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New dean of Christ Church Oxford should be head of the cathedral only, says review

by Premier Journalist

An independent governance review of an Oxford college has concluded that the dean of Christ Church cathedral should no longer hold authority over the college itself.

Former Conservative MP and Attorney General Dominic Grieve KC conducted the review, which proposes that the college's governing body should have the ability to select a preferred non-clergy member as the head of the institution.

Grieve also recommends that the head of the college be appointed for a renewable fixed term, supported by a written contract that outlines their role and expectations in broad terms.

The review was initiated due to a prolonged dispute between the college's former dean, Martyn Percy, and the governing body regarding allegations of sexual harassment.

The case concluded in late 2022 with a settlement involving a financial payment to the former dean. The Charity Commission criticised the college for spending over £6.6 million on legal and public relations fees during the dispute.

Grieve's review proposes "significant" reforms to the college's governance body to prevent a recurrence of the "unmanageable, costly, and damaging disagreements" that have plagued recent years.

He said: "My review today sets out changes that Christ Church can make to ensure its structures meet the demands of modern standards of governance.

"My recommendations are substantial and would represent the first fundamental changes to its governance structure since 1867.

"In the course of this review it has become clear to me both that significant reform is necessary at Christ Church, and that it would be widely welcomed."

Dean designate of Christ Church, Sarah Foot said the governing body would consider Grieve’s recommendations.

"This vital process will lay firm foundations for the future as we approach the 500th anniversary of Christ Church's foundation," she said.

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