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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 14:48 GMT
Fees pledge for chancellor candidates
Oxford students
Oxford students want their new chancellor to support their campaign against increased fees

Students at Oxford University are demanding that candidates for chancellor sign up to an anti-fees pledge.

The students' union has drawn up a statement opposing the proposed increase in tuition fees for candidates to sign - as proof of their "solidarity with the students of the university".

There are so far two candidates for the post of ceremonial figurehead for the university, which will be decided by a ballot of graduates next month.

There has also been speculation about former United States president, Bill Clinton, entering the race before next Tuesday's closing date for candidates.

And the students' union is warning that signing or not signing its statement will influence whether candidates receive its endorsement - although undergraduates will not be voting in the election.

The statement says that the "proposed funding system will increase student debt, thus reducing access to higher education even more than the current system".

And it requires the signatory to promise to "push the government for a return to a higher education system properly funded through the welfare state".

The statement also includes a commitment to equal opportunities and academic freedom.

In the race

One of the candidates, Lord Bingham, has already declared his support for top-up fees.

The only other candidate so far is European Union Commissioner Chris Patten.

Baroness Shirley Williams had been suggested as a possible candidate, but had ruled herself out of the race because she disagreed with the plans for top-up fees.

"I simply could not argue two things at once - one for the university as chancellor and one in the capacity of believing that this new higher education proposal is profoundly wrong," she said.





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