Category Archives: President Post

President Post – A Jewel in the Crown


From left to right: David Griffiths, Jonathan Michie, and Lord & Lady Patten of Barnes.

At our 25th Foundation Dinner on March 14th 2015, the University’s Chancellor Lord Patten described Kellogg College as one of the “jewels in the crown” of the University of Oxford.  This, he said, was in part because of the access we provide – to those who for a variety of reasons might not be in a position to become full-time residential students, for people of all age groups, and for an incredibly international student body.

Kellogg is certainly Oxford’s most international college by any measure – the number of international students, the number of countries from which our students come, and the degree programs that most of our students undertake – such as International Human Rights Law, Sustainable Urban Development, or Evidence-Based Health Care.

Of course, it’s departments rather than colleges that determine the content of Oxford’s degree programs.  But most Kellogg students are continuing with their jobs and careers while they undertake their Master’s and Doctoral programs part-time, and for whatever reason, these part-time degree programs have tended to be more international in content than are Oxford’s full-time degrees.  This may in part be self-fulfilling, because the flexible nature of these degree programs means that people can carry on living and working in Boston, Bombay or Brisbane while they study, visiting Oxford for only short residencies of intensive study.  This facilitates a global spread of students on the degree programs, which in turn perhaps pushes the curricula to be more global – and certainly that international spread will be reflected in the class discussion (whether during the face-to-face residencies or online in between these residencies).

One positive aspect of Oxford’s part-time degrees is to avoid the ‘brain drain’ of developing countries losing their skilled workers overseas, when their students fail to return to their home country after graduating.  Part-time study enables them to continue to live and work in their home country as they earn their degrees – and they are thus much more likely to continue to live, work and contribute to their home countries after graduation.

But apart from making the world a better place, the advantage to the College of our international intake is the amazing diversity of cultural events and activities – including the themed lunches!


President Post – Delivering the Oxford Experience

There have been several reports recently about mature and part-time students having lost out with the new arrangements for student funding – see for example Peter Scott’s ‘Adult education the loser in a game only young, full-time students win’.

It’s therefore particularly appropriate that the one college in Oxford that was founded with the particular mission and purpose of supporting part-time and mature students should be celebrating its first, fantastically successful, 25 years.  Founded in 1990, this year will see a range of events to mark both our achievements and our ambition, including a June 27th Garden Party to which all College friends are welcome to attend.

The continued success of Kellogg College is due in large part to the quality of the part-time degree programmes that most of our students are taking.  The proven excellence of these degree programmes has led to increased demand for places.  In some cases it has been possible to respond to this by expanding the programmes.  These achievements have also sent a strong signal across the University of Oxford – part-time degrees really can deliver the same high level of quality and excellence which Oxford requires and depends upon.  This in turn has led to more departments wishing to pursue this option.

Thus, while Kellogg does have 240 full-time students, our part-time numbers have continued to grow, currently to 627, making 867 students in total – by far the largest graduate college in Oxford in terms of student numbers, and twice the number of graduates that most colleges have.

But it is true that this continued success has been in the face of many obstacles.  As a graduate only college, we have suffered along with others at the complete failure of the Browne Review – which led to the £9,000 fees for undergraduates – to even consider post-graduate students, despite that having been included in their remit.

Now, eventually, a loan arrangement is to be introduced for postgraduate students.  But it is going to discriminate quite explicitly on grounds of age.  Anyone over 30 can forget it – you have been ruled out already.  You will not be allowed access to the loan arrangement.  Even in Oxford, I’m sorry to say that some other colleges explicitly rule out part-time students from their scholarships.

The conclusion is clear.  We must use our 25th Anniversary to redouble our fundraising efforts, to provide scholarship and other support to our students, including enhancing our library and other facilities.  We have launched a ‘1990 Club’ to mark our Foundation Year, for those able and willing to commit £1990 to the future success of our students and College.  I’m delighted to be able to report that we have already had friends of the College signing up.  This will ensure that our students – including those having to study part-time – will continue to enjoy financial support from the College, along with the sort of college facilities that makes the Oxford experience so special.

Jonathan Michie, March 2015

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @Jonathan_Michie

President Post – Why the Social Sciences Matter

I’ve been writing and talking about why the social sciences matter over the past few days, as a result of the publication of the Academy of Social Sciences book by that title, which I co-edited. The reason might appear to be rather obvious, namely to be able to understand society, and to improve outcomes including through evidence-based policy, whether regarding education, health, housing, the economy, or the whole range of other aspects of our lives. To misquote slightly, this would appear to be a statement of the rather obvious.

Yet politicians are obsessed with the ‘STEM’ subjects. Given that Kellogg’s largest group of students and fellows are in software engineering and systems security, I’m not about to decry the importance of the STEM subjects. Indeed, I’ve been something of a fan ever since as a young child trying to understand the machine my dad had made in the very early 1960s – before computers had developed sufficiently to be useful for research into artificial intelligence – constructed out of matchboxes and colored beads, which not only played noughts and crosses, but learned how to improve its playing as it went – perhaps the earliest example of machine learning. This was what he and Alan Turing had discussed each week when they left Bletchley Park for the pub to play chess – neither of them were any good at the game, but they were fascinated about whether one might be able to build a machine that could not only play, but might learn how to improve its play.

But to get the most out of computing, we do need to understand how societies work, how decisions are made, and so forth. Indeed, a striking example was given to me recently when I was sent a transcript of my dad being interviewed about Bletchley Park, in which he relayed the well-known fact that the enigma code was broken due to a signal having been re-sent without having re-set the machine. Donald made the point that it would have been a simple matter to have engineered the enigma machine so that it could not re-transmit without being re-set. So why did the Germans not do this – especially given their excellence in engineering?

Donald’s hunch was that while the Germans were great engineers, they were also great believers in discipline, especially military discipline. So if the operators were ordered to re-set the machine between transmissions, then the machine would indeed be re-set. Nowadays it would be standard to any such innovation to be reviewed in operation, in which case this weakness in the system might be picked up. But these are matters for organizational behaviour, management decision-making and other social science disciplines – the conclusion is that we need all the relevant disciplines to be brought to bear.

To win a free copy of the book, tweet @PalgraveSoc your thoughts on why #SocSciMatters

Jonathan Michie, February 2015

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @Jonathan_Michie

Why do the Social Sciences matter?

All readers are warmly invited to a free book launch event in London on Thursday February 19th 2015 – but spaces are limited and being allocated on a first-come first-served basis, so please book here.

The book, on Why the Social Sciences Matter, analyses some of the greatest challenges facing humanity – from climate change to economic crisis, and from food security to well-being. A key conclusion is that for many of these issues, a proper understanding requires a range of academic disciplines to be brought to bear. The same conclusion applies to the development of evidence-based policy. Invariably the disciplines required will include those from the social sciences, albeit often having to be combined with disciplines from the natural and medical sciences, as well as the humanities. So multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary dialogue and research is vital.

Few institutions do a better job at promoting this vital requirement – of interdisciplinarity – than do the Oxford colleges. And as one of the largest and most international of Oxford’s colleges, with far more postgraduate students than any of the other colleges, and with a large proportion of Oxford’s Centres for Doctoral Studies being led by Kellogg Fellows, our College is particularly well-placed and active in promoting this agenda of interdisciplinary research.

Indeed, the University of Oxford’s current Five-Year Strategic Plan stresses the importance not just of teaching, research and wider engagement, but also of global impact and interdisciplinarity. So there is a University-wide commitment.

The book, on Why the Social Sciences Matter, has been produced by the Academy of Social Sciences. But as indicated above, the authors invariably point to the need to work across disciplines, including beyond the social sciences. And certainly in the chapter on the economy, the point is made that social science disciplines themselves need to learn from other disciplines, and need to be committed to developing and learning lessons not just to inform better policy, but also to improve the theoretical and empirical contributions of these disciplines themselves, including economics.

Again, Kellogg College’s outstanding research students, innovative research centres, and wide variety of seminars, colloquiums, lectures and conferences are doing a tremendous job at precisely this – working across boundaries to advance both knowledge and theory, thus strengthening the academic disciplines themselves as well as informing policy. That’s what research impact is all about.

Jonathan Michie, February 2015

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @Jonathan_Michie

Our Silver Anniversary! 25 Years of Kellogg College…

My wife Carolyn is born and bred Manchester. Her dad’s idea of sharing the childcare was to take her and her sister to Old Trafford for every Manchester United home game. So they grew up fanatics. Carolyn used to have a card behind her desk at work reading ‘1966 was a great year for English football. Eric Cantona was born!’

There have been many great years for the University of Oxford over the past eight centuries, and one of those was certainly 1990 when the University finally joined the 20th Century by permitting students – at postgraduate level only – to work during term time, meaning that they could study part-time whilst continuing with their jobs and careers. But degree students need a college, and supporting part-time students is a challenging task, so a new college was founded with this as its purpose and mission. Thus was Kellogg College born.

2015 is therefore our 25th Anniversary. We will celebrate it throughout the year, with the main focus being a major garden party on Saturday 27th June. Save the Date – all members and friends of the College are welcome!

The Kellogg Ball on Saturday 20th June will likewise be a particularly special celebration, marking our 25th anniversary. And our alumni will be able to celebrate in style at their Gaudy Dinner on Saturday September 19th – with alumna Ruby Wax proposing the ‘Toast to the College’.

I look forward to seeing you at whichever of these events you are able to attend, and indeed at any of our other events during the course of the year – whether our other major events, such as the Bynum Tudor Lecture and Dinner, or at one of our regular seminars, dinners or other such events – and whether in Oxford, or wherever else in the world you may live – if there aren’t yet any plans for an event where you are, let us know, and get organizing!

And get the message out – I’m tweeting from @jonathan_michie – and any 25th Anniversary tweets you send should use our anniversary hashtag #kellogg25. Don’t forget that you can also follow the College on Twitter @kelloggox and Instagram @kelloggcollege

Jonathan Michie,
January 2015

From our President: The importance of innovation

Even the University of Oxford now recognises the importance of innovation. Of course, the University has long been innovative and innovating in the sense of creating inventions and academic breakthroughs. But seeing these through to new products and processes was not necessarily the University’s thing. Indeed, it has long been a criticism of the UK’s economic and corporate makeup that we have been good at inventing, but if you wanted to see the inventions put to profitable use one needed to go to the US, Germany, Japan or China.

But the University’s own spin-out organisation, Isis Innovation, is now held in high regard globally. Many of the University’s degree programmes are both innovative in their design and also teach various aspects of innovation, such as the Master’s in Evidence-Based Health Care. And the University recently convened a high-level Working Group with representatives from other leading universities globally that suggested various ways in which the ‘innovation agenda’ might be usefully taken forward.

For my part, with Professor Ulrich Hilpert of the University of Jena in Germany, I’m convening a two-day conference at Kellogg on how public and corporate policy might best promote innovation, drawing on the experience and expertise of leading Germany industrialists and trade unionists, as well as other experts from across the globe. The papers will be considered for publication in a special issue of the Academy of Social Sciences’ journal, Contemporary Social Sciences.

To be held at Kellogg College on February 17-18, this is an invitation-only event, but anyone who would like to be included, please let me know. Papers are welcome that explore diversities of innovation – both product and process – across countries and industries; that consider the roles of personal, corporate, institutional and government activities in promoting innovation; and that explore Innovation as the outcome of human labour and of the relationships between individuals and groups.

Particular topics of interest include, inter alia, labour and labour markets; culture as a basis for divergent opportunities; continental division of modes of innovation; metropolitan industrial policy; regionalisation of innovation; the relation between innovative industries and the services they require; the role of government for innovation; modes of innovation as science-based, technology-based and tradition based; knowledge for innovation, including scientific and ‘blue collar’; islands of innovation; sectors, industries and history; education as a basis of innovation; and governmental structures (including federal vs. centralized) as an important issue for developing appropriate innovation.

Soundly empirically based papers are preferred, although high quality scholarly essays will also be considered.

Jonathan Michie,
January 2015

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @Jonathan_Michie

From our President – Two Contradictory Principles

I try to live by two contradictory principles, firstly to say what you do and do what you say, but also to over-deliver, so I’m pleased to say I accomplished both on our summer holiday. Having reported in my previous blog post that my holiday reading would be the two books by fellows Tara Stubbs on Ireland and American authors (American Literature and Irish Culture, 1910-1955: the politics of enchantment. Manchester University Press, 2013), and Martin Ruhs on migration (The Price of Rights: Regulating International Labor Migration. Princeton University Press, 2013), I set a new personal ‘holiday reading’ record by not only completing those two, but also reading Thomas Piketty on inequality (Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Harvard University Press, 2014), and Saïd Business School professor Colin Mayer on the need to reintroduce trust into corporate behavior (Firm Commitment: Why the corporation is failing us and how to restore trust in it, Oxford University press, 2013).

Dr Tara Stubbs’s book is a masterful analysis and exposition of the way in which Ireland – or at least how it is perceived – influenced American authors of the 20th Century. One point I hadn’t previously appreciated, although now that it’s been pointed out it is rather obvious, is that although the image of American ‘Irishness’ today is associated with the St Patrick’s Day parade in New York, and support for republicanism, the Irish heritage in America – and hence in American authors and literature – of course included that from the North, and Protestantism.  However, some authors from that cultural background may still have tried to have the best of both worlds, conjuring up an image of Ireland that also incorporated the whole island.

I find one of the great things about Oxford is that it continually reminds one – or at least, it continuously reminds me, of just what a small proportion of human knowledge I have a grasp of or could even aspire to understand. And in my case, no-one manages to remind me of this better than Tara.

Dr Martin Ruhs has written the definitive book on the relationship between rights afforded to migrants to enter countries, and the rights they are entitled to once they arrive. (His book was launched at a joint event with Tara at Kellogg, where they introduced each other’s books; there is of course an obvious link given the importance of migration to both Ireland and the U.S. – indeed, one of my grannies was American, although of German origin, whereas the other was Irish, although moved to England. My American granny recounted being on holiday in Germany in 1936 when the SS Officer came round the restaurant tables collecting for their ‘youth summer camps’, to which she responded no, she had already donated to the Jewish Defense League.)

Martin argues that the obvious and common appeal to have ‘migrant friendly’ liberal policies, that enables people to migrate, and affords them full rights, may sound worthy but is intellectually lazy and actually rather worthless. Because if one does the empirical work – which Martin has done – one finds that affording full rights post-arrival is likely to be accompanied by rather small numbers being allowed in. So if one wants to provide migrants with the opportunity to move to other countries, you may need to settle for a less than full set of rights in order to facilitate this. This has not been easy or popular to argue, but it does appear to be correct, at least in terms of the evidence. Of course, there are some rights that should not be negotiable, and Martin includes a careful and sophisticated discussion of the ‘hierarchy’ of rights in this context. The work reported in this book was the subject of two of Oxford’s REF ‘Impact Studies’. And his book has deservedly won a prize from the American Political Science Association. Indeed, Martin has not only written the definitive book on the subject, he has pretty well established the subject itself, which previously had been largely avoided.

Piketty’s book on Capital in the 21st Century details the huge inequalities up to the time of the First World War, followed by major ‘capital destroying’ events in the form of the First World War, the Great Depression, and the Second World War, which led to a reduction in inequality. The ‘Golden Age of Capitalism’ from 1945 to the mid-1970s was generally accompanied by the development of welfare states, commitments to full-employment, and a conscious attempt to create and maintain a degree of equality, along with taxation on the wealthy and high earners which both helped to deliver the desired degree of egalitarianism, and helped pay for the welfare state commitments. However, from the 1980s onwards, these commitments have been largely abandoned, especially following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of faith that there was any alternative to capitalism, however unequal or unjust capitalism might become, hence removing the political requirement to deliver on welfare or employment – or on egalitarianism. Piketty documents the rise in inequality that seems set to re-establish pre-World War One degrees of ‘Downton Abbey-esque’ economic and social stratification.

Piketty also claims that with the return on capital set to exceed the general global rate of growth over the coming decades, the rich are set to get richer, and inequalities of wealth and income seem set to widen. He argues that this will be unsustainable – that something will have to give. But rather than wait to see what form that might take, he urges that action should be taken now, in the form of a wealth tax and the return to more rigorously progressive income tax systems to prevent any further exacerbation of inequality.

It took me back to my PPE days of reading The Wealth of Nations, Capital, and The General Theory. None of those publications would, perhaps, have been deemed admissible to the REF, but it is great to have some ‘big picture’ theorizing combined with detailed empirical work and thoughtful policy discussion. For Piketty’s 600-page, heavily footnoted tome to have become an instant international best seller is quite something.

Piketty briefly touches on the role of inequality in creating the 2007-8 global financial crisis and subsequent global recession of 2009 from which the world economy is still only uncertainly recovering five years later – a far weaker recover than in the Great Depression, when five years after the 1929 Wall Street Crash recovery was generally more established. Another take on where it all went wrong is presented by Colin Mayer, a Professor and former Dean of Oxford’s Said Business School, whose book argues that companies should exist for a purpose, namely to produce goods or services, and that companies should have long-term commitments to do this with the best combination of high quality and cost effectiveness that their customers seek. With those goals in mind, companies will deliver for their customers, their employees, their owners and the communities in which they operate. The diversion down the ‘shareholder value’ road of the past 30 years, with increasing focus on short-term decision making to boost share-prices, with Executives often being rewarded with stock options that pay out more the higher the share price has been engineered, has been disastrous corporately, economically, and socially. That short-term financial engineering fuelled much of the pre-crash hubris which proved ultimately value-destroying rather than enhancing – but then, much money was made along the way, and the winners generally kept their winnings, whilst others were suffering the consequences or paying the price.

Colin Mayer’s conclusion about the need for trust, including the actual formation of ‘Trusts’ that would give legal form to positive visions, resonates with some of my own work on non-shareholder corporate forms of co-operatives, mutuals and employee-owned companies. I’m pleased to say that Colin is leading a major research programme funded by the Mars Corporation (of chocolate fame) whose founding charter incorporates ‘mutualism’ as a core principle. It is still a family-owned business, and the project will research the nature of mutualism in business, with Kellogg College’s Centre for Mutual & Employee-owned Business participating in the project, and Kellogg Fellow Ruth Yeoman leading the project along with Colin. I was looking forward to working with Colin (with whom I collaborated during an ESRC Programme in 1992-97) even before reading his book. Thank goodness for holidays – I’ve now discovered that we share more thinking than I had appreciated, and I’m more excited than ever about getting started on the research.

Jonathan Michie, September 2014