Don warns of end of academic self-rule

May 11, 2001

Six hundred years of academic self-rule at Cambridge University will end if it pushes ahead with plans to modernise its management, a don warned last week.

Speaking at a Senate House debate on the plans, Anthony Edwards, a professor at Cambridge since the 1960s, warned: "The structure proposed will be entirely out of academic control."

He said if the elected council of dons proceeded with proposals they would "be signing their own death warrant and that of half-a-dozen centuries of academic self-government".

The university is concerned that senior management is under-resourced and too weak for "the needs of a modern university". There are concerns that Cambridge is slipping behind Oxford. An attempt to implement a new accounting system exposed serious management weaknesses.

The council plans to have a number of new divisions headed by unelected administration professionals reporting directly to the chief administrative officer.

The vice-chancellor would be given increased powers and the the number of pro vice-chancellors would double from two to four.

The treasurer will focus on financial development, acquisition and exploitation of assets and will report to the vice-chancellor. The general secretary will also report direct to the vice-chancellor on teaching and learning matters.

Gillian Evans, a reader in history, said the changes would allow the vice-chancellor to become "the sort of unchallengeable, self-willed potentate he easily can be in other universities".

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