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A summary of the Medical Sciences Board's June meeting

Biochemistry Phase 2 project

At its June meeting the Medical Sciences Board enthusiastically endorsed a proposal to initiate the Biochemistry Phase 2 project; a cross-divisional and cross-departmental initiative. The ultimate ambition is to create a building dedicated to the application of physical sciences approaches to the biology of cells, in partnership with the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division. In delivering this ambition the building will facilitate: 

  • Co-location of groups from the biomedical and physical sciences
  • Improvements in the quality of space for many groups within the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics
  • Delivery of a Science Area hub for key platform technologies
  • Recruitment of new groups to support the overarching aim
  • Improvement in the financial sustainability of MSD activities in the Science Area.

The project is part of the broader strategy for the development of the Science Area and will therefore facilitate developments elsewhere on the campus. 

The project will create 12,000 square metres of state-of-the-art space for biosciences research. It is estimated that it will be able to accommodate around 500 scientists and shared scientific infrastructure for use across the Science Area (e.g. the latest cryo-em technology). The estimated cost of this project is just under £100m, of which £70m has already been identified, the vast majority coming from the University in recognition that improving the facilities in the Science Area is one of the Medical Science Division’s top capital priorities. It is estimated that the building will be completed by the end of 2019. 

An oversight group will be established jointly between the two divisions and it will facilitate thinking as to precisely how the building is occupied. The building will accommodate staff from multiple departments and will contribute towards the Division’s ambition to ensure that all staff are accommodated in high-quality space irrespective of their departmental affiliation. In due course the project will allow the Division to release some of its less than functionally efficient estate.

Further information on the project can be obtained from Chris Price, Head of Strategic Planning and Projects.

Board Business

In this regular feature, Dr David Bryan, Divisional Secretary, provides a summary of the Medical Sciences Board’s activity.

At its meeting on 21 June 2016 the Medical Sciences Board:

  • Received an oral report on Athena SWAN issues, noting that the outcomes of the applications by Oncology and Surgical Sciences for Silver status would be known shortly.
  • Received the report of the meeting of the Educational Policy and Standards Committee held on 10 June, which was presented by Professor Paterson. The Board discussed and endorsed the proposed plan of action following the review of the Graduate Entry Medical Course. Professor Raj Thakker, who had chaired the review, attended the Board for this item. The Board agreed in particular that some restructuring was required of the governance, management and administration of the course; that some attention was required to the course and examination structure in years 1 and 2 – in terms of defining the core curriculum; a clear framework for the setting of assessment, and clear mapping of assessment to the curriculum was required; that the resourcing of the course (teaching and examining) needed to be overhauled and there was a key role for the Division in facilitating work to address the lack of a framework to agree contributions, and the long-standing problems in securing appropriate teachers and examiners: there was a need to raise awareness of departments of the income generated by the course, and to engage Heads of Department in formal agreements to provide teaching and examining; work was also required with colleges to ensure an optimum distribution of students, and to optimize tutorial provision and admissions, for example through the sharing of resources. There would be initial engagement with college tutors at a meeting on 1 July. This would be followed by high level engagement with individual colleges in case of difficulty. In the longer term the aim would be to achieve college clustering to ensure a critical mass of GEM students in any one college. There was also the need to strengthen admissions to drive up quality. 
  • Adopted the recommendation of the Educational Policy and Standards Committee regarding clinical medical student admissions arrangements: Oxford students who wished to apply to a London School would be allowed to do so, all other qualifying Oxford students would be guaranteed a clinical place, and any remaining places would be offered in open competition to students from outside Oxford. This recommendation had followed consideration of legal advice, decisions made by the London Medical Schools, and the recommendation of University Education Committee’s Undergraduate Panel. The Board also noted: that there were plans for a review of the Biomedical Sciences course during the 2016-2017 academic year; that the committee had given approval on behalf of the Board to a proposal from the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology for a change of title for the DPhil programme; that the committee had discussed the recommendations relating to education arising from the review of NDOG, NDORMS, Paediatrics and Surgical Sciences; that the committee had given approval on behalf of the Board, subject to additional external peer review, to a proposal from NDPCHS for a PG Cert in Leadership in Primary Care research; that the committee had received a report on the outcomes of the QAA Higher Education Review of the University. 
  • Received the report of the meeting of the Finance and Physical Capital Committee held on 6 June, which was presented by Professor Cornall. The Board agreed to adopt the proposed divisional budget, inclusive of additional payroll savings attributable to anticipated staff turnover, with the exception of the budget proposed for the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine which it was agreed required further consideration in respect of the forecast made of draw-downs from PI balances within that department. The Board also agreed to adopt the budget proposed for the Divisional Office and received oral reports on the forthcoming strategic planning exercise and on the status of the PCMI project.
  • Received the report of the meeting of the Research Committee held on 6 June, which was presented by Professor Wood. The Board noted the committee's support for the proposed bid for the Dementia Research Institute Hub and adopted the committee's recommendation endorsing the strategy outlined for the Biochemistry Phase II project (highlighted above).

To view the current and past agenda/papers, please contact Dr David Bryan.