Admissions U-turn

April 5, 2002

The Pembroke College "cash for places" scandal has had an interesting effect on Oxford West MP Evan Harris.

John Platt, the former college chaplain and a good friend of Dr Harris, resigned last week after he was taped by a Sunday Times reporter posing as a wealthy banker seeking a place for his son. Reverend Platt indicated that an extra place might be found, if a donation were made. Pembroke's chief fundraiser Mary-Jane Hilton also resigned.

The shock must have been great for Dr Harris because he promptly changed his policy on Oxford admissions. Dr Harris, who in his former role as the Liberal Democrats' education spokesman had defended Oxford's college-based admissions process, said that the affair had been "unfortunate" for Reverend Platt. But not unfortunate for the Liberal Democrats. Dr Harris, now the party's health spokesman, is calling for the colleges to be stripped of their admissions powers and the responsibility handed to the central university.

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