Readers' reactions

October 27, 2000

Last week in The THES..Gillian Evans argued that vice-chancellors should avoid personal commercial involvements. Andrew M. Colman Professor of psychology University of Leicester

Vodafone's gift of mobile phones to University of Cambridge research students raises uncomfortable questions. It is easy to see why Vodafone might wish to "invest" in Cambridge, but less obvious why Cambridge should wish to be invested in by a commercial company with no academic or educational pretensions.

It has been reported that Cambridge's vice-chancellor, Sir Alec Broers, has accepted a lucrative position as a non-executive director of Vodafone. In those circumstances, surely Cambridge should be the last university to accept Vodafone's kind "investment"?

Vice-chancellors have an obligation to play their parts in maintaining standards in public life. If one of our great universities begins to create even the appearance of a conflict of interest, the wrong signals may be sent to other higher education institutions. This might encourage a trend that could imperil the integrity of research and scholarship throughout the academic sector.

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