New Graduate College Announced by Oxford with Focus on Artificial Intelligence and Environmental Change

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Image credit: Geograph –  N Chadwick

The University of Oxford has today publicised plans for a new graduate college, located centrally within the town. Its intake will comprise largely of students from the Mathematics, Physics and Life Sciences departments, with some provision for other subjects. According to the official announcement, the college will provide particular space for ‘working on two major challenges – Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, and Environmental Change.’

The area designated for the new college is the Radcliffe Science Library site on Parks Road. ‘Entrepreneurs-in-residence’ will be play the role of linking investment and research together. Facilities will include an integrated museum collection and exhibition spaces, alongside modern dining halls, communal spaces and a library. Recruitment of its graduate body is scheduled to begin in 2019-20.

Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the university, has invited Professor Lionel Tarassenko to head up the college’s development. Professor Tarassenko currently serves as chief of the Engineering Science Department at Oxford, and has specialisms in machine learning and its applications to clinical medicine. A founder of four tech start-ups, he formerly served as a Tutorial Fellow at St Hugh’s after graduating from Keble.

Vice-Chancellor Richardson has said the following on Professor Tarassenko: ‘He is indefatigable in translating ideas into practical impact and in bringing smart people together. A committed researcher and teacher, Lionel has supervised more than 60 doctoral students and is superbly qualified to lead Oxford’s 39th college.’

‘Entrepreneurs-in-residence’ will be play the role of linking investment and research together. Facilities will include an integrated museum collection and exhibition spaces, alongside modern dining halls, communal spaces and a library.

An interdisciplinary approach is intended to define much of the college’s activity; as Professor Tarassenko has commented “Much of 21st-century research is interdisciplinary… My own field of research, machine learning, intersects with philosophy, ethics and neuroscience. Progress on issues such as climate change and the loss of biodiversity is being made at the nexus of the physical, natural and human behavioural sciences… Oxford’s new college will harness diverse expertise, bringing together researchers who have curiosity beyond their own subject in common.”

The unveiling of this project comes at the back of Oxford’s intention to boost the number of graduate students, and so maintain or further improve its research output. David Palfreyman, bursar at New College, Oxford has previously commented that “The key US competitors are usually smaller than Oxford or Cambridge, especially at undergraduate level.” A larger graduate body, following the American model, was in his view needed to ensure Oxford’s status as “a world class university and a super research university a la Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton”. The name of Oxford’s 39th college remains, however, undecided.