Message from The Provost
Dear Worcester Family,
Back in 2010, I was honoured to be elected by Governing Body into the office of Provost of Worcester College. As many alumni have said to me, to have stewardship of our beautiful College is perhaps the best job in the world. But it has also proved to be a demanding job for both me and my family, with many evening and weekend engagements, travel across the world in pursuit of benefactions, and the 24/7 sense of responsibility that comes from residence in the Provost’s Lodgings.
I believe that Governing Body made the right decision in seeking to appoint an academically active Provost, and one of the joys of the job has been leadership of our academic institution – by example through research, publication and activity as a “public intellectual”, as well as in practice through teaching, Provost’s Collections and contributions to the overall academic activity of the University of Oxford. I firmly believe that Worcester is flourishing academically at all levels, whilst still maintaining its enviable reputation for community spirit and extra-curricular activities.
Inevitably, though, the role of Provost has not only taken a toll on family life but also greatly slowed my academic productivity and diminished my opportunities to teach – and it was in order to teach, to inspire and to write that I entered the academic profession nearly forty years ago. After long reflection, I have decided that over the course of the next decade my priority should be to return to my academic work, and in particular to pursue some ambitious new projects in Shakespearean scholarship and performance, in making the case for the public value of the humanities, and especially in leading an initiative to bring a humanities contribution to the global crisis of sustainability. I believe that in order fully to address the consequences of climate change and the loss of biodiversity, we need humanities scholars to be working beside scientists. I therefore want to return to the area of research that I began in the last century with my books Romantic Ecology and The Song of the Earth. And I cannot do that with full commitment whilst my priority is to lead the College.
In addition, Paula has offered me unstinting support in the role of Provost, co-hosting numerous events for students and alumni, working quietly behind the scenes with donors, staff and others, even as she has raised our three children in the Lodgings, whilst also maintaining her own career as an author and a scholar. I feel that it is now time for me to take a back seat, and give her support, as she takes forward her important work for mental health and wellbeing, especially among young people, through her ReLit Foundation.
With the completion of the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre and the extraordinary success of the Tercentenary Campaign, which, thanks to the enormous generosity of our donors and the exceptional work of the Development Office and other colleagues, has exceeded its hugely ambitious £100 million target in five years as opposed to the projected ten, I feel that my work for Worcester is done. I am therefore stepping down from the office of Provost with effect from 12th September.
I am delighted that the College wishes to maintain our academic association by electing me into a Senior Research Fellowship. Thanks to this, I am sure that I will remain in close contact with the College – and I will endeavour to follow the example of Dick Smethurst, who has been such an exemplary predecessor during the eight years of my tenure.
It has been my pleasure and my privilege to be your Provost, and I look forward to seeing Worcester College continue to thrive in the years ahead as a place where students, academics, and staff, from any background and from anywhere in the world, can come to work and feel at home.
Professor Sir Jonathan Bate CBE FBA FRSL