The Thatcher Reckoning: A Decades-Long Academic Standoff

The Thatcher Reckoning: A Decades-Long Academic Standoff

The Thatcher Reckoning: A Decades-Long Academic Standoff. Image: David Fowler /

It’s a story that unfolds over nearly three decades, a tale of a notable alumna and the renowned Oxford University.

Nearly 30 years after Oxford University dons rebuffed the idea of bestowing an honorary degree upon the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, after her death a shift in sentiment emerged from the heart of the academic institution.

As a young Margaret Roberts, she walked out of Somerville College’s halls in 1947, clutching a second-class honours degree in chemistry.

However, the relationship between Margaret Thatcher and her former college underwent a dramatic transformation during her tenure as the Education Minister under Edward Heath.

In 1985, a decision was made by the Central University who voted to deny her an honorary degree.

This decision came in stark protest against her policies, which included substantial cuts in education funding.

In doing so, they made her the first Oxford-educated Prime Minister since World War II to be refused this prestigious honour.

The 1985 decision wasn’t taken lightly.

Academics gathered and voted, with 738 against and 319 in favour of conferring the degree, a direct response to the passionate advocacy of students who presented a 5,000-signature petition.

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Written by

Anna Ellis

Originally from Derbyshire, Anna has lived in the middle of nowhere on the Costa Blanca for 19 years. She is passionate about her animal family including four dogs and four horses, musicals and cooking.