Oxford review snag

June 16, 1995

Responses to Oxford University's first wholesale review in 30 years have signalled concerns over the style and direction of the exercise.

A report from the eight-member commission of inquiry says that its "framework document" outlining issues to be addressed aroused worries that it had already made up its mind on some key points.

The commission began its deliberations on the internal and external workings of the university last November. Created and chaired by Peter North, Oxford's vice chancellor, it was set up to carry out the biggest review of the university's academic and decision-making structure and its place in the higher education sector since the Franks report in the 1960s.

Dr North said at the review's launch that it was important that the agenda was not "shuttered by the eight minds of the members of the commission". But some responses have prompted moves to allay worries that the commission "would not be sufficiently open about its deliberations or the basis on which it reached its conclusions".

A report in the Oxford University Gazette says concerns focussed on a statement in the framework document that the commission did not intend to hold public hearings or publish the evidence. However, it would "consult widely" and publish "green papers" outlining its initial thinking.

The report says the commission will give more explicit emphasis to two main topics: greater financial decentralisation within the university, and the organisation of faculties and departments.

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