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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 June, 2003, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Patten calls for 'business-like' Oxford
Chris Patten
Chris Patten said Oxford had to compete with US rivals

Chris Patten has warned of tougher challenges ahead for Oxford University during his swearing-in ceremony as chancellor.

The European commissioner told dons gathered in the 17th-century Sheldonian Theatre that universities were getting more interference from the government but less money.

He said Oxford had to be run in a "business-like way" to compete with the "weapons of mass attraction" of richer US universities.

The former Conservative Party chairman and Hong Hong governor said the university was vulnerable to "natural selection" in a culture that found it "difficult to distinguish between value and price".

'No God-given right'

The challenges now were even greater than in 1987, when his predecessor, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, who died in January, had been inaugurated.

Mr Patten, who will hold the post for life, added: "This university, much the best known in the world, has no god-given right, immune to accountability or criticism, to be revered as a national treasure and an asset beyond quantification."

He added that universities had suffered from two decades of "public parsimony" and greater government red-tape.

Britain had become "institutionally illiberal" and "much worse governed as a result".

Mr Patten was named chancellor of Oxford in March after a vote involving more than 8,000 graduates and academics..

In the final round of counting, he received 4,203 votes, 1,720 more than his nearest rival, senior judge Lord Bingham.

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