Oxford's November 5th fireworks

November 1, 1996

Valentine Cunningham's argument ("Cash for Colleges", THES, October 25) is a dangerous one which suggests that universities should turn their back on some types of external funding although they have taken money from many sources throughout the centuries. If we were to follow Professor Cunningham's advice not only would most of our universities not exist in their present form but, most critically, prospective donors would be unlikely to come forward with large bequests, since they might object to their generosity being subject to significant idiosyncratic but so-called moral scrutiny.

Professor Cunningham presents us with a balanced article for and against both "dubious" bequests in general and management studies as a subject in particular. We were uncertain until the final sentence whether he intended his arguments to be for or against acceptance on November 5.

He states that many Oxford institutions have benefited in the past from money from doubtful sources. He cites St Antony's, Rhodes, and Balliol, and the list need not have stopped here: "(in) the harshest of financial times" he concedes "the academic beggar is hardly likely to start turning into a chooser". Yet he recommends just such a transformation. While he admits that he enjoys giving lectures in ". . . the lovely Gulbenkian lecture theatre" he still recommends voting "no".

He allows that it is possible that ". . . our tradition of fine scholarliness will be able to clean up the mammon of unrighteousness, and that our MBA will get its students on to high moral ground . . ." yet he sneers at management studies as "a phoney academic subject". In their time engineering, medicine and even theology have all had to bear attacks in the university for being not proper academic subjects, for being applied, vocational or whatever is the appropriate put-down of the age. Even English literature and history have had their detractors we understand from the Oxford Magazine.

As in all new Oxford endeavours, management studies will have its supporters and detractors. However, the university decided in 1990 to develop management teaching energetically for both undergraduates and graduates, and the decision on the 5th is merely a major step in implementing this earlier resolution. All the major British and United States universities have business schools and Oxford's decision not to be left out is difficult to fault.

So even if many of Professor Cunningham's arguments were to be conceded, the rational recommendation must still be for Congregation to vote "yes" .

D.O. Faulkner, Tutorial fellow, Christ Church

F. E. Murray,

Tutorial fellow, St Catherine's College, Oxford

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