Oxford "Must Go Private"


Oxford University should cut its ties with UK government to go private “loudly and proudly,” according to a senior research professor at the University, rather than continue reasoning and begging with the state sector. Concerned with the current financial situation of publicly funded institutions Nick Trefethen (the American head of the Numerical Analysis project and fellow at Balliol) advocated privatisation in latest edition of Oxford Magazine, the historic discussion forum of the University. Emphasising the necessary support required from alumni contributions, Professor Trefethen’s proposals would nonetheless require large student contributions, comparable to the £40 000 plus paid by undergraduates in the States. “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” he wrote. “In our self-selected peer group, we are poorer than Yale, poorer than Princeton, and far, far poorer than Harvard or Stanford.” He believes that in order to remain great in the 21st Century the University has to lead public opinion away from its commitment to state funded education and place itself in fairer competition with the Ivy League. Professor Nick Trefethen joined Oxford in 1997 after distinguished work at Harvard and Stanford universities and now researches for the Universities Computer Laboratory. By going private Trefethen believes the University can end its attempt at “reasoning with parliament, begging the Higher Education Funding Council, entreating the UK to fund us better and control us less.” However Professor Trefethen’s proposals have received little credibility within the University. The University Press Office told Cherwell that the Oxford Magazine represents the views of Oxford academics only, “The University feels it has a future within the sector of state funding.” The Student Union showed a similar lack of concern with the article, President Will Straw labelled the proposals as “laughable.” He further questioned, “How does Trefethen propose to increase access and wider participation by unleashing market forces upon those considering applying to university?” By abandoning state funding Oxford would move alongside Britain’s only current private university, Buckingham. Its Vice- Chancellor Dr Terence Kealey commented that private institutions “are excellent not only because, by charging full fees, they are prosperous, but also, by being independent, they are not bound by government targets”. Undergraduates at Buckingham pay £40 320 for a two-year course qualification, but with grants being available for students from the Home Counties. Although the University is openly considering the movement the private sector, Trefethen’s comments have aroused concern among students. It is feared that removal of the cap for tuition from the level of £3000 currently proposed will facilitate an effective move to private funding with state’s backing.
ARCHIVE: 4th week TT 2003


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