Tapper and Palfreyman on Oxford College Governance
2 February 2001 (collegiateway.org) — I’ve just begun reading a fascinating new book that I’d like to recommend: Oxford and the Decline of the Collegiate Tradition by Ted Tapper and David Palfreyman (London and Portland, Oregon: Woburn Press, 2000). Though the title sounds discouraging, the book as a whole really isn’t, at least from an American point of view. Palfreyman is a Fellow of New College, Oxford, and one of the subjects that the volume discusses in detail is the survival of the Oxford colleges as legally independent corporations, something that none of the residential colleges in the United States have ever been. (Some of the residential colleges found in other Commonwealth countries do have Oxbridge-style independence, however.)
I haven’t finished the book yet, but it is full of rich internal detail about the administrative operation of the Oxbridge colleges. The “worst case scenario” they describe seems to me rather close to the situation that already exists in most large American universities, and their criticism of “managerialism” and the bureaucratic desire for efficiency at the expense of education is right on target. So perhaps if the collegiate idea is on the rise in the United States it can give some encouragement back to its place of origin. The book is available from Amazon.com by way of the Collegiate Way’s recommended reading page.