The ballot of members of The Regent House saw 681 votes in favour of the motion – which called on Cambridge to state it did not have confidence in Mr Willetts’ policies – with exactly the same number voting against. As a result the “grace” was not carried.
Almost 150 academics had put forward the grace as part of a nationwide campaign to pass motions of no confidence in the minister at as many universities as possible.
But the result at Cambridge is a blow for campaigners and stands in contrast to the University of Oxford, where a similar motion saw 283 people vote in favour with just five voting against.
The University of Leeds senate has also passed a motion condemning Mr Willetts’ handling of higher education reforms.
Some of the split in the vote at Cambridge has been put down to disquiet that a grace – essentially a legislative tool for changing university regulations – had been used to make a political statement.
A statement issued on behalf of the academics that put forward the grace says that the result should not be interpreted as support for Mr Willetts and the government’s higher education policy.
“Not one item of campaign material, for or against the motion, argued in favour of current government policy. As such, the ‘no’ vote will have included a substantial number of votes from those motivated by procedural concerns,” the statement says.
It adds that the national movement against the government’s policies will be “buoyed” by the strong turnout at Cambridge and number of votes in favour given the disquiet over procedure and the fact it was the summer holiday.