Principal's Blog: Mid February

blogBowerscrop1Principal’s Conversation with David Goodhart and James Fergusson - 7 February:
Leading journalists and authors David Goodhart and Brasenose alumnus, James Fergusson took part in a brilliant Principal’s Conversation. It was mainly centred around their respective books The Road to Somewhere which focusses on explaining the rise of populism and Al Britannia, My Country; a Journey Through Muslim Britain. James has had a long involvement with Afghanistan and the Taliban, which began when he was a reporter there in the mid-1990s. By coincidence his first book, Kandahar Cockney was born in part out of an article he wrote for Prospect magazine around then which was commissioned by one David Goodhart!

I first met David Goodhart when he was Labour Editor of the Financial Times, and kept in touch with him when he set up Prospect magazine which was the first monthly political affairs magazine of its kind in the UK. He now works with Policy Exchange but is best known for his recent books including The British Dream which seeks to explain what is going on with Brexit, Trump populism etc.

The Conversation proceeded with some lively exchanges. David suggested that James had given too much credence to extreme Islamic groups who might claim that they were peaceful and moderate but in reality were not. David explained his distinction between Somewhere people who were rooted in particular places and tended to be socially conservative and voting for Brexit whereas Anywhere folk were not shackled to a particular place and set more store on globalism. David accepted that this as not a wholly binary distinction and that there were some “In betweeners” who straddled both camps. In general the Brexit vote could be seen as a revolt by the Somewheres against the Anywheres. He stressed the role of the residential university in the UK in talking Somewhere away and making them Anywheres; in Germany instead of going far away to a faraway place of learning, students would tend to go locally fort their tertiary education. This was generally not true in the UK.

James emphasised that 5% of the UK population were Muslims and amongst the young between 8 and 10%. He found most of the people he met across the country to be pleased with their position in the UK. He met very few extremists.

Music - 2 February:
For the Hilary (spring) Term Platnauer Concert we welcomed virtuoso violinist Ziyu He and pianist Nicola Eimer in a spectacular performance including works by Bach, Mozart, Sarasota and Wieniawski. Ziyu has won many of the world's major violin competitions (including the Junior Menuhin) and has performed with some of the greatest orchestras. He was born in China but now lives in Salzburg. He had a very mature approach for an 18 year old and was a delightful guest. He put in a stunning performance which held everyone spellbound. As it happened I lived few doors away from where Nicola Eimer his pianist accompanist grew up. Ziyu came to us through the good offices of Duncan Greenland one of our alumni who is chair of the Menuhin Violin Competition.

It shows how well supported music is here that most of the chapel and all of Antechapel were packed for the concert. Few will forget it.

Sarah Hughes Organ Recital - 7 February:
After a busy day what better way to unwind than to listen to our Senior Organ Scholar Sarah Hughes give an “Organ Recital by Candlelight” in Chapel. She played a variety of works by Bach, Karg-Elewrt, Boellmann, and Brahms brilliantly.

Student support:
I wonder whether readers are aware quite how much we as a College spend on student support in one form or another. Thanks in no small measure to the generosity of the College’s alumni, the figures are very large: about £729000 is spent on students generally whilst the graduate component of the budget is about £318762. These sums have increased from £454512 and £189900 respectively in the 2011-2 budget. Clubs and societies have £80690 earmarked to them. This is separate from subsidies for vacation residence and for food too.

We regularly hold Blurbs where a tutor and post-graduate member are paired to talk about the same topic. On 8 February Harley Katz, who is a Kurti fellow spoke on “Building Gargantua: The Origins of the Biggest Black Holes in our Universe” along with post-graduate Anita Nandi.

I was pleased to see the result in favour of the University in the case brought by Faiz Saddiqui a Brasenose student who claimed he should have gained a first. The 67 page judgment strongly vindicates the University’s defence in general and the evidence of two Brasenose witnesses in particular. Mr Justice Foskett concluded at the end of it that “there must be a better way of dealing with this kind of  issue if it cannot be resolved by the individual concerned simply accepting what has  happened and finding a positive way forward.”

The Somerset Dinner took place on 1 February. This is an opportunity for Fellows and partners to meet each other in a very relaxed surrounding. It is good to see many emeriti fellows attend too.

I remind readers that we always encourage alumni to send the Brasenose Library copies of their publications. There is a section in the Library which contains books by Brasenose Authors including two by yours truly.

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