Van Houten Fund

The Fund is to be used 'for the benefit of the University in such ways as the Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor, and Council see fit'.  Since 2005, responsibility to assess applications and determine grants has been delegated to the Registrar, subject to a regular report to be made to Council on the decisions taken.

Bids are invited once a year for grants to be used to support projects that can be shown to offer a broad strategic benefit to the University, but that do not form part of the normal day-to-day operations of a department and would not easily be funded from other regular sources. From 2020, bids will usually be invited in Hilary Term.


Grants to applicants from within the University are usually in the region of £2,000 - £12,000, either given as a one-off award, or spread over two or three years.  Grants are also available to organisations external to the University; in such cases, the amount awarded are usually lower and there is a cap on the total amount of funding made available to external organisations in any given bidding round. The cap is currently £25,000. Certain such projects, which would more appropriately be supported from the University's Community Grants Scheme, will be advised to apply to that fund.


The most recent invitation to bid, in March 2020, attracted twenty applications.  Grants awarded recently have included support for:

  • Lightbox, A cross-platform web platform for quantifying the effect of light exposure on humans;
  • 100 years of Oxford degrees for women;
  • Our Mental Wellness, promoting mental wellness of staff and students.


The guidelines by which bids are assessed as follows:


1. Bids for grants will be assessed according to the breadth of the benefit to the University offered by the project in question, the strategic importance of the project to the University and the availability of funds.  Only in exceptional circumstances will a grant be awarded in respect of a project which benefits a single department.

2. Grants will not ordinarily be awarded for purposes for which other trust fund (or similar) support exists within the University, for example, the funding of academic scholarships, regardless of whether or not the alternative fund(s) in question are in a position to fund the expenditure proposed.

3. Grants will not ordinarily be awarded in respect of costs for which a department might reasonably be expected to hold a budget.

4. Grants will not ordinarily be agreed in respect of recurrent activities except to provide:

  • seed funding to support an activity in its first one to three years; or
  • bridging support for one year only where a source of funding is lost and the department/faculty in question is confident that an alternative can be found for the following year.

5. Grants will not ordinarily cover the full cost of a project.  Departments will be expected to make some contribution, or to use the grant secured by the Van Houten Fund to assist in securing other funding (including external funding).

6. The extent to which funds may be awarded to external organisations each financial year may be subject to an upper limit, to be set by the General Purposes Committee and reviewed on an annual basis.

Bids are considered annually in a gathered field exercise, in each case primarily looking ahead to the following financial year.

The 2021 bidding round is now open and will close on Friday 2 April.  


The bids will be considered by the Registrar. 

Applications should be made on the form available here and sent, as a word document attached to an email, to

Further information can be obtained from the Trusts Management Team (also via


Contact us

Secretary to the Van Houten Fund

Trusts Management Team

University Offices

Wellington Square