Three hats are in the ring in the contest to be the next chancellor of Oxford University.
Chris Patten, the European Union's external affairs commissioner, is the favourite. He said: "Higher education has been underfunded by governments of both parties, and anyone who thinks we can just trust the Treasury is a starry-eyed optimist."
Lord Bingham of Cornhill, the former lord chief justice of England and high steward of the university since 2001, has declared his support for top-up fees. "I would certainly prefer that there were top-up fees than that there should be a shortage of money and to slide into mediocrity."
Lord Neill of Bladen QC, a former chancellor of the university as well as former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, also declared that he would stand.
Will Straw, president of Oxford Student Union, said that the union would endorse candidates that signed up to a statement of principles including free access. So far, no candidate looks likely to sign.
All candidates must declare by February 25.