Image Credit: Ananya Navale

University drops plans to screen new chancellor candidates

Oxford University dropped plans to pre-screen candidates by an internal committee and made several changes to the election rules of the chancellorship. 

The new version makes clear that the committee will put forward all candidates for election unless the candidates are a student, an employee of the University, and a serving member or a declared candidate for election to, an elected legislature.

The original version of the rules stated that a chancellor’s election committee, made up of senior university staff, can determine which candidates are eligible to progress according to principles of equality and diversity. 

The committee will no longer oversee the election process and will play no substantive role in the selection of a Chancellor. It will be responsible for “establishing the election timeline,” “advertising the role,” and “establishing the information to be provided by candidates.” 

The University deleted a rule that the Chancellor’s Election Committee would have “due regard to the principles of equality and diversity” when deciding who should go forward to a vote of all graduates. 

The University told The Oxford Student that it will still comply with the equality and diversity legislations and will not discriminate against any candidate.

The Chancellor also cannot be disqualified or subject to disqualification by the Charity Commission and must be a “fit and proper person” as determined by guidance published by His Majesty’s Revenue & Customs.

This comes after senior government officials criticised the University for trying to “stitch up” the process to prevent another white male politician from assuming the role of chancellorship.

Following the current chancellor, Lord Christopher Patten’s announcement of his plan to retire in February, the University announced a new nomination process in March which requires potential candidates to receive approval from a panel of selected University representatives. 

In previous elections, any individual could run for election, as long as they were nominated by at least 50 members of the Convocation.

Critics claimed it was a “woke” attempt by the University to elect a more “modern” candidate as chancellor, a role that male politicians have predominately taken up.

These comments include Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, a Lincoln College PPE graduate warning that this new electoral process was “divisive,” and the former Secretary of State, Neil O’Brien stating: “The university seems intent on imposing an eastern [European] bloc-style ‘managed democracy’.

A University spokesperson stated that the rule change is a clarification of the role of the election committee.

“Through the proposed amendment to the regulations, the University Council’s intent is to remove any ambiguity and reinforce the intent of the original regulation that the election committee will have no role in the vetting or selection of any nominations for Chancellor. Our requirement to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty remains unchanged.”

Image Credit: Ananya Navale

Image Description: Radcliffe Camera building