Oxford to lose chair as funds revoked

March 30, 2001

The Argentine government has decided to withdraw financial support for Argentine studies at St Antony's College, Oxford, worth £186,000 per year over ten years.

The decision revokes a UK-Argentine agreement, signed on the occasion of former president Carlos Menem's visit to London in 1998, when the Argentine government expressed its intention to back the move for a chair of Argentine history at Oxford.

The London School of Economics and the University of Warwick, which receive £100,000 and £25,000 respectively in annual funding from the Argentine government, do not appear to have been affected by the decision.

The Argentine foreign ministry spokesman told the Buenos Aires newspaper Clarín that the spending could no longer be justified because other priorities required more urgent attention. But the ministry also stressed that the final agreement contained significant deviations from the original deal that the then foreign affairs minister, Guido Di Tella, had made with the United Kingdom authorities.

The ministry claims that while the original agreement required the consent of the Argentine government for the nomination of a programme director, the final text omitted this condition. Nor, it said, was there any mention in the memorandum of the required academic qualifications held by candidates for the chair.

According to the ministry, the final decision to revoke funding was taken following consultation with Argentine experts in diplomatic relations who travelled to Oxford to take part in seminars organised by St Antony's College. Clarín reports the experts as having advised: "Let them come and study in Argentina if they want to know more about our history."

Celia Szusterman, Oxford's Argentine studies programme director, said that she had received no official notification of the decision. "In December, the Argentine ambassador visited Oxford and expressed the total support of the Argentine government for the programme and its continuity," she said. "Oxford is aware of the economic situation in Argentina, and has expressed its willingness to receive a reduced contribution from the government. Other sources of funding are now being actively sought to ensure that the programme continues to develop," she added.

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