr Peter Brown

Professor Angus Buckling

Dr Christina D. Buesching, DPhil. MSc

Dr Harvey J. Burd

Dr Theresa Burt de Perera

Dr Ben Burton

Dr Jonathan Burton

Professor Christopher Butler

Dr Sandie Byrne

Dame Fiona Caldicott

Professor Terence Cave

Andrea Cerase

Dr Tak Wing Chan

Mindy Chen-Wishart

Dr William Child

Professor Eric Clarke, FBA

Professor Craig Clunas, FBA

Dr Juan-Carlos Conde

Professor Thomas Corsten

Dr Cathryn Costello

Sir David Cox, FRS

Dr Tony Cox

Professor John Creaser

Professor Roger Crisp

Professor Jonathan Cross

Professor Valentine Cunningham

Dr Bruno Currie

Dr Alexandra da Costa

Dr Patricia Daley

Dr Armand D'Angour

Dr Inge Daniels

Professor Roger Davies

Professor Marian Dawkins

Dr Xon de Ros

Dr Jan-Georg Deutsch

Dr Martina Di Simplicio

Professor Graeme B. Dinwoodie

Dr Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

Dr Carolin Duttlinger

Dr Elisabeth Dutton

Dr Janet Dyson

Jas' Elsner

Dr Sos Eltis

Marie Elven

Dr Elizabeth Ewart

Professor Paul Ewart

Dr David Fallon

Dr Nathalie Ferrand

Professor Robin Fiddian

Dr Peter Fifield

Melanie J. Florence, MA, MPhil

Miss Catarina Barceló Fouto

Professor Donald G. Fraser

Professor Michael Freeden

Dr Paloma Garcia-Bellido

Dr Merryl Gelling

Professor Robert Gildea, FBA

Professor Stephen Gill

Professor Vincent Gillespie

Dr Susan Gillingham

Dr Kathryn J. Gleadle

Dr Stephen Goddard

Dr Erin Michelle Goeres

Dr Manuele Gragnolati

James Grant

Kathryn Grant

Dr Daniel Grey

Dr Ashleigh S. Griffin

Daniel Grimley

Dr Peter Haarer

Dr Volker Halbach

Dr Nicholas Halmi

Dr Heather Hamill

Professor Ralph Hanna

Mr R. M. Hargrave

Professor Stephen Harrison

Professor Barbara Harriss-White

Mr Nicholas Hearn

Dr Emma Herdman

Volker Heuchert, D.Phil (OXON)

Dr Judith Heyer

Professor Edward Higginbottom

Dr Thomas Hinton

Dr Kerstin Hoge

Dr Mike Holland

Dr Tim Horder

Professor Howard Hotson

Dr Matt Houlbrook

Dr B. Todd Huffman

Dr Adam R. C. Humphreys

Professor Gregory Hutchinson

Professor John Hyman

Dr Ben Jackson

Professor Ann Jefferson, FBA

Dr Paul J. Johnson

Dr Peter Johnson, MA, D Phil Oxford; MA, MBA Stanford

Dr Lindsay Judson

Professor Alex Kacelnik

Hilary Kalmbach

David Karlin, PhD

Dr Adrian Kelly

Professor Catriona Kelly, MA D.Phil FBA

Dr Anna Kemp

Simon Kemp

Dr Tarunabh Khaitan

Dr Marie-Chantal Killeen

Dr B. C. A. King

Professor Katrin Kohl

Dr Britt Koskella

Dr Alexander Krasovitsky

Dr Philip Kreager

Tom Kuhn

Dr Helen Lacey

F. J. Lamport

Robin Lane Fox

Carolyne Larrington

Dr Elizabeth Eva Leach

Dr David C. Lee

Professor Karen Leeder

Dr David Leopold

Dr Owen T. Lewis

Dr Conrad Leyser

Mrs Henrietta Leyser

Professor David J. N. Limebeer, MA, PhD, DSc, FREng, FIEEE

Dr David Lincicum

Dr Paul Lodge

Dr L. Lonsdale

Dr Charlie Louth

Professor Vaughan Lowe, QC

Nikolaj Lubecker

Dr Daniel Lunn

Dr Katherine Lunn-Rockliffe

Professor Ernesto Macaro, PhD

Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, DD, FBA

Dr Fiona Macintosh

Professor Laurie Maguire

Professor Martin Maiden, BSc, MA, PhD, FRCPath

Professor Martin Maiden, FBA

Dr Rachel Mairs

Dr Francesco Manzini

Professor Laura Marcus

Dr Sophie Marnette

Mr Kyle Martin

Manon Mathias

Dr Thibaut Maus de Rolley

Dr David Maw

Dr James McBain

Dr Ciara McCabe

Dr Kate McClune

Peter McCullough

Dr Peter McDonald

Professor Martin McLaughlin

Dr John McTague

Dr Michèle Mendelssohn

Dr A. C. Merchant

Dr Quentin Miller

Dr George Molyneaux

Professor A. W. Moore

Dr Gerald Moore

Dr B. Morgan

Dr Llewelyn Morgan

Dr Teresa Morgan

Dr Carolyn Morningstar

Katherine Morris

Boris Motik, dr. rer. pol.

Revd Dr John Muddiman

Professor Stephen Mulhall

Dr Kathryn Murphy

Dr Susannah Murphy

Dr Karma Nabulsi

Dr Chris Newman

Dr George Nicholson

Dr Michael A Nicholson

Professor David Norbrook

Dr Natalia Nowakowska

Dr Edward Nye

Bernard O'Donoghue

Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve

Professor Neville N. Osborne

Professor Nigel F. Palmer, FBA

Dr Dimitris Papanikolaou

Derek Parfit

Dr Sowon Park

Professor Robert Parker, FBA

Dr John Parrington

Dr Georgina Paul

Dr Claudia Pazos Alonso

Professor Christopher Pelling, FBA

Revd Emma Percy

Professor Anthony Phelan

Dr Tamson Pietsch

Dr Fernanda Pirie

Dr William Poole

Dr Oliver Pooley

Dr Richard C. Powell

Dr Jonathan Prag

Professor Sir Curtis Price

Mr Nicholas Purcell, FBA

Dr Diane Purkiss

Dr Josephine Crawley Quinn

Mr David Raeburn

Joshua Randall

Professor Sarah E. Randolph

Dr Joel D. S. Rasmussen

Professor Jim Reed Taylor

Dr Kate Rees

Professor Gesine Reinert

Professor Tobias Reinhardt

Dr Grant Ritchie

Professor Julian Roberts

Professor Ritchie Robertson

Dr Lynn Robson

Professor David Rogers, MA D.Phil. (Oxon)

Professor Suzanne Romaine

Professor George Rousseau, BA, MA, Ph.D, FRHistS

Marine Roussillon

Lucinda Rumsey

Dr Richard Rutherford

Professor Alan Ryan

Dr Cressida Ryan

Dr Reena Sastri

Mr A. V. C. Schmidt

Dr Richard Scholar

Dr Claudia Schrag

Dr Elizabeth Scott-Baumann

Dr David Sergeant

Professor Michael Sheringham

Dr Rebecca Shipley

Dr Steven Sinkins

Dr Emma Smith

Dr Lesley Smith

Dr Olivia Smith

Tim Smith-Laing

Dr Matthew Sperling

Professor Fiona Stafford

Dr Chris Stamatakis

Ms Beate Steinhauser

Dr David Steinsaltz

Dr Giuseppe Stellardi

Professor Tiffany Stern

Ms Allison Stewart

Dr Robin Stinchcombe

Dr Scott Sturgeon

Bernard Sufrin

Professor Endre Suli

Dr Annie Sutherland

Mr William Swadling

Dr Helen Swift

Professor Michelle Szkilnik

Dr Lucy Tallents

Emanuela Tandello

Professor Oliver Taplin

Dr Julie Taylor

Dr Mark Thakkar

Dr Joseph Tobias

Dr Selina Todd

Dr Rowan Tomlinson

Dr Adrianne Tooke

Dr Luke Treadwell

Dr M. Treisman

Dr Emily Troscianko

Dr Kate Tunstall

Dr Marion Turner

Dr Christopher Tyerman

Dr Tobias Uller

Dr Henriette van der Blom

Professor Alain Viala

Professor Heather Viles

Professor Angela Vincent, FMedSci

Professor Annette Volfing

Dr Josephine von Zitzewitz

Dr Jake Wadham

Professor Keith Ward, FBA

Professor Alan Ware

Dr Caroline Warman

Professor Ralph Wedgwood

Joanna Weinberg

Professor Martin L. West, D.Litt., FBA

Stephanie West

Dr Mary Whitby

Dr Tim Whitmarsh

Professor Richard Whittington

Professor Chris Wickham

Dr Stuart Wigby

Professor Andreas Willi

Dr Abigail Williams

Dr Claire Williams

Mr Gavin Williams

Dr Hannah Williams

Dr James Williams

Seán Williams

Dr Stephen G. Williams

Dr Wes Williams

Professor Andrew Wilson

Dr Matthew Wood

Dr Jennifer Yee

Dr Jarad Zimbler

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