I took over the position of Faculty Board Chair from John Watts at the start of Michaelmas. Over the last three years — and as Director of Graduate Studies before that — John has given excellent service to the Faculty and he deserves our thanks for steering the institution through a period of great crisis.
As in all crises, some aspects of the new situation have been imposed on us by necessity, and others are changes that would have happened, but their implementation has been accelerated. At the onset of the pandemic the Faculty adapted quickly to the new demands placed on HE institutions by government requirements. Group and committee meetings now take place on Microsoft Teams, an arrangement that suits most people, while tutorials and classes have been held in person where possible. Examination arrangements had to be changed in Trinity Term 2021 but as things stand we will return to the Examination Schools in 2022. While many members of staff will continue to prefer to teach ‘in-person’ as much as possible, others may well wish to hold meetings, and particularly seminars, in a hybrid, or blended form.
In Michaelmas 2021 we welcomed to the Faculty professors Meleisa Ono-George, Flilippo de Vivo, Uta Balbier, Cora Gilroy-Ware and Brenda Stevenson, the new Hillary Rodham Clinton Professor of Women’s History. Together these scholars cover a broad array of topics that will greatly enrich the Faculty, including Black British History; the Cold War contexts of Billy Graham’s evangelical mission, Italian Renaissance information flows; representations of the classical body in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britain; and race, slavery, gender and family in the US. Those readers looking for suitable Yuletide books could do worse than to visit their Faculty websites, and act accordingly.
Finally, the Faculty’s main development commitment is to raise funds to support graduate scholarships. This is not the place to rattle a digital tin, but we have ambitious plans to raise the current number of History postgraduates partially or wholly funded (including with the support of colleges) from the current level of 18% to something in the region of 25% within three years. The vast size of the Faculty and its student body means that this is a difficult task; we accept about 160 Masters students, and about 75 DPhils every year. We want to make Oxford accessible to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and we want to attract the best students from the UK and overseas. One step in this direction is the creation of a new donor-funded History Graduate Scholarship, which will be awarded for 2022-23. We hope to have a further 5 of these donor-funded scholarships for 2023-24.
Professor Rob Iliffe
Chair of the Faculty Board