Vice-Chancellor's Oration 1998 - (2) to No 4486

<br /> Oxford University Gazette: Vice-Chancellor's Oration<br /> (supplement)

Oxford University Gazette

Vice-Chancellor's Oration 1998

Supplement (1) to Gazette No. 4486

Wednesday, 14 October 1998

To Gazette
No. 4487 (15 October 1998)

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6 October 1998

I took up office as Vice-Chancellor on 7 October last year. On
8 October, the Chief Executive of HEFCE signed a letter to me
(and a similar one to the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge) putting
a number of detailed questions about colleges, the use of college
fees and indicators of educational excellence. In consultation
with the colleges, the University sent a substantial and detailed
reply on 23 October. The future of college fees has indeed been
one of the dominant themes of my first year as Vice-Chancellor.

It is as well to recall that the public funding of college fees
at Oxford and Cambridge was brought into question by the Dearing
Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education. It recommended that
there should not be more than modest variations in the public
funding of teaching except in cases of approved difference in
provision or of a recognition that an exceptionally high level
represents a good use of resources. We should remember also that
the Dearing Committee was established as a response to a massive
funding crisis in Higher Education. The urgency of the financial
problems of the sector was forcibly expressed by the CVCP and by
individual Vice-Chancellors, including my predecessor. The
Dearing Report demonstrated the justice of those concerns.

As part of its general acceptance of the Report, the Government
acted upon this recommendation by asking HEFCE to advise it on
the matter. This was in fact to place the matter within a
particular context. HEFCE has developed a funding methodology
based upon the grouping of all teaching fees nationally into
three subject-related bands with little tolerance for deviation
for different institutional conditions. Any substantial premium
must, under this formula, be based upon a special factor
applicable wherever it pertains across the sector. Certainly, the
Dearing Committee also commended the diversity of institutional
missions within the sector as a whole. It commented that that
diversity must include institutions of world renown (and that it
must be a conscious objective of national policy to have such
institutions). It specifically recommended that funding
arrangements for institutions should reflect that diversity.
Nonetheless, if the Government was not to regard colleges and
their fees as sui generis and objects of separate public funding,
then the issue was bound to be whether, how and on what premise
they could be included within the ordinary mechanisms of the
funding of higher education.

It is of course entirely proper -- and there has never been any
suggestion to the contrary on our part -- that the Government
should scrutinise the allocation of public funds to this
university and should do so, indeed, in the context of the
funding objectives of its higher education policy. The questions
put to us have been substantial both in terms of general
principles and of the level of detailed information required.
Working through them in search of a viable settlement has
required a series of meetings with ministers at the DfEE and with
the Chief Executive of HEFCE. These have been joint meetings with
Cambridge in which Oxford has been represented by the
Vice-Chancellor, the Chairman of Conference of Colleges (the
Warden of New College) and the Chairman of the College Fees
Committee (the Provost of Worcester), together with the Registrar
(both past and present). The management of our arguments and
evidence has been conducted by the weekly meetings of a steering
group, chaired by myself and comprising the Principal of Jesus
(my predecessor), the Chairman of the General Board, the Wardens
of Wadham and New College (past and present chairmen of the
Conference of Colleges), Dr Martineau of Wadham and Mr Honeyman
of St Hugh's (from the Estates Bursars Committee), Mr Smith of
Magdalen and Dr Heal of Jesus (from the Senior Tutors'
Committee), the Provost of Worcester and Mr Van Noorden of
Hertford (from the College Fees Committee) and the Principal of
Linacre representing the graduate colleges. Finally, I have
reported directly to a meeting of Heads of House after each of
our meetings with ministers or the Funding Council.

Although there has necessarily been a degree of confidentiality
about the proceedings (not least because of the intensity of
media interest), I believe that this structure has ensured that
all interests have been represented and that this has been a
negotiation conducted properly on behalf of the collegiate
university. The members of the steering group and officers have
worked together on these issues with clear-sighted and effective
cooperation throughout this year and they deserve our gratitude.
Cooperation between Oxford and Cambridge has been harmonious.

The prolonged uncertainty over the outcome has had a deleterious
effect. No enterprise can think properly about the future when
it is left for so long unable to project its income. Moreover,
this has been unfortunate in that it has coincided with a crucial
period for the preparation of the next RAE. Council and the
General Board did make special provisions last Michaelmas Term
to support colleges in the commitments required for joint
appointments. Nonetheless, the uncertainty has made decisions
difficult for colleges. It must be a matter of satisfaction that
the vacancies allocated by the General Board have been filled.
I should more particularly express gratitude towards those
colleges which have been willing to take on an additional new

Nonetheless, irrespective of the length of the process, we have
been able to convince the Secretary of State for Education and
Employment that Oxford and its colleges are the home of definable
excellence in teaching as well as research. We have demonstrated
the international standing of our University, the national
importance of that, the solid foundations upon which that
reputation is built and the centrality of the collegiate system
to it. We have shown that colleges do use the income from their
assets for academic purposes in a way that, in other contexts,
might have been called "partnership funding". We have
shown that they have been attending to questions of efficiency
in their management for a number of years and certainly that
there are no idle "pots of gold" in Oxford. We have
provided evidence that we do meet the Dearing criteria.

In his announcement of 17 March, the Secretary of State showed
that he had been convinced on these particular matters. Though
he announced the consolidation of the public funding of teaching
in Oxford (and in Cambridge) in a single payment through HEFCE,
he set this decision quite explicitly in the context of a
recognition of the excellence of Oxford and Cambridge and of the
importance of the "role that the collegiate system plays in
this". Furthermore, both Vice-Chancellors received the
assurance (repeated elsewhere subsequently) that the net premium
representing undergraduate and graduate college fees (which,
taking Oxford and Cambridge together, currently stands at
approximately £35m) would not drop below approximately
£23m in current prices. This does of course still represent
a serious cut of one-third over a period of time yet to be
settled. Finally, the matter was referred a second time to HEFCE
for advice, but under the clear condition that "a
satisfactory mechanism" be developed in the context of the
considerations set out in the Secretary's letter to the two

It is important to stress here that Mr Blunkett has approached
these issues in a fair and open-minded way throughout. Once
convinced of Oxford's excellence and significance for the higher
education system in this country, he has not hesitated to say so
clearly and repeatedly. He has sought not to call us into
question but to encourage young people of talent to aspire to
Oxford and Oxford to seek them out. I may illustrate this point
by saying that he agreed to be filmed giving just such
encouragement to sixth-formers as an introduction to our
Admissions video. "Oxford is one of our world-renowned
universities", Mr Blunkett tells them; "raise your
horizons and expectations, and [do] not ... be put off by
preconceptions about what that might mean".

Our discussions with HEFCE since March have concentrated on
identifying a method for delivering additional funding which
represents the college fee in a way that is both sustainable for
the future and paces the reductions in the least damaging way
during the initial years. The Oration is ill-timed for me to be
able to announce a conclusion. Detailed figures need to be
produced to verify proposals, some matters remain as yet unclear,
colleges need to consider this information. What is certain,
however, is that the conclusion will require a mechanism for
further support of the poorer colleges, presumably through the
College Contributions Scheme. The colleges have been actively
working on that issue.

The routing of the sum representing college fees through HEFCE
to the University is a major innovation. Quite understandably,
fears have been expressed about a resultant dependency of the
colleges on the central University. Let me be quite explicit on
this point. The colleges are one of the most distinctive features
of this University and they are integral to its reputation and
its future. Colleges must remain real academic communities,
bringing together undergraduates, postgraduates and senior
members. They must continue to be intellectually alert and
creative, a considerable focus of teaching and academic exchange.
They must endure as guardians of our tradition of education that
reaches beyond mere instruction to the firing of intellectual
independence and creativity in very able young people. The future
for Oxford does not lie in colleges becoming historic halls of
residence and objects of tourism. Clearly, this year's events do
raise a number of issues that require careful and reasoned
discussion. To that end, I have set up a working party which
represents the various interests in the University and which I
shall chair.

One principal theme in the general discussion about Oxbridge
during the past year has been access. Whatever the crass
stereotypes trotted out with such relish in some public comment,
it is absurd to think that those who teach and research in Oxford
do not desire to see the excellence of this university as a
ladder of opportunity to talented young people whatever their
background. Indeed, many of us have benefited in that way: why
should we wish to deny it to others ? The nature and composition
of the University's undergraduate recruitment have been a matter
of concern here for a long time. A whole series of initiatives
has been designed to address perceived imbalances -- some
undertaken collectively (for example, the abolition of the
entrance examination or the development of summer schools
generously supported by Peter Lampl), some by individual colleges
(for example, special regional schemes or subject courses), and
some by the students (Target Schools and the Access Scheme).
While minimizing the effect of the movement of schools from the
state to the independent sector and of the assisted places scheme
on the composition of our undergraduate body, these initiatives
have not moved it closer to the general profile of the
educational backgrounds of those young people whose A-Level
scores identify them as potential students of ours.

These are serious issues, not amenable to quick-fix showy
formulae designed to respond to pressure of the moment. A working
party has been established under my chairmanship with the purpose
of gaining a close understanding of student choice and the
processes of selection. It has assembled considerable statistical
data; it has issued and analysed questionnaires to colleges and
departments; it has processed questionnaires issued to candidates
by OUSU; it has received presentations from researchers in this
area; it has talked with teachers. Most important, in
collaboration with Cambridge it has commissioned a substantial
attitude survey in schools among potential candidates and among
teachers. The purpose is to gain a better understanding of the
perceptions of Oxbridge among those capable of making a serious
application and among those most likely to influence their
choices. It is evident that one significant feature of our
situation is that so many of those who could apply from the state
sector choose not to do so.

The enquiry of the working party must be grounded in two
principles. There must be no lowering of standards. The quality
of academic excellence to which we hold and by which we stand
must not be insidiously eroded by the manipulation of standards
at entry. The objective must be to provide wider access for those
who have the talent to succeed with us. Second, there can be
nothing resembling quotas in order to attain some particular
balance, since children are essentially innocent in the matter
of where they go to school.

During the year, the issue of college fees has provided the
occasion for considerable public comment about Oxford, some of
it framed in terms of an alleged decline of this university. Let
me just dwell for a moment upon the evidence to the contrary. I
have to repeat yet again that Oxford has the largest number of
academics working in 5* and 5 rated departments (the highest
scores in the Research Assessment Exercise) of any university in
the United Kingdom. I have to repeat that, for three years now,
we have received annually well over £100m in research income
in grants from all sources , larger than any university in the
United Kingdom. We have this year had more colleagues elected as
Fellows of the Royal Society and of the British Academy than any
other university in the United Kingdom. Our colleagues continue
to be appointed to high responsibilities outside the University.
I may mention among others Professor Paul Langford who has become
Chief Executive of the new Arts and Humanities Research Board,
Professor Susan Greenfield who will be Director of the Royal
Institution from next year, Professor Roger Cashmore who will be
Research Director at CERN from 1 January 1999, and Professor John
Vickers who has been appointed Executive Director and Chief
Economist of the Bank of England.

Beyond that, I can perforce select here only a few illustrations
of the many initiatives under way. Thus, we have begun to build
the new Sackler Library and the first phase of the major
development of the Ashmolean area. The Ashmolean itself has
received a major gift for a new gallery for Chinese painting and
also lottery funding for a new twentieth-century gallery. We have
broken ground for the new American Institute which will be a
major centre for interdisciplinary and international study. We
continue to make progress towards the realisation of the new
building for the Said Business School. Indeed, the first MBAs,
who graduated this year, had the highest entry qualifications of
any business school cohort in Europe. Numerous donors have joined
the University in funding the essential renovation and upgrade
of the most historic parts of the Bodleian Library and work will
take place this coming year. Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft,
has given a substantial initial grant to carry further forward
the ambitious distance-learning project of the Department for
Continuing Education.

Turning to the sciences, I should say that our departments
received the largest proportion of funds under the 1997/98 Joint
Research Equipment Initiative. One result is that we now have the
largest and most powerful supercomputer in use within the UK
academic community. I may mention, among many other significant
projects, the success of the Oxford Cardiovascular Initiative in
being one of only two programmes in the UK to gain major funding
from the Wellcome Trust for the development of gene therapies in
clinical medicine. This is but one example of the active
interaction that exists between clinical medicine and basic
science in Oxford in such areas as genetics, the heart and the
brain. Indeed, this year the President of the Board of Trade
opened the Oxford Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance
Imaging which, in turn, collaborates with the Medical Image
Analysis Group in the Department of Engineering. And I hve to
leave aside major work this year on cancer, Alzheimer's, AIDS,
diabetes, autism, the nutritional yield of potatoes, climatic
forecasting, etc.

Beyond that, let me draw attention to our record in the formation
of spin-out companies. This year, the University has
significantly increased its support for Isis Innovation. We
believe that Oxford now has a better record in spinning out
successful companies than any other UK university. A recent study
of a range of indicators shows that hi-tech industry in
Oxfordshire is closely comparable to that of Cambridgeshire.
While the University certainly cannot claim to be directly
responsible for the whole of this profile, there is no doubt that
its presence has been and remains a powerful engine for such
development and underscores the University's importance to the
local economy.

Finally, let me not forget our students. Although it is as
invidious to make choices here for mention as it is among
colleagues, I refer to just two as exemplars of their diversity
and talent. In one of our colleges, a young Amerindian man from
the Amazonian rainforest has been studying for a degree; in
another, a young woman won a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games
within literally a few days of completing successfully her
arduous postgraduate examinations.

It seems to me that this quick portrait demonstrates that Oxford
stands high on the mountain of international university
excellence. We are not staring over the edge of some precipice.

Beyond the local concerns of funding in Oxford there has also
been the much wider issue of the sector-wide funding gap
identified by the Dearing Report. Three elements have been
clarified during the year. First, legislation has now put in
place provision for the payment of £1000 fee by
undergraduate students moderated by a means-tested sliding scale.
Second, the projected (or so-called "efficiency gain")
of at least 3% for the sector has been reduced to 1% for next
year. Third, the long-awaited outcome of the Comprehensive
Spending Review has committed about £1.1bn to research over
the next three years through the OST and HEFCE, including a
£600m Joint Infrastructure Fund financed jointly by the
Treasury and the Wellcome Trust. Let me add, in parenthesis, how
much we appreciate Wellcome's energetic commitment to resolving
the infrastructural issues in the biomedical research area.

This surge of investment in research infrastructure shows that
the Government has taken account of the alarm calls issued by
Vice-Chancellors and employers. We should recognise that. We
should also recognise that these initiatives do represent a
vindication of the science base in universities and thus an
acknowledgement of the role of research universities in national
wealth creation. Over the next three years, research universities
including this one ought to draw significant benefit from this
outcome from the CSR.

Nonetheless, this year's funding initiatives are not wholly
positive. Although it is not yet entirely clear how and upon what
guidelines the Joint Infrastructure Initiative will operate,
there may well be an emphasis on the biological sciences, albeit
very broadly defined (evidently, this must be the case for the
Wellcome Trust's half of the funding). Certainly, this Fund does
not appear to be destined for the social sciences and the
humanities. There is here no investment in teaching
infrastructure, for example IT. Moreover, it is important for us
to understand that this is non-recurrent money: it is a single
effort over three years to repair infrastructural damage.
Universities need therefore to remain vigilant to prevent the
recurrence in the future of the situation in which this area
found itself in the mid-nineties. Furthermore, although the
Research Councils appear to have received significant extra
funds, it seems likely that an important part of them will be
absorbed by inflation. The new money in the AHRB's dowry is more
significant for us since the Funding Councils of Scotland and
Wales have been unwilling to participate. All in all, although
this is a reasonably good settlement for research, it is probable
that one should not expect a large expansion of research council
funding (in constant money terms, at least).

Beyond that, within the constrained general funding targets
adopted by the Government the reduction of the sector cut to 1%
for next year must certainly be seen as a significant and most
welcome step. Nonetheless, in reality the cut is likely to be
closer to 2% since the deflator employed in the calculation is
wholly optimistic and does not correspond to the real basket of
costs for universities. As for the self-paying undergraduate fee,
my predecessor made the point that if the public purse is unable
to sustain the higher education system adequately (and the
outcome of the CSR confirms that that is the case), then some
element of self-payment is a necessity in order to sustain the
university system against continued downward drift. It remains
the essential justification of this fee that it should serve as
a direct enhancement of the sector's income and not turn
effectively into a Treasury saving. Such an outcome is not yet

In my view, therefore, while acknowledging this year's funding
initiatives, we must consider that the public funding future of
universities in general remains insecure. Major issues have not
been addressed. One of the most serious among these, in this
university as elsewhere, is the funding of salaries.

It is important that we in Oxford should understand how much the
higher education context in this country is changing under the
twin impulse of the Dearing Report and emerging government
policy. Both Dearing and the Government believe that a
globalising economy and the rapid development of the technology
of communication pose challenges that can only be met by a
compact between higher education and the world of work. Policy
aims to engage higher education in developing skills (implictly,
skills appropriate to the new economy) among as broad a segment
of the population as possible. This encounters the Government's
concern with social exclusion so that the general good of
skilling matches the general good of bringing into mainstream
society those previously marginalised. Finally, in accepting the
Dearing Report, the Government has adopted the provisions
designed to make higher education transparent to those now known
as "stakeholders" -- principally by means of programme
specification, a Quality Assurance Agency and the training of
university teachers through accreditation by an Institute for
Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.

At present two currents appear to be in tension with each other.
On the one hand, the Dearing Report did emphasize the necessity
and virtue of diversity within the higher education sector, even
though the general impression left with the reader at the end was
that this was a rather minor theme -- certainly, the virtues of
diversity were never properly spelled out within the generally
regulatory framework of the Report. Equally, both DfEE and HEFCE
acknowledge diversity within the system and do, in some
initiatives, explicitly disclaim an intention to homogenise.
Indeed, the college fees episode this year can be seen as a clear
and practical acceptance of diversity and of the excellence that
results from it.

On the other hand, rather as with the reading of the Dearing
Report, one cannot help feeling that the tone of current policy
is elsewhere. There are, I think, two separate issues here. In
the first place, like my predecessors in their Orations, I must
draw attention to the continuing interventionism and regulation.
The demands still increase for detailed information with which
government and funding agencies may monitor the impact of their
policies and our compliance with them; the volume of data
required for a multitude of purposes ranging from funding models
to research grants and beyond mounts and can only be supplied at
significant cost in terms of time, energy and money.

In the second place, however, I perceive a new and troubling
extension of prescription through the mechanism of the audit code
of practice, most particularly in such domains as the requirement
for corporate plans, detailed guides to governing bodies,
instructions on effective financial management, etc. The
definition of specific outcomes is within the legitimate concerns
of the funders of higher education, but the prescription of how
those outcomes are achieved must be a cause for anxiety.
Moreover, there is here an implication of the homogenisation of
the higher education sector. Such an implication is also evident
in the funding model with its assumption that the same groups of
subjects can be costed the same wherever they are taught.
Furthermore, there is a troubling potential in the most recent
funding initiatives which assign top-sliced sums for objectives
of government policy. These must be viewed in conjunction, first,
with statements that establish links between future funding and
the achievement of those objectives now required in corporate
strategies and, second, with the now-established mechanism of
increases in student numbers being allocated on a basis of
government policy targets. Do such developments presage a
progressive contraction of the T element of the block grant in
favour of an array of pots, each attached to a different object,
from among which universities will have to assemble their
teaching funding ? One might argue that this would provide the
basis for sustaining diversity in the sector. One could equally
well see here the potential for close government regulation of
higher education.

Let me be quite clear. I do not mean to say that Government has
no legitimate interest in what we do. Very much to the contrary,
it is certain that all universities must be clearly accountable
for the way in which they use public funds, and that the
Government, like others (not least the students), ought to know
what they are getting for the investment they put in. I do not
mean to suggest that the ministers or the Funding Council have
an agenda aimed at reducing independence of action in the
universities. One can understand the situation of ministers
driving a vision for higher education in constrained financial
circumstances (indeed, one is rather glad to have a government
that does have a vision for higher education). However, there is
a limit to what is reasonable and, at a certain point, acceptable
intervention and regulation. Universities themselves do need to
make that clear. Indeed, during this year, the universities have
together done so over the QAA.

Let me not stray far from my purpose, which is the context in
which Oxford now finds itself. There is tension around a unitary
policy and funding model because present trends point towards an
increasingly differentiated higher education sector. The sector
now deals with a much larger student population, which is likely
to grow further over time. Students are coming with a great
variety of educational and other backgrounds. The pattern of
participation is changing with part-time study and interrupted
study. The age of students is increasingly diverse. Those who did
not participate earlier are now entering, while the sector will
move increasingly to provide for the multiple returns to higher
education required for the reskilling implied by lifetime
learning in a world of technological change. New types of courses
and new methods of delivery are developing to meet these needs.
A single national structure of qualifications and portable
credits are hull-up over the horizon. As they respond to these
needs and opportunities, different sorts of university
increasingly do not resemble each other in functional terms. The
traditional university, which Oxford exemplifies, is now one
model among several.

Other significant changes are becoming apparent. For example,
some larger universities are absorbing small higher education
institutions; multi-campus universities are becoming more
numerous; associations of universities (including some research
universities) are appearing for the purpose of exchange of
students, shared courses, collaborative funding initiatives, etc.
Furthermore, we see the emergence of new providers which
sometimes call themselves universities. For the moment, these are
essentially corporate operations -- principally, Unipart U and
British Aerospace Virtual University.

As a great international university, we should be aware also that
comparable shifts are taking place internationally, not least
among those with whom we most relate. For brevity's sake, I will
mention but three phenomena. First, we are witnessing the growth
of a variety of collaborations which range from the simple
exchange agreements for students and staff based upon
preferential financial arrangements through to the establishment
of remote campuses in another university (such as some major
American universities are doing in China). Second, a number of
universities are creating firm networks based upon formal
associations of collaboration at all levels. I mention as one
example the international association formed around the
University of Melbourne which includes some British universities.
Third, there are the mega-virtual universities offering degrees
globally through distance-learning. Of these, the most successful
and the most reputable is certainly the University of Phoenix,
but Stanford University is entering this domain. If these sorts
of arrangements (particularly international preference
agreements) develop and consolidate further, there are clear
implications ultimately in terms of distortion in the flows of
students and academics and in access to large-scale research
projects whose cost and manpower is contained through the
conjugation of resource.

None of these national and international developments necessarily
threatens Oxford directly. We are a very strong university with
a pre-eminent and justified reputation in research and teaching.
We have tremendous resources, both human and academic. We have
high principles of scholarship which underwrite values of
excellence which we must preserve. Moreover, we do have
associations and collaborations at individual, group and college
level, as well as some broader agreements. At the same time, a
number of the initiatives going on around us are clearly
ill-conceived or impermanent or irrelevant to us. Nonetheless,
it is clear that these experiments betoken a search for new forms
in a higher education world that is irrevocably in a state of
flux. In these terms, our changing context does challenge us.
Indeed, one may say that in the debate over college fees and
access we have been asked what our function is in British higher
education and how we relate to that increasingly complex sector.
The same question confronts us in our international dimension.

We need to think carefully, intelligently and deliberately about
the future. We need to develop broader strategies by which we can
both preserve and promote what we believe essential in ourselves
and develop the relationships and opportunities that sustain us.
We need to reflect whether we have the necessary tools to operate
in this changing world such as, for example, the graduate
studentships which the General Board has allocated for the next
five years (though I feel that we will have to do much more in
this area). We need to grow other revenue streams with which to
support strategic investment required by agreed academic plans,
otherwise vulnerable to the uncertainties of future public
funding which I have described. Among other possible avenues I
look, for example, to the potential of spin-out companies and to
the OUP with whom I am currently in conversation. Finally, we
need to be sure that we have instruments to create strategy
effectively and to operate our affairs in a manner that is both
appropriate and timely. In an important step, Congregation this
year accepted a broad site strategy and the University is now
acting in accordance with that.

It is here that I come to the Report of the Commission of
Inquiry, which we received at the beginning of this calendar
year. I do not come to it so late in my Oration because I deem
it of little importance -- indeed, to the contrary. I come to it
here because the Report addresses itself precisely to the
questions raised by the background I have been discussing. I
should, first of all, express publicly the University's gratitude
to the members of the Commission of Inquiry: my predecessor, Sir
Peter North, who chaired the Commission, and Professor Hudson,
Mr Nicholls, The Principal of Newnham College (Cambridge), The
Rector of Imperial College (London), Professor Radda, The Provost
of Worcester College, and Dr Woodhouse. We are all very conscious
of the amount of time they devoted from busy lives to serve the
interests of this University and we do thank them for the breadth
of compass, the clarity of view, and the patience of intelligence
which they brought to the task. The Report is the first
comprehensive review of the objectives and functioning of the
University since the Franks Commission reported just over thirty
years ago. It is as broad, searching and unblinking as its
predecessor. Since Franks, the changes in the character of the
University and in the nature of the higher education environment
have been as substantial as the changes which his Commission
addressed. The change in context is real indeed and I have
described some of its recent symptoms; the internal issues
examined by the Commission are also real indeed, and pressing.
The Commission has offered us a well-signposted framework for
tackling these issues. It would be perilous for the University
not to take its conclusions very seriously.

The University is taking them seriously. The fact that there has
not yet been a large public debate is, I think, entirely
understandable. On the one hand, the Report was delivered at the
beginning of Hilary Term which is a time in this busy university
when colleagues are particularly preoccupied by teaching and
research. On the other, this Commission did not follow its
predecessor (wisely, perhaps) in providing draft new statutes
directly for Congregation to debate. Above all, however, the
Report arrived at a time when uncertainty about the future of
college fees was very high and this did not encourage immediate

In fact, the form of the Report and its recommendations have
suggested a different way of proceeding. The Commission has
clearly identified two principal issues that must be addressed
first. The recommendations on other matters will either be
facilitated by the resolution of these two or can be dealt with
in its wake. The two central themes are governance and the terms
and conditions of appointments. We have therefore established two
working parties to prepare proposals that elaborate on or reach
out from the analyses and recommendations in the Report. The
working party on governance is drawn from Council, the General
Board and the colleges and is chaired by the Vice-Chancellor; the
working party on appointments is drawn from the General Board and
the colleges and is chaired by the Chairman of the General Board.
On governance, we expect to have a document ready for broad
consultation throughout the University during the whole of
Michaelmas Term. I hope that, taking account of the responses,
we shall be in a position to bring legislation to Congregation
during Hilary Term 1999. As for appointments, I hope that a
similar process will not be far behind.

In conclusion, I am glad to be able to welcome three new Heads
of House who have joined us in mid-year. My predecessor already
announced in his last Oration that Lord Butler would succeed John
Albery as Master of University College and that Sir John Hanson
would succeed Sir Crispin Tickell as Warden of Green College. To
these I must add Sir David Rowland, elected President of
Templeton College in succession to Michael von Clemm whose death
at an early age we record with sadness. Otherwise, Sir Stephen
Tumim, Principal of St Edmund Hall, is the only departure among
the Heads of Colleges this year. However, in the Permanent
Private Halls, we welcome the Revd F.G. Kerr as Regent of
Blackfriars in succession to the Revd P M Parvis and the Revd
Gerard Hughes as Master of Campion Hall in succession to the Revd
J.A. Munitz.

This past year has also seen the retirement of colleagues who
have given distinguished service to the University. I should
begin most especially with Sir Richard Southwood, Professor of
Zoology and former Vice-Chancellor, whose support and wise advice
both my predecessor and I have valuied enormously. I think also
in particular of Professor B.J. Birch, Professor of Arithmetic;
Professor R.M. Dworkin, Professor of Jurisprudence; Professor
R.M. Goode, Norton Rose Professor of English Law; Professor I.P.
Grant, Professor of Mathematical Physics; Professor J.E.S.
Hayward, Director of the European Studies Institute; Professor
E.L. Jones, Goldsmith's Professor of English Literature;
Professor W.F. Madelung, Laudian Professor of Arabic; Professor
J.M. Newsom-Davis, Professor of Clinical Neurology; Professor Sir
Roger Penrose, Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics.

Many others have retired from their academic posts after long
service to the University: Dr J.M. Baker, Mrs M. Godden, Dr M.J.
Kearsley, Dr B.M. Levick, Mr P.S. Lewis, Dr J.L. Lloyd, Mrs J.
Parker, Dr H. Shukman and Dr D.B. Tayler. Others who have retired
from professional and other posts include Mr C.W. Band, Mr R.A.
Hunt, Mrs V. Magyar, Mr K.A. Moulden, Mr J.B.P. O'Sullivan and
Mrs B.J. Williamson.

I wish to record our gratitude for the lives and service of our
colleagues who have died in office during the past year. We hold
in our memory Dr M.C. O'Brien, Dr J.P. Jakubovics, Dr R.L.
Hutchings and Dr K.G. Cox. We have also lost former colleagues
who have died in retirement. I have in mind such distinguished
scholars Sir Isaiah Berlin, Professor C.J.F. Dowset, Professor
W.G.G. Forrest, Professor Cecil Grayson, Professor Kenneth
Kirkwood, Mr A.G. Antill, Mr D. Barrett, Dr R.P. Beckinsale, Miss
T.C. Cooper, Mr J.D. Harris, Dr A.J. Honour, Mr R.A. May, Miss
C.L. Morrison, Mr J.A. Morton, Mr R.G. Opie and Dr J.M.

In his first year, a new Vice-Chancellor accumulates many debts
to colleagues who have advised and helped him. I should thank
most particularly Sir Peter North, the Principal of Jesus and my
predecessor, for having taken on the role of President of the
Development Programme immediately after demitting office. I am
also grateful to my Pro-Vice-Chancellors for their generous
support and activity. There are two people, however, with whom
the Vice-Chancellor is more especially in frequent contact. I am
grateful indeed to Dr Glenn Black, who begins his third year as
Chairman of the General Board. His experience and skills are a
very considerable asset to the University in the increasing
complexity of business.

The other person is the Registrar. I omitted Dr Dorey from the
list of those retiring so that I might speak more directly about
him here. The University has of course properly honoured him at
Encaenia this summer. However, I do want to express quite clearly
how much I personally owe him for all the support (tinged with
a superbly delicate rectification on occasion) with which he
guided my early steps as Vice-Chancellor. He retired in March
after nineteen years steering a growing, changing university and
it owes him a great deal. I am indebted to Mr Peter Jones for his
most able work as Acting Registrar during the three months before
the arrival of our new Registrar. Let me end, therefore, by
welcoming our new Registrar, Mr David Holmes, who brings a
considerable reputation with him from the University of
Birmingham. I am sure that with Mr Holmes the University remains
in the most capable hands and we all look forward to working with