Shortlist for Oxford vice-chancellor taking shape

Andrew Hamilton to take over at NYU after he makes his exit

March 19, 2015

Source: Getty

Lining up the candidates: the Oxford role is strategically important for English and UK higher education

The University of Oxford is identifying candidates to become its next vice-chancellor, while the incumbent has been unveiled as the next president of New York University.

Oxford announced last year that Andrew Hamilton would leave the vice-chancellorship in September 2016 at the end of his seven-year term of office. Sir Keith Burnett, the vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, is one potential candidate to replace him who is said to be of interest to Oxford, sources have suggested.

On 18 March, it was announced that Professor Hamilton would take over at NYU – a position with a salary in the region of £950,000 – in January 2016, several months earlier than Oxford originally said he would be leaving.

He had also previously emerged as the front-runner for the presidential post at the University of Texas at Austin, according to media reports in the state.

The Oxford vice-chancellorship is strategically important for English and UK higher education as a whole, given its lobbying impact on government and its high media profile.

Professor Hamilton made national headlines in 2013 when he said that a future government should allow tuition fees to be “more closely related to the true cost of the education provided” – which he put at £16,000 for Oxford undergraduates.

Vince Cable, the business secretary, has said of potential future fee rises: “The people who are asking for this, it’s really Oxbridge.”

Applications for Oxford’s vice-chancellorship closed on 5 January. A nominating committee led by Lord Patten of Barnes, Oxford’s chancellor, had appointed headhunters Perrett Laver to assist in the search for candidates.

A university spokesman said that the nominating committee would “by early June” put forward a name for approval by Oxford’s council.

Sir Keith studied physics at Oxford as an undergraduate and spent nearly 20 years of his career at the university, including spells as head of the Division of Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences and as chairman of physics.

In the Oxford vice-chancellor’s termly newsletter, distributed last week, Professor Hamilton discusses the importance of government policies on teaching and research funding and on visas.

He concludes that “whatever the next general election brings, we will need to go on building relationships near and far with those we elect to take the decisions that affect us all, and on which the future of our university in large measure depends”.

Professor Hamilton, 62, a former Yale University provost, received a pay and pensions package of £442,000 at Oxford in 2013-14.

The Texas Tribune, which described him as front-runner for the Austin job on 9 March, reported that sources had said it would “take a salary more than twice that [current Austin president Bill] Powers is paid to attract Hamilton…putting him in the ranks of the highest-paid public university administrators in the country”. Professor Powers received $731,638 (£494,847) in remuneration in 2013, according to Chronicle of Higher Education figures.

However, the website made clear Professor Hamilton was “also said to be a candidate for the presidency” at NYU. John Sexton, the current NYU president, was paid $1.4 million in 2012, according to Chronicle figures.

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