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Sunday, 24 September, 2000, 05:16 GMT 06:16 UK
Sinner studies the saints

Aitken moves into his room in Wycliffe Hall
Former Tory Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken has been settling into his new life as a theology student at Oxford University, where he is to study alongside trainee priests.

The disgraced politician, who was jailed for perjury and perverting the course of justice, is living in a modest single room as he embarks on the two-year course.

It's not unusual for people who have undergone a major life change to want a change of tack

University spokeswoman
The Oxford graduate and old Etoniain joins the course with 66 other students, who are predominantly Church of England ordinands training for the priesthood.

Aitken was freed in January after serving seven months of an 18-month sentence and no longer has to wear a curfew tag.

He has been meeting his tutors and working out his study schedule, like other students, in advance of lectures starting on 9 October.

'Knuckling down'

University spokeswoman Helen Carasso said Aitken had "rediscovered the Bible" and enrolled as a private student.

She added: "It's not unusual for people who have undergone a major life change to want a change of tack."

Jonathan Aitken
Aitken chats with students at lunch
Joining some of the undergraduates for a canteen lunch on Friday, Aitken joked: "I'm the only one of them who mastered Greek grammar against the competing sounds of rap music in prison."

The ex-minister said he was planning on knuckling down to his studies.

He said: "I'm very happy here. I was last a freshman 39 years ago. I was happy here before and I know I'm going to be happy again.

"The students have been very welcoming. But I'm going to concentrate on my studies."

Although Aitken is not training for the priesthood, once qualified he could still approach the Church of England about becoming a priest.

Student lodgings

The ex-politician, who graduated in jurisprudence (law) from Christ Church College in 1964, has swapped his five-story Georgian home in London for a basin and a single bed in a cramped room and must share a communal bathroom.

The ex-minister was released in January

But Aitken still owes money in legal costs following the collapse last year of his libel action against the Guardian and Granada TV's World in Action.

He served seven months in jail in after the suit collapsed, having lied on oath that he had himself paid a 1,000 bill at the Paris Ritz Hotel in 1993, which had in fact been settled by a wealthy Arab friend.

It emerged that he had also asked his teenage daughter to lie on oath on his behalf.

The one-time rising star of the Conservative Party has since become a campaigner for penal reform and pursued a writing career to pay off his debts.

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13 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Aitken payment to be investigated
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