Government relations | University of Oxford
Former VC and David Cameron
Former VC and David Cameron
The former Vice-Chancellor and the Prime Minister at the launch of The Li Ka Shing Centre. Credit: David Fisher

Government relations

We cannot take for granted that politicians, or those who influence the opinions of politicians, appreciate – or are even aware of – the range of Oxford’s research endeavour. So there is real value in our simply showing and telling them what we do.

While politicians and their advisers have a particular interest in university research that makes a contribution to wider society – socially, economically, culturally – or, that provides a solution to a modern-day problem, there is no reason not to tell them about other research with no obvious short-term or immediate impact on society. If it is new and ground breaking, it is of potential interest to politicians.

There are a number of ways in which you can present your research to politicians:

  • Feature your research in a University publication (e.g. Oxford Today) or online
  • Host a meeting, a talk or an event in the UK or European Parliament (in Westminster, you might be able to present your research to a relevant All Party Group, front bench team or backbench departmental committee, or you could form the basis of evidence in a select committee inquiry)
  • Invite politicians to visit your department or faculty
  • Consider the media: news and politics are so intertwined that if you find an obstacle in getting your message to politicians you can take your case to them via the newspapers or online material they read, the radio they listen to or the programmes they watch.

You might also want to consider the potential benefits of promoting your research through activities that come under the umbrella of public and community engagement – see Top tips for public and community engagement.

You can always hold an event in Parliament, and invite MPs along; but the chances are that your event is disrupted by alternative calls on their time (committee meetings; internal group meetings, constituency obligations, chamber time, all of which they will prioritise above you). A more efficient way of ensuring that your research is brought to their attention, and referenced in their speeches, is to target their researchers.

I confess I never really thought of contacting Oxford researchers on this area before; I had been going to Imperial and the LSE, because I knew people there

MP’s researcher after the ONE event

Events that have worked well like this have been our researchers’ coffee mornings; where a particular research area meets with researchers for MPs who have an interest in that area. The last one of these that was done was with the ONE (Oxford Network for the Environment) and researchers for MPs who had a keen interest in the environment. Doing these on a Friday morning, when the Commons does not normally sit, means that MPs’ researchers have plenty of time to meet and chat and get to know you. Experience has shown that these are much better attended, with higher quality interactions than traditional MPs’ events.

Public affairs campaigning

Took place on 15 February 2012

Richard Jarman, then Head of Government and Community Relations, discussed how to influence decisions either locally or in Whitehall and Westminster: from gaining the understanding and support of local councillors for a planning application to getting your messages heard by government ministers and parliamentarians. 

Head of Government and Community Relations
Margaret Ounsley 
Tel: 01865 280673, email: margaret.ounsley@admin.ox.ac.uk