Clarke degree courts controversy

February 23, 1996

The dispute about Nottingham Trent's proposal to award Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke an honorary degree has prompted the university to take the "unprecedented step" of breaking the strict confidentiality surrounding nominations.

It issued a special edition of the university bulletin this week, setting the record straight and stressing that the proposed award of doctor of the university marks Mr Clarke's personal contribution to public life in Nottingham and does not have any political purpose.

Final confirmation rests with the governors who meet on Monday, an event threatening to cause disruption as lecturers' union Natfhe is to hold a demonstration.

Neil Williamson, Natfhe East Midlands regional secretary, said objections to the award were both political and regulatory since the university's own rules state that the university will not normally consider nominations in respect of an active politician. "This raises serious questions about standards of governance," said Mr Williamson.

He added that Natfhe believed the matter needed to be referred to the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life. "We are concerned to know why the university would want to honour a serving politician who has just imposed cuts of Pounds 300 million on higher education."

Vice chancellor Ray Cowell said Mr Clarke's nomination had been treated as all other nominations. In response to unease within the law faculty the proposal had been changed from doctor of law to doctor of the university. The original citation for "services to education" had been altered to take account of feelings in the university.

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