King's head appeals for support for part-timers

February 20, 2004

The recently appointed head of one of Cambridge University's most prestigious colleges has called on the government to provide more funding for part-time students and the institutions that cater for them.

Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas, the provost of King's, said it was vital that the funding council not base its decisions largely on the needs of the 18-year-old full-time student. In her first interview since taking up the post at King's in October 2003, Dame Judith said: "It's very important that institutions that rely on income from part-time students are not disadvantaged by the way the cake is cut. The government is starting to wake up to that."

Dame Judith, 55, was chairwoman of Birkbeck College, University of London, specialising in part-time higher education from 1999 until December 2003.

She was also vice-chair of the London Development Agency, and she has worked closely with London First, which represents the capital's 40 higher education institutions, many of which rely heavily on part-time enrolments.

At a recent meeting with Alan Johnson, the higher education minister, Dame Judith stressed that London's universities - which employ 80,000 staff and have an annual turnover of more than £3 billion - account for 5 per cent of the capital's economy.

She said she believed that part-time students would become increasingly important to institutions as more people retrained during their careers, and she would emphasise the point at a meeting with Charles Clarke, the education secretary, next month.

At King's, fundraising to assist less well-off students will be a priority, as will tapping alumni for donations, Dame Judith said.

But she noted that Oxbridge students still benefited from subsidised accommodation, utilities and food in the colleges. Cambridge and Oxford also had low transport and other living costs, so institutions there were more affordable than ones in London.

Dame Judith also promised to launch a worldwide fundraising drive to establish an endowment that will protect King's choral traditions, and she wants to gain world heritage recognition for its chapel. As she also serves as chair of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, she is keen to develop links between it and the chapel's world-renowned choir.

The cost of maintaining the college's Grade I-listed buildings was a drain on finances, but Dame Judith said it was King's duty to the nation to do so.

The state of the college's finances is a matter of some concern. Dame Judith has brought in a team to conduct a "radical review" of the finances.

She said it was impossible to determine income or expenditure or to track cash flow at the moment.

She will modernise the financial and administration systems with the aim of making King's one of Cambridge's best-managed colleges. "There is huge room for improvement," Dame Judith said.

As the first female provost and the first non-Kingsman for centuries to lead the college, Dame Judith conceded that there had been some "minor difficulties" in her first term, but she emphasised the fact that fellows had made her feel "enormously welcome".

"They would not have elected me if they had not wanted me."

A BIOGRAPHICAL BRIEFING

  • Born New Zealand (1948)
  • LLM, Otago University, 1973
  • Barrister and solicitor, New Zealand, 1973
  • Law lecturer, Otago (1970-73), Southampton (1973-76) and King's College London (1976-89)
  • Admitted as solicitor, England and Wales (1993)
  • Employment lawyer at Titmuss Sainer Dechert (1989-94) and Wilde Sapte (1994-2000). Special adviser at Clifford Chance (2000-03)
  • Chairman of City of London policy and resources committee (1996-2003)
  • Chairman, Royal Opera House Covent Garden; trustee, Natural History Museum

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