The Year in Review
A brief overview of some of the highlights of the past year for the University of Oxford
In a university with the range and dynamism of Oxford, it can be difficult to keep track from day to day of all the extraordinary things that are being attempted and accomplished. How much harder, then, to keep track over a whole year? That is where the Annual Review comes in. It provides a flavour of what’s going on in Oxford, from technology which has led to a world first – a donated human liver being ‘kept alive’ outside a human being and then successfully transplanted into a patient – to research on the impact of the extinction of the world’s big beasts 12,000 years ago, which has relevance today for the conservation of elephants in Africa.
This review is also an opportunity to reflect on the contribution of staff, students and alumni. We look at the work of our students in local primary schools, and community outreach by colleagues from the Museum of Natural History. We consider too the contribution our Rhodes Scholars make on leaving the University, and we highlight a report – the first of its kind – which examines the impact of the study of the humanities on the economy, by tracking the career paths of Oxford graduates.
Issues of student funding are seldom far from our minds. The University is as strongly committed as ever to providing the most talented students with the best education – teaching and facilities, study and support – regardless of personal circumstance.
As I remarked in my annual Oration, it seems inevitable that government is going to have to evolve a more sophisticated and variegated approach to the challenges of student funding. Three years ago, Oxford put forward a proposal that a university should be able to vary tuition charges over time to bring them closer to the real cost of the education being provided. It is not a new idea, but it is one whose time will surely come. It will be interesting to see where the debate, now joined, leads in the period ahead.
The University has always been clear that the shortfall in funding for undergraduate education needs to be addressed in a range of ways. Philanthropy, as in so many aspects of the University’s life, has a major role to play. It is why, having passed the original £1.25 billion milestone of our Oxford Thinking fundraising campaign, we have set ourselves a new target of £3 billion.
The generosity of our benefactors remains vital, and we continue to be blessed by contributions like those we highlight in this Annual Review – a £20 million gift from the Li Ka Shing (Canada) Foundation together with a grant of £10 million from the Higher Education Funding Council for England to fund a new Centre for Health Information and Discovery.
A priority for the Campaign is postgraduate funding. Benefactors have already committed more than £21 million to the Oxford Graduate Student Matched Fund to support graduate scholarships, and we have been able to celebrate the magnificent gift of £75 million from the McCall MacBain Foundation to support Rhodes Scholarships.
Beyond funding, we continue to commit resources and energy to two other vitally important challenges: diversifying Oxford and digitising Oxford.
We remain serious about increasing the diversity of our staff and addressing the under-representation of women. Our published equality objectives and Strategic Plan include specific undertakings, and I was delighted to announce a £1 million initiative to promote diversity among academic and research staff. Ethnicity is another key area for attention and action. We are piloting a black and ethnic minority peer-mentoring project to support individual staff development, and have begun work on a recruitment initiative to increase the proportion of black and ethnic minority staff.
On widening access we can reflect the continuing impact of initiatives such as the UNIQ Summer School programme. Here, thanks to the generous support of the Helsington Foundation, promising students from state schools with limited history of successful applications to Oxford are offered a real taste of the University. Of 749 students at UNIQ in 2012, 491 went on to apply to Oxford and 197 have conditional offers – a success rate of 40 per cent, which is double that for Oxford applicants overall.
To close, a thought on digitising Oxford. This is a revolution that affects how we record and store what we do, and is increasingly central to our teaching, study and research. The challenge is to develop IT provision that is efficient, effective and coherent, while respecting the creative diversity and autonomy of the constituent parts of our institution.
Whether funding, diversifying or digitising Oxford, the key lies in being true to the core academic values and standards that have shaped this long history. If we are, we can be a little better prepared to face the world, and the high expectations it rightly has of us.
Professor Andrew Hamilton, FRS
Megafauna - Profile of Dr Chris Doughty
Liver transplant - OrganOx
Big data - The Target Discovery Institute
Humanities impact - The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH)
Course films - Course films playlist in You Tube
Rhodes scholars - The Rhodes Trust website
Museums - University Museum of Natural History
The Campaign - The Campaign website
Oxford in schools - The Oxford Education Deanery
Financial review - www.ox.ac.uk/financial_statements