Transcript: Vice-Chancellor's start of Hilary term 2024 message

This message was emailed to all staff on 17 January 2024

Dear colleagues and friends,

Let me start by wishing you all a very happy New Year and a warm welcome back to the start of Hilary term and 2024. I hope you have had a good Christmas break and feel rested, energised and ready for all that this year brings. I certainly am. And thank you to the colleges for the extra work navigating the admissions round, and I hope that senior tutors, their teams and tutors are rested from that annual effort, which is so important for maintaining a fantastic pipeline of students.

In the spirit of popping up and recording these messages in different areas of this great collegiate University, I am speaking to you today from the basement of the Beecroft Building in Physics – deep, literally, in the heart of our science area. This is an extraordinary building that illustrates the ambition we set ourselves as a world-leading university, supported through the generosity of donors and alumni. It provides high-quality office space for theorists above the ground and state-of-the-art laboratories below ground with ridiculously impressive temperature- and vibration-control abilities, so the experiments can be conducted in the very best possible conditions. It's absolutely gorgeous – but I would say that, as a scientist and a geek myself.
This time last year, I was sending you my first video message as your vice-chancellor, and what a year you have had: with fantastic outcomes on TEF, our various academic rankings, fundraising and grant income and much, much more, and all in a context of increasing external, financial and other pressures. So thank you again for your dedication and your excellence. 

I'm pleased to say, as requested at the start of my tenure, I received just before Christmas the draft findings and recommendations of the Pay & Conditions Steering Committee, a huge effort on their part to meet the ambitious schedule that I set. I'm hugely grateful to all the staff and external advisors who have contributed to this review, to the steering committee, the project team and to all of you who got involved last year by submitting feedback, taking part in a focus group or joining an event. This marks an important milestone for the University, a genuine opportunity to shift the needle in how we invest in our people. And I look forward to seeing the many changes that will come to fruition on the back of this work to improve the working lives of our staff and maximise impacts for the University. Now, the draft will progress to Council for further scrutiny and discussion in the coming weeks, and you will start hearing more about initial outcomes and next steps as this term progresses.

Beyond our human capital, our physical capital still needs attention if we are to attract, retain and support the most talented people to study and do great work here. And we have many in-flight projects that we must progress and complete this, and next, year that will ensure our ability to deliver. For example, I was delighted this week to be at the launch of Oxford's Podium Institute, the world's first dedicated institute that brings our brilliant engineering and medical sciences together to tackle sport safety. Timely, in a year when we will be talking a lot about sport, with the 70th anniversary of Roger Bannister's four-minute mile and, of course, the Olympics in Paris.

Now, as we go into 2024, I remain committed to several key priorities for our University, as detailed in my start of the academic year Oration speech. Do listen if you have not already. We will be developing our strategic vision for the collegiate University, alongside preparing for an ambitious development campaign that we hope to launch at the end of this year. Please take any opportunities to contribute to the various activities. We need to work together if we are to realise our collective ambition. 
Another thing I am looking forward to this year is the Vice-Chancellor's Awards. It is so important that we take a moment each year to pause and celebrate you. Across the collegiate University, fantastic work is being done, and so we are establishing an event dedicated to recognising and celebrating individual and team successes. Bringing all the awards together, as we have this year, will help us to share our fantastic achievements in teaching, research and in other areas, cross-pollinating ideas and inspiring each other with our commitment to Oxford's mission. I encourage all staff to consider making a nomination, and I look forward to announcing the winners in May. 
Lastly, we know that conflicts around the world are continuing into the new year and we continue to hope for peace, and I extend sympathies to all of our community who are impacted.

I look forward to working with you this year and my door remains open. If you have any feedback or ideas for our joint ambitions, please do get in touch. Meanwhile, welcome back, and here's to a great term, and I look forward to speaking to you again as we near Easter.

Watch the video message on YouTube