The appointment of Matt Cook as the UK’s first professor of LGBTQ+ History at Mansfield College, University of Oxford.
- The Guardian, ‘Oxford University appoints UK’s first professor of LGBTQ+ history’, 5 June 2023
- The Telegraph, ‘Oxford makes author of ‘queer’ National Trust guide its first professor of LGBT history’, 5 June 2023
- The Times, ‘Oxford appoints UK’s first LGBT history professor’, 6 June 2023
- The Independent, ‘Historian to become UK’s first permanently endowed professor in LGBTQ+ History’, June 2023
- The Pink News, ‘University of Oxford appoints UK’s first LGBTQ+ history professor’, 5 June 2023
Other features include the Evening Standard, The Irish News, Gay Times, World at One, Jack FM, Talk TV amongst others.
In this article, Principal Helen Mountfield, KC, rebuts one of the criticisms made of universities’ efforts to correct the state-private imbalance: that letting in more state-school students means standards will slip.
Helen Mountfield, the Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford, points out that as the college’s intake has 'diversified'- 95% of Mansfield’s students are now state-educated - its results have improved. "If you bring in people with diverse experiences and ways of thinking, who challenge one another’s assumptions, it promotes intellectual creativity and academic success," she says.
The Guardian, 'New Oxford history of sexualities role named after LGBTQ+ activist', 08th February 2022
This article announces that a new professorship in the history of sexualities is to be established at the University of Oxford, following a £5m donation in memory of the human rights lawyer and LGBTQ+ activist Jonathan Cooper who died in 2021. The new chair will expand the teaching and research into LGBTQ+ history carried out at Oxford and will be the first fully endowed post of its type in the UK when it launches in 2023.
The professorship will be based at Mansfield College, whose principal, Helen Mountfield, said: “It is my firm aim that this will be the start of an exciting research cluster exploring the histories and contributions of LGBTQ+ people. As a historian, in the nonconformist college, I am delighted to help widen the stories which are recorded and valued. As a lawyer, and a friend of Jonathan Cooper, I am proud that his enduring contribution to the history of LGBTQ+ emancipation will be recognised and celebrated by the post named in his memory.”
Why Oxbridge colleges are increasingly recruiting Heads of House from the Bar’s ranks: barrister-principals Helen Mountfield KC, Lord Grabiner, John Bowers KC and Sir Ernest Ryder explain the role, its delights and the impact.
The tradition of promoting fair access and the strong human rights ethos are what attracted Helen to Mansfield. While in full-time practice at the Bar, she specialised in equality, education and human rights law, and "when I first met the tutors here, it felt like home". This is one of Oxford’s newer colleges, without a massive endowment or huge landholdings, so she has no comfortable laurels to rest on. "But there is a real buzz about this place: it’s on the up and up. There’s such a shared sense of pride in what we are achieving. So this job is a real project," she says.
The Guardian, ‘Last year one Oxford college admitted 96% of its students from state schools. How did they do it?’, 24th March 2020
Mansfield College has risen up the league tables through its outstanding outreach work.
Mansfield College’s senior admissions tutor, Lucinda Rumsey, recounts one applicant explaining that the only interview she had experienced before coming to Mansfield was at Greggs bakery. She got in and graduated with a 2:1. Rumsey believes the interview process is a powerful tool for equalising access.
“The important thing for selection is good pre-interview information, prior qualifications and a reference from a teacher who knows the student well and has seen them develop. Then we are trying to work out if candidates have aptitude for a particular subject and will thrive at it.
“The interview helps us to do some nuanced work around that. Tutors as subject specialists are in a good position to assess potential. Almost all the applicants we get are well-qualified, and we have to make fine distinctions."
After her college decided to seek bright teenagers from state schools and further education colleges, its number of first-class and 2:1 degrees rose, said Helen Mountfield, KC, Principal of Mansfield College. It had been 'at the bottom' of the Norrington table, which ranks Oxford colleges on the classifications of degrees awarded. "We have consistently gone up and this year we are fifth. It shows that we are...not saying let's let in some poor kids as a charity case...but identifying cleverer people because we are looking more broadly at who might benefit from being here."
Letter to the Editor from Helen Mountfield, KC, Principal of Mansfield College
Letter to the Editor from Lucinda Rumsey, Senior Tutor at Mansfield College
Melvyn Roffe, chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, which represents schools including Eton and Winchester, wrote in the Daily Telegraph: "There was a suspicion that school type is being used by universities as a 'quick and dirty' proxy measure to make the system look fairer. It may help targets, it may have some Oxford admissions tutors fist-bumping in glee. But is it really making things fairer?"
In response, Helen Mountfield, principal of Mansfield College, Oxford, said the university should take even more state school students in order to "fairly identify talent". She said: "I believe academic aptitude and intellectual interest are widely spread in society, and so I would expect universities that are fairly identifying talent to end up with about 90-95 per cent of their home students being state school educated, because that is broadly reflective of where students are educated."
Mansfield College opened in Oxford in 1886. Its original purpose was to provide further education and theological training for nonconformist ministers. Today Mansfield offers a wide range of subjects and its population is made up of 240 undergraduates, 180 graduates, 40 visiting students. In recent years, over 80% of Mansfield's UK undergraduates have been from the state sector - the highest percentage of any Oxford college. Mansfield’s first year intake for 2018/19 was 95% state sector, compared with an average of around 60% for all colleges. Mansfield has always been proud to welcome to Oxford people traditionally excluded from excellent higher education, and – in conjunction with the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights – to stand up for equal dignity, respect and rights for all.
Principal Helen Mountfield KC joined Mansfield College in September 2018 to become the third female Head of House in a row. Helen is an experienced and award-winning barrister, with over 26 years of expertise in constitutional law, human rights and equality law, including particular experience of the higher education sector. She has appeared in many cases in the Supreme Court, European Court of Justice and European Court of Human Rights, and recently featured on the ‘First Hundred Years’ website, which celebrates the history of women in law. Helen is a founder member of Matrix Chambers, an accredited mediator, a Master of the Bench of Gray’s Inn, a Recorder and a deputy High Court Judge.
Helen also plays an active role in public policy. She was co-chair, with Tom Watson MP, of the Independent Commission on the Future of Work in the Digital Economy; a member of the Royal Society of Arts’ Commission on Drugs Policy; and part of the Disability Rights Commission’s review of barriers to access to the professions. She is a trustee of the Institute for the Future of Work, the Equal Rights Trust and the National Campaign for the Arts, and has been a school governor.
In 2020 Mansfield celebrated two decades since the launch of the college's highly successful Access to Excellence Campaign, launched by Professor David Marquand, Principal at Mansfield from 1996-2002. This initiative was built on what was felt to be a cornerstone of Mansfield's mission as a College: to make an Oxford education available to all those clever and hard-working enough to benefit from it, regardless of educational background.
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