Education & Family

Boris Johnson calls for a Thatcher college at Oxford

Boris Johnson
Image caption Boris Johnson also studied at Oxford University

Boris Johnson says Oxford University should set up a college in honour of Margaret Thatcher to make up for not awarding her an honorary doctorate.

In 1985, Oxford academics refused the honour to the former prime minister in protest at her education policies.

But the London Mayor said by giving universities the freedom to charge overseas students, she had changed the way higher education was funded.

The university said there were no plans to establish any new colleges.

Speaking at the Global Universities Summit, Mr Johnson, also an Oxford graduate, recalled the university's snub, which meant Baroness Thatcher was the first post-war prime minister educated at Oxford to be denied this honour.

Mr Johnson said: "They had decided, unprecedentedly, not to give her a doctorate even though she was an Oxford prime minister, an alumna of that university and the first female prime minister of this country."

He claimed the reason was because "she had changed the law so that it was possible for higher education institutions to charge international students for a contribution for their studies".

Describing the benefits of that change in London, Mr Johnson said: "In the last year alone, non-EU students have made a contribution of £870m in tuition fees to this city alone, to say nothing of their contribution to the wider economy, now estimated at about £8bn."

Baroness Thatcher's college, Somerville, is planning a major fund-raising campaign to establish Thatcher scholarships, but Mr Johnson called on the university to bestow a higher honour.

He added: "I'm still waiting for the Oxford dons to accept the gravity of their error and, in the spirit of magnanimity, to award Baroness Thatcher not only a posthumous doctorate, but why not endow a college?

"Why not have a college in honour of their greatest post-war benefactress as they rake in the doubloons from international student fees?

"How about that? I think she deserves no less because it was thanks to that reform that universities in this city and in this country have been able to invest in research, in all the benefits universities bring to our economy."

A spokeswoman for the university said: "There are no current plans to establish any new colleges at the university.

"Somerville College, where Lady Thatcher was a student, has recently announced that it is to establish the Margaret Thatcher Scholarships in her honour.

"It is intended that this college-based scheme will award scholarships to outstanding undergraduate and postgraduate students who might otherwise be prevented from taking up a place at Somerville College for financial reasons."

More on this story