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New Islamic Studies Centre

After nine year delay, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies set to open
Hannah White-Steele on Thursday 16th February 2012
Photograph: Hannah Bond

The Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies’ new building is set to open in 2013 after a nine-year delay. The opening will see the Centre move from its current location on George Street to a 3.25 acre site next to Magdalen College.


The building on the new Marston Road site was expected to open in 2004 after work began in 2002 but had to stop due to issues of funding.


Registrar Richard Makepeace said, “As is often the case, deadlines have been stretched. We were expecting to be ready to open by the end of this year but we are hoping to have the opening in 2013. There will be work going on throughout the year, which is basically the fitting out of the interior.”


The centre was initially thought to cost £60 million. A figure for the final spend is not yet available, but it is thought that it will certainly exceed the initial budgetary estimate.


The Centre is a Recognised Independent Centre of the University of Oxford, set up in 1985. It is not a part of the University, but works with the University in research and teaching. Other Recognised Independent Centres of the University include the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, and the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.


The OCIS website describes the new building as blending “the architectural features of the traditional Oxford colleges with the forms and styles of the classical period of Islam. The result is a unique symbol of the harmony between two ancient traditions of scholarship brought together for the pursuit of knowledge.” Islamic and Western culture and architecture are brought together within the design, and registrar Richard Makepeace said that “If there is a message in the building it is that we are not as different as we sometimes tend to believe.”


The new building will have accommodation for up to 40 graduate students, as well as a mosque, minaret, dining hall and parking.  Another benefit of the move will be the increase in library space. OCIS said that “the move to purpose-built new premises will increase the Library's size fourfold and enable wider access to a much more extensive collection.”


The Centre aims to provide a meeting point for the Western and Islamic worlds of learning, contributing to multi-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary study of the Islamic world. The OCIS enjoys the support of its patron Prince Charles as well as visits from other international figures including Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan, then Secretary-General of the UN.


Mohammad Ali, member of Oxford University Islamic Society, commented, 'Our general thoughts about the new centre are positive, since we appreciate the existing centre on George Street is somewhat small.'

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