Radcliffe Camera. Credit: Dillif

News from over the Vac

Oxford University finishes top in THE rankings

The Times Higher Education Supplement revised its university rankings over the vacation, placing Oxford first in Europe. UK institutions dominated the top 10 results, with Cambridge coming in a close 2nd, followed by Imperial College London (3rd), University College London (5th), London School of Economics and Political Science (6th), University of Edinburgh (7th) and King’s College London (8th).

The authors measured “teaching environment, research environment, citations (research influence), industry income and international outlook” to compile the list. The results showed that the UK had the most universities in the top 200 at 46, followed by Germany with 36 and Italy at 19. However, Italy had only one institute in the top quartile – Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa – while Germany had 11 (the highest, LMU Munich, finished 10th). According to THE, “Scandinavian countries perform well, with Sweden and Finland punching above their weight relative to their population size”, but countries in southern and eastern Europe underperformed relative to their GDP. Russia had only five of its universities fall in the top 200.

Elsewhere, Oxford finished fourth in the THE Student Experience Survey, behind Loughborough at the top of the table and Harper Adams and Sheffield Universities at second and third place respectively.

Christianity no longer compulsory for theologians

Changes to the structure of theology degrees at Oxford mean that students will no longer have to study Christianity in every year of their degree. The reforms—reportedly altering 800 years of practice—have been prompted by students calling for greater diversity.

Freshers will still be required to take two papers on Christianity at the end of first year, but otherwise students are able to choose subjects, ranging from Buddhism to “feminist approaches to religion and theology”. The new curriculum means that academics will be teaching subjects more aligned with their research, while students have greater choice. Professor Johannes Zachhuber said: “We recognise that the people who come to study at Oxford come from a variety of different backgrounds and have legitimately different interests.”

Academics have pointed out that it remains unlikely that a student would not study the religion in second and third years, however. A spokesperson said: “Christianity is still a major part of the course in second and third year, and it’s very unlikely that a student would choose options that do not cover Christianity in these years.”

St Hilda’s extension architects chosen

A London-based firm of architects has been selected to design a £10m extension to St Hilda’s. Gort Scott, practising from The Print House, 18 Ashwin Street in London, have received the commission after beating four other short-listed companies: Hall McKnight, 6a, DRDH and Tim Ronalds architectural firms.

The design features “a slender tower that will mark a new entrance to the college from Cowley Place, as well as rooftop gardens and a riverside pavilion with a decorative latticed façade”, according to Dezeen magazine. One of the company’s directors, Fiona Scott, said that the plan was influenced by the river and formed a “lyrical pavilion set within the college’s picturesque gardens, framed by a robust building that defines the boundary.” The work will commence in 2017.

Gort Scott was founded in 2007 by Jay Gort and Fiona Scott, who met at Cambridge. Past works include the construction of 51 Hills Road, owned by Jesus College, Cambridge, and a commission from New College. Having been short-listed or won multiple awards since its inception, the company was short-listed for three Building Design awards in 2015: Young Architect of the Year, Sustainability Architect of the Year and Masterplanning and Public Realm Architect of the Year

Image: Dillif