Oxford University response to the recent encampment protest

Copy of the all staff and student email

Dear staff and students,

I am writing to you regarding the encampment outside the Museum of Natural History and the University’s wider approach to the crisis in Gaza.

The conflict in the Middle East is causing unimaginable suffering. From the conversations I have had with many of you, I also know that this is a challenging time for our community.

Whilst I am grateful that protests have been largely peaceful, we have heard directly from some members of the University and the public that they have been feeling fearful or uncomfortable as a result.

At times such as these, we must work together as a community and treat one another with respect and courtesy. As an academic institution, we are committed to freedom of speech and we embrace peaceful protest. However, we do not accept any hostility or intolerance directed at our members. Let us remain compassionate towards one another.

Below, I detail further what we have been doing over the past two terms and address some of the questions raised by protesters. I urge you to read the document in full. I also provide guidance regarding making protests at the University of Oxford. Exam season is, of course, upon us and it is imperative that everyone allows students to prepare for, and take, their exams undisturbed.

I would like to assure you that we are doing our best to manage the situation peacefully and respectfully. Protecting the safety and wellbeing of our community, alongside that of the public, is essential.

We remain committed to the constructive dialogues we have been having regarding our response to events in Gaza.



Irene Tracey


The University expresses grave concern about the horrific events unfolding in Gaza – the human suffering is unimaginable. As a community we hope for a peaceful end to the conflict, a permanent ceasefire, the urgent delivery of vital medical aid and food, and the safe return of all hostages.

As events have unfolded over the past months we have regularly updated our statements and expressed our horror at the Hamas attacks on 7 October 2023 and at the devastation inflicted on Palestinian civilians by the Israeli military response. Our statements have also provided advice, guidance, and support to affected students and staff. The Vice-Chancellor and other members of the leadership team have been in regular touch with all relevant student societies.

Our latest statement and links to the Vice-Chancellor’s staff and student communications can be found online.

Last term a dedicated global crisis resource was created. The information details how the University supports our community when conflicts and different crises impact our community. It references why and how we release statements, how we focus our responses through the University’s academic mission, and outlines the wide range of support resources available to our students and staff.

As an academic institution, our mission is our teaching and research; within that context, we seek to create the conditions in which our members can pursue knowledge and exchange ideas within the law and with civility. Our priority has therefore been to ensure our community has remained tolerant and respectful of difference, and that our students and staff are free from Islamophobia, antisemitism or any form of discrimination. As a community, we are deeply committed to freedom of speech and academic freedom. We encourage our students and staff to express their views freely, including using their right to protest within the boundaries of the law.

Our engagement with students and staff

Senior leaders of the University have been in regular contact with a range of student and staff groups, including representatives of our Muslim, Jewish, Palestinian and Israeli communities. Similar conversations have been taking place within colleges.

These discussions have been highly productive in guiding us in supporting our students and staff, and we remain committed to meeting with members of our community to understand their concerns.

The University is unequivocal in its position that there is no place for antisemitism, Islamophobia, or unlawful discrimination of any kind directed towards any faith, race, nationality or ethnic group at the University of Oxford.

The University has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as a guide to interpreting and understanding antisemitism, noting the clarifications recommended by the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Our harassment policy has been publicised throughout the current conflict, along with additional support available through the Community Security Trust and Tell Mama. We continue to engage with our communities to encourage students and staff to report cases of discrimination and harassment. Further information can be found on our global crises webpage.

The right to protest

We support our students and staff to respectfully share, debate and challenge views and positions on a wide range of issues, and we uphold freedom of speech within the law as set out in our statement on freedom of speech.

We believe that a culture of free, open and robust discussion can be achieved only if all concerned engage critically but courteously with each other. The University does not tolerate any form of harassment or victimisation and expects all members of the University community, its visitors and contractors to treat each other with respect, courtesy and consideration. For details see the University Policy on Harassment. The University is committed to fostering an inclusive culture which promotes equality, values diversity and maintains a working, learning and social environment in which the rights and dignity of all members of the University community are respected (University Equality Policy).

Additional guidance has been published to ensure that student protests can be conducted safely for all members of the University’s community and the public, and to reduce the likelihood of protesters breaching University regulations and becoming subject to disciplinary action.

Further information can also be found in our Code of Practice on Meetings and Events | Compliance (ox.ac.uk).

Support for the Palestinian academic community

There are practical ways in which the University can and will collectively make a positive difference to the Palestinian people within the context of our core mission, as we have discussed over the past two terms with members of the Oxford Palestinian Society.

Recognising the destruction of university education in Gaza, we renewed last term our commitment to CARA Fellowships so that at-risk Palestinian academics will be able to apply to come to Oxford. The University is also a member of CARA’s UK Universities and Research Network which aims to bring together UK higher education and research institutions 'in support of persecuted and at-risk academics, and in the defence of academic and university freedoms worldwide'.

As a University of Sanctuary, we are committed to being a place of welcome for people who have been forcibly displaced around the world and to support students and academics who have been forced to flee conflict or persecution.

The University also has a range of refugee scholarships, including the Refugee Academic Futures scholarship scheme, for which students who are affected are already eligible. In collaboration with some colleges, we are also actively exploring options to fundraise for dedicated Palestinian scholarships.

Across Oxford, a wide range of research and debates are taking place on the conflict and forced displacement, including at the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC), which aims to lead the world in research and education in refugee and forced migration studies, to influence policy and practice, and to help improve the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. This includes the delivery of courses in the region, such as the Palestine Refugees and International Law course delivered in March in Amman.

Our investment policy

Oxford has a clear Investment Policy and as part of this has chosen at various instances to place restrictions on sectors in which it will not hold investments on ethical grounds. This includes direct investment in companies which manufacture arms that are illegal in the UK, and investment in funds which invest primarily in such companies.

The Ethical Investment Representations Review Subcommittee (EIRRS) considers representations concerning ethical or socially responsible investment relating to the University’s Investment Policy and makes recommendations to the Investment Committee. The EIRSS membership includes a sabbatical trustee of Oxford University Student Union.

Financial disclosure

The University is open in publishing and disclosing information on its income, donations, investments, and capital expenditure. This includes disclosures in our annual financial statements, our philanthropy report, and the Oxford Endowment Fund’s own reporting mechanisms. Detailed information can be found via the following links:


The University owns units of the Oxford Endowment Fund (OEF) and does not own shares in companies directly. The OEF is a fund for very long-term charitable investments managed by OUem, the University’s regulated investment manager. The OEF in turn invests in investment groups globally, rather than individual companies.

The University has clear guidelines on investments. On the question of arms, OUem abides by an extensive set of environmental, social and governance (ESG) risk management principles, and has a clear policy on investing in arms; it is compliant with that policy. A very small part of the fund can be invested in the aerospace and sector more broadly, particularly as many global companies supply both civilian and government organisations.

Further information can be found in the the Oxford Endowment Fund 2022 OEF report.

Academic relationships

To uphold the principle of academic freedom – the lifeblood of a university – it is essential that Oxford maintains open communications and professional links with universities everywhere. Oxford aims to deliver an exceptional education, to carry out world-leading research, and to make significant contributions to society on a local, national and global scale. To this end we engage with universities around the world across the full spectrum of our research and scholarly activity, and work in partnership with public, private, voluntary and commercial organisations and our alumni to enhance public engagement and knowledge exchange.

In our interconnected world, and as a global outward-facing institution, maintaining global links with peer institutions is essential for Oxford to effectively deliver its core mission. Our links enable us to support international education and research initiatives and mobility across our staff and student body, facilitate sharing of good practice, and work with peer institutions on topics of mutual interest such as research funding. Our Committee to Review Donations and Research Funding scrutinises such relationships.

Our banking arrangements

The University uses Barclays bank because we have large, complex financial needs, and international reach. Our banking arrangements are kept under review, and we engage with Barclays bank regularly on a range of regulatory and policy issues, including net-zero, biodiversity, renewables and, most recently, the conflict in Gaza.