Oxford students criticise university for spending millions on public affairs

Student newspaper quotes students complaining of ‘deficiencies in basic facilities’

October 19, 2009

The University of Oxford has come under fire for spending more than £10 million on public affairs in the past four years.

The Oxford Student newspaper obtained figures from the university showing that the public affairs directorate, which employs 32 full-time staff, had spent £10,119,000 on “re-branding, lobbying journalists, producing publications and maintaining its website”, as well as internal communications and events management since 2005.

Earlier this month, Oxford’s departing vice-chancellor, John Hood, said that the university was budgeting for a loss of about £8 million this year, and that the university faces “grave” risks without major investment.

The Oxford Student article quoted un-named students criticising the spend in the light of “deficiencies in basic facilities”, such as a lack of tables in some lecture theatres.

A spokeswoman for the university said the cash had been spent on a “a wide range of basic services essential to any world-class university operating in a global context”, such as providing information about the institution via the university website, student prospectuses and lecture lists and responding to media and public inquiries. These are “services that it is unrealistic to think a university like Oxford could or should be without,” the spokeswoman added. “We believe unit costs for providing services of equivalent scope and quality in peer institutions worldwide would be at least equivalent and in some cases considerably higher.”

• Confusion still exists around the world about the relationship between the University of Oxford and the Oxford Round Table, a private events firm that uses Oxford colleges to host its events but that has no formal academic relationship with the university.

In July 2009 a story in the Texas newspaper Focus Daily News noted that Jane Konditi, the academic dean at Northwood University, “was selected as one of about 35 people worldwide to participate in the Oxford University Round Table this summer”, while a press release on the election of the mayor-president of East Baton Rouge, Louisiana noted that Melvin L. Holden had been “invited to study at the Oxford University Round Table in England”.

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