OXFORD University academics are challenging rules that would force them to retire at the age of 67.

Debates over the retirement age have been described as a battle between ‘old white men... hanging on limpet-like to space and resource’ and ‘talented young scholars’ trying to get their first job, the Times Higher Education magazine said.

It reported academics put forward a challenge to Oxford’s ‘employer-justified retirement age’, introduced in 2011 after legislation was brought in scrapping the national default retirement age.

A review has recommended the rule be retained and the retirement age be raised to 68, but a number of academics are appealing against this.

A motion to scrap the rule was debated by Congregation - the university’s parliament – on May 16, but was rejected. Campaigners have now triggered a last-ditch postal vote of its 5,000 members.

But Bill Allan, a tutorial fellow in classics at University College, described those nearing retirement age as ‘perhaps the most privileged generation ever in British academia’. He added: “How can you look your young post-docs and doctoral students in the eye, when by clinging to your post you are denying them an opportunity that could be a lifeline?”

Paul Ewart, 68, a physics professor at Oxford’s Clarendon Laboratory, said: “There is an underlying ageism that says you are over the hill at 67 or 68 when some people are very active at this age.”