Democracy and the Teddy Hall affair

June 26, 1998

I MUST protest at the parody of the Oxbridge College system given in the article "Quad wrangles". There have been two highly public fallings out between fellows and heads of college in the 1990s. While both were sad, this is not a high failure rate out of more than 50 colleges. Compare this with the business and media worlds.

The increasing bureaucratisation of higher education has meant that busy academics have increasingly looked outside for new heads of house. As an incomer myself, now about to retire after seven years, I have been made very welcome by college and university. Moving from a top-down to a participative management structure was certainly a culture shock.

But why assume that the Oxbridge way of doing things is wrong? Higher education has been one of the success stories of postwar Britain, with Oxford and Cambridge in starring roles.

And why a royal commission, for heaven's sake? The last one recommended that Cambridge should deny full membership of the university to women.

Reform when it finally came was the result of internal moves. The changes resulting from the Wass committee report in 1989 were also internally driven. Now once again the university is looking at major internal change as a result of the government's exhaustive year-long review of college finance and its decision to cut public funding for the colleges. The results will no doubt be painful, especially for poor colleges like mine. But it has already been recognised that there is also a historic opportunity to rethink college/university relations. Please leave Cambridge to get on with it. And Oxford too.

Juliet Campbell, Mistress, Girton College, Cambridge

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