The role of Vice-Chancellor

This is an opportunity to lead one of the foremost universities in the world. The Vice-Chancellor must be a truly exceptional leader who can inspire and motivate an extraordinary community of academics, professional staff and students in the pursuit of new knowledge, and for the advancement of world-class research, teaching and innovation. 

The Vice-Chancellor represents the University locally, nationally and internationally, contributing to the discourse on pertinent issues facing society and advocating for Oxford’s scholarship and the contribution it can make to addressing the greatest challenges facing the world today. They must be able to present a compelling academic vision that persuades the Government, policy makers, alumni and donors, industry partners and fellow academic leaders of Oxford’s value – building not least on Oxford’s outstanding contributions during the coronavirus pandemic. 

In the UK, the higher education sector is facing increasing uncertainty in light of the disruption caused by the pandemic, the developing implications of Brexit, the unstable and complex UK funding environment, and the rapid development of peer institutions, particularly in North America and Asia. Oxford, like other institutions, is also engaging with internal discussions around culture, race and academic freedom. The Vice-Chancellor must have the courage to identify and to lead on solutions to the difficult questions Oxford needs to tackle, operating in a way that is sympathetic to the highly devolved and participatory nature of the collegiate University. This will include continuing to drive practical progress regarding equality, diversity and inclusion, not only in recruitment but in the operation of the institution for academics, other employees, and students.

In terms of the University’s future planning, the continued growth and diversification of the University’s income and capital will be critical to Oxford’s ongoing success. The Vice-Chancellor will be responsible for ensuring that the University’s financial strategy and plans, including those of Oxford University Endowment Management which manages the University’s central endowment, will provide long-term financial security for the institution. In addition, they will have a key role in identifying and encouraging further philanthropic support. 

As a major centre of research and education, including exceptional undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, the University is a vibrant and diverse academic community. The Vice-Chancellor will need to understand how to establish and maintain the conditions that encourage academic endeavour to flourish within this unique environment. They will need to know what is necessary to sustain and develop research that is truly exceptional – whether that be curiosity-driven or impact-led – and what is required to enable Oxford to attract and retain the world’s best academics. 

The Vice-Chancellor will be expected to have a deep commitment to the University’s students, to their education and to their development as individuals. They must share Oxford’s belief in the importance of education as a means by which lives may be changed, and of the role of the University as an environment for developing intellectual ability, character, aspiration and values for the good of society. The Vice-Chancellor must be committed to ensuring that the University admits students with outstanding academic potential and the ability to benefit from an Oxford education whatever their background – building on the University’s consistent progress in widening access and initiatives such as Opportunity Oxford and Foundation Oxford.

The University’s teaching and research are strengthened by a number of other complementary activities. These include the Oxford University Press, one of the world’s most successful academic publishers and a department of the University. The University’s museums and libraries, including the renowned Bodleian Libraries and the Ashmolean Museum, are a resource of national and international importance for teaching, research and cultural life. Knowledge and expertise are also disseminated through translational activities, international consultancy and the development of spin-out companies. The Vice-Chancellor will need to have the breadth of experience to provide leadership to all these different elements of the University to ensure that Oxford continues to promote economic, cultural and societal advancement.

The Vice-Chancellor will be expected to bring judgement and sensitivity to the leadership of the University’s governance and decision-making structures, engaging with the different parts of the University (including Congregation, Council, Divisions and Departments, and the Conference of Colleges) in a way that recognises the devolved, collegiate nature of the institution whilst ensuring that the University can collectively respond effectively to external opportunities and pressures. The Vice-Chancellor will also need to ensure that the University’s senior team is configured in a way that best serves its academic goals, providing effective and accountable academic and administrative leadership.

The Vice-Chancellor is the Chair of the Council, the University’s trustee body, and the accountable officer for the purposes of the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The post therefore carries with it specific and important legal, fiduciary, compliance and regulatory responsibilities.

The Vice-Chancellor serves for a single non-renewable seven-year term.

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At present the University operates an employer justified retirement age for all academic and academic-related posts, for which the retirement date is 30 September immediately preceding the 69th birthday. Any employment beyond the retirement age is subject to approval through the EJRA procedures. The justification for this may be found at: https://hr.admin.ox.ac.uk/retirement-staff-grade-8. This policy is currently the subject of an internal review.