Message from the President of Magdalen College

05 May 2020

Now that Trinity Term has begun you may be interested to hear how the College is coping in the coronavirus crisis.

Most of our undergraduate and graduate students are now working remotely from home as are our Fellows and tutors. A small number of students have remained in College for special reasons. Several non-academic staff are working remotely. It has been necessary to furlough some staff on a temporary basis without reduction in pay although some key members are continuing to come into work. The College is closed to all visitors and the catering facilities and libraries are not available for the time being.

All tutorials, lectures, classes, collections, and examinations are being conducted remotely. The indications are that our tutors and students have adapted well to this new environment and online platforms such as Zoom and Teams are working smoothly for student tutorials. Most examinations for first and second-year undergraduate students have been postponed for this term. It has been necessary to adapt final examinations so that students can take them in their own homes.

The College is able to continue some of our activities but in different formats. This week I conducted our first electronic Governing Body meeting with a record attendance of Fellows together with the JCR and MCR presidents. Although all of our College events have been cancelled in their normal formats until at least the end of June, innovations are taking place. The traditional May Morning ceremony was not held at the top of the Great Tower this year, but still went ahead online. The MCR and JCR have also been very innovative in organising an online arts week which includes a self-portrait competition, quizzes, joint musical events, creative writing, and many more activities.

The daffodils, fritillaries, buttercups, and other flowers have been beautiful in Addison’s Walk this spring. Although very few people have been able to enjoy this at first hand, you can see what is happening there on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

As you may have heard in the media, Magdalen Fellows are undertaking vital research related to the coronavirus. Clinical trials of a vaccine developed in the Jenner Institute, where Adrian Hill is Director, have started. Also, Constantin Coussios is developing novel methods for both vaccine and drug delivery. John Bell has been examining methods for antibody testing and has arranged for the manufacture of the Oxford vaccine. Some of our graduate students are involved in this research and several of our medical students are doing important work in NHS hospitals.

As you will be aware, the College has had serious challenges before in its great 562-year history and always comes through in the end. There were five major epidemics in the 16th century and we managed to adapt then as we are doing now.

We will see an end to this crisis and we very much look forward to welcoming you back to the College before too long.

Professor Sir David Clary FRS

1 May 2020