Message from the Vice-Chancellor: Professor Karen O'Brien

Dear Colleagues,

It is with very mixed emotions that I announce that Professor Karen O’Brien will be stepping down as Head of the Division of Humanities at the beginning of the next academic year. Karen has been appointed the next Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham University. I can only congratulate Durham on the wisdom of their appointment, wish Karen every success in her new role, and express deep gratitude for the role she has played in Oxford these past five years.

Professor Karen O'Brien

Professor Karen O'Brien

During Karen’s time in Oxford the Humanities Division has consistently topped the global league tables for Arts and Humanities. The Division’s research income has been the highest in the UK by a wide margin and they have consolidated their position as a leading centre for digital humanities research. The Division has created new academic posts in areas such as history of science, music education, women’s history and fine arts, and secured endowments for an unprecedented number of academic posts. Moreover the Division has increased its engagement in all areas of student access, equality and diversity, including scholarships for underrepresented student groups.

In recent years Karen has also served with great skill as SRO (Senior Responsible Officer) on the new Schwarzman Humanities Centre project. She co-chaired the Michaelmas Term Co-ordinating Group, and has been a key member of the Silver Team, charged with fashioning the University’s response to Covid-19. We will miss her enormously.

I am very happy to report that with the unanimous support of the divisional board, Professor Dan Grimley, currently Deputy Head of Division, has agreed to serve as interim Head of Division while the search for a worthy successor to Karen takes place.

Louise Richardson