Oxford University is expected to announce its new vice-chancellor in the next two weeks, taking the academic world by surprise as the nominating committee had until September.
Interviews are understood to have taken place at the home of the chair of the nominating committee, Sir Victor Blank, chair of the Mirror Group, last Monday. Subject to contract negotiations, a nomination could go to the university council on June 23.
Four candidates are believed to have been interviewed: a UK vice-chancellor, a provost from a US university (of whom one university source said "of Ivy League status, but not strictly speaking in the Ivy League") and two business leaders with strong academic links.
Two names still in circulation are Sandra Dawson, director of the Judge Institute of Management at Cambridge, and John Krebs, chairman of the Food Standards Agency. But Sir Victor has kept a tight grip on the committee, all members of which have maintained a strict silence.
The announcement means Oxford will know its next vice-chancellor before new chancellor Chris Patten is installed on June 25. Traditionally the chancellor has chaired the nominating committee, but following the death of Lord Jenkins in January, Sir Victor took over the committee.
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