Vice-Chancellor's Oration 1999 - (1) to No 4523


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

Oxford University Gazette

Vice-Chancellor's Oration 1999

Supplement (1) to Gazette No. 4523

Wednesday, 13 October 1999


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No. 4524 (14 October 1999)

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VICE-CHANCELLOR'S ORATION

5 October 1999

Those of you who attended the Oration last October will remember that the
very instant I rose to speak there began long and persistent bouts of loud
drilling somewhere in the building. Indeed, though I certainly disclaim the
title role and also the idea that this event is some sort of picnic, it did all
rather resemble an electrical version of the last act of Don Giovanni.
Luckily for me, the only figure to appear in this ancient chamber—several
times, in fact—was the faintly crestfallen person of the University
Marshal, whom a very proper sense of the occasion had prevented from
addressing the drillers in the robust and gale-force tones doubtless
necessary.

I do of course tempt fate by raising this memory today. But I do so for
a purpose. Encaenia this summer was entranced by the elegant device with
which the Professor of Poetry fashioned his last speech on that occasion. He
enfolded the simultaneous restoration and renewal of the Old Bodleian within
a circle that began with the tap-tapping of the deathwatch beetle and ended
with the tap-tapping of computers. I cannot and have no reason to emulate his
prose but I do wish to underscore his message.

In the first place, the restoration work in this building has been a major
act of stewardship. We have stood to our responsibility as stewards not only
of a great historic building but more especially of a great repository of
accumulated knowledge, belief, and interpretation upon whose basis new
knowledge is built. In second place, this work has served to introduce into
this historic library those elements fundamental to the current use and future
growth of the most modern methods for accessing library materials and for
individual work here. Indeed, the Library is vigorously engaging in new
technologies such as digitisation. Third, all of this has required clarity of
direction, steadiness of purpose, a sense of the common good, hard work, and
special skills from all those engaged in this difficult project: members of the
Library staff, the Surveyor's department, the Development Office, and the
skilled craftsmen and women who joined us. It has, moreover, been made
possible only through the belief and generous commitment of those individuals
and foundations who have helped to finance the enterprise. It is proper that
I should recognise all of them today.

It seems to me that we have here a powerful image of what characterises
the contemporary University of Oxford more generally. A professor from the
office of the President of Peking University spent some time in Oxford this
year studying European universities and, no doubt, more particularly this one.
A couple of months ago, she wrote to me from Beijing saying that what had
struck her most about Oxford was its combination of tradition and innovation.
I know that she intended this as high praise. I am equally certain that we
should draw confidence from the care with which we have set ourselves to
conserve that which is essential to us (and, we believe, to the general
endeavour of Higher Education) and yet also to innovate with determination
and spirit where we need to do so.
I shall return to these themes at several points in this Oration. First,
however, let me review some aspects of our activity this year.

I began my previous Oration by reporting on the protracted negotiations
with the Government about college fees. At that time, the outcome had not
been announced. So, I should report here on the settlement finally reached in
November 1998. This comprised essentially three parts. First, the state funding
of colleges through fees paid on behalf of students directly to colleges by
Local Education Authorities was abolished. It was replaced by a premium added
to the University's grant from HEFCE. This premium was to be calculated as
a sum equivalent to that previously provided to colleges directly, though
subject to the contraction imposed in the second element of the settlement.
However, this premium will henceforth be based upon a formula of special
factors which can be incorporated into HEFCE's general funding formulae, thus
ending Oxbridge's funding exceptionalism. Second, this premium will be
reduced by one-third over ten years in equal annual tranches beginning in
the academic year we are about to start. As a result, at the end of the cycle
the annual recurrent income loss will be £6.5m in current prices. Third,
a commitment was required and given to increase progressively the amount
available in the College Contributions Fund until it reached a sum double the
current one. On this last point, proposed legislation will be placed before
Council next week. It is important to note that richer colleges have long
contributed to sustain the common good of the collegiate system and we should
acknowledge that here.

Compared with the apparently established view in 1997 that college fees
and any Oxbridge premium ought simply to disappear, this must be accounted
a happy outcome. However, it is so only in that respect. There are bound to
be considerable anxieties over the financial consequences and also about the
potential implications of the shift from the previous mechanism to a route from
HEFCE through the University. There are necessarily different interpretations
around the whole University. For the year now beginning, the Vice-Chancellor
was asked to make a determination and this first funding cut will be shared
equally between the colleges and the University. These are difficult matters,
but they must be resolved speedily during this coming year. We all need to
move on from here very soon now in a way that commands a broad measure
of assent and strengthens, in as much as we can, our whole academic
undertaking here in Oxford.

In my previous Oration also, I announced that on receipt of the Report
of the Commission of Inquiry, we had set up two working parties to take
forward what we saw to be the two stem areas of the Commission's
recommendations: governance and joint appointments. The Joint Working Party
on Joint Appointments has had a particularly arduous set of questions in front
of it. They are arduous because they concern how we distribute and recognise
our teaching and research activities and because they affect each of our
colleagues. Wide consultation, ably led by the Chairman of the General Board,
has cleared a considerable amount of the terrain, narrowed the number of
issues outstanding, and refined their definition. Among so many other tasks
awaiting him, the new Chairman of the General Board will be seeking a
resolution in this coming year.

As for governance, during the past year the University has adopted a
substantial reform which will, I believe, be seen as a major step-change of
improvement in the history of the University. The new structure is rooted in
the general thrust and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry, but its
particular character was shaped by the Joint Working Party on Governance.
I believe that the University owes a considerable debt to the sense of the
common good, careful scrutiny, harmonious discussion, intelligence, and
pragmatism not devoid of principle shown by our colleagues in this group,
namely, Dr L.G. Black, the Principal of Linacre, the Principal of St Anne's,
Professor R.J. Cashmore, Professor A.S. Goudie, Dr K.A. Fleming, Professor P.C.
Newell, Dr R.C.S. Walker, the Principal of Hertford, and the Warden of New
College. I should also record the excellent support given to the Working Party
by Dr Jeremy Whiteley.

Of course, the issue of governance reform has been an object of
examination and public consultation since the beginning of the Commission of
Inquiry in 1994. The Working Party itself also consulted, held seminars, and
tested its views widely as well as in General Board and Council before the
general propositions underpinning reform were brought to Congregation for
debate and vote in May 1999. At Congregation, no amendments were entered,
debate was measured and positive, and the general resolutions were adopted
by large majorities (confirmed in much the same proportions on postal vote).
Given the seminal character of this change in the way we run ourselves, it
does seem to me that the University has acted with despatch, focus, and
confidence to convert advice received in early 1998 into practical reform. We
should not allow ourselves or others to doubt our ability to change decisively
where the University is convinced that change is necessary and timely.

Let us be clear as to the purpose of the reform of governance. The new
central arrangements are designed to provide a more transparent, streamlined,
and integrated structure which is able to take key strategic decisions in a
proactive way and to respond swiftly, clearly, and appropriately to individual
issues and opportunities. The gathering of strategic and policy thinking into
a single, overarching Council will enhance the ability of the University to
assess wisely its needs, potential, and interests in the context of a rapidly
changing world. The attribution of the central aspects of the main functional
areas of University activity to a small number of major committees will provide
a more regular and sustained attention to the particular needs, problems, and
development of each activity. The addition of probably four fixed-term Pro-
Vice-Chancellors with carefully defined functional roles will further enhance
our capacity to think clearly and act appropriately.

At the same time, the placing of much appropriate planning and executive
responsibility in five Divisions and beyond is the necessary twin of the reform
in the centre. While the exact pattern of the internal structure of Divisions
is likely to vary (in the early years, at least), it must be expected that
operational responsibility and resources will be delegated as much as possible.

Indeed, the whole reform is based upon the principle that decision-
making should be placed at the appropriate level and that we should seek to
reverse what my predecessor Sir Richard Southwood so rightly referred to as
`delegation upwards'. At the same time, we need to be careful to ensure that
the different elements of the University remain within the general policy
directions of the University. We need to ensure that subsidiarity does not
mean that this or that part of the University takes initiatives or makes
commitments that affect directly or by implication other parts of the
University, especially if the effects are deleterious. It is for this reason that
the new structure depends crucially upon the mechanism of agreed annual
plans presented by the divisions and services against which budget resources
will be allocated. Clearly, the flexibility and capacity to innovate more easily
that we seek requires that we do not lace ourselves into the rigid stays of
a stupid planning corset. At the same time, one will not be able to dismiss this
budgeting against plans as irrelevant and embark blithely upon initiatives of
the character I have described without reference to the Planning and
Resource Allocation Committee. The coherence of the University depends upon
that.

Finally, in one sense this reform involves a change of culture; but in
another and arguably more important sense it does not. The reports laid
before the members of the University (and upon which rested the resolutions
put to Congregation) have made quite clear that our usual principles of
election and democratic accountability continue to underpin our governance.
The powers of Congregation remain intact: only the requisite numbers of
voters in specified cases have been modified to take account of the increased
number of members. Divisional authority is explicitly vested in divisional
boards; there is considerable placing of responsibility and choice in the
divisions and beyond; there is a careful balance of forms of representation
and of interests; Council approves the choice of functional Pro-Vice-
Chancellors; the Proctors and Assessor continue in their functions as tribunes
of the people. The forms may be unfamiliar but they do not abandon our
ordinary principle of governance in my view—and also in the view of
Congregation by whom this question was explicitly debated.

This reform is timely and necessary. It is so because of the general
internal need for greater clarity in our activity; it is so because it will allow
us to navigate more surely in the great sea-change that has come upon our
higher educational context. I will return to that point later. Of course, a great
deal remains to be done. We have set ourselves the target of having the new
system in place for the academic year 2000–1. The timetable is tight but
its virtue is that planning blight is reduced to the unavoidable minimum. We
have much practical detail to resolve and construct.

It is inevitable that there will be anxieties: anxieties about change itself,
anxieties about the protection of some interests felt to be vulnerable, and so
on. We shall address these during the coming year. Equally, however, it is
inevitable that the new structure will need care and nurture in its first few
years and that will require a good measure of patience, understanding, and
co-operation, not to mention firmness of collective purpose on occasion. It is
always thus with new practices at their inception. However, I have a strong
sense that the University is going into this change with confidence and so I
have no doubt that we shall manage any difficulties that we may encounter.
My next Oration will, I believe, be the proper time to salute the very real
virtues of the General Board and the Hebdomadal Council, destined to
disappear but whose combined virtues indeed form the heart of the new
central structure.

This new structure with its delegation of resources does require also a
new resource allocation model. This is a further major undertaking to add to
the already onerous business in hand this coming year. Although preliminary
technical study has begun, we are clearly limited by the amount of technical
skill and staff time available. I do not think it possible to implement anything
in this domain before 2001 or 2002, especially in light of the necessary
processes of discussion and consultation.

As it happens, however, pressure for change comes from another
direction. One result of the Comprehensive Spending Review in 1998 was the
allocation of considerable additional sums for the sector, principally for
research through the Joint Infrastructure Fund upon which I reported last
year. As a condition, however, a Transparency Review of Research was
instituted in order to meet a requirement to demonstrate the full costs of
research and other publicly-funded activities in accordance with public
accountability. Clearly, there are quite a number of issues to be determined,
especially which parts of a university's activity fall within the transparency
requirement and what will be the criteria for satisfying funders. A national
steering group is currently running a number of pilot schemes and all
research-intensive universities will be receiving guidance during this coming
year. What is certain is that, in common with all such universities, we will
have to adopt a transparent accounting of the full cost of research and that
this is likely to include some calculations of the allocation of individual
academics' time. This is a consequence of the case previously made by the
sector about the research funding gap; it is likely to have a powerful effect
upon decisions in the next Comprehensive Spending Review in the matter of
research spending. Of course, requirements of accountability are not the same
as the whole issue of our resource allocation, but the Review necessarily
contributes to our need to rethink the latter.

This year, the University has addressed two other reports which I should
mention. The first is the Review of Sport. It is undoubtedly the case there are
some great strengths in student sport in Oxford. On the one hand, the
colleges offer good facilities for team sports in particular; on the other,
University Rugby and Rowing have achieved emblematic status through the
annual struggle with Cambridge, now reaching a large audience through
television (and I know that for brevity's sake I risk the wrath of other
successful teams by limiting my remark here). However, the Review has shown
up areas that need attention: first, safety (Council has moved immediately to
implement and fund the recommendations here); second, issues of management
structure and of the organisation of clubs (steps are under way here too);
third, the underprovision for women's sport (which is now being addressed)
and for more individual sports. On this last, I can report that the swimming
pool in particular looks closer to realisation thanks to a most generous
challenge grant from the Rhodes Trust. Let me add also that this year, Oxford
University and Oxford Brookes University have combined to establish a new
Centre for Cricketing Excellence which will attract national funding and allow
First Class cricket still to be played here. The Oxford and Cambridge match
remains unaffected.

It is not clear to me that this University should seek to emulate some
other universities in their thrust for national and international stature in
sport with its concomitant high cost. This is not a necessary part of our
emphasis on academic excellence. However, it is the case that sport is an
important part of a balanced student life, that student taste in sport has
diversified, and that expectation in the matter of facilities is quite high. We
do ourselves no favours in terms of student recruitment if we do not pay
attention to that.

Council also received another report on student matters. The Working
Party on Access was set up in late 1997. Its report has been delayed because,
jointly with Cambridge, it commissioned a survey of attitudes to Oxbridge
among potential applicants and their teachers in a range of schools. This had
to be administered in early autumn 1998 and its results analysed. The
recommendations (which are currently with the colleges, faculties, and
departments) concentrate on offering practical steps to achieve practical
results. The evidence is clear that able pupils in the state sector are deterred
from applying by a number of factors which the survey identified. A number
of these factors cannot be remedied nor indeed would we wish to do so for
some of those. However, where it is so often a matter of incomprehension,
mythologies, stereotypes, puzzlement over procedures, and lack of contact, the
Working Party makes recommendations concerning the way in which we explain
ourselves, the way in which we handle applicants, and the way in which we
go forward towards this sort of pupil (including the summer schools
generously funded by Peter Lampl).

Access is of course one of the leitmotifs of the present Government; since
it came to power, this rather vague word has acquired a sharp meaning. Yet,
this is no reason to suggest that what the Working Party proposes amounts
to a `dumbing down' of Oxford and an easy acceptance of what is fashionable.
Oxford has long been concerned about the composition of its undergraduate
body and has repeatedly sought to respond to the shifts and changes in
secondary education. This Report is just another step in that campaign.
Indeed, the establishment of the Working Party anticipated a recommendation
of the Commission of Inquiry. The Report emphatically states that there can
be no dilution of academic standards in our entrance; it does not wish to
abandon the interview (though often urged to do so); it does not suggest
much modification to current assessment methods. The issue is simple. It is in
Oxford's interest to attract the ablest undergraduates wherever they come
from; if there are obstacles to their application and admission, we should seek
to lift them. One part of Oxford's reputation is the brilliance of its students.
This is not to strive to make this University indistinguishable from every
other institution of higher education. On the contrary.

We are all conscious that the University has this year attracted often
hostile media comment. We should not be intimidated by this nor should we
dismiss it all as irrelevant. We ought to be confident enough to be interested
in fair criticism, but to respond robustly to the patently wrong (as I did this
summer). A lot of this comment bases itself upon so-called `league tables'
published by national newspapers and I should perhaps say a word about
these. Rankings have been published in the United States for many years. So,
it was with interest that I read a recent article in The Wall Street
Journal
which pointed out that the `tweaking' of methodology in successive
publications produces unpredictable and unbelievable shifts and that ultimately
such surveys are `a brilliant way to sell magazines.' The President of Stanford
University has spoken of their `specious formulas and spurious precision.' As
far as this country is concerned, I feel no cause to dissent from President
Casper when I see a major national newspaper accord exactly the same
credibility to a wholly casual and flawed survey of a handful of employers as
it claims for its own table.

Universities are complex and diverse institutions. They require
sophisticated judgement about the quality of their provision which such tables
appear incapable of providing. I mention, simply as examples, that in terms of
staff:student ratios and expenditure on student resources, the tables make no
allowance for the organisation of collegiate universities; large items of
expenditure in one year (e.g. a major upgrade of the computer network) would
distort a supposedly stable indicator; the teaching quality indicator simply
conflates two entirely different types of assessment since the methodology has
been profoundly modified; degree classifications are scored as if a higher
number of Firsts and 2:1s is an indicator of institutional excellence. I leave
the account there. Fundamentally, such tables ignore the legitimate and
healthy differences in character and mission between universities in order to
line them up in an uncomplicated ladder of ranking. Nonetheless, these tables
are here to stay and they will have their effect in the public mind.

We are a highly successful university and in my previous Oration I gave
a number of examples of our pre-eminence. These remain mostly unchanged
and I will not repeat them. I would only add that this year once again we
were the home to more new FBAs and FRSs than any other university; that we
received the largest amount in grants from the new Arts and Humanities
Research Board; that the breadth and size of our success in the first round
of JIF awards demonstrates the range and quality of our science; that our
Biological Sciences received the highest rating in Teaching Quality Assessment.
Those who read both the Gazette and the national press will have
noticed reports on a whole range of activities including, very briefly and at
random, new research in diabetes; some dangerous conditions in pregnancy
and nanotechnology; our role as lead partner in the international Gemini
telescopes project; and finally, at the other end of the spectrum, an
innovative collaboration over imaging and unreadable ancient texts as well as
a highly successful business and innovation fair. Among the achievements of
our students, let me mention only the election of a member of Harris-
Manchester College to the Welsh Assembly, revolutionary research on the fossil
record of the development of flight, and a successful new Internet company.
We gave honorary degrees to President Vaclav Havel and to the Presidents of
Harvard and Yale Universities. Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip visited
University College on the occasion of its 750th anniversary. As Vice-
Chancellor, I must congratulate the College on the successful attainment of
such longevity as Oxford's oldest college—though, as Master of Balliol, I
am duty-bound to say that my colleagues there are perhaps not quite ready
yet to concede the point.

In reality, the desire for league tables betrays a great uncertainty about
the nature and function of universities. In my last Oration I noted the rapidly
accelerating differentiation of higher education institutions over the last
decade in terms of their defined purposes, organisation, content of courses,
methods of delivery, and student population. This complexity is principally a
response to society's desire to fit universities more directly to perceived
social and economic needs. That has become the explicit base of current
government policy. At the same time, both as a reaction to complexity and as
an instrument of ensuring effective outcomes to government policies,
universities are being increasingly regulated year by year.

Regulation takes two overlapping forms: on the one hand, assessment of
quality performance and mechanisms of accountability, and, on the other,
funding mechanisms. The first category continues to grow: there is the
Transparency Review that I have just mentioned; the practical implications of
the plans of the Quality Assessment Agency remain uncertain, though we hope
for a lighter touch and a move away from numerical gradings; and in the Bett
report we suddenly see the suggestion that salary might be linked to
membership of the new Institute for Learning and Teaching. As for funding
mechanisms, this year has seen an increase in the trend towards the
multiplication of financial packages attached to policy objectives for which
universities are invited to bid. Three more were announced only a couple of
weeks ago. As the new President of the CVCP said last month, all universities
feel beleaguered by the bureaucracy of endless assessment and, I might add,
by the financial transaction cost of it. At the same time, there are palpable
signs of bidding fatigue in this University as elsewhere.

Meanwhile, universities continue to be faced with efficiency gains and we
can take only the most limited pleasure in their decrease relative to the
previous level. Furthermore, the Government has now made clear its intention
to bring 50 per cent of young adults into higher education. This will probably
mean the multiplication of sub-degree courses. There is no information about
the effect of this on the general budget. At the same time, we should welcome
the initiative by which the Government has this year announced a programme
to promote and largely finance an increase in overseas students coming to
Britain.

Of course, even the most cursory glance at the long history of
universities shows the ambiguous nature of their relationship with government
and society. On the one hand, universities have always seen themselves as
conscience and critic of government and society by virtue of their own
preoccupation with some absolute values of knowledge and with a search for
first principles. On the other, universities have always served their society
and have adapted themselves—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly—to
its perceived needs. So, the current situation is not in essence new. It seems
to me that this University has been and continues to be responsive to the
contemporary needs of society. Thus, for example, our unemployment rate six
months after graduation is the lowest of any university in the country; we
contribute directly to both the national and regional economy through our
exceptionally successful technology transfer programme; we bring skills to a
broader community through our active Department for Continuing Education.
We continue to be attentive to this issue, within our definition of our
particular function and purpose.

However, that is the point: `within our definition of our particular
function and purpose.' Governments exist to have policies and set priorities
by them; while we are in receipt of public funds, we clearly accept
accountability though we may legitimately debate its forms. Within that general
framework, it is important that we act upon our own beliefs and choices about
this University and university education in general.

We should not only be identified as economic drivers and purveyors of
economically productive skills to individuals, commerce, and industry, but also
as creators or discoverers of new knowledge and transmitters of knowledge
and understanding to each new generation. We must remind ourselves that our
function is also to search for understanding as universal as we can make it
and to do so by tests which produce rational meaning that holds true in as
diverse and complex situations as possible. These tests must be rigorous,
transparent, recognised by all and uncompromised by concession to this or
that consideration of the moment. While we value greatly the significance of
the application of knowledge and, as I say, participate considerably in its
dissemination and transfer, our preoccupation is pre-eminently with the very
nature of things. As for our teaching, we seek also to give our students a
discerning independence and a questioning mind. These are qualities which a
stable and successful society needs at a high level in its best-educated young
people in addition to practical skills of employability. So, while we are
certainly engaged in our contemporary society and its needs, we are rooted
in a discrete set of values to which our decisions and policies must relate.

This is a successful university with a world reputation, many eminent
researchers and teachers, a deep-pile provision of academic resources, and a
great tradition of excellence to continue and emulate. Whatever the
commentaries, we can be confident without arrogance about that. In reality,
the danger that confronts us is what Harold Shapiro, the President of
Princeton, calls `the danger of entrenched success'. Adjustment does not
always come easily. As I said in my last Oration, the national and international
context is in rapid flux, especially in relation to those important matters upon
which we rely in terms of funding, collaboration, circuits, recruitment of staff
and students—not to mention the healthy dynamism of disciplinary change.
Let me reiterate that I believe that in reforming governance the University
has taken a crucial step in equipping itself to deal carefully and appropriately
with that context.

It is easy to identify our objective. That is to continue to be a great
international teaching and research-intensive university. It is much more
difficult to identify how to do it. The definition is not set by us and is much
influenced by contextual factors. We need to understand the necessary
conditions of this outcome and to seek to meet them where we do not. Clearly,
we need to conserve our existing character and the strength that it affords
us. The colleges are important academic communities that contain many of the
values to which we hold as a University and provide an exceptional and
outstanding form of educational experience. We need them to remain vital in
their functions. At the same time, we derive great strength from the fact that
we are both a research and a teaching institution. I would not
myself view with equanimity a future in which, so to speak, we laid a research
institute alongside a teaching institute even if they were to be connected by
some limp institutional handshake. Teaching and research need each other. We
are a complex reciprocating machine; but we all subscribe to a common
intellectual and academic enterprise in all its mutually sustaining parts.

Beyond this, it seems to me that there are three conditions to the
substance of international stature. First, we must aim to have an appropriate
infrastructure in terms of libraries, laboratories, teaching facilities and
buildings. Appropriateness is defined by the international quality of the
activity which we wish to occur in them. The JIF initiative is a major and
welcome opportunity for action here but it does not by any means cover the
whole University nor can it respond wholly to the energy of the areas that
it does cover.

Second, we need to find financial aid to help international graduate
students. My recent trip to Brazil and Argentina confirmed the advice I gave
you in my last Oration about the distortion of the flows of graduate students.
I found there governments which had made firm policy choices to fund study
abroad only in subjects defined as national priorities, preferably on the basis
of government-to-government agreements, and certainly only within the
context of recognised programmes. These are not isolated examples. Certainly,
such policies mean that many excellent graduates will study abroad only where
they can find some support. In this respect, we are not as well equipped as
we should be. The emphasis that I give here does not mean that I am
unaware of the difficulties of funding for British graduate students.

The allocation of resources is of course properly the business of Council,
which has not yet had the opportunity to determine the matter. The transfer
connected with the new relationship between the University and the
University Press does offer the possibility for a significant first step in these
two issues. At any event, I should express with clarity the pleasure that the
University feels at the fact that the commitment and hard work of everyone
at all levels in the Press makes possible this new relationship.

The third issue is the question of how the work of members of the
University is rewarded. This is not a question confined to one part of the
University nor is it a question confined to this University alone, as was
demonstrated by public discussion this year about economists. This a highly
complex issue. At one level, Oxford faces real issues of recruitment and
retention in respect of other research-intensive universities here and abroad.
At another, the recently-published Bett Report has demonstrated the downward
shift of pay relativities at all levels throughout the Higher Education sector
since 1981 (with some nuances). One might say that there is here a funding
gap that echoes the funding gap identified by the Dearing Report. As for
Bett's specific proposals in the matter, the Government shows no sign yet of
funding them and without such funding it is difficult to see how the sector
as a whole and individual universities could adopt them within the current
regime.

Indeed, much in the previous discussion depends upon the future
funding of universities, particularly research-intensive universities, and upon
how we in Oxford are able to manage that.

In conclusion, I am glad to be able to welcome three new Heads of House
who join us this year. Sir Alan Budd succeeds Dr Geoffrey Marshall as Provost
of Queen's College, Dr Michael Mingos becomes Principal of St Edmund Hall in
succession to Sir Stephen Tumim and, in January, Sir Peter Williams will follow
Lord Plant as Master of St Catherine's College. I am glad also to welcome Dr
John Rowett as Warden of Rhodes House and Secretary to the Rhodes Trust
in succession to Sir Anthony Kenny.

This past year has also seen the retirement of colleagues who have given
distinguished service to the University. I should mention in particular:
Professor I. Brownlie, Chichele Professor of Public International Law; Professor
C.H. Feinstein, Chichele Professor of Economic History; Professor N.Y. Gale,
Professor of Archaeological Science; Professor C.A.R. Hoare, James Martin
Professor of Computing; Professor J. O'D. McGee, Professor of Morbid Anatomy;
Professor M.R. Matthews, Professor of Human Anatomy; Professor B.A. Rudden,
Professor of Comparative Law; and Professor J.P.S. Simons, Dr Lee's Professor
of Chemistry.

Many others have retired from their academic posts after long service to
the University: Dr H.C. Bennet-Clark, Dr B.E. Juniper and Dr R.
Sherlaw-Johnson; Miss A.G. Bruten, Dr G.S. Claridge, Dr C.W. Edwards, Mrs
L.P.E. Edwards, Miss B.M. Everett, Dr E.W. Gill, Mr P.A. Hayward, Dr T.J. Huins,
Mr J.M. Kaye, Mr R.M.P. Malpas, Dr D.E. Olleson, Dr D. Radojicic, Mr D.
Robinson, Dr C. Ruiz, Dr G.L. Salmon, Mr F.A. Scott, Dr G.C. Stone, Mr F.R. le
P. Warner, Mr D.C. Witt, and from senior administrative posts: Mr N.J.
Fiennes, Mr P.W. Jones, and Mr A.W. Price.

I wish to record our gratitude for the lives and service of our colleagues
who have died in office during the past year: Mr J.L. Allen, Dr M. Aris, Mr
K.G Dunford, Mr R. Eagle, Mr M.S.T.A. Lawrence, and Mr J.A. Lloyd. We have
also lost former colleagues in retirement. I have in mind such distinguished
scholars as Sir Edward Abraham (from the munificence of whose Trust the
University has received over £30m in benefactions which we shall not
forget), Lord Beloff, Sir Alec Cairncross, Dr Alexander Cooke, Mr Arthur Crow,
Professor David Daube, The Revd Dr Gwynne Henton Davies, Mr Eprime Eshag,
Professor Margaret Gowing, Professor Albert Green, Mr Colin Hardie, Mr John
Harris, Mrs Sonia Hawkes, Dr Geoffrey Hodgson, Dom Philip Holdsworth,
Professor Nicholas Kurti, Dr Martin Lawrence, Professor Donald McKenzie, The
Revd Graham Midgley, Dame Iris Murdoch, Mr John O'Brien, Lord Phillips of
Ellesmere, Dr Garth Robinson, Professor Ronald Robinson, Mr Charles Smith, Dr
Robert Torrance, Miss Rachel Trickett, Professor Robert Turner and Professor
Bruce Wernham.

Finally, let me pay tribute to Dr Glenn Black, the retiring Chairman of
the General Board. He has been willing to serve for the unusually long period
of three years and I know him to have been an outstanding Chairman. The
University owes him considerable gratitude for his skilful leadership. I myself
owe him a real personal debt for his comfort, counsel, and occasional
contradiction during my first two years in office.