Monthly Archives: March 2014

Prisoners’ books: a ban on reading?

Tara Stubbs, Kellogg Fellow and University Lecturer in English Literature and Creative Writing at Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education, writes a comment piece on the recent press coverage about government measures to restrict the access to books for prisoners. Leave a comment and join the debate.

In recent days academics, writers and prominent prison literacy campaigners have reacted with horror to new government measures restricting prisoners’ access to books, underwear and other items we might deem as necessities. An online petition has been launched against the measures and well-known authors, including Mark Haddon and, Patron for the Kellogg College Centre for Creative Writing, Philip Pullman, have voiced their concerns.

Such topics are always fraught with tension. To what extent, we might ask, is the government really restricting prisoners’ access to books? Is it the case that, as Conservative ministers have tried to explain, it is merely that books can’t be sent in to prisoners – partly because banned substances can be smuggled in such packages? And isn’t it true that prisons have their own libraries?

But the evidence, unfortunately, points to the fact that the Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, and his colleagues might have gone too far this time. The ban on receiving parcels is not merely imposed on violent prisoners, but on all prisoners, including women and children held in detention centres: Grayling has defended the measures (put into place last November) to ensure that prisoners of any type can receive only letters from outside as an example of treating fairly all those who are interned. Now prisoners can ‘earn’ books, and money for books, through the prisoners’ incentive and earned privileges scheme. But it seems inevitable that literacy rates, and the possibility for prisoners to rehabilitate, will decline as a result of these measures. Books should be a necessity, not a luxury.

The situation is best summed up by Richard Armstrong, a prison literacy researcher from Newcastle Universty (as reported in an article in The Guardian on 25th March): ‘There is no evidence [that] the incentives and earned privileges regime will improve behaviour. But there is lots of evidence that removing the means to increase literacy reduces rehabilitation’. That, surely, is an outcome that no British citizen would support.

Tara Stubbs, 25 March 2014 


A Word from our President – Supporting Research Students

Oxford is putting increasing emphasis and resources into doctoral training, with impressive success in attracting additional national funding towards this end.  I’m delighted to say that Kellogg fellows have been at the forefront of these successful developments.  Most impressive during the past academic year has been Oxford’s success in winning Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funding for new Centres for Doctoral Training, including Kellogg Fellows Andrew Martin for Cyber Security and Niki Trigoni for Autonomous Intelligent Machines and Systems, as well as the continued success and development of Charlotte Deane’s Centre for Systems Approaches to Biomedical Science.

The Medical Science Division’s Clinical Graduate School is led by Kellogg Fellow Chris Pugh, and the Social Sciences Division has just launched a centre for doctoral training, led by Kellogg Fellow David Mills.  The Continuing Education Graduate School is led by Kellogg Fellow Adrian Stokes, and this welcomes research students from across the University to its events and activities – which of course are designed to suit part-time students with other demands on their time – but in practice this description often applies to full-time graduates students in other departments, so it is no surprise to see them attracted to events put on to cater to those with busy lives.  Indeed, the Social Sciences doctoral training centre is developing online research methods material in collaboration with Continuing Education, and this is being led by Martin Ruhs – another Kellogg Fellow.

Of course, these developments are departmentally based, but the new centres for doctoral training did have to receive backing from colleges as part of their funding bids, and Kellogg was pleased to agree to give such support.

We look forward to welcoming students at these centres to Kellogg, and to hosting many of the seminars, workshops, conferences and training events that the centres for doctoral training will be organising.

As a graduate college we have a particular duty and interest in supporting graduate students.  And as the primary collegiate base for the University’s part-time graduate students, we have a mission to ensure that part-time students receive the very best Oxford experience.  It is thus no accident that Kellogg fellows have been working so hard – and successfully – at improving Oxford’s support for research students, both full-time and part-time.

Jonathan Michie

A Postcard from Palermo


Palermo, taken by Anna Beer

Visiting Fellow Anna Beer is writing her next book and has chosen to do this in Palermo, Sicily. In this post, she tells us about her current research and why she decided to leave Oxford in order to write…

I’m a long way, and not just in terms of distance, from Oxford at the moment, spending a few months in Palermo writing (or trying to write) my next book. In a sense, though, I feel I have a lot in common with a number of Kellogg and Continuing Education students I have known over the years, people who have managed to carve some time out from their usual activities, and devote themselves to what really interests them – whatever that may be. It takes some doing, I know.

I’m working on a book that I hope will celebrate the achievements of individual women composers through the last four centuries of European history. The book brings together a whole bunch of long-standing activities and passions – music, obviously; writing, even more obviously; thinking about women’s lives in the past (which was the impetus for my book on Bess Throckmorton, wife to Sir Walter Ralegh); thinking about the material conditions necessary for the creation of ‘great art’ (which was one of the ideas behind my biography of John Milton). Yes, it’s a big subject, but intensely rewarding to uncover more about some exceptional women’s lives and works. And yes, it takes me well outside my academic comfort zone: I’m not a musicologist, just someone who enjoys playing and listening to music. But not only do I have a ready-made sound-track for my daily slog at the computer (today it was the delightful music of Marianna von Martines, who flourished in eighteenth century Vienna, and was promptly forgotten after her death) but there is something exciting if terrifying about exploring new creative and intellectual horizons.

But why Palermo? Again, I feel like a Kellogg student, only in reverse. Particularly for mature students, coming to Oxford can be a chance to escape into a world of study. The ivory tower has its uses. In my case, having studied, lived, worked in Oxford on and off (mainly on) for coming up to thirty (gasp….thirty?) years, I need to get away from the place, especially if I am going to make sure that I write in a way that will appeal to readers outside the academic world.

But that only explains why I’ve come away from Oxford. If the truth be told, I’m in Palermo because I am foolishly infatuated with the city. It’s filthy and chaotic, it has a recent history that does not bear thinking about, and which I cannot begin to understand, and even the weather is a bit rubbish at this time of year. But there’s something about this dirty, beautiful (and dirt cheap) city that appeals – and it’s not just that I can, for once, afford to indulge my taste for good food and really good wine. When I work out just what it is, it will probably be time to come home. In the mean time, I’ve a book to write…

If you’d like to know more about what I’m doing, do take a look at my blog

A Word from our President


Our President, Jonathan Michie at the Foundation Dinner, 2014. Photo © Copyright 2014 Kellogg College, All Rights Reserved

On Saturday evening we enjoyed Kellogg’s 24th Foundation Dinner.  The event had been fully-booked for some time, but amongst those who had managed to book in were the Founding President (Geoffrey Thomas), four Founding Fellows (Raymond Flood, David Grylls, Trevor Rowley and Tristram Wyatt), the founding MCR President (Navlika Ramjee), plus other fellows, alumni, students, staff, and guests – including College guests Ben Bolgar from the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community, the Head of the University’s Mathematical, Physical & Life Sciences Division, Alex Halliday and his wife Christine Young, and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Planning & Resources, William James and his wife Karen Bell.

As ever, we were served a tremendous meal, organised by Mark, created by chefs Jon, Viru, Tom and Matthew, and served by Grant, Eva, Kataryzana and Carlos (along with temporary staff for the evening).

The Foundation Dinners are a welcome opportunity to look back over the previous year, since it can sometimes feel like slow progress building a college in Oxford – which is what we are still in the process of doing.  But taking stock after a year makes one appreciate the significant enhancements which are being made across the board in College life.

Thus, I was able to thank the catering staff for the fact that the annual survey of Oxford students – the Student Barometer – had resulted in Kellogg receiving the third-highest score out of the 37 colleges (All Souls isn’t included) and 6 Permanent Private Halls.  On the crucial question of how well the College Advisor system works, I was able to thank the fellows and staff for the conscientious way in which this role is treated, with Kellogg being rated second out of the 43 colleges and PPHs.

We were able to acknowledge the success of Kellogg fellows in leading the doctoral training developments across the University; the achievement of our students, including Abi Srihara’s winning the Vice-Chancellor’s Civic Engagement Award – following Joy O’Neill’s winning it the previous year; the strengthening of our staffing, with several new appointments including a Communications Officer; and the invaluable volunteering from our alumni.

In addition to all these achievements and successes, we created 25 new student bedrooms through the purchase of 12 Bradmore Road and its renovation along with 38 Norham Road.  And thanks to the legacy from the late Diana Wood, we’re establishing Kellogg’s first fully-endowed scholarship – to cover full fees and living costs, and endowed in perpetuity.

All this creates a solid platform as we enter our 25th year.  A sincere thank you to all Kellogg students, alumni, staff, fellows, Common Room Members, Research Members of Common Room, donors, volunteers, and other friends and supporters from across the University and more widely.

As I said on Saturday evening, one lesson we can learn from Kellogg’s brief history is that however spectacular the past year has been, the next will almost certainly be even more spectacularly successful!

Jonathan Michie, March 2014