Academic democracy

January 10, 1997

Many in Cambridge, including its vice chancellor, would argue that a great university has a responsibility arising out of its natural privileges to seek to act with generosity for the benefit of the higher education sector - and beyond that, for the greater good of the community of scholarship.

The vice chancellor's recent comments in the press, alongside those of other vice chancellors, have started a debate in which there is a danger of confusion of a number of issues.

He wrote "that funding should be steered towards those departments that are recognised for international excellence", wherever they may be.

There will inevitably be public confusion between the person and the office. Cambridge has no policy until the issues have been properly debated and a policy formulated within the academic community here, of which the vice chancellor for these purposes is simply a member.

It is one of Cambridge's most important features - which it shares with Oxford - that it is run by direct academic democracy, and that its scholars remain its ultimate policy-makers.

G. Evans

Faculty of history University of Cambridge

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