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Oxford University Archives

A history of Congregation and Convocation

6. The Franks Commission

The recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry (Franks Commission), which reported in 1966, made significant changes to this structure.

The Franks Report redefined the position of Hebdomadal Council as the chief administrative body of the University. Council had, over the years, become the pre-eminent administrative body of the University. Although not a body capable of decisions itself (only to discuss and formulate legislative proposals to be placed before Congregation) it had assumed leadership and initiative in matters of policy. The report of the Commission acknowledged that despite not being a governing council whose decisions were effective, Hebdomadal Council had become the chief administrative body of the University, responsible for the formulation and co-ordination of University policy. It was answerable to Congregation, but not all matters were actually put to Congregation. It proposed that Congregation should elect members of Council and the other main administrative bodies; make, amend or repeal statutes; debate resolutions submitted by Council and the floor; ask questions; and resolve disputes between major bodies in the administration. It was also to elect 18 members of Hebdomadal Council in order to give it some influence on that body.

The Commission was anxious to 'save Congregation from going the way in which Convocation has gone in the last century'. Its recommendations were designed to define the areas in which Congregation was 'competent to speak', ie to deal with essential rather than with trivial and routine matters. It was believed that this 'would mean a resurgence of the power of Congregation' (Report of the Commission of Inquiry vol I, pg 535).

The Commission effectively removed from Convocation the last vestige of its ancient powers and significance. Convocation was deprived of all jurisdiction over statutes and of its power to confer honorary degrees and degrees by diploma. Decisions regarding the latter were now to take place in Congregation, conferred by a 'Special Act of Congregation'. Despite opposition from some members of the University to this drastic reduction in Convocation's functions, the recommendations of the Report were enacted as it was felt that (as the Asquith Commission had thought) responsibility for governing the University should rest with those who would have to live with the results of the decisions. Convocation's powers were now limited to the election of the Chancellor, the election of the Professor of Poetry, and the performance of such other duties as Congregation might decide.



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