Principal's Blog: 27th April 2021


blogBowerscrop1Trinity Term:
Welcome to another unusual term. We are gradually welcoming our students back, with 258 currently in residence as I write. Save for subjects on a special list, tuition is remote. We have had to wrestle with and adapt to changing Government guidance.

The Department for Education published updated advice on the return of students to University on 13 April 2021:

-     All university students who have not yet returned to campus and in-person teaching will be able to do so from Step 3 of the Government’s roadmap, no earlier than 17 May.

-     Upon their return, all students will be encouraged to take three supervised tests (3-5 days apart) at an asymptomatic testing site on campus (where available) and will then have access to home testing kits to increase testing update.

We are offering supervised lateral flow testing of asymptomatic students in line with government guidance. The University of Oxford is currently asking students to be tested for Covid-19 before returning to Oxford, and then to take two home tests upon return before continuing with bi-weekly testing through assisted testing facilities. I went for my test at the University Club.

Formal University in-person teaching will only restart at the start of this term for students on practical and practice-based courses.  The majority of exams will take place online. A small number of exams planned for in-person will go ahead but students may apply for remote invigilation. The residency requirement has been suspended for the Term.

Hopefully Michaelmas Term will be as close to normal as we can get. We wish sympathy to all those who have been themselves affected by the pandemic or whose loved ones have. In particular our prayers are with those in India and South America.

Frewin Buildings:
Following our successful application for planning permission for a new 30 bedroom accommodation building at Frewin, (in the corner by the Clarendon Shopping Centre) we now have grand plans to improve the whole of this historic area.  Did you know it is the site of the “lost” Oxford College, St Mary’s….look it up… you will probably not believe that a whole College was built and fell into disrepair between 1435 and about 1541. We bought the derelict site in 1584.  We will mark the original grand cloisters and chapel of St Marys’ when we redevelop the site into a beautiful, sun filled, multiple Quad, “Court”. I will keep you abreast of our plans and will serialise the history of the site, which goes back to the Normans in this blog and elsewhere.

Congratulations to our Golding Senior Fellow Masooda Bano who won the European Research Council Advance Grant, which is seen as a very prestigious award and gives her 2.5 million euros over five years to build a research team to study Islamic conservatism among young Muslims in Europe. 

The project has a threefold focus: firstly, studying the survival strategies of institutional elites, as well as any attempts at internal reform; secondly, expanding an existing focus on ‘push’ factors – such as childhood socialisation and reactionary religiosity – to include ‘pull’ factors, such as the possible appeal of the ethical and moral agency that these movements are able to inculcate; and finally, testing the hypothesis that ‘mosque-dense Muslim-majority neighbourhoods’ are central to ingraining a conservative social Islamic imaginary in each subsequent generation, which, through a dense network of ties, is spread to Muslim youth across the country.   

Congratulations also to our Katie Anderson who rowed in the Women’s Boat at the Boat Race.

I heard our Engineering Tutorial Fellow Perla Maiolino speak at the University’s Meeting Minds on “Can steel feel”. This covered her extraordinary work on robots which can touch.

I have been reading Snakes & Ladders by Selina Todd about social mobility.

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