Principals Blog: Mid October 2019

blogBowerscrop1Freshers week:
I welcome everyone who is new to College. Freshers’ week is always a busy yet wonderful time. Each year we refresh ourselves as a College with new blood. The Undergraduate and Graduate dinners and the drinks beforehand are excellent ways for me to meet (and to speak to) as many of the new students as possible. I am struck by the number of countries represented in both the Undergraduate and Graduate cohorts. I am also involved in Academic induction for our new Tutorial and research Fellows whom we warmly welcome.

Annual Oration:
On 14 October, I attended the Meeting of Convocation for the Annual Oration from the Vice Chancellor. Louise Richardson began by mentioning the memorial for PC Andrew Harper which passed by Brasenose on the High Street at around the same time. I know one of the pallbearers who worked with PC Harper.

In a wide ranging speech Prof Richardson stressed the extraordinary achievement of the Oxford Thinking campaign which had raised £3 billion for the university. She said that some 34000 jobs in the Oxford area depended on the university and emphasised the importance of the many university spin out companies to the local economy. She referred to the need for Oxford to remain a global university and emphasised that there was more for us to do on climate change. The emphasis on the modern nature of the university was somewhat marred in my view by the mace, the gowns and the address starting and ending in Latin.

A trio of speakers:
There was a more than usual range of speakers I heard on 15 October; it was like being at the Hay Festival! We had the pleasure of welcoming into College for lunch in the Medieval Kitchen Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for External Affairs. The lunch was arranged by our Fellow in Politics, Professor Andrea Ruggeri. In an informal but structured discussion with (primarily) International Relations professors, she gave a frank assessment of world affairs which I would love to share with you, but it was all conducted on Chatham House terms which means that I unable to! I then attended her Cyril Foster lecture in the Department of Politics and International Relations at which she spoke publicly about the successes of EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (but nothing about Brexit).

Next on the list was the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire’s Annual Law Lecture in the Examination Schools building. This was given by Sir Alan Moses, a retired Court of Appeal Judge in front of whom I had appeared on several occasions (usually unsuccessfully!) He gave a stimulating tour d’horizon on judicial review and then zoomed in on the recent decision of the Supreme Court in the Miller (No 2) case about the prorogation of Parliament. His central thesis was that it was a false dichotomy to see law on one side of the equation and politics on the other and that this was why it was difficult to find the frontier between them.

At 5.30pm, John Bowis (PPE 1963) an alum spoke at our PPE Society. John was MP for Battersea for ten years and a Minister in the Departments of Health and Transport and the Welsh Office. He later became a MEP for London. He spoke about lobbying and the differences between London and Brussels.

Finally, I attended a Women’s Networking Event on High Table which was very well attended with a great atgmosphere.

I recommend the radio broadcast on 11 October of Organ Works by Bach, Messiaen, Damase and Weir from St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall which was performed by Christian Wilson our Director of Music, and virtuoso trumpeter Tom Poulson at the St Magnus Festival on the Orkney Islands. It is available on Radio 3 Listen Again.

On 13 October we had the pleasure of welcoming The Ven Jo Kelly-Moore, Archdeacon of Canterbury to give the sermon for the first chapel service of the academic year. She hails from New Zealand where she was a barrister and she then went into the church. She spoke about the need for an attitude of gratitude.

We congratulate Professor Sir Peter Ratcliffe who has won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and Professor John Goodenough who has won the prize in Chemistry. The latter is now based in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin but was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work at Oxford. His research made possible the development of lithium-ion batteries.

As I go around the Old Quad, I keep thinking that Lord of the Forge is a real person, so lifelike is (s)he and want to go to shake his/her hand as I do to the many visitors to the College whom I meet.

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