Covid-19 update: Dr Robert Easton

Each morning as I turn on the radio and look through my news feeds, I wonder whether Oxford’s research work has ever been in the media quite as much as it has in recent weeks and months. The work of our academics on COVID-19 has attracted comment on virtually every news outlet, and the coverage has been truly global.

Our dedicated COVID-19 website has attracted over two million visits, and COVID-19 related posts on social media reached 20 million between March and May; a single video on the vaccine developed by our researchers posted recently attracted over one million views across all social media channels.These figures are simply staggering. Meanwhile, in Westminster, Oxford’s research has been mentioned in no less than six of Number 10’s daily press briefings, and all of this has raised our profile internationally and cemented Oxford’s status as the leading research University in the world.

So despite the COVID-19 crisis, and its dramatic impact on all of us, there are many reasons to be positive. My PVC responsibilities also cover philanthropy where, just last week, the Vice-Chancellor announced an incredible gift of £80 million from the Reuben family. The Reuben family want to transform our newest college, currently Parks College, and establish a major new scholarship programme for graduate and undergraduate students at the same time.

This fabulous gift is a significant vote of confidence in Oxford and is part of a wider success story by our fundraising teams where, even in lockdown and with no face-to-face meetings – the bread and butter of fundraising – they are delivering superb results. The amount of new funds raised in the last few months for COVID-19 alone now tops £12m, with more in the near term pipeline. These results could not have been achieved without close collaboration across my portfolio, and with many academics across countless departments, and in order to continue these successes as the market for philanthropy gets more difficult – as it surely will – continued cooperation will be essential

However, it’s more than just gathering up dollars and pounds. The Public Affairs team have helped generate and distribute content for the fund raisers to attract donors, but also for Alumni Relations to reach every alumni network across the globe, helping to engage the Oxford community and wider audiences in these unusual and difficult times. It’s no exaggeration to say that our online and virtual events have blown the lights out with the huge numbers participating and engaging warmly. Alumni have generously volunteered mentoring to students, together with offers of internships, in order to give back to the University with more than just money. After a recent webinar with the Vice-Chancellor and Richard Cornall, Professor of Clinical Medicine, an attendee commented succinctly, “There is hope for humanity.”

I would like to thank all those in my teams and across the University for their work and dedication during these challenging times. A huge amount is being achieved, and will continue to be as restrictions are lifted and we get back to more normal working. Our institution-wide response to this crisis has never made me prouder to be part of the Oxford community.