MATHEMATICAL, PHYSICAL, AND LIFE SCIENCES DIVISION
9 Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PD
Tel: +44(0)1865 282570 Fax: +44(0)1865 282571
MATHEMATICAL, PHYSICAL, AND LIFE SCIENCES DIVISION
Five-year Plan, 2009/10 to 2013/14
1. The MPLS Division is a world-class grouping of science1 and engineering departments
producing excellent teaching and outstanding research. It comprises ten departments
defined by their fundamental discipline, viz. Chemistry, Computing Laboratory, Earth
Sciences, Engineering Science, Mathematics, Materials, Physics, Plant Sciences,
Statistics and Zoology, augmented by Begbroke Science Park, the Oxford e-Research
_ Centre (which hosts the Oxford Supercomputer Centre), and a growing number of
Doctoral Training Centres. In addition to the Division’s fundamental research in core
subjects, much exciting science and engineering now takes place at the interfaces
between these traditionally distinct departmental disciplines. To deliver this research, the
Division needs to organise itself to be able to operate within inter-departmental, inter-
divisional and, in some cases, inter-institutional collaborative groups targeted at specific
research challenges. This is simpler, more flexible and more effective than changing
departmental structures and boundaries. Developing and executing strategies for these
science areas is a major priority over the coming years.
2. The Division has identified 11 major cross-cutting themes, namely: Biomedicine,
Biosphere 2100, Climate, Energy Futures, Engineering for our Environment, Fluid
Flow, Digital Futures, Planetary Sciences, the Quantum World, Nanoscience and
Nanotechnology and the Dark Universe. Some of these are at the exploration stage
whereas others such as Biomedicine, are more advanced; this theme includes the
Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME), which is located on the Old Road Campus in
the heart of the Medical Sciences Division. A primary goal of the next few years is to
develop these priority areas into a series of robust research programmes that are well
supported in terms of faculty, facilities, research grant income and links to other
researchers as well as business and government. The resultant research groups will be
encouraged to develop independent strategies and make bold and imaginative proposals
for how best to take their subject forward from within Oxford. These could include
establishing new inter-departmental interaction spaces, visitor programmes, and post-
graduate and undergraduate training. At the same time, it is important to remember that
successful interdisciplinary research relies on excellence in the underlying disciplines: the
maintenance of core disciplinary strengths therefore remains a key priority.
3. The 2008 RAE exercise demonstrates that all departments have a significantly large
number and high proportion of faculty who are performing at the highest level
internationally in terms of research outputs, when normalised to their discipline. In most
departments the amount of government grant funding, the number of graduate students,
and the amount of industrial support is above average, or high. However, there are
pockets of lower than average performance in one or more of these areas with a
consequent knock-on effect on our research capability and the RAE rankings. These are
likely to be a part of future metrics-based approaches to research funding and we will
need to ensure that, where necessary, we deliver improvements. A priority will be
numbers of postgraduate research students.
any reference to science includes mathematical sciences
4. The emphasis on fundamental mathematical and scientific principles at Oxford underpins
the University’s commitment to delivering top quality training in STEM subjects, both at
undergraduate and graduate level. A major focus will be the development of our teaching
and training at the graduate level. We plan to establish a Graduate School to enhance
our provision for research students, extending opportunities for core disciplinary and
interdisciplinary training to all graduate students in the Division, and to expand the
opportunities for postdoctoral researchers to gain experience in academic practice skills.
The four existing Research Council funded Doctoral Training Centres and elements of
their training programmes will be integrated into the Graduate School. We expect our
undergraduate programmes and curricula also to develop in response to areas that are of
key importance from the point of view of STEM training.
5. The cost of teaching at Oxford is higher than in many other places because of the
intensive undergraduate tutorial experience. The cost of research is also high because so
many of the buildings are in urgent need of upgrade or replacement and because we
compete at the highest level in faculty recruitment with North American universities
offering large start-up packages. MPLS needs to build a stronger support base in the
form of private and corporate donations to help pay for this. To this end a major effort is
being put into fundraising, driven by the Division’s own external Development Board. Its
major goals are to establish the funding for new collaborative research centres in our
priority areas, to replace many of our failing buildings and infrastructure, to endow our
chairs, to support overseas top graduate students who are ineligible for UK government
funding, and to establish an Innovation Fund for hiring new faculty and developing new
6. Oxford is fortunate to have the Begbroke Science Park which provides a powerful vehicle
for effecting knowledge exchange. Begbroke is ideally positioned to expand over the
coming years and, as more scientists are based there, its essential role will become ever
more evident. MPLS will make Begbroke a key site for some of its major new endeavours
where links to business – international, national, and regional – are particularly beneficial.
7. The OeRC was established in 2006 and has grown by leaps and bounds. A key role for
OeRC will be the development of powerful new algorithms needed to embed advanced
computing in science research. Furthermore, the centre’s focus on visualisation and
collaborative technologies will continue to facilitate a range of national and international
collaborations. The Centre has oversight of the Oxford Supercomputer (OSC) which was
relaunched in 2006/7. The upgraded facility has already become fully utilised and is set to
expand over the coming years. Recognising its University-wide role, discussions are
taking place about the most appropriate funding and governance arrangements for the
8. Oxford is well placed to take advantage of the growth in activities at the Harwell Campus.
A range of initiatives in new light sources, neutron sources, lasers, materials discovery
and fabrication, super computing and planetary exploration are being based there. These
are being led largely by STFC but also include other research councils. We are seeking to
become a strong partner in these initiatives and to drive the agenda.
9. The greatest overarching challenge to the Division over the period of this plan is funding.
Without adequate resources the MPLS Division will have to compromise on the quality of
faculty, teaching, research and facilities. This will damage the reputation and
performance of the University and lead to a spiralling positive feedback; the worse the
performance the less the government funding that will be available to support the Division.
There is no reason why Oxford should not be able to move into the premier slot and have
the very best faculty, teaching, research and facilities in Europe. However, this requires
investment. Current resources are spread too thinly (a function of the high cost and
burden of Oxford’s teaching, the relatively dilapidated state of the infrastructure, and the
library legacy). We need to find ways to pay not only for our teaching, buildings and
facilities, but also to offer reasonable start-up packages, to purchase key instrumentation,
to develop new institutes for inter-disciplinary science, to fund all the top international
graduate students, to hire the optimal level of skilled support staff or to provide salaries
that are at a competitive level (and we are aware that this will add to the Division’s bottom
line, currently in deficit, but improving). The results of the 2008 RAE show that we are
performing at a particularly high level in terms of our research outputs, but that we are not
as strong as some of our competitors in terms of our physical environment, income, and
number of graduate students. In preparing for the new research funding environment
(Research Excellence Framework) these features will need to be addressed. The global
economic crisis has added a further level of anxiety, especially given the possible impact
on current and prospective endowments that are a part of our financial recovery plans. In
the short-term at least we may need to add to our deficit in order to provide a sustainable
10. As critical, is the condition of our building stock. Many of the Division’s buildings are
inadequate for modern science, and some staff are working in sub-standard space. The
development of a science area that can accommodate our current space needs and
provide the right kind of flexible space for growth and for evolving scientific interests is a
particular challenge given the internal and external financial environment. Plans are being
developed for new buildings for Physics and Chemistry represent a significant step
forward in this.
11. We have identified a number of exciting science questions, many of which will lead to
entirely new areas of research. Providing an infrastructure and a culture within which
these ideas can be taken forward, is a challenge. Many are interdisciplinary, naturally
spanning both departmental and divisional boundaries and some might best be pursued
with external collaborations. These will be taken forward with the help of our growing
network of research facilitators. The absence of significant seed-corn funding to kick-start
such activity is a particular difficulty.
12. The government is directing significant amounts of research funding towards national
centres and facilities. This, and the increasingly complex and multi-disciplinary nature of
major scientific challenges offer the Division major opportunities for collaborations and
strategic partnerships. The Harwell Science and Innovation Campus is on our doorstep
and we will fully exploit the potential this offers.
13. An overarching objective is to capture and broadcast Oxford’s excellence in every area of
its teaching and research scientific research and teaching. We are concerned that the
scale and excellence of our operation is perhaps not generally recognised. We aim to
communicate this locally, nationally, and internationally through a developed programme
of activities including a restructured web-site, a series of brochures addressing different
audiences, a programme of high-visibility events and closer engagement with Public
Affairs to highlight our standing and position. Without investment in developing our
communications, our aim to attract staff and students of the highest quality, and our ability
to fundraise for research and teaching, will be undermined.
14. The structure of most of the Division’s teaching programmes – four-year integrated
Master’s + four-year doctorate – is in line with UK science training, but not with the
Bologna three-cycle ‘norm’. We view the focus of the Bologna process on mobility as
being extremely important in terms of attracting high-quality EU or International students
to our programmes, and of training the best students to be able to take follow-on degrees
or to be well qualified for the European market of the future. For this we need to do two
things: (a) confirm the present status of our Integrated Master’s as Master’s, and (b)
ensure that we have structures in place that attract European students to Oxford. We will
take this forward in two ways:
(a) To confirm the present status of our Integrated Master’s as Master’s level
qualifications, we will benchmark them against national criteria, and ask the Education
Committee to take whatever steps may be needed to clarify their status publicly. This
would encourage European and overseas recruitment to our Integrated Master’s from
those high quality students who might already be thinking in terms of research careers,
and protect the interests of our graduates seeking to take up research opportunities in
(b) To ensure that those who might apply for graduate study to our departments from
Europe or elsewhere with three-year undergraduate qualifications have a suitable point of
entry we will ask departments to consider providing one- or two-year Master’s
programmes based on the existing fourth-year undergraduate/first-year doctoral
programmes. The new programmes will run in parallel with the existing programmes;
while retaining the option for suitable students to enter the D.Phil. directly without having a
Master’s level qualification, we will, in this way, also be providing a route whereby
students could enter at the Master’s level and progress to the D.Phil.
Teaching and Learning
15. In an increasingly diverse higher education world, we aim to provide for the top end of the
academic ‘market’, offering at both undergraduate and postgraduate level an exceptional
educational experience appropriate for the abilities of the students we are admitting. This
experience is characterised by direct contact with first-rate academic staff at the forefront
of their research fields. We aim to ensure fair access to those who have the potential to
benefit from that experience.
16. We need to ensure that we contribute to the supply of the next generation of leading
scientists, researchers and teachers (and hence the continuous regeneration of our
academic fields), and supply a highly capable group of graduates with scientific skills and
problem-solving abilities into wider society, some of whom will become leaders in diverse
areas of business, politics, public policy, not only in the UK, but also internationally. We
would like our graduating classes to be recognised as individuals of the highest qualities
and seek to ensure that the transferable skills developed by our graduates meet the
needs and expectations of employers.
17. The key objective is to maintain the strength of teaching in the core subjects in the
Division, including direct contact with established research-active staff through the tutorial
system. [Strategy I(a)].
18. The single-disciplinary course remains at the core of the Division’s undergraduate
provision, but we propose to identify and develop opportunities for greater breadth and
interdisciplinarity. We will:
promote the breadth currently provided in the first year of existing courses and highlight
the broader applicability of the elements of cognate disciplines;
consider opportunities for interdisciplinary options in the 3rd and 4th years, and through
supplementary subjects and schemes such as the Short Option papers available in the
FHS of Physics, especially in areas where there are collaborating research groups or
interdisciplinary graduate teaching;
consider overarching structures to facilitate greater flexibility within and across
A new Joint Honour School in Computer Science and Philosophy is being developed
by the Computing Laboratory and the Faculty of Philosophy, to start from Michaelmas
Mathematics and Physics are holding exploratory discussions on a new joint degree.
19. Departments will continue to be encouraged to keep their programmes under review,
both to ensure they remain academically current and to reflect the impact of its research.
A revised M.Eng. in Engineering Science and in Engineering, Economics and
Management was introduced from Michaelmas term 2008; and major revisions to the M.
Chem., the BA in Biological Sciences, and the M. Earth Sci. in Earth Sciences/BA in
Geology from Michaelmas Term 2009. Changes are planned to the third year of the B.A.
and M.Phys. in Physics and the M.Phys. Phil. in Physics and Philosophy from Michaelmas
Term 2010, and the Mathematical Sciences are undertaking a review of its first and
second years with a view to introducing changes to the BA and M. Math. in Mathematics
and associated joint degrees from Michaelmas Term 2011.
20. The balance between college and departmental teaching and between the use of
classes, tutorials and lectures will be kept under review, to ensure the optimum quality of
the student experience, achievement of teaching and learning objectives, and delivery of
the curriculum with maximum efficiency. Regular meetings of divisional representatives
with the shadow Senior Tutor will continue to be held and departments encouraged to
hold subject days at which teaching issues will be discussed with colleges. We will work
with colleges to try to reduce burdens on academic staff arising from the complexity of the
Oxford collegiate system (see para. 63).
21. A Mathematics Bridging Officer has been appointed to provide support across all
departments for the teaching of mathematics at first-year level, having regard to the
22. The Division’s graduate studies programme will continue to be focused primarily on the
D.Phil. given the significant contribution this makes to our scientific research effort, to
knowledge transfer, and to the assessment of its excellence in the RAE. We aim to train
the next generation of leading researchers and teachers, and to equip graduate students
for a wide range of careers.
23. Increasingly we aim to offer a funded four-year doctoral programme in order to
strengthen provision and be internationally competitive. This shift reflects the increasingly
interdisciplinary nature of modern science and the need for postgraduates to develop
broader and more sophisticated skills. Together with the four-year undergraduate
programme, this eight-year education is considered to be optimal preparation for the next
generation of scientists. In the main, Research Councils are shifting towards four-year
funding, but the availability of such funding for all is a key aim.
24. We aim to continue to enhance the level of research training and education that is
integrated into the D.Phil. programme by coordinating the training provided across the
Division and broadening the opportunities for inter-disciplinary training. We intend to
develop this divisional training programme under the umbrella of a divisional Graduate
School, which will also enable us to promote, market and raise funds for graduate
education at Oxford, and promote best practice. Embedded in the MPLS Graduate
School would be the existing and new Research Council-funded Doctoral Training
Centres (DTCs). We also plan to explore the viability of setting up our own DTCs
(particularly in areas identified as cross-cutting research themes) to train researchers in
new emerging interdisciplinary areas, such as a DTC in Climate Sciences. Through the
Graduate School we will also seek to streamline graduate administration, for example by
encouraging greater collaboration between departmental graduate studies administrators.
We will ensure that the introduction of a Graduate School does not introduce an additional
layer of bureaucracy.
25. Through the Graduate School and in collaboration with other divisions, we aim to develop
a ‘Graduate study in the sciences at Oxford’ image to improve the promotion of and
recruitment to its graduate programmes, and to ensure the best students apply. Funding
for graduate studentships is a high priority in our Campaign objectives and the
establishment of a graduate school will be used as a springboard for fundraising.
26. Beyond any changes to degree structures to accommodate the Bologna process, the
primary focus of our postgraduate taught courses will be on those that attract students
into research degrees. We do not envisage a major expansion of terminal, professional
Master’s courses, but encourage departments to be open to opportunities for such new
courses which fit their academic strengths and for which a strong demand is identifiable,
and we recognise the Knowledge Transfer potential of Master’s courses in some subjects.
Areas for such courses that have been identified include Crystallography, Energy,
Environment, Forensic Science, and Plants for the 21st Century. We wish to transfer the
Software Engineering Programme currently joint between Continuing Education and
MPLS/the Computing Laboratory, wholly to the MPLS/the Computing Laboratory. A
change is planned to the MSc in Computer Science to provide themed routes through the
course. The division intends to close the MSc in Bioinformatics, joint with Continuing
Education, and the MSc in Biology (Integrative Biosciences), at the end of the 2010-11
27. Our vision is to retain Oxford’s position as one of the world’s leading universities for
scientific research. Scientists in the MPLS Division work across the full spectrum of the
mathematical, computational, physical, engineering and life sciences, from the most
fundamental and pure research, to cutting-edge applied research. Oxford is at the
forefront of research in many diverse areas, from evolution and ecology to seismology;
from biomedical engineering to materials discovery and characterisation; from geometry
to genomics; from the foundations of computer science to advanced measurement
science; and from understanding the often counter-intuitive Quantum world to the search
for Dark Energy and the origins of the Universe. The quality of this research can be
demonstrated in many ways, from publications in leading peer-review journals to
measures of international esteem.
28. Looking forward, there are challenges ahead. Research is becoming increasingly
competitive, on a global scale. At the same time, it will become increasingly collaborative:
many of the most dramatic advances in the coming years will be made at the interface
between traditional disciplines (something that is being increasingly reflected in the
external funding environment). Yet successful interdisciplinary research still relies on
sustaining excellence in the underlying core disciplines.
29. The Division will therefore pursue a research strategy that both promotes the
maintenance of core discipline strengths and develops an increased number of
interdisciplinary research themes and initiatives – many involving researchers from
across the different departments (and from other divisions). This will be underpinned by
continued excellence in mathematical and computational science and by Oxford’s
traditional strengths in experimentation and field observation work.
30. In support of this strategy, the Division will work to ensure that Oxford continues to recruit,
retain, and develop the best scientists, particularly those in the early stages of their
careers. The OUP John Fell Research Fund has provided a welcome source of start-up
funding and support for pump-priming research and proof of concept work. But demand
from within MPLS currently far exceeds the funds available. The Division will therefore
seek (through the Oxford Thinking Campaign) to raise endowment for a ‘science
innovation’ fund that will: provide start-up funding; support established researchers
seeking to move into new, or uncharted, areas of research; and enable proleptic
appointments (in advance of retirements) to ensure continuity of key subject areas.
31. Research Councils are looking increasingly to support large managed programmes. This
is in response to the need to compete internationally and to tackle important problems
concerning, for example, the environment, resource depletion, and the digital economy.
The Division is making itself ready to take full advantage of such opportunities and to
exploit the science such funding enables; this will include ensuring that sufficient numbers
of academic staff are in place.
32. The Division will develop mechanisms to support interdisciplinary research initiatives, and
will promote greater links with external research facilities (particularly the Diamond Light
Source, and other developments on the nearby Harwell Science and Innovation Campus).
Interdisciplinary research themes
33. The Division’s recent Science Strategy Task Group (SSTG) identified a series of ‘cross-
cutting’ research themes where Oxford is well placed to make a distinctive and world-
leading contribution – many of which relate to the major challenges faced by 21st century
society. Some are already well established as interdisciplinary research ventures (these
are marked with * in the list that follows); others represent new ventures.
34. Detailed plans are being developed for each of these research themes. These will then
be taken forward during the remainder of the planning period in the light of factors such as
individual departmental strategies, fundraising progress, and the external funding
35. MPLS into Biomedicine * Researchers across the Division are involved in work that has
the potential to transform fundamentally healthcare in the future. The newly-opened
Institute of Biomedical Engineering and the rapid recent growth in statistical genetics and
bioinformatics are just two examples of the increasing importance of this area of research
within the Division, which frequently involves close collaboration with medical and clinical
colleagues. Research will focus on areas including, but not limited to: cancer (modelling
and treatment); imaging; drug design, delivery, and activation; and ageing (which will also
feature in other engineering contexts).
36. Biosphere 2100 will act as an umbrella for a range of initiatives in both pure and applied
biology that will explore issues relating to biodiversity, sustainability and understanding
the nature of life. This will include ‘Plants for the 21st Century’, a major new initiative led
by the Department of Plant Sciences, together with three centres/initiatives led by the
Department of Zoology: complexity in whole organism biology; conservation, sustainability
and development; Bio-inspired engineering.
37. Climate * This initiative will improve understanding of the fundamental ways in which the
climate system works – through the application of new observational strategies and the
development of novel computer techniques – thereby enabling the development of more
accurate climate models. Research will also focus on understanding the response of the
natural world (species, diseases, and ecosystems) to climate change.
38. The Dark Universe * will involve both theorists and experimentalists in the search for dark
matter and dark energy. Observation of the cosmos shows that most of the matter of the
universe and the energy driving its expansion is not luminous. The precise nature of this
matter and energy is a fundamental problem of particle physics and of cosmology whose
resolution will involve theorists, experimentalists, and statisticians.
39. Digital Futures. There are many aspects of research, society, and business that could be
transformed by the innovative design and use of digital technologies. This theme aims to
effect real cooperation and collaboration between disciplines, to design innovative new
technologies to capture, share and manipulate information while also engaging user
communities and paying due attention to security, privacy and reliability. From health to
finance, from climate to buildings, the Digital Futures theme will build on Oxford expertise
in computer science, information engineering and e-Research alongside researchers from
the sciences, medicine, arts and humanities and the economic and social sciences to
connect people with technologies, radically improving the way we live, work, play and
40. Energy Futures * will encompass a range of initiatives designed to address three key
energy challenges: reducing demand; improving energy efficiency; and developing
sustainable, low-carbon methods of power generation. This will include research into all
aspects of the hydrogen economy (generation, storage, and usage); into solar energy and
photovoltaic technology; and into aspects of both nuclear fission and nuclear fusion.
Collaborations between scientists, engineers, and social scientists will develop a ‘whole
systems’ approach to energy reduction in transport.
41. Engineering for our Environment will investigate the underlying science and devise
integrated solutions to key environmental problems, covering areas such as risk and
reliability in the face of extreme environmental events, sustainable resource exploitation,
remediation and the treatment of waste, and water engineering. An integrated approach –
involving scientists, engineers, social scientists, business and government – will ensure
that solutions are feasible, economic and acceptable in the community.
42. Planetary Science will examine key issues relating to the origin of life, both within and
beyond the Solar System. This will require a fundamentally interdisciplinary approach
involving the development and exploitation of new technologies for space exploration and
and astronomy, advanced numerical models of planetary atmospheres and surface
environments, and a deeper understanding of the interactions between astrobiology and
the physical and chemical environments of potential host planets.
43. The Quantum World. Understanding the behaviour of systems at small scales where the
effects of Quantum Mechanics are dominant will provide insights into the fundamental
nature of light and matter which can be harnessed in future generations of technology
(including metrology, sensors, communications, and computing). This theme will exploit
the almost unparalleled breadth of high-quality research in both theory and
experimentation found in Oxford.
44. Nanoscience and Nanotechnology will act as an enabling technology contributing
directly to many of the cross-cutting themes outlined above. Scientists across the Division
are involved in research at the nanoscale, both fundamental research and applied work
(with potential application areas ranging from biomedicine to photovoltaic materials to
45. Fluid Flow. During 2009, we have been exploring the contribution that Oxford can make
in this field, which has implications for a wide range of important application areas,
ranging from enhanced oil recovery to carbon sequestration, and from glacier and ice-
sheet dynamics to coastal erosion and flood protection. Research is likely to cover both
the theoretical and experimental study of fluid dynamics and fluid-solid separation.
The table, below, illustrates which departments are likely to be involved in each of the
Oxford e-Research Centre
Medical Sciences Depts
Social Sciences Depts
Departmental research strategies
46. During the planning period, individual departments will similarly pursue research
strategies that focus both on maintaining strength in core areas and on developing
interdisciplinary initiatives. Some of the interdisciplinary work will form part of the ‘cross-
cutting’ themes outlined above; other ventures may be smaller in scale and more local in
47. Oxford Chemistry will continue to undertake a wide range of research across all areas of
Chemistry. Academic staff will actively develop their own independent research
programmes. Alongside this, the department will continue to put in place large
collaborative research initiatives both across the department and across Oxford more
widely. These will include innovative programmes relating to Chemistry for: biomedicine
(including regenerative chemistry), measurement for the environment (incorporating
atmospheric chemistry), measurement for medicine, energy, catalysis, fermochemistry,
synthetic biology (but encompassed within chemical biology/biology interface), modern X-
ray crystallography and crystal engineering.
48. The Computing Laboratory will consolidate its activities in several new and prominent
areas, including Computational Biology, Information Systems, and Verification and Model
Checking. The department will also build on its well-established strengths in the
foundations of computer science, computer security, and programming languages and
algorithms – with an emphasis on practical, applicable, and interdisciplinary areas. High
priority areas for new appointments are algorithms, and computer security; medium term
priority areas include: computational biology, networks and systems, information systems,
and software engineering. A core principle underlying further planned expansion will be
establishment of critical mass and/or research centres in three areas: pervasive
computing (concerned with the increasing integration of computers into all aspects of our
daily lives), information systems in a global age (enabling us to cope with ever increasing
volumes of information and data), and computational biology and visualisation.
49. During the planning period, the Department of Earth Sciences will continue to play a key
role in the growth of Physical Climate Science within the Division; particular areas of focus
will be in physical, chemical, and biological oceanography. Following the move to its new
building in late 2010, the Department's outstanding geochemical facilities will allow growth
in a wide range of activities, including climate, planetary science, and
palaeoenvironments. The Department's role as leader in the National Centre for Earth
Observations Theme in Geohazards will support its research in tectonics, and
volcanology. A major focus over the next five years will be to make appointments to
replace six senior geologists and geophysicists (~20% of the academic staff) who will
retire in this interval.
50. The Department of Engineering Science will begin a process of expansion 1which will
continue beyond the end of the current planning period, and which will establish critical
mass in a wider range of engineering fields. These will be driven by scientific
developments and also be focussed on key issues where engineering offers practical
solutions to major societal challenges. Key areas in which growth is anticipated are:
energy supply and use; environmental engineering (including water resources);
biomedical engineering; electrical engineering (including communications and
optoelectronics); fluids (especially high-speed aerodynamics and heat transfer, and power
generation from tidal, wind, and wave sources); materials (including polymer engineering
and composites); and control and dynamic systems modelling. Core strengths in other
areas such as information engineering (including vision and image processing), civil
engineering and solid mechanics will be maintained.
51. The strategy of the Department of Materials is to maintain its world-leading position in the
three core areas of materials characterisation, materials modelling, and materials
processing, whilst playing a full part in interdisciplinary initiatives across the MPLS
this expansion is at an early stage of development and is not reflected in the data in this plan.
Division and beyond. Specific areas in which the department will contribute at divisional
level include: quantum information processing and quantum sensors (including the
development of facilities and expertise in nanometrology), energy and catalysis. The new
chair in Energy Materials, supported by the James Martin 21st Century School, will
provide a focus for research into materials for new generations of nuclear energy.
Sustaining the advanced instrumentation facilities that are critical to support all of the
department’s research activities remains a key strategic priority. The department will also
work to further develop long-term research activity with both UK and international
companies, ensuring that its research outputs have a meaningful impact on industrial
52. In recent years, the Mathematical Institute has undergone rapid change and
considerable expansion. During the coming period, the department will consolidate and
build on these successes. It will look for opportunities to engage with the Division’s
interdisciplinary themes whilst continuing to develop its strengths in certain key areas. In
applied mathematics, these are: mathematical and computational finance; mathematical
biology and medicine; climate science; and quantum information. In pure mathematics
these are: stochastic analysis and discrete mathematics; and algebra at the interface with
geometry and topology. A key strategic aim is the consolidation of links between pure
and applied mathematics (which will be enhanced by the move to the new Mathematical
Institute building, expected in 2011/12, and by the transfer of the Numerical Analysis
Group from the Computing Laboratory into the Mathematical Institute), and to enhance
and extend links with other disciplines and with industry.
53. The Oxford e-Research Centre will continue to focus on problem-driven new computer
and information technologies, providing solutions to support research across the
university. The Centre currently hosts projects in the medical and social sciences as well
as the physical sciences, and it will continue to pursue interdisciplinary, application-
focussed research, building on the existing model of academic/research appointments in
conjunction with, or linked to, other academic departments. Key priority areas for the
Centre include visualisation, high-performance computing, and data management.
54. The Department of Physics has identified a number of themes as priority areas in the
short and medium term: fundamental particles (which will see intense activity as the Large
Hadron Collider produces data); biological physics (which has received significant
investment in recent years); dark universe; and quantum coherence. Physics will play a
major role in most divisional initiatives. Oxford’s proximity to potential developments on
the Harwell campus offers major opportunities for the department in areas including
photon science, materials and space science. The department is working to finalise a
new long-term strategy.
55. The Department of Plant Sciences will continue to build on its key strengths (which
include systematics, population genetics, comparative development, and evolution and
ecology), whilst taking a pro-active approach in order to maximise interaction with the
wider life sciences research environment. A key aim for the department is to develop a
major new research initiative – Plants for the 21st Century – that will address the key
challenge of ensuring food, fibre, feedstock, and fuel security in the 21st Century. The
initiative will encompass three main strands: ‘21st Century Crops’, ‘Tomorrow’s Trees’,
and ‘Inspiring Plant Conservation’. At its heart will be fundamental research into the
biology of plants, ranging from the classification of species to the genetic analysis of
population diversity, to studies of how plants interact with other organisms and with the
environment. The proposed establishment of large-scale plant growth facilities at the
Begbroke Science Park forms a key part of this initiative – and the department is working
with engineering colleagues to design environmental-friendly glasshouses that exploit
advanced solar technology and use recycled heat from the Oxford Supercomputer.
56. Activities within the Department of Statistics span a wide range of modern and exciting
developments across applied probability as well as theoretical, computational and applied
statistics. Much of this research is interdisciplinary, with applications and collaborations in
areas from physics to the social sciences. During the planning period, the department
aims both to consolidate its strengths in core statistical research, and to develop further its
interdisciplinary initiatives. In recent years, the department has established itself as one
of the leading international centres for mathematical genetics and bioinformatics (with
over half its current activity in these areas). Given the increasing importance of genomics
across the life sciences, the department anticipates increased collaboration with
biologists. It will also seek to develop research activities in the areas of medical statistics
and actuarial science.
57. Research within the Department of Zoology will continue to be focussed on four major
themes: Behaviour, Disease, Ecology, and Evolution and Development. Following a
period of controlled expansion in recent years, the department’s strategy for the current
planning period is to build and consolidate these core research foci; and to strengthen
links between the four themes, with other disciplines in Oxford, and with other institutions
(nationally and internationally). Funding will be sought through the Oxford Thinking
Campaign to support three new interdisciplinary initiatives (see, para. 36 above). The
department will encourage translational research, and will seek to exploit relevant
emerging technologies (including genomics, imaging, and remote monitoring/data
recording) and to apply statistical and mathematical techniques to analyse complex
problems in biology.
Engagement with Society
58. Led by Marcus du Sautoy, the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of
Science, the Division will continue to reinforce its engagement with society in general and
schools in particular. A major objective is the development of a Science Centre, initially
as an umbrella organisation with a virtual presence, but working towards taking up a
location in the science area. The Centre will not only provide a base for widening-
participation but will also showcase Oxford science and provide a space for a wide range
of events. In this we hope to collaborate with the Oxford Trust (Science Oxford), with
other divisions and Continuing Education, and with the Museums.
59. ‘Knowledge Exchange’ (KE) and the generation of economic or social impact from
publicly-funded research are key priorities for government and, in turn, for the Research
Councils. They will also drive funding for research through the REF. Whilst Oxford has a
leading reputation for the commercialisation and exploitation of research in the Physical
Sciences, it is arguable that to date much of this activity has been concentrated in a small
number of departments (particularly Chemistry and Engineering Science), and
predominantly based on spin out or licensing models – both of which could be significantly
affected by the economic downturn.
60. During the planning period, the Division will work both to increase exploitation of
research outputs and the range of methods/mechanisms through which this is achieved.
For example, the Mathematical Institute will build on its existing industrial links and strong
portfolio of applied mathematical research, whilst the Department of Physics will put in
place new structures to support greater industry collaboration. New activities will be
developed that will make it easier for business and industry to engage with MPLS
researchers, and for researchers to respond quickly and flexibly to approaches from
business and industry. The Division will also work together with Research Services, ISIS
Innovation, Continuing Education, the Said Business School, and others to ensure that,
wherever possible, an integrated approach is taken to KE activities across the University.
61. The Oxford University Begbroke Science Park provides a focal point for KE activities,
offering a unique combination of interdisciplinary research (much of which is industry-
facing), facilities for high-tech start-up companies, and a range of outreach activities.
During the period of this plan, and in response to societal and commercial needs, we
propose to identify new and develop existing areas of research; these include energy,
water, environment, nanotechnology, food and ageing. Anticipating the retirement of the
Academic Director at Begbroke, the Division will be seeking to appoint a Director of
Science and Innovation.
62. The Division aims to ensure that the development of its teaching programmes is informed
by educational research, and that those who teach receive appropriate training. Its
divisional academic advisor will work closely with new academic staff to ensure that their
teaching is supported by mentoring and to encourage their attendance at appropriate
training courses. The Division will continue to develop and embed the Preparation for
Academic Practice (CETL) programme to ensure provision of appropriate training for
graduate students and contract research staff before they teach undergraduates, and will
seek to develop and encourage the use of registers of those who have had such training.
It will provide appropriate rewards and recognition for excellence in teaching in
cooperation with the Oxford Learning Institute as appropriate. It will seek to ensure that,
as an individual’s career develops from graduate student through to academic staff
member, they are provided with training opportunities to develop the broader skills of
academic practice, such as writing papers and grant proposals and making presentations.
63. Balancing the imperative to be internationally leading at research with the aim of ensuring
the interaction of undergraduates with research-active academics, puts pressure on
academic staff. The Division’s view is that the burdens associated with teaching at
Oxford, which it thinks are high in comparison with Oxford’s competitors, are not only
associated with the number of contact hours, but also with the underlying administration
(college and University) and the complexity of the teaching-related load, including
examining. Reduction of these burdens is a priority for the Division, working with its
departments and colleges. The establishment of teaching norms will help in this; a major
exercise to review how we teach will be undertaken jointly with colleges during 2010.
64. It will also consider the use of Teaching Assistants to support academic staff. A number
of the burdens the Division has identified could be alleviated by employing a graduate
student to work alongside a member of academic staff as a Teaching Assistant for a fixed
number of hours a week. Any such scheme would require a proper structure, governing
the terms and conditions, selection, training and mentoring of the Assistants.
65. Growth of some 12% in staff numbers is anticipated (Annexe A). The modest growth in
academic staff is largely in Chemistry, the Computing Laboratory and Engineering
Science. In each case, growth is judged necessary in order to remain competitive and
match the size of major international and UK rivals. In the case of Chemistry it is part of
the business plan underpinning the proposed new building. In other departments, staff
numbers are likely to remain static or grow only moderately over the period of this plan, in
the main through the growth of research groups associated with the significant number of
new staff appointed in advance of the RAE. The projected increase in research grant
income reflects the growth in externally-funded research staff of some 200 by the end of
the planning period. Some growth will represent new activity but not all of this is captured
in the financial forecasts, as academic and business plans have yet to be prepared and
approved (for example, the significant growth envisaged in the Department of Engineering
Science). The creation of any new posts arising from such plans will be subject to the
approval of a full business case.
66. The modest growth in academic staff numbers that is envisaged will continue the pressure
already felt on the entitlement scheme. The modifications to the scheme following the
recent review by the Conference of Colleges will help to ease that pressure. The Division
may need to make greater use of Grade 10 and RSIV posts but avoiding one problem
highlights another, viz. the disparity in the rewards available to academic members of
staff, which remains a serious concern.
67. Work will continue on the preparation of a divisional human resources strategy. This will
seek to cover the following: relationship between work and home responsibilities, e.g.
provision of nursery places; career opportunities for partners of new appointees;
difficulties presented by the scheduling of meetings and events early or late in the day;
gender and ethnicity issues for the sciences including imbalance in staff and student
profiles and rates of staff career progression. In this respect data gathering and analysis
will be undertaken in order to inform positive action. The Department of Zoology will be
working to achieve an Athena Swan Gold Award and the Department of Physics is an
active member of Project Juno, an initiative of the Institute of Physics which aims to
encourage more females to develop their career in higher education and research.
Admissions and access
68. The Division aims to recruit the very best students nationally and internationally through
an equitable process based on achievement and potential. Its objectives are:
To maintain undergraduate application numbers and the quality of applications. We are
concerned to improve the quality of applications, not only by competing effectively with
other universities to attract the best scientists, but also by encouraging the brightest
school pupils to consider the mathematical, physical, and life sciences as an attractive
To ensure that the best students applying to the University are accepted. Potential
applicants need to have confidence in the admissions procedures if they are to be
encouraged to apply, and we wish to ensure that the best applicants are accepted
irrespective of college choice. Within the common framework, many of our departments
are recognised as representing best practice. Building on this the Division will seek to
develop a consistent approach to admissions across the Division.
To attract the best applicants from all schools, while seeking to increase applications from
target groups and make sure target groups have a fair chance of acceptance. While
wishing to maintain its applications from good independent and state schools, the Division
also wishes to target applications from groups that are under-represented in its subjects –
primarily women, ethnic minorities, under-represented socio-economic groups, and certain
regions of the country, while giving applicants from these groups a fair chance of being
69. In support of these objectives, we will pursue the following:
a) Recruitment activities. We will continue our activities to raise the aspirations of
high-achieving students to encourage applications to Oxford from year 12 pupils
who are interested in studying science at university, by providing opportunities such
as sampling the experience of studying our subjects first hand, attending master
classes, open days and information days, and through events organised for science
b) Admissions process. We will ensure that the information provided to applicants is
clear and consistent. Working within the Common Framework, we will ensure that
the admissions process is both transparent and fair.
c) Widening-participation activities that encourage the study of science and
mathematics at A level and engage the scientific imagination of the younger age
groups. To help maintain the UK science base, we will seek to attract pupils to
science sufficiently early to affect their choice of A level subjects, including those
still in primary schools.
d) Development of a Science Centre as a showcase for Oxford Science, and base for
widening-participation and recruitment events. We will work in cooperation with the
Medical Sciences Division, Continuing Education, the University Museum of Natural
History, and others to develop an Oxford Science Centre as a base for our public
outreach work. We envisage that the Centre will take a virtual form in the first
instance as an umbrella organisation bringing together public outreach work in the
sciences currently disseminated through the web or public events; in the longer term
as the Centre develops consideration will be given to giving the Centre a physical
e) Development of an effective marketing strategy and a branding for Oxford science.
We will take the lead in marketing Oxford science as a major attraction for those
considering studying science at university.
f) Bridging/foundation provision. We will seek to increase the provision of
bridging/foundation courses, initially by the development of a small number of pilot
courses and then, in the light of experience, to consider whether to incorporate them
into a foundation/gap year. A pilot bridging course has been run in Chemistry, and
will be evaluated. The Mathematics Bridging Officer will develop cross-divisional
g) Building a relationship with the Department of Education to develop interaction with
schools. We must be proactive in encouraging excellence in science teaching in
schools. We will seek to do this by building relationships with our alumni who are
engaged in science teaching, and by seeking to extend to other subjects existing
departmental relationships with the Department of Education, and through that both
encourage our students to consider science teaching as a career, and develop
relationships with local schools. The resources of the Oxford Science Centre might
contribute to developing and maintaining relationships with science teachers.
h) Development of effective mechanisms for assessing overseas applications.
[Strategy V(e)] In order to identify the best overseas students we will consider how
to develop better mechanisms for assessing their applicants, perhaps by targeting
likely sources of applicants and providing more education on the nature of the
Oxford experience, and disseminating it more widely.
Academic and Student Services
70. The restructuring of the Radcliffe Science Library (RSL) currently in train will be taken
forward by the recently-appointed Keeper of Scientific Books. The RSL will absorb the
Plant Science and Zoology libraries by 2010-11. The focus of OULS on users’ needs is
welcomed and we support the planned investment in electronic journals.
71. The Division proposes to work closely with the museums in its outreach programme. The
Science Hall is an initiative being prepared jointly with the Director of the Museum of
Natural History. Discussions are underway to move the Herbarium in Plant Sciences to
72. ICT provision across the Division is generally first-rate and must continue to be in order to
support the quality of its teaching and research. It has no need to make much use of
centrally-provided facilities but need a strong University IT backbone, capable of
supporting departmental needs.
73. The Division has a good record of providing and embedding language skills in its courses.
It will continue to work with the Language Teaching Centre to maximise these
opportunities and to meet student demand in this area.
74. Through the work of its Sustainability, Buildings and Infrastructure Task Group (SBITG),
the Division has identified additional space requirements of around 16%.
Chemistry 17,975 17,975 17,975 17,975 20,427 2,452 13.6%
Computing 3,691 3,861 3,861 3,861 3,861 170 4.4%0
Earth Sciences 3,525 6,892 6,892 6,892 6,892 3,367 95%
Engineering 16,366 16,366 16,366 16,366 16,866 500 3%
Materials 7,580 7,580 7,580 7,580 7,580 450 1.6%
Mathematical 4,352 5,177 5,177 5,177 7,920 4,151 110%
OeRC 804 872 940 1077 1077 359 50%
Physics 17,500 18,000 18,000 21,000 21,000 3,500 20%
Plant Sciences 4,959 5,549 5,549 6,549 6,549 1,590 32%
Statistics 879 879 879 879 879 0 0
Zoology 8,379 8,785 8,875 8,785 8,785 406 5%
Begbroke 2,629 2,629 2,629 2,629 2,629 0 0
Statistics also occupies space of around 600m2 in other buildings
75. The Group also set out a possible shape for the MPLS estate, based on academic and
scientific considerations. Over the period of the plan, the Division will undertake further
work to develop this into a formal estates strategy; this will include dialogue with other
academic divisions, within the framework of the Science Area Masterplan Project Board.
A schedule of major and minor capital works envisaged over the period of the plan is
annexed at B. The Division’s four main capital priorities for the planning period are: (i) to
complete the planning process for the new Mathematical Institute on the Radcliffe
Observatory Quarter with a view to beginning construction at the earliest opportunity; (ii)
to complete the construction of a new Earth Sciences building in the Science Area; (iii) to
begin the construction of a second Chemistry Research Laboratory (CRL2), to include
new teaching facilities (the delivery of the new building within the shortest possible
timescale remains the highest priority for the department, and essential to achieving its
strategic vision); and (iv) to erect a new building in front of the Clarendon Laboratory
(Clarendon 2), as the first step in the eventual consolidation of the Department of Physics
on a single site on Parks Road, centred on the Clarendon complex.
76. Feasibility studies for CRL2 and Clarendon 2 have been undertaken and funding to take
both projects through the planning process has been approved; the pace of their
construction will depend on success in raising external funding.
77. In addition, the Division will continue to develop plans and seek opportunities to provide
better accommodation for a number of its departments. The Department of Statistics
continues to occupy and be constrained by the listed Victorian buildings that are unfit for
purposes. The Department of Materials is spread over a number of buildings, some of
which also are no longer fit for purpose. It is reviewing its use of space in order to optimise
usage and to release space that is not required. The Department of Engineering
Science has expansion plans which are likely to require additional space and also will
seek funding for a major refurbishment of the Thom Building: the recladding of this
building is a health and safety priority. The Computing Laboratory (OUCL) has already
outgrown its existing space. Pressure on the e-Science building, jointly occupied by
OUCL, the DTC, and e-Research centre has forced a review of the use of that space.
Following a feasibility study, a case has been made for funding to refurbish two floors of
the Rex Richards building to accommodate an expanding DTC. This would leave room in
the e-Science building for some of the growth of OUCL and the OeRC and, in the longer-
term, the development of Clarendon 2 will release 1-4 Keble Terrace currently occupied
by Theoretical Physics for further expansion. The OeRC will also look to expand its use
of space at Begbroke for appropriate staff and projects to alleviate the pressure on the e-
78. The Division will continue with a range of smaller projects, many of which are to make
better use of existing sub-standard space to accommodate more students and research
projects. The phased refurbishment of Plant Sciences, which is underway, will ensure the
department has adequate space to support its growing research profile. This includes
releasing space by freeing up the library (600m2)) and putting up a glasshouse facility
(1,000m2) at Begbroke to enable farm-scale research. A feasibility study is being
79. The Division is also concerned to rationalise the provision of medium-sized lecture
facilities. Further thought will be given to this as part of the planning for new buildings.
Reconfiguration of space in the Tinbergen building might follow the OUED review of its
condition and use and the move of the Zoology library to the Radcliffe Science Library in
2010. Additional space for the divisional office, which currently shares space with the
science area research services team in 9, Parks Road, will be sought.
80. Further development on the Begbroke site will be made possible when the new road
(currently at the planning stage) is in place. Around 600m2 of space in the IAT remains
unallocated. The income-earning potential of this space remains untapped and proposals
will be developed to exploit and occupy the space. Thought will also begin to be given to
the next phase of build for research and for a second Centre for Innovation and Enterprise
and/or accelerator space into which start-up companies can grow. Any such
developments will need to be underpinned by a sustainable financial plan.
81. The developments described in this plan both add to the division’s costs and introduce
new income streams. However, the division is not able to be confident that the five-year
financial forecast which accompanies this plan represents a reasonable statement of the
position over the period. Despite significant improvement in JRAM income in 2009-10
post- RAE 2008 and a further improvement to follow in 2010-11 when 123 infrastructure
charging is introduced, the division remains vulnerable to shifts in HEFCE funding, to
pressures on research funding bodies and from the economic context which suggest, for
example, that income from donations and investments will not pick up significantly over
the period of this plan. Furthermore, the application of the internal funding model adds a
further level of uncertainty. For example, the expectation that post-RAE moderation would
progressively reduce and add to the division’s improving bottom line is uncertain.
82. The starting point for the period of this plan is a forecast deficit of £4.9m in 2009-10. The
division has been asked to breakeven in 2010-11. It anticipates a reduction of £2.9m in its
underlying infrastructure charge but will need to find £2.0m in either savings or additional
income to breakeven. The position would be reached were a number of issues concerning
the application of the funding model resolved; potentially these increase JRAM income by
£2.2m. The table below sets out the continuing trend of an improving financial position for
the MPLS Division.
06/07 07/08 08/09 09/10 Q1 10/11 11/12 12/13 13/14
Actual Actual Actual Forecast Estimate Estimate Estimate Estimate
Surplus/ (9,389) (6,629) (5,903) (4,869) (1,394) (908) (230) 889
83. The performance of individual departments is varied with some moving into surplus over
the period. Others, notably Physics, Chemistry, Engineering Science, Earth Sciences and
Materials, remain in deficit. A significant change in their position is hampered by the
internal funding model (including the distribution of the return on spin-out revenues only
25% of which flows to the departments that generate the income – largely Chemistry and
Engineering Science ) and by the shortage of funding for laboratory and field-based
sciences. These departments have been asked to reduce costs or increase income, and
surplus departments to curtail their spending plans.
84. The Division takes seriously the obligation to seek to deliver a balanced budget. We are
continuing to undertake a programme of work across all departments to examine income
and costs, explore scope for efficiencies through shared services, and to fully exploit
funding opportunities. The forthcoming review of teaching will provide an opportunity to
look closely at what we teach, how and at what cost. Some of this will require changes in
working practice and culture. This will take time to deliver and will require good quality
data and systems to be in place. For example, a project for a central stores to be located
in Chemistry would not be viable without the Marketplace system being fixed. The
Finance Sub-committee is continuing a programme of work which includes development
of a programme of procurement savings; closer liaison with Central Finance in respect of
identifying solutions; roll out of management reporting and activity costing; benchmarking;
and further embedding our financial management regime.
85. On the income side, we have set ambitious targets for the Oxford Thinking Campaign
focusing on buildings, endowments for staff and studentships. As mentioned elsewhere
we are also seeking seed-corn funding to promote the development of new areas of
science. We hope that our record of raising funds from spin-out activity will continue, and
we will argue for a bigger share of income from the sale of spin-outs. Where possible, we
will seek to exploit IP potential to fund capital developments. Research income is a major
source of funding and with the help of the growing band of research facilitators we will
seek to extend our funding base. An example of possible new sources of funding is the
Wellcome Trust. The Department of Plant Sciences will seek to persuade the Trust to
fund research into food, the provision of which is a prerequisite of good health. We will
also seek to maximise income from fEC both through educating researchers and also by
arguing for a review of fEC rates to differentiate costs.
Governance and planning
86. The Division continues to grow. In terms of student and staff numbers and turnover it is
equivalent in scale to a small university. The burdens of management and administration
have also grown considerably since the Division was first established. Support for its
activities will be kept under review and the outcomes of a recent review of administration
taken forward. We will also keep under review the location of administrative
responsibilities and consider how best to manage the load on the Head of Division. We
may increase the number of Associate Heads and will discuss with the central University
how to represent our interests on central committees and other bodies.
87. Through the Student Number Planning Sub Committee the Division will seek the optimum
student profile for its subjects. It will, at least, preserve undergraduate numbers,
recognising the national importance of the subject areas, but hopes that modest growth
might be accommodated. Some departments would like to increase their undergraduate
numbers slightly; for example Engineering Science would like to recruit to the maximum
capacity of their current departmental teaching facilities. This would increase numbers
admitted annually from 160 to 180 (not included in Annexe C which forecasts the student
profile for the period of the plan). We do not envisage a major expansion in PGT numbers,
but would not wish to constrain innovative course design simply to meet the student
number targets. The Division anticipates and supports an increase in postgraduate
research student numbers, given that they are an integral part of the research team
contributing substantially to research output. PGR students form part of the REF metric,
and are a crucial to the Division’s role in training the next generation of researchers. PGR
student numbers in some MPLS disciplines are low in relation to research activity;
increases are crucial to success in the REF, and research students are key factors in
recruiting and retaining academic staff. The financial model for CRL2 is based on an
expansion of research groups including PGR students. We recognise that we are
constrained by the University limit on numbers. Given this, the conservative projections
that are annexed at C reflect only some of the growth to which the departments aspire.
For example, the OeRC has indicated its interest in developing a doctoral programme and
graduate training in high-performance computing and related areas. We will make a case
to increase our numbers above currently imposed ceilings, based on realistic funding
88. The Division will continue to develop robust quality assurance procedures at divisional
and departmental level in accordance with the requirements and expectations of the
Education Committee and external bodies, focussing on: embedding quality enhancement
in its own procedures and in those of departments; disseminating good practice across
the Division; and developing and acting upon enhanced mechanisms for feedback from
students and from potential employers. During 2009-10 we will pilot the use of a QA sub-
group to undertake detailed scrutiny of departmental assurance processes for
divisional/Education Committee reviews. We believe that this will enable a fuller scrutiny
while allowing more time for the review committee to consider strategic questions.
89. The Division has taken forward the embedding graduate studies initiative with the aim of
ensuring that every graduate student is provided with the quality of training, supervision
and support they need to achieve their maximum potential. This will be enhanced through
the development of the Graduate School; through monitoring the impact of the divisional
Code of Practice for graduate supervision and statements of provision for research and
graduate taught course students; through reviewing the workloads of academic staff and
departmental stints with the aim of ensuring that graduate teaching and supervision are
recognised on a par with undergraduate teaching; and through providing appropriate
rewards and recognition for excellence in graduate teaching.
90. We will continue to work with colleges in order to support our academic activities. Our key
areas of concern remain student numbers, academic posts, and teaching loads but we
hope that the more effective dialogue that has begun will enable progress to be made on
each. Regular meetings with Conference officers, better communications and a shared
interest in making things work are now in place. An example is working together to
secure the position of small subjects. Funding, inevitably, remains an underlying tension
and we will need to be creative in using our combined resources for teaching and
G:\Strategy\Five Year Plans\2009-10 To 2013-14\Divisional Fiveyearplan 22Dec09 (Final).Doc