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Former tutor joins Willetts critics


Pressure is building on Universities Minister David Willetts

Pressure is building on Universities Minister David Willetts

Pressure is building on Universities Minister David Willetts

Oxbridge dons attempting to force the resignation of Universities Minister David Willetts have been given a show of support from the politician's former economics tutor.

Academics from both Oxford and Cambridge are calling for votes of no-confidence in Mr Willetts amid concerns about the impact of the Government's higher education reforms that will see a substantial hike in tuition fees.

Peter Oppenheimer, an emeritus professor at Christ Church, Oxford, who taught the beleaguered minister in the mid-1970s, aligned himself with them, admitting the minister is "no politician".

He told The Observer: "I have no confidence in him, absolutely. He was a highly intelligent and thoughtful person, very able - but no politician."

Mr Oppenheimer who was seconded from his college in the 1980s to be chief economist to oil giant Shell, said he believed his former pupil had been a victim of the coalition agreement with the Liberal Democrats.

"I have no confidence in him because I think it is tragic that higher education policy should be made on the basis of those considerations," he said. "He is not a man to fight for ideological rigidity. Academically it is admirable but as a policymaker it is a bit sad - it is not worthy of him."

Around 130 Cambridge dons last week signed a motion of no-confidence in Mr Willetts that was submitted to the elite university's council. A decision on whether to take it forward is due next month. Oxford academics have also tabled their own no-confidence motion, which will be debated at a meeting of the university's congregation on Tuesday.

If passed, it would be the first vote of no-confidence for any university in England and comes as Mr Willetts is set to unveil his delayed white paper on the higher education.

Staff and students at Oxford have also launched a campaign for a nationwide vote against Mr Willetts and his policies.

The campaign group's website warns that the Government's higher education policy is "financially chaotic and unsustainable" and claims the swingeing budget cuts to teaching grants will leave institutions "systematically under-funded even with higher fees".

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