Oxford: Magdalen College
Every College has a 'Visitor' (ours is still the Bishop of Winchester) who administers the oath of office to each successive President and to whom we can refer disputes as to the correct interpretation of our statutes, should there be any conflict of view. We have not had to do this for thirty years (since, in fact, there was an issue connected with the procedure for starting to admit women as students).
But the colleges are also significant property owners, mainly in farmland and urban property. My own College now operates the Oxford Science Park, a flourishing venture which helps in the development of intellectual property (Oxford now launches a 'spin-out' company on average once a month). Colleges also administer ancient 'livings' i.e. they appoint the incumbents to parishes all over the country, parishes with which they have some historic association, still a very interesting, outward-looking, and social useful way of helping country communities. One College owns a small public concert hall, another the local theatre, my own owns the ancient Botanic Garden.
The point is that every college, by reason of the responsibilities held by the Fellows, is anxious to do the best for itself, to compete successfully with its neighbours and to cooperate successfully in operating the affairs of a major world university. Our admissions are meticulously carried out - in the teeth of endless sniping from our
Government-- and admission is entirely on merit. The whole administrative system of the college is a traditional one, with many modern accretions and reforms, but it is a very satisfyingly democratic one. Salaries are low and held within a very narrow band, but all of us take on the many responsibilities entailed in running our economic as well as academic life - otherwise we would not have the resources to carry on. It turns out not to be true that academics are poor at business or management; many are extremely good at it and the survival of Oxford for nearly a thousand years is proof of it.
Contrary to what members of our own Government sometimes say, Oxford is flourishing as a community of colleges and as a University. It is expanding at an unprecedented rate. The quantity of new building, not to mention new subjects and courses, is impressive to all who come and look. There have been periods in Oxford history when things have gone slowly or even backwards, but this is distinctly not one of them.
RH: Stanford in Oxford is housed in buildings owned by Magdalen.
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