Oxford vote of no confidence in Willetts

07 Jun 2011

This afternoon, Oxford Academics supported a motion of no confidence in the Universities Minister, David Willetts. The result was 283 for, 5 against.

The vote is part of an attempted nationwide protest campaign started by academics and students at Oxford who are campaigning against higher education policy in general and in particular against the cutting of the HEFCE teaching grant as part of the introduction of the higher fees ceiling. More at: www.noconfidence.org.uk/

A similar move to stage a debate has been initiated by 130 academics at Cambridge and on-line petitions have been started at Warwick and Goldsmiths.

Labour's spokesman on universities, Gareth Thomas,has described the vote as 'devastating and unprecedented'.

However, as has been noted, the numbers voting at Oxford represent only a tiny minority of the 4,500 membership of the Oxford Congregation. However, it is rare for the majority to vote.

Personally, while I quite understand the strength of feeling, I do wonder whether any replacement for Mr. Willetts  from within this government would be any improvement - he has a good understanding of higher education, a genuine commitment to liberal ideas of learning and university independence, and is likely to be a buffer against the wilder ideas inside his Party.

 On the other hand, a vote of no confidence from academics and students might just help bolster his position against right-wing critics or a reshuffle.

 Students Vote with Feet

Meanwhile some students are voting with their feet against tuition fee levels in England.

The University of Maastricht in the Netherlands has seen a sharp rise in applications from the UK. Maastricht offers courses taught in English and fees of just £1,526 a year, plus the opportunity to claim grants and loans.

The latest figures from Maastricht’s admissions office show - that with applications still open until August -  376 British students have applied for places, of which 271 are for undergraduate courses.  Last year
the university took 106 undergraduates, up from just 64 in 2009.


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