Like many public bodies, the Faculty is subject to external review, and last year we received two reports on our activities. In the teaching review, we could not have done better. A panel of three outside professors was ‘enormously impressed’ and ‘formed a very positive picture of the work of the Faculty’. It commented particularly on the Faculty’s commitment to teaching, and on ‘the enthusiasm and engagement of the academic staff with both their students and their subject’. The panel made a number of recommendations, but acknowledged that most of them arose from the Faculty’s own activities and plans for further improvement. In sum, it concluded, ‘the quality of the teaching is excellent’. When so much of our effort goes into teaching, it is perhaps not surprising that we did not do quite so well in the Research Assessment Exercise. We were given a 5 grade, narrowly missing the coveted 5* we had in 1996: the financial penalties of this are severe. Perhaps we were harshly treated, and the RAE History panel was absurdly mean compared with other subjects. But we are not whinging: we are working to do well next time, with an energetic programme of mutual support and monitoring. We expect to be at the top in 2008. It is difficult to get the balance between teaching and research right. Some universities are neglecting their teaching, in the search for rewards through research funding. The current funding regime demands that we do well in research, but we are determined to maintain the quality of our teaching – we can’t be beaten on that! Uniquely in the world, Oxford expects its research leaders to be dedicated teachers – and we want to be best at both research and teaching. We shall be.
Christopher Haigh (Christ Church)
Chairman of the Faculty Board