Educating Oxbridge

Oxford drawing (1731) courtesy of Marc Edwards Oxford and Cambridge Universities continue to top UK rankings for research and academic attainment, yet despite a recent streamlining, both are under strong pressure from the government to make further changes in management structures that until recently had survived almost unchanged for centuries. The universities enjoy considerable self-rule, and individual colleges have autonomy over aspects of teaching and the ability to fund some of their ow

Philip Hunter
Dec 1, 2003
Oxford drawing (1731) courtesy of Marc Edwards

Oxford and Cambridge Universities continue to top UK rankings for research and academic attainment, yet despite a recent streamlining, both are under strong pressure from the government to make further changes in management structures that until recently had survived almost unchanged for centuries. The universities enjoy considerable self-rule, and individual colleges have autonomy over aspects of teaching and the ability to fund some of their own research. Nevertheless, both university communities perceive a threat to their unique collegiate structures.

Parliament committees and treasury officials have criticized both institutions as being too democratic. They say that too much power resides in individual colleges, and that major decisions over university governance are impeded by the need for approval by large "congregations."

University officials at both places have responded with a strong defense of their records. Nevertheless, the government and "Oxbridge" have come to some meeting...