As students at Oxford University, we are told repeatedly by tutors, proctors, and the Chancellor himself that we’re not allowed to do much outside our degree. We cannot do more than eight hours of paid work a week, and extracurricular activities are monitored carefully by colleges, who can revoke your right to do them at any time. Any major positions at the student union or Oxford Union require you to take a year out. And, as we can vouch for, taking on an editorship of a student newspaper isn’t exactly welcomed by teaching staff.
We’ve handed (nearly) all our essays in on time; but Lord Patten has arguably spread himself a bit too thin, taking on another significant appointment at the BBC commanding a salary of £110,000 a year, in addition to holding other remunerated positions listed in the House of Lords’ register of interests.
Despite the fact that Patten’s post at Oxford is largely ceremonial; a catastrophe elsewhere can result in neglect. Given that the BBC is currently facing its biggest crisis in living memory, the call for Patten’s attention and time has suddenly increased. And therefore one can only assume that his level of activity in the administration of the university has flatlined from little to nothing. Oxford deserves a head, even if only a figurehead, who will work for its benefit at all times.
Recent events at the BBC show that those at the top of even seemingly rock-solid establishments can never let their attention slip: the accountability for disturbances under their watch still rests with them. The point isn’t that Patten has taken multiple jobs or that these may present a conflict of interest; it’s the fact that, like the Queen, the Oxford Chancellor doesn’t need to do that much – he just needs to be there.
Grace Goddard and Barbara Speed are Editors of Cherwell, a student newspaper at Oxford University.