The University's evidence to the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (the Dearing Inquiry) - (1) to No 4418

<br /> Oxford University Gazette: University's evidence to Dearing Inquiry<br /> (supplement)

Oxford University Gazette

The University's evidence to the National Committee of Inquiry
into Higher Education (the Dearing Inquiry)

Supplement (1) to Gazette No. 4418

Monday, 25 November 1996

Contents of the supplement:

Note: the extract from the evidence submitted to the
inquiry by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, appended
to the printed supplement, is not reproduced here. The CVCP's full
evidence can be found on the World Wide Web at: "">

To Gazette No.
4419 (28 November 1996)

Gazette Home Page

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Earlier this term, the questions put to all higher education
institutions and other interested bodies and individuals by the
National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (the Dearing
Committee) were published in the Gazette (p. 58).
Council and the General Board have now submitted the following
replies. First is a letter from Mr Vice-Chancellor to Sir Ron
Dearing, summarising points of particular concern to the University.
Second, is the reply to the detailed questions.

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Letter of 15 November 1996 from Mr
Vice-Chancellor to Sir Ron Dearing

We have today submitted Oxford University's replies to your
committee's questions. I thought that it might be helpful to you and
to the other members of the committee if I tried to summarise the
points of major concern to us. These are set out below.

1. A balance has to be struck between increasing opportunities and
the constraints of funding. There is no point in continuing to expand
higher education if the result is impoverished institutions and
students. Whether participation rates for traditional full-time
undergraduates are simply maintained or are increased, there must be
adequate funding. We see little alternative but the creation
of arrangements under which students make a greater contribution, to
the cost of courses, and to their maintenance, by means of loans.
Repayment of loans should be related to income
. The effect
will be nullified however if existing funding is then clawed back. In
particular, the existing resources allocated to student support must
not be diminished. We are very concerned at increased levels
of student hardship and we think that it is essential to ensure that
students on full-time courses are not impelled by financial pressures
to take jobs in term-time
. This is inefficient, a waste of
resources and likely to lead to lower standards of academic
performance. Hardship funds, flexibly administered, must continue.

2. Many different institutions now make up the higher education
sector. Identifying a funding structure capable of application to all
is not easy. It is essential that systems are flexible, and
that diversity should be permitted
so that teaching and
research may be pursued in the manner most appropriate to the mission
of each institution.

3. Consideration of the future of higher education should start
from a recognition that education is not an economic or
industrial process
. Of course lessons can be learned from
industry and commerce but it has too often been assumed in recent
years that education (at all levels) is little different from a
manufacturing process. The purpose of higher education is much more
subtle. It enables the best minds to develop to their highest level
so that they can identify, analyse and solve large and abstract
problems. It involves the advancement of knowledge and the general
development of the intellect. It involves the search for truth. If
those in higher education are not engaged in the pursuit of ideals,
others are unlikely to be so.

4. The value to the UK of a system of higher education which, for
all its diversity, contains a group of universities which can
meet the highest international standards
and matches the
great universities elsewhere and especially in North America or
Europe, must be recognised. If we cannot compete in this league, this
will be bad for our international standing and for our economic

5. It is essential that universities be funded at a level
which does not disadvantage them in this competition
. This
means in particular adequate funding of expensive science and
adequate funding of other resources which are often resources
available not just to the universities which possess them but to the
world-wide scholarly community (e.g. libraries and museum
collections). A country must invest in its intellectual resources.

6. Our concern about the position of UK universities compared with
those in other countries leads us to support selective
funding of research
. We agree that such selectivity must
identify the high quality group or individual as well as the high
quality department. This is particularly important for research in
the humanities which is still much more of an individual affair than
research in the sciences.

7. We believe in the full-time, three- or four-year
residential undergraduate course
. The opportunity to study a
subject in depth, to concentrate on it and to allow understanding to
grow over the period of the course is of great importance in the
intellectual development of the individual. We do not doubt the value
of part-time and continuing education (in which we have a long
history). We believe, however, that any higher education system must
make significant provision for `traditional' undergraduate education.
We have in mind again here the UK's position compared with other
countries with major institutions of higher education and also the
importance of training the next generation of academic staff.

8. We continue to believe strongly in our tutorial
(in which a teacher regularly and systematically
engages with a small group of students (no more than three or four at
a time) and takes direct responsibility for their academic work over
a whole course or a substantial part of it. Advancement of learning
and the training of minds are best achieved through regular contact
between students and teachers; the process is in many ways as
beneficial to the latter as to the former. Students must, of course,
fend for themselves to a large extent: self-organisation is one of
the benefits of all types of university education. But if education
is lacking in human contact it lacks the edge which is essential for
the development of flexible, questioning minds. Teaching quality
assessments have been clear about the value of the tutorial system.

We do not see IT as a substitute for personal contact. It provides
opportunities for the improvement of the quality of teaching, for
innovative teaching and for distance-learning, and for reinforcement
of part-time learning. It cannot, however, replace human contact
between teachers and the taught. Nor should it be thought that IT can
reduce cost in higher education in any significant way.

9. The United Kingdom's international position depends not
only on the excellence of undergraduate education but on the
excellence of graduate education
. High quality graduate work
is essential for the advancement of learning and hence for the
benefit of society and there is a duty to provide it both for UK and
for overseas students. The UK plays a particularly important role in
helping to educate overseas graduate students and this is beneficial
both for academic reasons and for more utilitarian reasons.
Academically, there is much value in the mixing of graduate students
from a wide range of nations. The exchange of ideas and the
experience of different backgrounds and cultures help to stimulate
intellectual understanding. More prosaically, relations between the
UK and other countries can greatly benefit over many years from the
experience of those who have undertaken graduate work in the UK.
Decisions on the funding of universities must bear this in mind;
overseas students are not going to wish to come to run-down,
inadequately staffed institutions whose best people have left for
better paid jobs elsewhere.

10. We are deeply concerned at salary levels for
all categories of staff. The responsibility borne by university staff
is now inadequately reflected in rates of pay which have declined
drastically relative to average earnings. This is made clear in
respect of academic staff in the comparative information given in our
answer to question 26 of the committee's questionnaire.

11. The principle of the block grant should be
. It is a vital component for the maintenance of
institutional autonomy. Autonomy does not mean irresponsibility. We
recognise that all institutions must be accountable for the way in
which they spend their money but institutions must be free to decide
how best to achieve their academic objectives. Excessive external
control is incompatible with responsible freedom of thought.

12. It is important not only to maintain the block grant but also
to allocate sufficient resources to universities to enable
them to undertake research and other forms of scholarship which is
not supported from elsewhere
. Further transfer of resources
to the research councils would seriously hamper the initiation of new
research or the pursuit of research which is currently regarded as
unfashionable but is intellectually demanding and justifiable and may
in due time prove highly significant, whether in intellectual or
economic terms.

13. Appropriate use of financial resources depends at least as much
on internal systems as on external regulation. At a time when there
is much debate (not only in the UK) about excessive intervention by
the executive arm of government, we would strongly urge that central
authority (by whatever agency it is exercised) should not be
prescriptive as to the management structures to be adopted by
individual universities
—subject always, of course, to
the proviso that universities must be answerable for their use of
public funds. For our part we believe that democratic forms of
government are ultimately the most effective for academic

(Signed) P.M.NORTH

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Answers to questions posed by the Dearing

1. What should be the aims and purposes of
higher education over the next 20 years?

The purpose is to maintain intellectual development in all its
aspects, particularly by extending the boundaries of knowledge, to
the benefit of the common good including the continued provision of
thinking and cultured members of society.

(a) the effect of past or future changes in the numbers
entering higher education.

Increases in numbers entering higher education, at least on the scale
of recent years, require a more diverse higher education system to
accommodate students with a wider range of ability and academic
background. It is essential, however, that the necessary changes do
not obstruct the maintenance of the highest international standards
in teaching and research in at least part of the sector.

(b) the effect of changes in the backgrounds of students
entering higher education.

Changes in school education have already led, and may yet lead
further, to more ground having to be covered by higher education
institutions. This may mean that lengthening undergraduate courses
and/or more participation in postgraduate education will be necessary
in many areas if the highest standards of education and preparation
for future employment are to be achieved and particularly if we are
to compete with major universities in other countries.

(c) the effect of wider changes in the economy and
society on teaching, scholarship and research.

Wider changes in the economy and society have produced on the one
hand a greater demand for higher education and on the other
relatively diminished resources to fund it. Since the assumption must
be that demand will be sustained, or increased, it is of the utmost
importance that efficient use be made of necessarily limited
resources and that the higher education sector is not subjected (and
does not subject itself) to wasteful practices in pursuit, for
example, of a spurious uniformity of standards. It is also important
that education is not treated as a commodity but as a complex
intellectual process. Whatever the changes in society, they do not
lessen the need for the pursuit of knowledge, for intellectual rigour
and honesty.

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2. What features are, or should be,
distinctive of higher education as opposed to other levels or forms
of education or training?

Higher education should involve developing and training the best
minds to their highest level so that they can identify, analyse and
solve large and abstract problems. This means that a proportion of
those undergoing higher education ought to be exposed to work in the
most demanding environment and involved on a daily basis with
teachers working on the frontiers of their subjects. Work at this
level necessarily involves the inculcation of transferable skills
though not be taught as such.

(a) the distinction between higher education and further
education and how sharply the distinction can (or should) be made.

The distinction is now blurred. This is one of the difficulties
attending efforts to impose common systems and standards in the
`higher education' sector. It is hoped that the committee will be
honest in recognising that higher education has changed its meaning
in the last 20 years and that it will decide that steps should be
taken to preserve what used to be regarded as one of the UK's
strengths. Further education's main role is in taking existing
knowledge and enabling people to understand and to apply it. There
is, of course, an overlap with higher education but higher education
must advance knowledge and undertake analysis and assessment of both
new knowledge and received opinion.

(b) the distinction between higher education and
employer-led education and training.

Higher education as defined above can never be wholly employer-led
though some subjects clearly have a considerable vocational emphasis
with a significant input into courses and examinations by
representative bodies of professional associations and employers.
Employer-led education in the end depends on a flourishing higher
education sector. Employers must put first the needs of their
particular enterprise. Higher education must be interested in
knowledge for its own sake and not only in helping to forward the
particular objective of a particular group at a particular time.

(c) the distinction between vocational and
non-vocational higher education.

For normal purposes, vocational higher education means the provision
of courses at the highest level which train (or go a substantial way
towards training) people for particular professions (such as
medicine, law or engineering). Non-vocational higher education is
that which is not immediately directed towards preparation for a
particular professional occupation, but provides a general foundation
for many different careers. Both vocational and non-vocational
courses in higher education should have a common underlying ethos.
Students should be taught to think for themselves and to adopt a
critical and analytical approach. The knowledge which they acquire
should be as up-to-date as possible and the students should be given
at least a flavour of the current debates within the subject. Habits
of thought and of working should be acquired which make individuals
flexible and capable of adaptation.

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3. What forms of higher education will
students need access to over the next 20 years?

(a), (b), and (c) (modes and methods
of delivery and level of provision)

Within diversity it is important to make provision for the most able
candidates to undertake rigorous and coherent full-time, residential
courses at first degree and postgraduate level. There is great merit
in teaching students face-to-face. It allows students both to defend
their own ideas and to discuss and debate and, if necessary,
challenge the ideas of those who teach them. By engaging in such
discussions, understanding and analysis are highly developed and a
valuable approach to life and work is instilled. Residential courses
mean that students are an essential part of this process. This does
not preclude the development of new teaching methods, such as those
drawing on information technology, but such methods should continue
to be used in the context of a residential full-time degree course,
whose benefits are part of the particular educational experience
which some institutions have to offer. The assumption would be that a
university which has a long and successful experience in offering
this type of course would probably not seek to offer degrees through
distance learning nor to establish subsidiary campuses elsewhere in
the UK or abroad. This mission can, however, with good effect be
combined with provision in continuing education for a limited number
of part-time and/or modular awards (including graduate level awards)
for a wide range of post-experience courses and for other part-time
courses which make the highest levels of scholarship more readily

(d) the structure of courses (e.g. modular and
non-modular provision).

It is essential that some institutions within a diverse system should
continue to offer integrated courses which provide for increasing
maturity over the course and continuous development of studies in
depth as well as breadth. Within modular systems it is important that
the modules be coherent and build on each other, rather than being
isolated and self-contained.

(e) the length of courses.

Three to four years of full-time study is the minimum period in which
even the best candidates can achieve the skills, knowledge and
maturity to enter employment or postgraduate work. No practicable
adjustment to the length of courses can, however, make up for a
failure to maintain academic standards at the highest levels in
comparison with universities in other countries (especially in the
USA and Europe) in both pre-university education and in university
education itself.

(f) the balance of subject provision and how an adequate
supply of specialist graduates (e.g. scientists, engineers and
technologists) can be ensured.

All graduates are, to a greater or lesser extent, specialists.
Maintenance of numbers reading science subjects requires greater
investment in the training of teachers of science, including measures
to improve the quality of those teachers. It also requires
maintenance of the intellectual level of science subjects in
secondary education. Ensuring an adequate supply of highly qualified
manpower requires for its success that these problems be tackled and
that sufficient resources be made available for the essential space
and facilities that training students in science and technology in
universities demands.

(g) the feasibility and desirability of extending credit
accumulation and transfer arrangements between institutions.

The University recognises the value of this (and is involved through
its Department for Continuing Education) but a balance has to exist
between such arrangements and the provision of full-time, long-term
courses in a single institution.

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4. What knowledge, skills and aptitudes will
those leaving higher education need over the next 20 years and how
can these be best delivered?

We believe there will be a continuing need for transferable skills,
personal and cultural growth and development, a balance between the
provision of a broad knowledge base and highly specialised knowledge,
and a disposition to continue learning throughout life.

(a) the need for, and feasibility of, including
transferable, general skills in the curriculum.

This is best achieved by training all students in critical evaluation
and presentation, both orally and in writing. These skills are highly
prized in the market place.

(b) the emphasis placed on personal and cultural growth
and development.

Full-time, residential study in a stimulating academic environment
with the face-to-face pupil/teacher contact entailed by the tutorial
system should ensure essential personal and cultural growth and

(c) the balance between the provision of a broad
knowledge base and highly specialised knowledge.

We believe it is desirable to educate students as broadly as possible
whilst providing the specialist knowledge necessary both for those
who are entering a wide range of employment and those who are going
on to advanced study and research.

(d) who should shape or determine the curriculum content
(e.g. teachers, students, employers, professional bodies)?

We accept the importance of, and already practise, consultation with
all these individuals/bodies though the degree to which each will
influence a particular course must depend on the discipline in
question. It is, however, essential that, all their views having been
taken into account, the final decision on course content is taken by
the appropriate academic authority in the institution concerned.

(e) how to prepare students for diverse forms of work
(e.g. self-employment, employment in small and medium sized

The evidence suggests that the tutorial system is the single most
effective method of preparing students for diverse forms of work (see
(a) above).

(f) the development of special relationships and
tailor-made courses for employers and professional bodies.

The expansion through the Department of Continuing Education and the
School of Management Studies of high quality post-experience
vocational courses, including tailor-made courses for particular
employers, is one of this University's principal aims.

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5. How can effective teaching and learning
be identified and how should they be encouraged?

(a) characteristics of effective and efficient forms of
learning and assessment;

(b) incentives to improve the quality of teaching and

(c) the role of staff development and academic rewards
in relation to teaching;

(d) new developments in higher education, such as
cross-institutional collaboration in teaching and potential of
information and communications technology;

(e) developments to increase the professionalism of
teaching in higher education.

We recognise the importance of developing teaching skills and of the
increased use of IT and are pursuing both. We would, however,
continue to stress the vital nature of face-to-face tuition by
teachers working at the frontiers of the subject for a small group of
highly qualified students and believe that there is no adequate
substitute for this. We recognise also, and have begun to implement,
the principle that teaching performance (as well as research) should
be taken into account in promotion and the award of titles of

Cross-institutional collaboration makes more sense for smaller
institutions; for the larger, with very significant internal
commitments, internal collaboration and exchange of experience make
better use of time and money.

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6. What is the place of scholarship (as
opposed to teaching and research) in higher education?

(a) the relationship between teaching, scholarship and

Scholarship is essential for teaching, is synonymous with research in
the case of the humanities, and is the foundation for research in the

(b) how much time should be devoted to scholarship?

Sufficient time must be allowed for the mature reflection which leads
to creative thinking and in the end feeds through scholarship into
specific research and into teaching. The preservation of vacations
and the sabbatical leave system are crucial to this.

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7. How can the standards of degrees and
other higher education qualifications be assured and maintained?

There cannot be national standards over the present diverse range of
higher education institutions with different (and valid) missions. It
is important to maintain the highest standards, measured by
international comparisons and the judgement of employers of
graduates. For some institutions, the comparison is not only within
the United Kingdom but with institutions in other countries (and
particularly with the USA and Western Europe). This means that
conformity in procedures and systems within the United Kingdom is not
wholly desirable since this may not allow institutions which need to
compare themselves with other major international institutions to do
so advantageously.

(a) whether standards have changed and reasons for

(b) whether it is feasible to have national standards of

(c) whether it is necessary to have national standards
of qualifications;

(d) implications for standards if participation in
higher education continues to expand.

Increased participation has inevitably led to changes in standards
which now vary conspicuously. We are clear that the wide range of
abilities and backgrounds of students participating in higher
education means that common national standards are impossible to
achieve. Whether or not participation in higher education continues
to expand, any move to set standards will have to relate to a range,
rather than a single, level.

(e) mechanisms used to maintain standards;

We are concerned about the prospect of intrusive and expensive
mechanisms which attempt to equate standards and methods across the
full range of higher education institutions.

(f) the role of professional bodies.

We recognise the important role of professional bodies (which are
helpful and supportive), external examiners and peer group review by
members of comparable institutions. It is possible, however, that
professional bodies do not help to maintain international standards.

(g) the implications of developments such as
franchising, modularisation, credit accumulation and transfer for
standards and their maintenance.

No comment.

( h) the relationship between degrees and other
qualifications, such as national vocational qualifications and higher
national diplomas.

We recognise the value of GNVQs and in particular think that the
development of the science GNVQ will be of value in helping to keep
the study of science more buoyant, both in secondary education and
beyond, thereby helping to create a more scientifically literate
society. We are not certain that to rename GNVQ `Applied A level' is
necessarily in the long-term interest. We would also be concerned if
developments in GNVQs reduced the availability of A levels for
students of high academic ability and so made them less well prepared
for our courses. We would not therefore expect to find GNVQs
replacing A levels as the normal entry qualification for
Oxford although candidates with them are of course considered on
their merits.

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8. What proportion of higher education
resources is it reasonable to use to verify standards of awards and
the quality of provision?

This University is clear that the imposition of review procedures
conducted within a framework purporting to reflect common standards
over the full range of UK higher education institutions is distinctly
unhelpful and wasteful of resources. A real emphasis on internal
review procedures (peer pressure within an institution is an
under-rated force), combined with external peer review on, say, a
ten-year cycle, would be far more effective and far less costly than
the cumbersome scheme now about to be put in place as a result of the
report of the Joint Planning Group.

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9. How should research carried out in
higher education institutions fit with the wider spectrum of research
undertaken in the UK?

(a) The role played by industry and other private sector
companies engaged in research;

Research by universities is, of course, not conducted in a vacuum.
Industry and other private sector companies are bound to concentrate
on research that is likely to result in products with commercial
potential in the short to medium term or to be narrowly based in a
particular area. University research must be more broadly based,
especially in the bigger universities. It may be less likely to be
relevant to an immediate application and it will cover a range of
subjects which have no obvious attraction for the private sector
(e.g. in the humanities). The private sector cannot be expected to
maintain a continuity of research across all major areas of
intellectual activity.

(b) the distinctive role played by higher education

HEIs, and especially the major research universities, undertake a
wide range of research but their distinctiveness lies in the fact
that they are virtually the only institutions responsible for basic
research. Without such research, no other research is possible. If
universities do not undertake basic research, it is not clear who
will, particularly in the case of the humanities. Although the
University is rightly concerned to exploit developments with
commercial potential and therefore to protect its intellectual
property, it (and all other universities) have a more open culture
that permits a freer exchange of information amongst HEIs in the UK
and internationally. This facilitates their role in the advancement
of knowledge in co-operation with other researchers in similar fields
elsewhere. Keeping research alive on a broad front maintains the best
possibility of generating ideas or developments of significant
benefit in the long run, in commercial or other terms. Commercial
potential of university research should be realised through effective
technology transfer mechanisms, either by licences to industry or by
the setting up of spin-off companies in which the University has a
share of the equity. This is an increasingly important and successful
activity. The universities also have the very important role of
educating and training the next generation of researchers and
academics, through undergraduate and graduate taught courses, but in
particular through doctorates and through up-dating provision.

(c) the balance between research providers in conducting
basic, strategic and applied research.

It is by no means clear that this categorisation is useful. What is
clear is that industry and commerce (rightly) wish to be assured of a
predictable return on their money. Therefore, the increasing tendency
of the research councils and Government to provide funding on
condition that a high proportion of the funds needed are provided by
industry seriously restricts the universities' potential. This is
especially so of projects requiring capital resources, as in the
BBSRC equipment initiative in 1995, and the Joint Research Equipment
Initiative in 1996, both of which required 50 per cent funding from
industry or other non-university sources. In the latter this
University was only able to put in about six applications because of
this requirement, since industry is in general not interested in
providing the substantial sums of funding required for research
projects that are not commercially viable in the short to medium
term. The application of the Private Finance Initiative to research
(and teaching) equipment is a further recent development of this: it
is extremely unlikely that the equipment needed for basic research
can be funded through this route, and it is not realistic for the
Government to suppose that industry and charities can make up for the
severe cut in the formula capital funding—largely used for
equipment—by these means.

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10. How should public funding for research
in higher education institutions be distributed?

(a) how national need should be determined and defined;

The UK needs to be actively involved in a broad range of research,
whether or not it is immediately commercially viable, in order to
maintain a position in world class research, and (in commercial
terms) to provide through basic science the home-grown foundations on
which UK industry can build. The national need should not be
determined by too narrow a grouping, eg industry alone, for this
might risk narrowing too far the research that is undertaken in the
UK, to the detriment of basic scientific research, research that is
not immediately commercially viable, and research in the social
sciences and humanities. In general, a sensible balance has to be
struck between ensuring that research is carried out in what appear
to be areas of immediate national or international need and ensuring
that there is enough scope for a very wide and balanced range of
research to be undertaken to meet many possible circumstances. There
is ample evidence of our inability to predict successfully the needs
or problems of succeeding generations. The options for responding to
particular issues must therefore be kept open as far as possible
(e.g. one may not be able to predict new forms of infectious disease
but research into the mechanism of infectious diseases needs to be
carried on). We do not think that central planning of research works
and in any case it is contradictory to intellectual freedom.

National needs for research (particularly but not exclusively, in
the humanities) might also include the need of a democracy for new
and free thought, for contributing to and understanding its own and
other cultures, and (particularly but not exclusively in the social
sciences) to the need to understand the workings of society and of
the economy for the improvement of the economic and social conditions
of the nation and the international community.

(b) the consequences of concentrating research resources
or of dispersing across many institutions or centres;

In general it is advantageous (particularly in the sciences) for
research resources to be concentrated in a relatively small number of
institutions so that they are used to maximum benefit, in terms of
attracting and retaining world class researchers in the UK, and
providing the necessary infrastructure and academic environment to
enable them to carry out their research to the highest level
possible. The consequence of spreading research resources too thinly
might be that there was nowhere in the UK sufficiently well resourced
to be attractive to world class researchers, and nowhere in which
such work could be carried out. In all subjects, the spreading of
research funding too thinly could result in academic staff having
insufficient time to carry out research as a result of having to give
so much time to teaching. There should, however, be some fraction of
research funding available to provide scope for new developments in
other institutions. Arguments for institutional
concentration are less strong for the humanities.

Dispersal of research resources also limits creative development
of academic subjects. Such developments regularly take place at the
boundary between traditional disciplines (e.g. research into
environmental issues). This is less likely to happen in the absence
of a concentration of strength in those disciplines.

(c) the effectiveness of the dual support system;

The recent Coopers and Lybrand report has highlighted difficulties
caused by the recent changes to the old dual support system under
which funds have been transferred from the funding councils to the
research councils. The recent decision to increase the contribution
by research councils to indirect costs from 40 to 45 per cent is
welcome but the underlying difficulties caused by the transfer
remain. A higher proportion of research funds is now earmarked and
institutions have less discretion for the pump-priming of new
research or about how particular research is best supported. In
addition, the recent severe reduction in the formula capital funding,
if not rectified, will result in the loss of the ability of
universities to provide the fundamental infrastructure in which
research can take place—the universities' side of the dual
support system. This is true of the humanities and social sciences as
well as the natural sciences.

The dual support system is also failing to cope with the problems
caused by the increase in research funding from charities and from
the EC.

No further funds should be transferred to the research councils or
the Academy from the funding councils. We think that the funds
available to the research councils and the Academy are grossly
inadequate but we do not think the position would be improved by
increasing their resources at the expense of the funding councils.
Similarly we do not think anything would be gained by transferring
resources from the existing research councils to a new humanities
research council.

(d) the effectiveness of the funding councils' research
assessment exercise;

These exercises are effective in helping to concentrate research
funds into institutions with peer-judged excellence in the relevant
subject areas and so in maintaining the necessary centres of
international excellence. The system is not perfect, not least in
that it distorts the research that is carried out with quantity of
research being pursued at the expense of quality. Pressure to publish
quickly is particularly undesirable in the case of the humanities.
where more time is often needed to produce valuable results. It is
hard, however, to imagine a politically acceptable alternative

(e) the effectiveness of the research councils' and
British Academy's methods of allocating support and the peer review

The research councils and the British Academy are increasingly
tending to direct research resources to particular objectives, and
leaving less available for research proposals generated by
researchers and assessed for funding by peer review. There is a risk
that managed programmes might stultify what in the end could prove to
be the best research. It might be argued that peer review alone is
the best way of allocating research funds—the humanities and a
good proportion of scientists are likely to support this view. If
directed programmes are to continue, great care is needed over the
balance of funding within the individual research councils between
targeted funding and reactive funding, so that excellent research
initiatives that happen not to fall in the target areas are not lost,
either entirely or to the UK. The dual support system works best in
our view when research councils are operating in responsive mode.

(f) the effectiveness of the Technology Foresight

While it is hard to say that there is no value in the Technology
Foresight Exercise it should not be regarded as the sole determinant
for the allocation of research funds.

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11. How should the organisation of research
activity be developed over the next 20 years?

(a) arrangements which provide a good basis for
universities and colleges to plan and manage long-term research.

The retention of the block grant is essential to maintain the
infrastructure which supports research in the universities. The block
grant provides funds for the salaries of established academic staff,
for the basic equipment and support staff which are needed for the
well-found laboratory, for libraries and for IT. All these provide
the essential environment within which research can be undertaken.
Beyond this, the continuation of the block grant is not just a
mechanical matter of providing support for research funded in other
ways but for funding research itself. Much research is funded (and
particularly in its early stages) only by universities themselves.

The sabbatical leave system and the three-term year which allows
for vacation work are also crucial. Where these are in place
institutions which aim to achieve the highest international level of
excellence can plan and manage long-term research.

(b) how to promote interdisciplinary research activity.

It is at least as much the function of individual universities, their
departments and their academic staff to promote interdisciplinary
research as it is of the funding or research councils.

(c) how to remove impediments to collaboration across
universities and departments.

The current impediments to such collaboration are generally lack of
resources and inflexibility which that brings. We think that research
councils might reserve a proportion of funding for collaborative and
interdisciplinary activity but believe that if the research councils
are largely responsive and the block grant is sustained, universities
may be relied upon to follow up good collaborative initiatives with

The need for joint funding must be recognised. Sponsors of research,
including research councils, the EC, charities and industry should
allow universities to set up more multi-donor arrangements.

(d) the means of successful exploitation of
university-generated intellectual property for the benefit of
individual institutions and the country as a whole.

Licensing and spin-off companies are the obvious devices.
Universities find, however, that the cost of maintaining patents is
so high that they are inclined to license their inventions before the
end of the first year after filing. This is certainly detrimental to
universities' income as it may often be that licensing after further
development will be more lucrative. On the other hand, such pressure
to license does help to ensure that universities are not spending too
much time on research and development work which is more properly the
prerogative of industry.

(e) how to maintain international standards of research

See comments on funding at (a) above. Institutions which
aspire to maintaining international standards should be expected to
measure themselves against these standards in the course of their own
regular review procedures.

(f) the extent to which public funds should be used to
assist with the costs of research sponsored by third parties (e.g.
the European Union, charities, private industry).

Public funds are needed to put in place the infrastructure in which
research sponsored by these third parties can be carried out. This
includes capital and equipment funding. Given the huge increase in
charity-funded research in recent years, more attention needs to be
paid to the provision of resources to support that research.

(g) how effective links between researchers in higher
education and users of research can be promoted.

Apart from the obvious development of links made by individuals
between particular disciplines and those who use them, organisations
such as this University's Innovation Society are also an effective
way of bringing the scope of a university's research to the attention
of those who might need it and therefore a way of securing funds for

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12. How can the quality of research in
higher education best be maintained and enhanced.

By allowing time and providing sufficient funding, both for
facilities such as laboratories (bearing in mind the increasing cost
of health and safety legislation) and for salaries for all categories
of staff to ensure that high-quality individuals are recruited and

(a) the training of future researchers.

It must be accepted that at least seven years are required between
entry to an undergraduate course and the completion of a doctorate.
It is important at least to maintain the value of resources allocated
to the training of future researchers if there is to be an adequate
supply to replace members of the academic profession who will retire
over the next ten years.

(b) the career structure of research staff.

We welcome the recent concordat on the career management of contract
research staff and would wish to see it further developed and
enhanced. It does not, however, face the real problem which is
shortage of money for long-term contracts of employment.

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13. What should be the participation rate
for higher education in the context of changes in society, the
economy and the labour market over the next 20 years?

Both the maintenance of present rates and any further increase (in
full-time undergraduate students) seem impossible without further
public resources or student contributions (backed by appropriate loan
and hardship schemes). Higher participation rates should not be
encouraged if this would mean a consequent increase in drop-out

(a) the participation rate for different age groups of

So far as this University is concerned, the expectation is that
although recruitment to degrees will be broadened somewhat and
continuing education provision will be expanded (both vocational and
non-vocational courses), the majority of UK undergraduate students
will continue to be in the traditional 18-22 age range;

(b) access to higher education for different groups of

This University aims to encourage students of the highest calibre
from overseas and to be more widely accessible, both by adapting its
entry requirements to facilitate access to the University by a wide
range of candidates and by expanding its provision for access and
post-experience courses in continuing education.

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14. What factors should determine the
appropriate level of participation in higher education?

(a) the needs of the labour market;

(b) wider benefits of higher education;

(c) the demand from students;

(d) the nature of higher education provided (initial
higher education, postgraduate and continuing education);

(e) levels of participation in competing countries.

A sensible balance has to be struck between the demand from those
able to benefit and the resources available. Participation rates (at
undergraduate level) in competing countries are little guide if many
students there fail to complete their courses.

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15. How do you expect the student body over
the next 20 years to differ in age, background, education,
employment, experience and motivation, aptitude and lifestyle from

We would expect the full-time student body in this University to be
slightly more varied in academic background but equally highly
motivated. Though there will be some widening of access, the majority
of undergraduates will continue to be at the younger end of the age
range (18–22), full-time, residential and very able. We envisage
further growth in numbers of students enrolled in all forms of
continuing education.

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16. What should be the requirements for
entry into higher education?

Academic ability, potential and motivation.

(a) the principle for selection, assuming a continuous
demand for higher education;

There must be a choice for both candidates and selectors, i.e. the
students should both be those who wish to attend a particular
institution and those whom the institution wishes to accept.

(b) the relative merits of different types of entrance

The University favours the broadest possible education from 16-19
which is consonant with attainment of high standards in specific
academic subjects.

(c) the potential of the advanced diploma as recommended
in the Dearing Report on qualifications for 16–19 year olds in
England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the proposed National
Certificates in Scotland.

It is not the diploma as such which is important but the proposed
curriculum and qualifications which lead to it. The constituent parts
might be regarded as the closest to which it is possible to come in
balancing breadth and depth. This University would welcome broadening
of studies at 16-19. From our point of view, the provision of a solid
core of two A levels seems essential. In welcoming the breadth
offered we are concerned that this should not be at the expense of
giving students of high academic ability the opportunity to go beyond
the minimum; the option to take three A levels should remain open for
the students who are to be trained as subject specialists in
universities which still offer traditionally demanding specialist

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17. How should the admissions procedure be
organised for entry into higher education?

(a) the desirability and practicability of pre-or
post-qualification entrance systems;

Any scheme should recognise and accommodate diversity in the
selection procedures and requirements of different institutions. A
post-qualification system would probably find considerable support in
this University but only if the time-scale permitted us to continue
to have enough time to interview candidates for admission, and did
not impose a year (or several months) out on candidates who, for many
reasons, not least financial ones, would not wish to defer entry in
this way.

(b) entrance procedures for part-time students;

This is best handled at the institutional level because the wide
range of backgrounds and of the circumstances of applicants means
that flexibility is essential.

(c) the costs and efficiency of current arrangements.

The current UCAS system has served us reasonably well but we are very
concerned about the latest proposals for changes, particularly in the
suggestion that `insurance offers' should be abolished.

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18. How diverse should the higher education
sector be across institutions over the next 20 years?

(a) the benefits or otherwise of diversity.

The different needs of students and employers favour diversity.
Institutions may from time to time change, or evolve different,
missions but it has to be recognised that high level research cannot
be pursued by all of them. Some institutions must be internationally
competitive and in a small nation this can only be a few.

(b) how diverse institutions should be and what forms
diversity should take.

Diversity should embrace quality of intake, methods of teaching,
structure of courses, shape of the academic year, funding fitted to
mission and monitoring arrangements.

(c) what distinctive features an institution should have
to be recognised as a higher education institution and/or a

At the margin at least minimum standards should be set to define the
level of achievement, i.e. the degree, and the methods by which it
has been obtained.

(d) the interaction between teaching and research.

For universities like Oxford which must be judged against major
institutions abroad, this means that most teachers at this level are
and wish to be actively involved in research.

(e) the relationship between higher and further
education institutions.

No comment.

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19. What should be the balance between
different providers of higher education?

(a) higher education institutions which currently
receive significant public funding;

(b) other higher education institutions;

(c) further education colleges;

(d) in-house company education and training schemes;

(e) commercial enterprises;

(f) other providers.

The proportion of public funding devoted to higher education should
remain at least at the present level. The amount of higher education,
however funded, ought ideally to be maintained at its present level;
if it were diminished this would diminish all others involved in
higher education. The influence of higher education extends far
beyond HEIs themselves. Training by industry or commerce or other
organisations will satisfy their business or professional needs but
will not produce the necessary wide advancement of learning for which
HEIs must be responsible.

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20. How should higher education
institutions themselves develop?

(a) the balance between direct delivery of education and
franchising of courses.

We have considerable doubts about the desirability of franchising in
view of the difficulties of maintaining quality under these

(b) the implications of continuing to develop
international links.

The development of international links in both teaching and research
are highly desirable and essential for a world class university. We
seek to encourage students of the highest calibre from overseas to
study in Oxford (both for full-time courses and for continuing
education courses) and to facilitate appropriate international
experience for our own staff and students.

(c) the impact of new technologies on the structure of

New technologies may be expected to bring increased opportunities for
co-operation and joint developments. Though we do not expect any
major change in the structures of this University, the University
will continue to develop a strategy which ensures the adequate
provision of information, to achieve its academic objectives. These
steps will include the development of a distributed computing
strategy and significant plans and investment in the application of
IT to the University's libraries with associated changes in the
constitutional and management arrangements for those libraries.

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21. How should the shape and structure of
the higher education sector be determined?

(a) the desirability and the effects of having a
nationally or regionally planned system.

(b) the desirability and effects of having no such

(c) the balance between central direction and the
freedom of institutions to decide the way they provide higher

There is clearly a limit to the role of central planning. The State
should lay down broad principles, provide reasonable levels of
funding and require institutions to be financially accountable. The
pursuit of knowledge and all that follows from it thrives best in
institutions which have a high degree of autonomy.

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22. What requirements on internal
governance in institutions of higher education should there be as a
pre-requisite for receipt of public funds?

Requirements on internal governance in institutions of higher
education should emphasise the need for a coherent structure of
accountability with clear lines of responsibility, open
communications, and a strong, independent audit function. A
university's raison d'être, the development of the intellect
and the advancement of knowledge, can be achieved only through the
intellectual resources of all who are associated with it.
Organisationally it must be different, particularly in its relations
with its academic staff, from standard corporate organisations. A
greater sense of democracy is required to ensure ethical and
responsible governance.

(a) the need to provide arrangements which are flexible
and responsive.

Internal management must be flexible and responsive to changes in
circumstance and in an institution's needs but only within a proper
framework. The need for action and initiative should not undermine
the peculiar strengths of institutional management in terms of the
devolution of decision-making to the appropriate level, and the
requirement for open debate.

(b) the varying degrees of private income between higher
education institutions.

It is difficult to comment, other than as a matter of fact, on
differing levels of private income between institutions, since Oxford
and Cambridge are so different from the rest of the sector in this
respect. In the rest of the sector private income is marginal.
Universities have an assurance in the 1988 Education Act that no
account will be taken in determining public funding of universities'
private sources of income.

There is no reason why external review of standards should not
apply to institutions whatever their source of funds, provided that
the regulatory mechanisms are sensible and non-intrusive. All
institutions must be financially audited.

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23. What local and regional role should
higher education institutions have over the next 20 years.

(a) whether all higher education institutions should
have the same role or whether some should have international, some
national and some local roles.

We are in favour of diversity but most higher education institutions
will have some local role even when their main focus is at the
international or national level. In the case of this University, its
role in continuing education is particularly significant at the local

(b) the economic and social impact of higher education
institutions on localities and regions.

This will vary according to the size and nature of the institution.
Some institutions, like this one, may be an important employer for
the local community as well as providing lifelong learning
opportunities and access to museums, libraries and theatres, and
serve as a significant tourist attraction which substantially
benefits the local economy. Universities like Oxford have to look
beyond the local community but they must be good neighbours and not
be aloof. Science-based companies (stemming from research in
university laboratories) are an increasingly important contribution
to the local economy.

(c) how higher education institutions should relate to
small and medium sized enterprises.

Many such enterprises are created from within higher education
institutions and maintain close links with them. On another front,
institutions can through their Continuing Education activities be of
considerable value in providing a variety of post-experience training
for SMES which cannot provide their own.

(d) co-operation and co-ordination between higher
education institutions and other educational establishment and
training providers.

There would appear to be scope for this within localities and regions
between different educational establishments (for example, in Oxford,
between this University and Oxford Brookes (which have several joint
projects including the Oxford Institute of Legal Practice) or between
Westminster College and this University which validates almost all
that college's taught courses in Education and Theology).

(e) the provision of cultural, sporting and other
facilities for local communities.

There is no reason why current provision should not continue but it
is to a large extent dependent upon funding. We suggest that local
authorities should recognise and accept their responsibility for
contributing to the funding of, for example, the education services
for school children provided by university museums.

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24. How can UK higher education capitalise
on the fact that higher education is an international activity?

(a) how to take full advantage of the exchange of
students and staff to the benefit of quality and diversity;

Links with appropriate overseas institutions must be developed to
ensure that outgoing students will be attached to a university with a
strong academic reputation and that incoming students will also be
high quality and therefore make a positive contribution to the UK
institution. This requires careful selection of partners.

The possibilities for exchange must be publicised to attract high
quality students to degree programmes.

Exchanges must be developed with academic staff in departments in
overseas institutions which add to the strengths of the home
institution to increase the quality/breadth of programmes which can
be offered. In some cases, development of joint courses may be

(b) how to maximise the benefits to higher education
institutions and the UK culture and economy of providing higher
education to overseas students and markets.

High standards in recruitment practice and in the courses offered to
international students must be maintained. UK education costs are
relatively high and recruitment is likely to suffer if some
institutions are perceived to be offering a poor quality product.

For Oxford and other leading universities, it is important to be
able to compete with top universities in other countries to recruit
the best students from any background or country. This may require
selective marketing. Such students will then make a positive
contribution to the academic life of the University as well as
contributing to its cultural diversity. The government funded ORS
Awards scheme plays an important part in attracting high quality
research students to top UK institutions. If this scheme is not
maintained, it is probable that many of the best research students
will go to leading institutions in the USA, Australia or Europe. It
will also suggest that the UK is more interested in attracting
students who can afford to come here rather than those of the highest

(c) the scope of UK higher education to become a major
international business by harnessing of information and
communications technology.

This University would expect to be in the forefront of such
developments (the Oxford University Press is a major exporter of
knowledge and scholarship and of English language and culture). Large
international universities are well placed to fill this role if they
have sufficient support. Computerisation of library and museum
holdings is another obvious example but this creates extra demand and
resources are needed to meet the demand. In general, United Kingdom
higher education cannot play a role internationally if there is a
great disparity in funding between it and the institutions overseas
with which comparisons should be made (particularly in the USA and
Western Europe) and with which experience should be shared.

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25. What should higher education seek to
contribute to the social, cultural, moral and spiritual life of the

Higher education clearly supports wealth creation and the social
benefits which ensue from that. Education whether in the sciences or
humanities is no less important in enhancing the quality of the
cultural life of the nation and in promoting good citizenship. Above
all, just as institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge still owe much
to their moral and spiritual foundations, whose purpose has always
been to contribute to a society in which truth and integrity are
paramount, so higher education should have that same purpose.

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26. How can institutions which offer higher
education best ensure that they have an expert and effective

(a) recruitment of appropriately qualified staff;

The recruitment of appropriately qualified staff depends both upon
the availability of such staff and upon the attractiveness of
university salaries, conditions, and facilities as compared with
competing employers. Among these factors salary levels are of crucial
importance. There are areas (computing, law, economics, biosciences,
etc.) where relatively few qualified individuals seek to work in
universities, and in all subject areas the relative decline in
university salaries means that many of the most able individuals no
longer opt to work in universities because they can command much
greater salaries in other employment sectors. The real terms decline
in the average academic salary as compared with even the average
teachers' salary or the Average Earnings Index (some 20 points
difference by 1995 from a common base of 100 in 1985 (source UCEA))
and the associated underfunding (through the device of continued
`efficiency gains') of even those inadequate national salary
settlements, means that an institution like Oxford, which seeks to
maintain excellence across a wide range of subjects and to compete
with the major international universities, can no longer finance the
payment of competitive salaries to the vast majority of its staff.
Some institutions can respond by offering enhanced salaries to a
small number of `stars' whom they wish to recruit, but at Oxford the
stars are, and should be, too numerous. The salary difficulties are
compounded by the fact that the decline in university funding also
means that the University's ability to recruit staff (particularly
professorial staff in competition with the major international
universities) by ensuring that they are not grossly overburdened, and
by offering attractive research and support facilities, has been
seriously diminished. The college system remains attractive to many
but this increasingly does not compensate for inadequacies in
laboratory or library facilities or in research support.

Salary levels are equally inadequate for all other categories of

(b) terms and conditions of employment;

We see this (and items 26 (d), (e) and
(g)) as of considerable importance and a matter for
determination locally by each university.

(c) career structures;

Thought needs to be given to the possibility of more diverse
structures of academic post to correspond to the needs of
institutions and of individuals. This might involve the creation of
more `entry-grade' academic posts specialising in either teaching or
research; and more flexibility for established academics to
concentrate for periods on teaching or research alone. This is not to
undermine, however, the belief that for the vast majority of
academics at research universities a commitment to teaching and
research is important.The huge expansion in short-term funded
contract research at Oxford has led to an increase from 500 in 1980
to 1600 in 1995 in the number of post-graduate and postdoctorate
research staff employed by the University on a temporary fixed-term
basis of typically two or three years (the life of average externally
funded research project). There are now more contract research staff
at Oxford than established academic staff, and contract research
staff form the largest staff group in the University. Although there
is a grading structure for contract research staff which parallels
that for academic staff and the University has introduced various
measures to provide for their career management and the bridging of
employment over short gaps between contracts, the insecurity which
these staff face and the time which has to be committed to securing
future funding for them seriously undermines their productivity and
commitment. An increase in longer term funding for proven members of
contract research staff is urgently needed (the dual support transfer
has of course exacerbated the problem), and the finances for this
must come either directly from those external bodies which fund
contract research (the research councils, charities, and the private
sector), or from an element of (HEFCE) funding.

(d) the need for training and development of staff;

(e) recognition and reward for the full range of
activities undertaken by staff;

These matters are of considerable importance and should be determined
locally by each university.

(f) the process for determining academic pay and wage
structures for academics;

Academic pay should be determined by a fully funded national pay
review body, with linkages to the salaries of, amongst others, senior
civil servants, the professions, MPs, and those in private sector
research establishments. Each university should then be free to
determine its own salary structure in the light of its particular
mission and culture.

(g) the deployment of staff.

This is a matter which should be determined locally by each

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27. What further measures may be available
to increase the cost effectiveness of institutions of higher
education without reducing the quality of teaching and research?

We are clear that quality has been maintained so far only by
increasing workloads to an extent which is not sustainable in the
long run. No further reductions in public funding can take place
without directly threatening quality; maintaining the morale and
motivation of those who have undertaken more burdens is already a
problem as our own internal surveys show.

(a) the use of the estate and other fixed assets.

This can only be done to the point where it does not interfere with
academic activities. The use of facilities for conferences during
vacations is already developed to a high degree.

(b) patterns of student attendance;

Money can obviously be saved if the majority of students live at home
and attend their local university. We think, however, that at least
some universities must remain residential (see answer to question 3).

(c) the organisation of the academic year.

We would regard the reorganisation of the academic year to provide,
e.g., a fourth term as inimical both to research and to the students
who need time to reflect on their work and to allow their ideas to
mature. The vacations are crucial to the adequate pursuit of research
and scholarship and to general intellectual development.

(d) the role of information and communications

We do not think that IT should be regarded as an instrument for
reducing the cost of higher education. It plays a valuable role in
improving the quality of teaching and is essential for research, for
libraries and for administration. Its effect is, however, to increase
costs (or at least increase expectations) (e.g. the humanities are
now much more equipment-oriented).

(e) institutional co-operation.

We favour this where it is appropriate (the Oxford Institute of Legal
Practice run jointly with Oxford Brookes University is an example).
We believe, however, that certain types of co-operation have
drawbacks if sufficient quality control cannot be exerted.

(f) franchising or accrediting arrangements.

We do not have franchising arrangements so offer no comment.

(g) shorter or more intensive courses.

We do not consider these to be appropriate at the undergraduate level
in a university which aims to achieve the highest international
standards. (They are, of course, appropriate in continuing education,
particularly for continuing professional development).

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28. What factors should be taken into
account in determining the level and proportion of public expenditure
spent on higher education?

The nation should compare itself with competitors in the proportion
of GNP allocated to higher education. Given its relative lack of
natural resources and the stage it has reached in its industrial
development, it is arguable that its investment in higher education
should be proportionately greater than that of obvious competitors.

(a) the value of higher education to society and
individuals and the consequences of under-and-over investment.

The value of higher education to a society and individuals includes
economic prosperity, appreciation and greater understanding of the
cultural and intellectual elements of society and, it is hoped,
greater social well-being. The consequences of under-investment will
be the absence or relative lack of these things. Over-investment is
difficult to define; one answer might, however, be that if the
investment is mis-applied (for example, to those who would benefit
more from a different form of education) the resources are wasted and
the individuals are disadvantaged.

(b) the relative merits of expenditure on higher
education compared with other forms of public expenditure.

Choices always have to be made. The value of public expenditure on
schools or the health service is obvious and we would particularly
agree that inadequacies at the school level are damaging to higher
education. Again, however, a balance must be struck. A society which
does not invest a sensible proportion in higher education is failing
to invest in its future. It is failing to stimulate intellectual
development which can feed through into all aspects of society and
can in particular contribute hugely to the excellence of the other
main competitors for public funds.

(c) the possibility of securing funding from other,
private sources for particular higher education activities.

This University is committed to furthering its ability to provide for
the needs of a major international university by securing additional
resources through its development programme. It must, however, be
recognised that private sources of funding are available, and more
suited, to only a proportion of higher education activities and that
public funding to secure the base will continue to be essential.

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29. Who should pay for the costs of tuition
and student maintenance?

(a) the balance of contribution between students,
students' families, public funds, employers and other users of higher

(b) possible mechanisms for securing contributions from
private contributors;

(c) the balance of contribution between different types
of students, different types of courses or different modes of

Sources of funding are already increasingly diverse. In future it
seems likely that more will be required from students and/or their
families. Whatever the future funding system, an adequate loan scheme
and access/bursary schemes are essential. Increasing levels of
student hardship give great cause for concern to Oxford and to all
other universities and we believe that all those best able to profit
from higher education should be able to do so.

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30. How should scholarship (as distinct
from research or teaching) be supported)?

Scholarship is so inherently tied up in research and teaching, which
cannot be conducted at the highest level without it, that it is bound
to be supported in the same ways as research and teaching.

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31. What is the most effective way of
channelling public funds for teaching to higher education?

Through the national funding councils.

(a) whether there is a practicable alternative to the
funding bodies for the distribution of central funds.

We think there is not and would wish the bulk of funds to be
distributed through the funding councils.

(b) whether funding should be routed through individual

We would wish to retain the block grant but would not object to a
suitable proportion being routed through individual students.

(c) whether the funding method used should reflect
distinctive roles of individual higher education institutions and/or
their performance.

We think it is of the first importance that the funding method
reflect both of these.

(d) whether higher and further education should be
funded differently.

Since further education will inevitably have little research
activity, a different funding mechanism seems reasonable.

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32. To what extent is it practicable and
desirable for facilities and services in higher education to be
provided by the private sector outside higher education?

The private sector will tend to concentrate only on profitable
activities or those where a market might develop. This is obviously
inappropriate for much of higher education which is not engaged in
commercial activity.

More specifically, the report on the Private Finance Initiative
shows the limitations of that scheme for universities (not least in
the fact that universities are charged VAT on their recurrent
payments to those who provide services). It is of course possible to
contract out certain services such as catering. Great care is needed,
however, to ensure that the service provided by an external body is
not impaired because those who undertake the work have no loyalty to
the institution in question. The fashion of contracting out a high
proportion of services pays no attention to this aspect but only to
the financial element.

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