US academic urges Oxford to leave state system

May 16, 2003

Oxford must go private if it is to compete on the world stage, says a senior academic at Oxford University.

Writing in Oxford Magazine, a debating forum for Oxford academics, Nick Trefethen, an American who heads the numerical analysis group, says: "We can go on reasoning with parliament, begging Hefce [Higher Education Funding Council for England], entreating the UK to fund us better and control us lessI Or we can embrace the reality that there is not a single state-run university, not one on earth, that Oxford and Cambridge are worried about."

Professor Trefethen, who took a chair at Oxford in 1997 after 25 years at Harvard, Stanford and New York universities and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: "In our self-selected peer group, we are poorer than Yale, poorer than Princeton, and far, far poorer than Harvard or Stanford."

He said that if the university was to be great in the 21st century, it had to stop reacting to public opinion and lead it.

"Let us pursue the possibility of going private loudly and proudly, persuading our alumni that this would be a historic moment at which we would need a historic flood of support."

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