Principal Sir Michael Dixon on the past year at Green Templeton
The 2021/22 academic year is drawing to a close and it seems appropriate to reflect on the course of another COVID-affected period in college life. Notwithstanding restrictions in the early part of the year, it has been a busy three terms with many remarkable achievements to report on and the college opening up significantly through Trinity Term.
Work on delivering the new college strategy advanced during the year. We have submitted to local authority planners for approval a new masterplan for the Woodstock Road site. Alongside this we have begun to think about which elements of this substantial project should be tackled in which sequence. Additionally, we have embarked on a process of reviewing all our other property assets, so we ultimately have a clear plan for every part of our estate.
At the time of writing work has just begun on the construction of The Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities on the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter adjacent to the college. While we can expect some disruption over the next three years, this is an important new building which moves the gravity of the University northwards and creates an important new civic amenity on our doorstep. We will seek to make the most of the opportunities this affords the college.
We continue to review the financial operation of the college, especially important now that the spectre of high inflation of our costs has begun to hit us. The rapidly rising cost of utilities and food and their significance to college operations means that the effective inflation rate for GTC is significantly above that of the consumer price index. This is necessarily affecting for example the future prices we charge for food, accommodation and room hire. Accordingly, generating more income from commercial sources and from fundraising is an important priority which will help minimize the impact of inflation.
While we develop the projects for a major fundraising campaign we are focusing on raising funds for student support. Most notable and worthy of mention is a new scholarship funded by local medical communications company, Oxford PharmaGenesis. This scholarship will fund a DPhil in digital dermatology and has an optional childcare allowance attached. This addition is something we seek to build into all future scholarships, reducing barriers to entry to Oxford for parents of young children.
Networking to enhance the college’s external contacts has been significantly enhanced during the year by members of the Principal’s Circle. These Associate Fellows give their time, expertise and money to support me and the delivery of the college strategy. During the year they have supported students through scholarships and writing up bursaries for DPhil students, hosted a networking event in London, agreed to fund the exploration of feasibility of a potential centre of excellence within the academic strategy and introduced the college to new, potentially important, individuals. I am grateful to them all for this selfless work to support me.
The academic strategy for the college includes further development of our medical teaching and looking at how other clusters of academic activity can be encouraged within the college to the benefit of students and fellows alike. We are reviewing the extraordinary success of the accredited Management in Medicine Programme and looking at how this can be enhanced further. After many years of driving forward GTC’s medical teaching as Senior Doll Fellow Laurence Leaver will retire from the role this summer. I am delighted to say that his replacement is home-grown. Sheila Lumley and Radhika Chadha, current Doll Fellows, will take over the role in a job-share. I wish them well in this and have every confidence that we will maintain and enhance our reputation as the college of choice for medicine.
Our programme of academic activity remains substantial and exciting. Ruth Loseby has changed her role and will now work on strategic projects. She has been replaced as Academic Projects Manager by Liz Green who has joined us from TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities). This year’s Green Templeton Lectures on science in the media were arranged for us by our partners at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. The three lectures on journalism and climate change, reporting of the COVID pandemic in India versus reality and scientists as honest brokers in policy-making were fascinating and well-attended, both in-person and online. We are sad that Meera Selva, who curated the lectures together with Rasmus Nielsen, has left the institute to become CEO of Internews Europe, but delighted for her in this exciting new personal opportunity and pleased to continue our association with her as an Associate Fellow.
During the year Governing Body has focused time and attention on how to engage more fellows in the running of the college and making faster, better informed decisions on the future of the college. We expect to roll out some changes for the new academic year, so watch this space!
Participation in sport, much restricted in the first full year of COVID, has returned with notable successes for GTC students. Andrew Durutalo and Estefanía Ramírez Castillo represented Oxford in the men’s and women’s varsity rugby matches respectively at Twickenham and, the same weekend in April, Jack Robertson and Anja Zehfuss achieved a similar double in representing Oxford in the annual University Boat Races. As well as these achievements in elite sport, through the year sporting facilities opened up to normal operation again and it was good to see such active participation across the community.
As the college has opened up with the relaxation of COVID restrictions we have taken the opportunity to experiment with new ways of engaging with fellows and students. So, following a new format for Domus Dinners, expect changes to Fellows’ Dinners and the introduction of formal dinners for alumni once a term. Where interest had waned prior to COVID we want to re-energize events and breathe new life into them. The key is experimentation. We will retain what works and change what doesn’t.
Annual activities in college have continued throughout the pandemic, and indeed through the past year. We made a few changes to the Nautilus Awards for student contributions to the college and selected a winner and some highly commended runners up in the categories of Academic Achievement, Sporting Achievement and College Citizenship. Emily Morris, Sasha Webb and Daniele Cotton respectively were worthy winners. Likewise, our annual photography competition on the theme of ‘gathering’ attracted many entries with Jessica Ivie’s emotionally charged picture ‘The Embrace’ scooping up the first prize.
Most pleasing of all, graduation ceremonies restarted and it was a joy to be able to enjoy the celebration of our graduating students with their family members and friends after what seemed like an eternity. Because of the backlog, ceremonies came thick and fast through Trinity term and will continue well into July.
So, a busy year, but a satisfying one. For someone who joined GTC in the middle of the pandemic, the college is beginning to return to normality, albeit a new normal, but change is not a bad thing and I hope we can all embrace it.