Blavatnik School of Government opens for study

Europe’s first major school of government, founded thanks to a £75m donation, welcomes 39 scholars from 17 countries

Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government welcomes its first ever class of future leaders today, marking the historic beginning of Europe’s first major school of government.

Coming from 17 different countries, from Afghanistan to Yemen, the group of exceptional scholars will pursue a one-year Master’s in Public Policy with a uniquely international and interdisciplinary approach, drawing on Oxford University’s strengths in science, medicine, the humanities, economics and politics.

The Blavatnik School of Government was founded thanks to a £75m donation from US industrialist Len Blavatnik, one of the biggest gifts in Oxford University’s history.

The first group of scholars is diverse, covering doctors and journalists as well as those who have worked in government, law and development. All share exceptional academic ability and the ambition and ability to influence public policy in their own fields.

The School’s aim is to develop the world’s future leaders in both the private and public sectors. Its students will address complex global problems in new and practical ways, drawing on the talents of top teachers, researchers and practitioners from across the world. In their first week, students will be taught by South African politician Trevor Manuel, UK shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, and former UK Cabinet Secretary Lord Gus O'Donnell.

Professor Ngaire Woods, Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government, said: 'We are excited see a diverse and exceptional group of scholars in the first class of our Master of Public Policy. To pursue the course, many are breaking from established careers in aid, medicine, engineering and journalism as well as government and international institutions. Over the next year, we will provide our students with the skills and knowledge to be exemplary and effective leaders – whatever their policy focus and wherever they work.'

Douglas Alexander, who will teach a class in the students’ first week, said: 'Today's leaders confront an unprecedented series of global challenges. The integration of economies and communications across so many nations are generating both new challenges for policy makers and new opportunities. Leaders of tomorrow, from all countries, will need to be able to draw on a global perspective and harness diverse approaches if they are to be equal to the many policy problems they will confront. The class of 2012 students at the Blavatnik School of Government have a great opportunity to develop exactly those skills.'

The range of experience brought to the School by the first group of students covers international development firms; governments; UN programmes; law; banking; consultancy and much more. One student has provided legal advice for death row inmates in Louisiana; one is a former London banker who is interested in how the public and private sector can work together for the general good; another has worked as Programme Coordinator with UNESCO in Afghanistan; another had advised one of South Africa’s provincial governments on HIV/AIDS service implementation; another is a youth politics leader in Yemen; another helped establish a government anti-corruption council in Kosovo.