I would like to take this opportunity to thank all academic and support staff and students in the Department of Experimental Psychology for their ongoing patience since the closure of the Tinbergen Building. It has been a great upheaval for the department and I am continually impressed by the resourcefulness and positive attitude of members of the department as they manage their way through this unprecedented situation. We are currently identifying medium and long term solutions, and hope to have much of the department rehoused together in more acceptable accommodation in early 2018.
It was with great pleasure that I attended the renewal and launch celebrations of the two Oxford-based Biomedical Research Centres (BRC) earlier this month: NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, and NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre, partnerships between the University and the Oxford University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust respectively.
The NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre is a new BRC, one of only two in the UK dedicated to mental health and dementia. Our neuroscience community, one of the largest in Europe, was ranked first in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, reflecting the world-leading quality of much of our research in terms of originality and significance. It is, therefore, essential that we are able to translate our latest discoveries into fundamentally new treatments in the clinic and this important new BRC will now enhance our ability to achieve this. I am personally delighted with the creation of this new BRC as in 2009 I chaired an MRC committee looking at the challenges to research in mental illness and wellbeing. One of the conclusions we came to was that the UK has many strengths in these areas, but what we needed to do was to accelerate this research and development, aimed at providing new, more effective treatments for mental illness and to be able to implement them more rapidly. The establishment of this BRC is therefore an embodiment of this strategic ambition, since it will enable the research expertise, particularly of the University’s Departments of Psychiatry and Experimental Psychology, along with the clinical skills of the Oxford Health staff, to come together to support translational research and innovation with the goal of improving healthcare for our patients.
The NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre received increased NIHR funding for a further five years, after two successful terms, expanding the number of research themes from 14 to 20 in areas such as cancer, genetics, diabetes, vaccines and stroke, and new areas such as obesity and respiratory. The partnership has been fundamental to Oxford’s successes in clinical and translational research. It has also been an important contributor to the ranking of the Medical School as the world leader in medical sciences and health for the past 6 years. This partnership enables, on the one hand, lessons from the day-to-day experience of real-life patient care to be used to improve the University's research and teaching, and on the other hand, allows the latest developments in our truly world leading research programmes in medical and physical sciences to be used to improve patient care. The NIHR Oxford BRC has undoubtedly been able to facilitate and accelerate the clinical translation and impact of research discoveries at a scale that has been enormously important for the work of the University. This has helped us ensure that the work of our basic medical sciences has relevance to understanding human disease and developing new treatments.
The partnerships with the two BRCs are focused around the Medical Sciences Division, but crucially extend into other divisions and departments across the University, particularly engineering, physics and chemistry, big data, computer science and mathematics. It is this rich cross-disciplinary engagement between scientists and clinicians, which is so powerful and which can be transformative in research that leads to changes in clinical care.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many members of the Medical Sciences Division and colleagues from the Bodleian Library, Research Services, Business Development and Oxford University Innovation and our partners at Oxford University Hospital and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trusts who have contributed so much to these achievements.
Finally, HEFCE have informed us that we have been allocated 16 additional places for medicine in 2018 and we are now deciding how these will be distributed between the undergraduate and graduate entry courses. This is our allocation from the 500 places available nationwide for 2018. The remaining 1000 for 2019 onwards will be allocated later in the year and we will have to have decide whether we wish to bid for some of these, recognising that the Oxford medicine courses have greatly benefited from relatively small annual intakes compared with most other medical schools, many of whom already have more than double our intake. We also have to recognise that in Oxford we would have to identify sufficient College places, in competition with many other Departments throughout the University, who wish to develop new courses or expand current ones.