Congregation Meeting, 28 May 2024

(1) Voting on a Resolution approving the conferment of Degrees by Diploma 

For full text of proposal see Gazette No 5420, 9 May 2024, p425


(2) Questions under Part 5 of Congregation Regulations 2 of 2002  

For full text of questions and Council’s reply see  Gazette No 5422, 23 May 2024, p463

Congregation meeting 

The meeting was held at 2pm on Tuesday 28 May, in the Sheldonian Theatre. Attendance at the meeting is open to members of Congregation. Arrangements for the meeting were published in the Gazette, No, 4522 23 May 2024, p465

Order of proceedings 

The Chair first declared the resolution at (1) above carried. 

Under the provisions of Part 5 of Congregation Regulations 2 of 2002, the replies to the questions at (2) were read; no debate was permitted upon the reply, but at the Chair's discretion five supplementary questions were asked to elucidate the reply given.   

Supplementary Questions 


Supplementary Question 1 from Dr Sneha Krishnan, Brasenose 

Will the University refer our question 1 to the Ethical Investments Representations Review Subcommittee, to ask that it similarly investigate the best practices to achieve non-exposure to any defence-related manufacturing, legal or otherwise? 


Supplementary Question 2 from Professor Naomi Waltham-Smith, Merton 

Noting the incremental refinements the University has made to its investment policy on ethical grounds over the years and the provisional measures order made on Friday by the International Court of Justice requiring Israel to halt its military offensive in Rafah given the risk of irreparable prejudice to rights protected under the Genocide Convention, what work has been, or could be, undertaken to evaluate the feasibility of extending restrictions to companies manufacturing arms beyond those proscribed by the Munitions (Prohibitions) or Landmines Acts—for example, by expressly requiring that any vehicle, such as the bespoke BlackRock Fossil Fuel Screened Equity Index Fund launched in 2020, is divested from companies such as Elbit Systems, listed in the Portfolio Statement for the FY ending February 2023, which are excluded from other ESG funds for breaching UN Global Compact Principles? 

Supplementary Question 3 from Dr Meera Sabaratnam, New College 

In 2020, Congregation determined that it held a higher standard for net zero and sustainability goals than prescribed by British law, and pursuant to this, has divested from tobacco and fossil fuels. In the matter of arms, however, the University outsources its judgements on the appropriate standards to British law, only refraining from direct and indirect investment in illegal weapons. The appropriateness and neutrality of the British state as an arbiter in this matter is not self-evident, particularly given that there is a close relationship between the state and privatised arms manufacturers, including through direct subsidy and promotion. With this in mind, would the University welcome a paper to the Ethical Investment Representations Review Subcommittee or another relevant committee from academics of this university with expertise in this matter, towards a careful consideration of these issues? 


Supplementary Question 4 from Dr Sudhir Kumar Hazareesingh, Balliol 

In response to Question 2 of May 23rd, the University has stated that it is “too early to plan for the rebuilding of Gaza’s universities, as it is uncertain when this will take place”. That same day, the University updated us with a statement on how it is “mapping out existing connections to universities in Gaza to determine how we can build on those connections; we are engaging with other Russell Group universities to explore what we can do collectively to contribute to the rebuilding process.” Building on this progress and conscious of Oxford's status as a global leader in higher education, we ask: would the university be willing to make a public commitment to participating in the rebuilding of Gaza’s higher education infrastructure? Doing so would be a powerful signal to our Palestinian academic colleagues that any effort to destroy them will not succeed and there will be a future for the next generation of scholars in Gaza.  We ask that the University make a public and official commitment to this. 


Supplementary Question 5 from Andonis Marden, Department of International Development 

I'm speaking as Director of Refugee Scholarships and Partnerships at the Department of International Development, and as background to my question, I wish to note that the work that I lead figures prominently in Council’s response to the questions posed, but does not fully capture the spirit or statistics of the programmes. While it is true that RSC Pathways is available to learners with displacement backgrounds worldwide, only a very small number of our 400+ graduates have been based in Gaza and the West Bank in past cohorts. Recruitment has not been Palestine-specific, nor can those students be claimed as part of the University’s response to the current situation. I am also aware that the University has offered long-standing support for CARA Fellowships, however it is not clear that renewed commitment equates to additional opportunities specifically for Palestinian academics.  

I note the unwavering commitment of my team and colleagues who seek to support Palestinian scholars caught in conflict and the diaspora, and I also note Council’s invitation for ‘Academic championship…for fundraising and co-ordination across the collegiate University…for Gaza’, as occurred following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.  

And so my questions are: [1] What new and specifically Gaza-focused actions is the University committed to undertaking with respect to fellowships, scholarships, and the provision of other material resources for the specific benefit of our fellow academics and students in Gaza? [2] And what support can the University commit to provide students and staff who wish to support this response?  


These supplementary questions will be received by Council and Council’s reply will be published in a future edition of the Gazette. 

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