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Oxford University changes electoral process for new Chancellor

The University of Oxford has announced changes to the regulations governing how the next Chancellor will be elected. A new Chancellor’s Election Committee, consisting of a few internal University representatives, will decide which candidates can be eligible for election. 

In previous elections, such as the one in 2003, which saw Lord Christopher Patten elected Chancellor, any individual could run for election, as long as they were nominated by at least 50 members of the Convocation. The Convocation consists of “all the former student members of the University” and so the eligibility requirements were straightforward. 

Regulations that take effect on 5 April 2024 will introduce a new step into the electoral process: there will be a new committee, with final say in which individuals can stand as candidates. The Chancellor’s Election Committee will be composed of the High Steward, the Vice-Chancellor, and several other “representatives from across the collegiate University and its council.” 

The Committee’s power to “determine which candidates are eligible” will give them the final say since they can block any candidates they view as unsuitable or even reopen nominations. If the Committee determines that only one candidate is suitable, they can become Chancellor without requiring a further election. In a situation where candidates receive an equal number of votes, the Committee has the sole responsibility of deciding between them. 

It is unclear how this Committee will function and how these decisions will be reached. The University told Cherwell: “eligibility for the role [of Chancellor] will first be checked by the Chancellor’s Election Committee against criteria agreed by the Council.” These criteria have not been specified and while the Committee will “have due regard to the principles of equality and diversity”, it is unclear how this will be achieved. 

This change to the election process follows the shift of voting from in-person in the Sheldonian Theatre to an online system. However, Oxford University told Cherwell that further details and announcements about the election “will be made in due course.” 

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