Critic of Oxford reforms gains seat on council

June 16, 2006

An outspoken critic of the reforms promoted by John Hood, Oxford University's vice-chancellor, has been overwhelmingly elected to Oxford's governing council, just days after the university published its long-awaited governance white paper.

Nicholas Bamforth, fellow in law at Queen's College and one of the authors of a series of alternative governance papers, was elected by a majority of 5 to 9 in a record turnout by members of the congregation, Oxford's parliament of dons.

Mr Bamforth is the second outspoken critic of Dr Hood's reforms to sit on the council. He joins Susan Cooper, professor of physics, on the university's main policy-making body.

"The fact that two out of 26 members of council are such firm critics is enormously significant," Mr Bamforth said.

"We want to ensure that there is a proper debate of the university's governance reforms and those put forward in our alternative papers."

Mr Bamforth, who ran for the council on a pro-democracy ticket, has been elected for a four-year term.

He was nominated by three heads of colleges, including Sir Alan Budd, provost of Queen's, also a former chief economic adviser to the Treasury and a founding member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee; by Roger Ainsworth of St Catherine's College; and by Richard Smethurst of Worcester College.

In a white paper on Oxford's governance published this month, the university set out significant changes to the way it is run.

These included modifying the size and shape of the council, which is something Mr Bamforth opposes.

"I am firmly against plans to slim down the council and to separate the overseeing of academic activity to an academic board," Mr Bamforth said.

"I am also opposed to plans to introduce a majority of external members on to the slimmed-down council.

Mr Bamforth added: "These moves would give unprecedented power to the university executive."

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