Principal's Blog: Fresher's Week

IMG-20151003-WA001Our new Principal, John Bowers, shares more thoughts on the first few weeks of his time at the College:

5 October: academic work first

On the Monday of fresher's week I gave two talks to freshers, at 4pm to the new graduates, at 5pm to the undergrads. The Dining Hall was completely packed for the latter. I gave different speeches for the different audiences, but with the same general themes running through them: put academic work first, expand your horizons, respect diversity. We should learn from our past but not be beholden to it; you are our future, quoth I. The main college officers also spoke. The Chaplain gave a rousing talk about welfare; he emphasised that every person regardless of faith was welcome to share matters confidentially. The Junior and Graduate Common Room Presidents stressed the family (and happy) atmosphere here. Sos Eltis, our new Vice Principal and Simon Smith Senior Tutor emphasised that this College is what you want it to be.

It was great to see the freshers so excited to be starting here. It made up for a damp, dank Oxford day. The various Common Room reps had done a wonderful job of welcoming everyone. I must admit that I had not realised quite how international the student body was. At graduate drinks later, I met a student who had just left Damascus, several from the Indian sub-continent, many Germans and South Africans, others from as far afield as Indonesia and Mexico. Many had just arrived a couple of days ago in the UK, for the first time.

6 October: Latin verse

I attended Convocation on Tuesday to hear a 45 minute impassioned oration by the outgoing University Vice Chancellor Andrew Hamilton who is soon taking up a similar job at New York University. I sat next to the new Principal of Jesus College who is at the forefront of internet research. Prof Hamilton used most of his address to talk of cutting edge pioneering world class research which is happening here. It was thus a great mystery to me that the session opened and ended with a paragraph of Latin. That is Oxford! Andrew Hamilton also gave a rousing call for the Government to relax the quotas on student visas.

In the evening we had our undergraduate Freshers Dinner. It was too big for everyone to fit into Hall. so the throng overflowed into the Medieval Kitchen area (which acts as a smaller extra dining room). It was a great occasion with students sitting in subject groups and a large number of Tutors attending.

7 October: In memoriam

I went to London to attend the memorial service in Lincolns Inn for Sir Edward Eveleigh an Honorary Fellow of Brasenose and a Court of Appeal judge, before whom I appeared many times (usually unsuccessfully). He was a wonderful urbane gentleman.

8 October: Grad Dinner

My last main Freshers Week speech (phew!) was at the Graduate Freshers Dinner. What an extraordinary range of talents were represented there. More than I had imagined had worked in industry or professions and were returning to do MBAs at the Said Business School. As usual the food was superb and there was a lively atmosphere. Elspeth Garman the Tutor for Graduates also spoke and stressed how dangerous Oxford’s roads were for cyclists. I saw her afterwards cycling home, well kitted out. Here are a few incidents from 2013-14: bicycle accident (knocked off bike by car at roundabout); student wore cycling helmet & but not high-visibility jacket, cycle had lights; student injured hand in road traffic accident (knocked off bicycle by car); student wore cycling helmet but not high-visibility jacket, cycle had lights. This is a serious issue.


It is not a scientific analysis by any means but I think there are more happy faces in Oxford than London.

Read more about Principal Bowers.

The photo shows John and his family outside the Principal's lodgings.

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