Oxford Chancellor Wants University To Be More Like Harvard, Yale





A dinner thrown by the vice-chancellor of Oxford University this week for some of his research stars may at first glance have appeared unremarkable.

But it was a striking example of the attempts by John Hood to sell his vision of how to protect Oxford's future by embracing sweeping reforms. In particular, he wants Oxford to become more like the leading US universities, such as Harvard and Yale, by focusing more on lucrative research.

A dinner thrown by the vice-chancellor of Oxford University this week for some of his research stars may at first glance have appeared unremarkable.

But it was a striking example of the attempts by John Hood to sell his vision of how to protect Oxford's future by embracing sweeping reforms. In particular, he wants Oxford to become more like the leading US universities, such as Harvard and Yale, by focusing more on lucrative research.

Tuesday's dinner was described by academics as the sort of peace offering that needed to be made by the "outsider" from New Zealand after Dr Hood's bruising stand-off with Congregation, the "parliament" of the dons, over his ambitious proposals made soon after he was appointed a year ago. The dons rejected one of his core ideas of introducing corporate style professional assessment systems for academic staff.

Successfully implementing reforms at an ancient university, where power is spread out among colleges, which control more of the institution's wealth than the central administration, is notoriously difficult.

The previous vice-chancellor of Cambridge, Sir Alec Broers, left office after the failure of ambitious reform plans similar to those being pursued by Dr Hood.

At the beginning of next month, Dr Hood will try to persuade another meeting of Congregation to back his corporate governance reforms that would bring in external experts to control the strategy of the university. The proposal, to be discussed by Congregation on November 1, is itself a significant watering down of an early proposal that was savaged in the university's magazine by senior dons.

While the original plans called for a powerful new board of trustees made up of 13 people from outside the institution, the latest plans call for the Council, Oxford's executive body, to be reconstituted to include seven internal members and eight external members, with an external member as chairman. According to Laurence Brockliss, a fellow at Magdalen College and the university's official historian, the task of the vice-chancellor has been made all the harder by the "poisonous" atmosphere created by a clash with the dons in May, which was widely seen as having been mishandled by the vice-chancellor.



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