Message from Dr Robert Easton

Three years as a Pro-Vice-Chancellor simply isn’t enough, especially when you’re looking after the Development and External Affairs portfolio, where there’s always so much on the agenda. However, personal circumstances change and a great successor has been appointed, David Gann, whom I’ve known for many years as a friend and colleague at Imperial College. Not only is he perfect for the role, but he already started last week.

While my time as PVC was short, I do feel we achieved a lot across all parts of the portfolio. In Development, we’ve had record years, with huge individual gifts from donors like Steve Schwarzman and the Reuben family, and as lockdown hit we didn’t just maintain fundraising momentum, we increased it. Through good stewardship in recent years, and quite a lot of tenacity from across the team, we were able to endow UNIQ, fund UNIQ+ and upsize the Crankstart scholarship programme to 14% of home undergraduates. We created a brand new graduate scholarship matching scheme – GEMS – which is already 50% deployed, and will fund countless new students in perpetuity.

For the Public Affairs Directorate (PAD) team, we all remember the step change in Access Comms in 2018, and how difficult it was to coordinate, but what an amazing impact it’s had: demystifying Oxford’s admissions process and driving our BAME, Polar and Acorn, scores in the right direction. Our international engagement has improved dramatically thanks to the great work of the Alumni Relations team, and in International Strategy we found a way to record and then keep updated every material research engagement we have across the globe.

During my farewell portfolio webinar last month, someone asked what the “standout moment” was during my time as PVC. I couldn’t pinpoint a single moment, but only that it’s the highlights with people that will stick most in my memory. And what an incredible variety of people interface with the Development and External Affairs portfolio; wonderfully engaging Chinese donors who don’t speak a word of English, great academics that can’t resist giving a tutorial when all I needed was an elevator pitch for the donor, super-bright students from all walks of life who you just know will be the leaders of the future, and incredibly generous benefactors who simply can’t get enough of Oxford University. However, my senior leadership team across the portfolio, and my fellow PVCs, have also been a great support during the last three years and a pleasure to work with through what’s turned out to be very challenging times, thanks to COVID-19 and repeated lockdowns.

But do recognise – and I tell everyone repeatedly – that I’m not actually leaving the University, since I’ll be continuing work as an external on reputational committees that review sources of donations and look after socially responsible investment (CRDRF and SRIRC) and sitting on the board of Oxford University Innovation, as well as acting as an advisor and investor with Oxford Sciences Innovation.

I’ve spent many hours with David Gann on the handover so he’s fully briefed on how I see the “To Do” list. But I know he has his own vision for the Development and External Affairs effort, and what he would like to achieve in his years as PVC … but just in case, he also has my phone number!