Tim Power, new Head of Social Sciences Division

Tim Power, Head of the Social Sciences Division

Social Sciences has a commitment to high-quality graduate study that is accessible to everyone. Many of us in the division are working towards a situation where an individual’s finances are no barrier to enrolling on a taught or research graduate programme. In 2019, we pledged £25 million for 5 years to support new scholarships, and we are looking for donations to invest a further £25 million. It was an ambitious target and the pandemic has not helped with our aims. Despite challenges, we’re happy to report we have had a lot of success through our Transforming Futures programme.

The SSD Development Team tells me that halfway through our fundraising campaign, we have already secured £12.8 million in philanthropy, for both spend-down and endowed graduate scholarships across the division. This philanthropic support, paired with the support provided each year by the departments themselves, will create more postgraduate scholarships for the best and brightest to come to Oxford to study the social sciences. It includes a number of targeted scholarships, such as the Catharine French Graduate Scholarship, which will support a student from Africa in perpetuity.

Graduate scholarships are part of the University’s wider graduate funding activities and are just one of the ways we are working to widen access to graduate programmes. Ultimately, in order to get the right people to respond to the planet’s biggest threats and society’s most pressing issues in innovative ways (which is what our students are doing, through their research), we need to be as appealing as we can. We are also working on how we can encourage the best students on taught postgraduate programmes to stay on to undertake postgraduate research degrees, which is an issue we have identified. In one sense we are a victim of our own success – because our taught masters’ programmes recruit the best candidates from around the world, we continually run the risk of losing these amazing students to funded doctoral offers elsewhere. With proper DPhil funding in place, we are confident that we can keep these future thought leaders here in Oxford.

Our postgraduate research students cover a huge range of topics – that is the beauty of social sciences – from finding ways to tackle poverty and de-escalate global conflicts, to honing big data and delivering sustainability goals. There is no standard ‘social science grad student’ here. And that’s how we like it.