Welcome from the Master

Whoever you are, we hope you will come and visit us, and, if you are a prospective student, we hope you will consider applying here.  

There are very few institutions which can claim more than 750 years of continuous existence, let alone, as we can, existence on the same site, and we are immensely proud of that. What we are most proud of, though, is that as a community of Fellows, students, and alumni, Balliol is a leader in the wider world, both intellectually and socially. Academic excellence and a sense of social responsibility are two of the defining characteristics of the Balliol spirit.

The Balliol spirit as we know it today took shape in the 19th century, when Masters of the College were at the forefront of University reforms. Notably Richard Jenkyns led the reforms that resulted in the selection of students solely on academic ability. That principle remains the cornerstone of the University’s admissions policy today. Likewise just as another 19th-century Master, Benjamin Jowett, wanted to found an annexe for poorer students, so Balliol now makes financial aid a top priority in its package of student support. The first Oxford college since the Reformation to have a Catholic Fellow, early to admit students of non-Christian faiths (Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Shinto, Bahá’i), the first of the all-male Oxford colleges to elect a female Tutorial Fellow, the first to admit a black South African Rhodes Scholar, it also has a long tradition of inclusiveness.

Today, our students may be found presenting engineering projects at CERN or volunteering in London’s East End to help deprived communities; two of our Fellows are involved in the Quantum Technology Hubs that will explore how the properties of quantum mechanics can be harnessed for use in technology; one of our Research Fellows is credited with discovering the oldest surviving non-biblical manuscript from Scotland; an Emeritus Fellow is honoured for pioneering work on the heart; and one of our alumni has given the Reith Lectures, another has worked on an app that will aid cancer research, while others have received honours for public service or been elected Fellows of the Royal Society or Fellows of the British Academy. These are just a few of our stories from one year, and such stories, and the people behind them, exemplify what Balliol is about: thinking, and thinking’s connections to actions that make the world a better place in which to live.

Drummond Bone