Principal's Blog: Mid-September

blogBowerscrop1The end and start of the Academic Year:
I welcome back everyone after a wonderful summer (although I know many of our staff have been busy over this period and never got away). Last term ended formally with the magnificent procession to Encaenia which was unexpectedly graced by the presence of pop star Katy Perry as the guest of one of my fellow Heads of House! This term formally starts with Congregation. It was also wonderful to preside at our main College graduation day at the end of July. Over 70 students graduated in glorious sunshine. I always enjoy meeting the relatives of our graduands who travel from all over the country and from far overseas. It was also great to see that we were again 7th in the Norrington Table for the third year running.

Our Open Days were again a great success. The Tutor for Admissions, who always reviews Brasenose attendance carefully, reports that since 2012 visitor numbers have risen by a factor of 1.4 with statistically significant rises in the proportion of students from state schools and persons travelling from more distant UK locations.

I give grateful thanks to the many people in College who make these events such a success, but particularly the student hosts and academics whom prospective students flock to see. The logistics of organising an event as complex as this should not be under-estimated and we are lucky to have such an excellent Schools Liaison Officer in Dr Joe Organ.

On 12 September, we launched the BNC LGBTQ+ Network at the Canary Wharf Headquarters of Barclays plc at a great event attended by about eighty people. We had a terrific panel who gave their own experiences of being gay or trans in business and as part of campaigning organisations. Leonard Grant (Chemistry 2003) addressed, as a trans person, the particular issues faced by trans people.

Duncan Campbell the well-known campaigning journalist spoke movingly of the steps forward since he was involved in setting up Stonewall in the 1980s, while Susan Baines and Radhika Piramal (PPE 1997) expanded on relevant experiences in the business world, and Tim Ramsey (Classics 2008) of Just Like Us and Leonard Grant particularly referred to their work in education.

Radhika, CEO of VIP Industries (India’s Number 1 luggage company), also talked movingly of the difficulties of coming out in India.

Sue Baines was the only non alumna on the Panel; she addressed using supply chains to promote diversity. She is Director of UK Barclays Debit Card Optimisation & Growth and Co-Chair of Spectrum, Barclays LGBT+ Network.

I mentioned my own small role in the fight for equality as an advocate for the Claimants in the case in the European Court of Human Rights, which led to the opening of the Armed Forces to gay people; and the fact that Rev Jeffrey John, the first person to have been open about a same-sex relationship to have been nominated as a Church of England Bishop, had been our College Chaplain for three years.

Masooda Bano:
Our Golding Senior Fellow Masooda Bano, Professor of International Development, addressed a packed lecture theatre on 14 September at the Annual Alumni Weekend, on Political Islam. She traced the organisations which grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood and put the modern split between Political and Militant Islam into context. A terrific lecture.

Brasenose Society events:
We played host to the Annual Meeting and Dinner of the Brasenose Society. For the first time in living memory the event sold out (presumably applicants did not realise that I would be speaking there!). It was a great crowd with people from every age group. I was pleased to pay tribute to Penny Gilbert who has been an excellent President this year and who will hand over to Sir Paul Silk, a former Clerk of the House of Commons.

I am delighted that this is a major section in this blog. It is with great pleasure that I read of the appointment of Professor Richard Cooper to the role of Master of St Benet’s Hall for at least two terms. He will I am sure fulfil the role with great skill and dignity and will maintain his role as Dean of Degrees for Brasenose.

I also record various awards for other Brasenose Fellows and alumni in recent weeks. Professor Elspeth Garman received in July the 2018 Sosei Heptares Prize for Biophysics for her outstanding contributions to the understanding of radiation damage, which has contributed to the improvement of X-ray crystallography and structural biology.

Two alumni have been appointed as Fellows of the British Academy, Canon Professor David Thomas, Professor of Christianity and Islam at University of Birmingham, and Jerry Hausman, Professor of Economics at MIT, as a Corresponding Fellow.

Professor Juliet Gerrard (Chemistry 1985) has been made the Scientific Advisor to the New Zealand Prime Minister.

I also have pleasure in recording that Professor Masooda Bano and Professor Chris Timpson have received Recognition of Distinction awards from the University – an accolade that confers the title of Full Professor.

In late August Suzanne and I visited some fascinating alumni in Monaco and near Nimes. We had generous hosts in both places and got to sail round the port in Monaco with one of our hosts, noting that the yacht of the Chairman of Fulham FC was parked just opposite the Chelsea owner’s second string boat.

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