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Friday, 14 February, 2003, 18:08 GMT
Judge and Commissioner duel for post
Chris Patten and Lord Bingham
Chris Patten and Lord Bingham are vying for the post
One of the UK's top judges and a former governor of Hong Kong are battling it out to become the new Chancellor of Oxford University.

University officials said the election on 14 or 15 March would be a straight contest between Lord Bingham and European Union Commissioner Chris Patten.

On putting his name forward on Tuesday Lord Bingham also declared his support for the government's proposal for top-up fees for universities.

The post, which is unpaid and for life, was made vacant by the death of Lord Jenkins of Hillhead last month.

Oxford University s Balliol College
Lord Bingham and Mr Patten studied at Balliol

Lord Jenkins' former SDP colleague Baroness Shirley Williams had been tipped for the position but ruled herself out of the race because she disagreed with the notion of top-up fees.

Other figures such as former American president Bill Clinton have also been rumoured to be interested in the prestigious post but Lord Bingham and Mr Patten are the only ones to officially declare their interest.

Speaking on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 about his application Lord Bingham said he supported the idea of top-up fees.

He said: "I would certainly prefer that there were top-up fees than that there should be a shortage of money and to slide into mediocrity."

Newcastle Chancellor

Mr Patten, 58, who, like Lord Bingham, was an undergraduate at Balliol College, said: "I would hope to give the post as much time as the University required, particularly once I have stepped down as a European Commissioner next year.

"Oxford is one of the great universities of the world. It would be a privilege to work with others to help preserve and enhance its national and international standing."

Mr Patten has been Chancellor at Newcastle University since October 1999.

Olivia Grant, chairman of the Council at Newcastle University, said: "He has consulted us about his possible candidature at Oxford and we have given him our full support."


Click here to go to Oxford

News and analysis of the government's plans for higher education
See also:

24 Jan 03 | Politics
23 Jan 03 | Education
07 Jan 03 | Education
05 Jan 03 | Politics
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