Oxford dons call for close eye on top rank

October 14, 2005

A group of senior Oxford academics has called for a new system of "checks and balances" on the way their university is run, including a "board of scrutiny" to keep a close eye on decisions made by senior managers.

A paper produced on behalf of the dons says that Oxford needs such safeguards to force managers to explain and to justify publicly decisions that affect academics' work and the direction of the university.

The academics produced the paper as an alternative to the governance proposals published two weeks ago by the university and currently out to consultation.

The paper, written by Oxford academics Gavin Williams, editor of the Oxford Magazine , Nicholas Bamforth, a law lecturer, and Susan Cooper, a physics professor, argues that more accountability would also help counter a "common impression" that the university's ruling council and its sub-committees fail to consult on or test their proposals before turning them into policy.

A board of scrutiny, similar to one that has existed at Cambridge University since 1995, should be established "to exercise independent oversight over the decisions taken by council and the executive officers of the university", it adds.

The paper, published this week but written before the university issued its governance consultation document, argues that a full inquiry into Oxford's governance arrangements is needed before reforms are introduced.

It urges a separate re-examination of the role of Oxford's colleges and their relationship with the university.

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