A follow up to January’s Green Paper on university governance has been published outlining a strategy for improving the University’s financial status. In a bid to revolutionise Oxford’s finances, the plan may allow for significant cuts in the number of undergraduates.
Oxford has reported annual shortfalls of up to £200 million, instigating a radical strategy for modernisation. In its opening, the corporate plan deems the objectives of the University unachievable “without a significant improvement in the finances”.
In August, the Oxford Centre of Higher Education Policy warned that even with the introduction of top up fees in 2006, Oxford stands to face a £14 million gap in its budget by 2012.
This comes after the University published the Green Paper in January of this year outlining a series of reforms to rescue the university’s finances.
Oxford’s financial prowess falls far behind that of its major international rivals. In the academic year 2002-3, Oxford only received £58 million in endowments compared to the £262 million received by Harvard and the £250 received by Stanford.
Part four of the corporate plan compels the university to “consider the full economic costs … when setting policy on student numbers.” In a further statement, a spokesperson for the university said it was likely over time that there would be a “gradual change in our student profile.” Despite calculations that there would be 600 fewer places for undergraduates by 2009, the statement insists that “at this stage there are no targets.”
The corporate plan also states that “more needs to be done both in gathering intelligence about the international student market and in developing carefully targeted campaigns to attract students of the very highest calibre.”
A concern that a greater drive to recruit international students will restrict the places open to home students has led to outrage on the part of prominent educationalists and public figures.
In an article for the BBC Professor Michael Driscoll, head of the Coalition of Modern Universities, ridicules Oxford’s “restricting access to home undergraduates on the spurious grounds that the university is somehow poverty-stricken.”
Alan Strickland, Chair of Academic Affairs for OUSU, is worried that the university is taking its reforms too far. “It’s sad that the underfunding of higher education is leading to such measures being taken, but it’s clear that the University should not seek to balance its books by denying access to home undergraduates.”
Meanwhile, Vice-chancellor John Hood continues to assert that finance is the university’s “overwhelming priority.”ARCHIVE: 0th week MT 2005