The Brexit vote has come as a surprise and a shock to many of us. You will know that Britain’s universities are deeply anxious about the possible consequences of such a vote. The Vice Chancellor has written already to reassure members of the University that there will be no sudden or immediate change to people’s immigration status, nor to the funding programmes that support our work. I offer this additional message to reassure and remind us all about the values of friendship and inclusion that are typical of this College.
Nearly half of Somerville’s students at any one time come from outside the United Kingdom (about 75% of postgraduates and 25% of undergraduates), and many of our Senior Common Room and other staff do too. Our graduates live and work all over the globe. The College gratefully embraces and celebrates this international community. It is one of the defining features of Somerville.
Somerville’s community has always been global: from Cornelia Sorabji (matric. 1889), one of the first two women to practise law in India, to the Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi (1937), and Nobel prize winner Dorothy Hodgkin who supervised and encouraged numerous international scientists and travelled the world to campaign for international nuclear disarmament. Enid Starkie, a renowned French scholar, was awarded the Legion d’Honneur by the French government. The Principal Dame Janet Vaughan was the first doctor to enter Belsen concentration camp at the end of the Second World War and Principals Daphne Park and Catherine Hughes both had international careers: they and countless other Somervillians exemplify a strong tradition of working in Europe and the world. The College chapel which is open to people of all faiths and none, bears the stone inscription (in Greek) “A house of prayer for all peoples”.
Life in the University of Oxford, and in particular at Somerville, has always engaged with the world. Britain’s exit from the European Union will not change the sense of welcome that we all feel here, regardless of our nationality. In practical ways and in all our daily dealings with each other, the College will work with the University, with redoubled efforts, to support and cherish our community and each member of it.
With kind regards,