Other articles published in the print version of the Balliol College Annual Record 2011.
|Visitor, Master, Fellows and Lecturers, Preachers in Chapel|
|The Master’s Letter|
John F. Burke
Michael Douglas Gwynne
|Francis Bacon and Ben Jonson in the College library - Kathryn Murphy|
|Where have all the mockers gone? - Richard Heller|
|The fiftieth anniversary of a ‘philistine’ proposal - Peter Howell|
|Alan Montefiore’s birthday - Paul Flather|
Rossetti: Painter & Poet J. B. Bullen - Rebecca Whiteley
|Letters to the Editor:||Giles MacDonogh
M P S Birks
|College News:||First Year Graduates
First Year Undergraduates
The William Westerman Pathfinders
Firsts and Distinctions
University and College Prizes
Doctorates of Philosophy
The College Staff
JCR and MCR
Clubs, Societies and Sports
Births, Marriages and Deaths
News and Notes
The Master’s Letter
Masters’ letters reflect, I am sure, both the spirit of the times and the personality of the Master. There is a thesis topic on the nature of the College lurking here. I do not feel that my first year has brought about any dramatic change of direction from that established by my predecessor – our view of the context in which the College lives and works is (we are both happy to say) pretty similar. Nevertheless, I am sure things feel a bit different – if nothing else, I have been away from Oxford for forty years, and Oxford University is a place unto itself, visibly so from my position as President of Universities UK, but not really tangibly so until one is physically inside it, and this must affect the way I have tackled things.
There have been four big issues, I think, this year: the Norrington Table, the Statutes of the College in relation to changes in Charity Law, the size and shape of the College in the future, and the plans for our 750th Anniversary next year. None of these is really new. I shall take them in turn. I’ve said elsewhere that the Norrington Table should not obsess us – its statistics are based on very small numbers, and first-class degrees are not the only thing that marks the success of an Oxford education. But 18th or so is too low to be ignorable. We have done a lot of work, and particular thanks are owing to David Wallace, to understand better what went wrong in 2009, and what has stayed wrong since. We now think we do understand the ‘what’, but not yet exactly the ‘why’. Certain subjects, and certain types of student, seem to be at the heart of the problems, but what changed in these areas so suddenly is difficult to pin down. We have looked as far as the College culture (too many parties? – or even, less seriously, too much sport – see below), and as near as the relationship between prelims and finals, and the changing nature of the curricula involved. There would appear prima facie to be an ever more clear link between College wealth and Norrington success (we are not poor, but we are certainly not amongst the most wealthy), but closer inspection reveals that Balliol is one of the highest spending Colleges per student on academic matters. One thing is for sure and that is that we are all very aware of the issues and are doing our best to set things right. Although we suspect this may be a gradual process, we await, not without some nervousness, the results, which will be known by the time this Record is published.
Not entirely unconnected with the paragraph above has been our move to appoint an outreach officer for next year, to help us in the quest for outstanding applicants from schools where there has not, perhaps, been a tradition of 14 Balliol College Annual Record 2012 sending pupils to Balliol. This has been made possible by a very generous donation (finely supported by another alumnus), which will not only allow us to endow the post, but will also enable current students to be involved, and to act as mentors to students with no university background in their family. Other colleges have been quicker than us to start a wider trawl for talent, but we believe that our new process will be, if anything, more effective than theirs – the benefit of learning from others.
We have been working our way through the consequences of charity registration under the new regime, and Seamus Perry has been key to these efforts. The governance of an Oxford college is crucial to what it is, but its arrangements do not fit too nicely into current notions. Much that is taken for granted in the commercial world, or, indeed, the world of charities with a public face and a global reach, can be seen as bureaucratically prescriptive in the context of an Oxford college. However, we are now registered, and this year we have made significant progress in changing both process and statute to meet modern demands. In this, the role of our new Visitor, Lord Reed (1978), the youngest member of the Supreme Court, will be increasingly important, inter alia as the chair of the new Remuneration Committee.
As a former Vice-Chancellor, I fear I naturally worry not only about where the money is coming from, but also precisely to where it is going. As part of our debate therefore on the future size and shape of the College – some of the impetus for which goes back to the meeting of alumni donors at Ditchley not long before I arrived, but which is also driven by the University’s discussions on its new strategic plan– we have been trying to understand better our cost base, both in terms of academic and non-academic spend. We now have a ten-year plan for necessary work on our buildings (the plan for a new lecture hall in the garden quad has been shelved) – the most major of which will be a complete rebuild of the kitchens in 2014, but the most necessary, perhaps, will be to make the College wi-fi compatible. We have invited all the University Heads of Division (that is ‘Faculties’ in old money) to address us on their plans, to understand better where we can be, and should be, in our academic establishment. More and more there is an understandable but unfortunate division between a University focused on research, and colleges focused on teaching, which we must live with, but mould as best we can to what we believe to be intellectually important for the future of all our members. The joint appointment system is under considerable strain, so it is very important that we know which subjects are costing us what, and why, and what resources we have in-house to meet these costs. The results of this work are now available to us in making new appointment decisions as well as Balliol College Annual Record 2012 15 for longer-term planning and prioritising fund-raising. In the meantime, we have successfully appointed new Tutorial Fellows in Latin Literature, History, Engineering, Modern Languages and a Professorial Fellow in Buddhist Studies, as well as two Research Fellows in Medical Science. Thanks are due to many of you reading this who contributed to the funding of some of these posts. The filling of posts in English and Maths is underway. Peter Tufano, the new Dean of the Saïd Business School, has also joined us as a Professorial Fellow.
There are very few institutions which can claim 750 years of continuous existence, let alone existence on the same site, so it is important that we make the most of it. After quite a bit of pondering, we have, we feel, come to the right conclusion that the year should be about what Balliol is about – thinking, and thinking’s connection with actions which better the world. So we will have a series of Master’s Seminars, in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australasia and America on the big issues of the next 75 years, and we hope to have an intranet through which our alumni will be able to watch the seminars, and contribute to the debates. There will of course also be parties – a Commemoration Ball on Friday 21 June 2013, and two days of combined party and talks when we will take over the Sheldonian for the climax of the College’s anniversary year on 27 and 28 September. Musical events in Hall will open and close the year – a recital by soprano Anne Schwanewilms, accompanied by Malcolm Martineau, on 11 January and a piano concert by András Schiff on 1 December . We will be having a special drive (be warned!) to complete our £30 million 750th Anniversary fund-raising target by the end of 2013 – we have approximately £26 million as I write. We hope that previous donors, for whose generosity we are extremely grateful, and also especially those who have not given to Balliol before, might consider next year a compelling occasion. Details of the year will be in a new publication, to become an Annual Report, which will be circulated in November, as well as in the monthly e-news.
Other things have of course been happening during the year. The women have followed their recent successes on the river by winning cricket Cuppers (the men reached the final); the men have won two football trophies; and the College has won pool Cuppers (did you know there was such a thing?). Rowing has not had its best year, but neither has it had its worst (see p.129). All in all, perhaps a surprise to some, Balliol finds itself near the top of the Colleges’ sport rankings.
I have noted some new arrivals above – there have been some departures too: Paul Buckley retires as Lubbock Fellow and Professor of Engineering Science, and Keith Hannabuss as Billmeir-Septcentenary Fellow and Tutor in 16 Balliol College Annual Record 2012 Mathematics, and as Senior Fellow. To both the College owes a great debt. Adam Swift will be leaving us for a Chair at the University of Warwick next January, and I will miss particularly his counsel as Vice-Master (Executive). We also say a fond farewell to this year’s Eastman Professor, Carl Wunsch. We have had quite a few successes of different kinds to record. Congratulations to those honoured by the Queen – Dominic Asquith (1975) KCMG, Graham Avery (1961) CMG John Barnard Bush CVO, and Andrew Burnett (1970) CBE; to those made Fellows of the Royal Society, Alastair Houston (1969), Chandrashekhar Khare (1989), Julian Lewis (1964) and John McNamara (1968); and to Adrian Kelly for his OUSU Teaching Award.
And last, but certainly not least, the College owes tremendous thanks to all those involved in the St Cross archives project, but especially to our donors and to John Jones. The new Historic Collections Centre was opened to great acclaim (and two architectural awards), and is proving a great asset. It will be open for an exhibition around the important September dates in 2013. We very much hope to see you in College then.
Sir Drummond Bone
Stop Press: Norrington Table results
We are all very pleased that Balliol is back in the top ten. The statistics on which the table are based are not very significant numerically and the Colleges are
pretty closely packed, but we have put a lot of effort into understanding how we could recover and so are pleased to be able to congratulate our students on returning us to a position with which we are much more comfortable.