Heat on Oxbridge system

June 19, 1998

There were calls for a Royal Commission to reform Oxford and Cambridge universities this week following the resignation of Sir Stephen Tumim as principal of St Edmund's Hall, Oxford.

Sir Stephen, pictured above, former Chief Inspector of Prisons, resigned last week after the college's fellows passed a motion asking him to step down.

The resignation, and Sir Stephen's acceptance of a six-figure pay-off, followed months of disagreement between him and the dons. Students will hold a sit-in at the college today in protest at the dons' actions.

John Tusa, who resigned as president of Wolfson College, Cambridge in 1993 after only nine months, is a member of the group pressing for a Royal Commission. He wants to see the role and responsibilities of college councils defined clearly and the powers of heads of houses spelt out.

Others would like a Royal Commission to take a wider remit and target, in the words of the historian David Cannadine: "the incredibly complex relationship between self-governing colleges and the universities and the way dons are members of both". Students' social background and the professorial gender balance are also on the agenda.

* Oxford in trouble, page 15

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