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Inaugural Vice-Chancellor Colloquium to mark Earth Day

This year’s Earth Day on April 22, saw the completion of the first Vice-Chancellor’s Colloquium, a forum based on collaborative efforts to improve the climate crisis. To mark the end of this programme, a special event attended by the participating students and the Vice-Chancellor, Irene Tracey, took place at the Maths Institute.

In October 2023, the Vice-Chancellor launched this new project and said it was: “an experiment in helping students learn from each other across the divide.” The conference was focused on climate change, to which the Vice-Chancellor said: “Building on the success and popularity of our student-led Oxford School of Climate Change, we’ve decided to make climate the unifying theme of the pilot colloquium.” 

The project ran for eight weeks with 200 undergraduate students from 25 academic departments and all 33 undergraduate colleges participating. The activities ran ranged from attending keynote lectures held by experts, to college-based skill sessions and student projects. The participating student body comprised 100 undergraduates reading STEM subjects, and 100 reading social sciences and humanities. 

This project focuses on adherence to the University’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy, which encompasses two main targets: to achieve net zero carbon and make biodiversity net gain by 2035.

The Vice-Chancellor has since congratulated all involved in the inaugural Colloquium, and said: “By working collaboratively, our students have developed some brilliantly creative and innovative projects that show the value of fostering strong cross-curricular skills to tackle global issues.”

The winning project was selected from a shortlist of proposals submitted by three teams. Their success was announced at the Maths Institute on Earth Day. This initiative intends to engender a connection between Oxford students and nature as well as providing a “platform for community and wellbeing.”

The winning proposal will install communal allotments at all colleges. Alternative proposals consisted of a review of college travel grants to promote low emission travel, and ‘Oxford Students’ Green Plate’, which is a book of plant-based recipes that seeks to reduce the carbon emissions that students’ diets contribute toward. 

Anna Serafeimidou, first year Medicine student at Wadham College and a member of the winning team, said the interdisciplinary nature of the Colloquium “actively bridged traditionally ‘different’ disciplines.”

Curriculum project lead in the environmental sustainability team, Dr Bill Finnegan, said: “The theme of climate also represents an alignment of strategic priorities for Oxford, advancing the curriculum priority of the University’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy – which I work on in parallel to the colloquium – and reflecting Continuing Education’s [the University Department] vision of promoting sustainability and social justice.”

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