At a meeting this afternoon, representatives of Oxford University’s academic body have expressed their lack of confidence in universities minister David Willetts. Tne much trailed motion – which could cause a domino effect of similar motions throughout the country, passed almost unanimously, with 283 voting for and only 5 voting against.
Student Union President David Barclay gave a speech on behalf in which he argued that “the marketised core of the Government’s plans is rotten, and will turn our successors into those who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
Meanwhile, Professor of English David Norbrook spoke of the way “independence of thought is being eroded in the current trends in educational management”, arguing that academics had been forced to speak “a language that we all know doesn’t honestly represent what we do and what we believe in but which we speak because it’s the price of funding.”
After the debate Professor of Modern History Robert Gildea said he felt proud to have been a part of the “new unity of students and academics in opposition to the governments plans”, which he said marked “a whole new phase in the national debate on higher education.” David Barclay said the message of the debate had come across “loud and clear” that “the Government’s plans to introduce a market in Universities have no support from the people it will affect on the ground. As the government brings its NHS listening exercise to a close they need to open a new one immediately on Higher Education.”
There was also some speculation that Oxford’s chancellor – and Tory Party grandee – had failed to vote, despite being able to do so. He is not believed to have been one of the 5 academics who backed Willetts.