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Oxford lines up hopefuls

Oxford University could follow Cambridge's lead and appoint its first female vice-chancellor.

As the nominating committee narrows down candidates, Sandra Dawson, director of the Judge Institute of Management at Cambridge, KPMG professor of management studies and master of Sidney Sussex College, is emerging as a frontrunner.

The committee has made it clear that it will look at a wide range of candidates, including those with strong business links.

The committee is chaired by Sir Victor Blank, chairman of the Trinity Mirror newspaper group and a member of the university council. It is keen to avoid leaks and candidates are being interviewed off-site.

Another name in circulation at Oxford is that of Sir John Krebs, chairman of the Food Standards Agency and Royal Society research professor at Oxford. Sir John is understood to have been runner-up in the Cambridge race.

John Bell, Nuffield professor of clinical medicine and regius professor of medicine at Oxford, is also a much-touted name. Professor Bell is non-executive director of a number of companies, a successful entrepreneur and a fundraiser for the university.

But many in Oxford believe that the vice-chancellorship will go to an outsider.

"The rumour mill has it that the nominating committee are trawling the provost levels of the Ivy League universities in the US - that is where Cambridge's new vice-chancellor Alison Richard came from," said one insider.

Mamphela Ramphele, managing director of the World Bank and former vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town, is an outsider whose name has been frequently mentioned.

Dr Ramphele is a key figure in the Black Consciousness movement and was Steve Biko's partner. She would certainly help Oxford escape its Brideshead Revisited image. But it is understood that her real commitment is to Africa - not Oxford.

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