The purpose of the Oxford Round Table is to promote education, art, science, religion and charity by means of academic conferences and publication of scholarly papers. This Round Table is to be held at Harris Manchester College in the University of Oxford. As you may know, the University of Oxford is a confederation of thirty-eight (38) colleges of which Harris Manchester College is one. The colleges, themselves, are not degree granting or programmatic units of the University. The University is an academic umbrella over all the colleges. The Round Table is, thus, not an academic programme conducted by the umbrella University. Harris Manchester College is the venue, the situs, location of the Round Table. The colleges, themselves, in their private corporate capacity, traditionally host an array of academic conferences assisted by Conference Oxford. The Round Table is one such conference. Harris Manchester College was selected as the location for the meeting because of its reputation, its location in the heart of Oxford, and because of its congenial working relationship with the members of the Oxford Round Table Programme Committee and Advisory Board.
Two decades ago the Oxford Round Table held its first meeting in New Inn Lane at St. Peter’s College in the University of Oxford to consider public policy issues bearing on education in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other selected countries. Participants in the foundational meeting included the Master of St. Peters, the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford, ministers of education from twenty countries, the Chair of the National Governor’s Association and several legislators from the United States. Pursuant to the success of that Round Table, additional meetings were deemed desirable and more were held thereafter. Participation was later broadened to include university presidents and subsequently further expanded to involve scholars from many academic disciplines.
As an independent educational and charitable organization, the Oxford Round Table is not under the control of the hosting Oxford colleges, most of which are established as endowed sectarian foundations, nor is it in anyway under the aegis, restraint or sanction of the University of Oxford; rather, the Round Table is free-standing, apolitical and non-denominational. Papers presented at Round Tables are evaluated solely on their academic merit, and publications emanating therefrom are approved only after peer review by external evaluators.
The Oxford Round Table seeks to provide an interdisciplinary forum for the discussion of contemporary issues that affect the public good in all its various forms and ramifications. The public good is expansively interpreted by the Round Table to include all matters that enrich the human experience and enhance the human condition. Past themes of meetings have included considerations of human rights, social welfare, economics, religion, ethics, morals, law, medicine and the liberal arts and sciences. Each session is designed around a format that enables participants to present papers and to engage in discussions regarding those papers in both formal colloquy and informal dialogue.
Invitees to Round Tables are determined based on several criteria, among which are nominations by earlier attendees, courses that invitees teach, their presentations and writings, and their professional involvement in a relevant area of interest. An attempt is also made to diversify as to academic discipline, the type of institution, public or private, and to involve institutions representing different levels of education; i.e. schools, community colleges, four-year colleges, graduate and research universities.
Round Tables are held in the colleges of the University of Oxford through special and separate arrangements with each college. Participants are accommodated in the colleges where they are provided rooms, receptions, breakfast, lunch and dinners in the college halls and various other amenities. There are 39 such colleges in the University of Oxford. The formal meetings in which participants present papers and engage in dialogue are usually held at the Oxford Union Debating Society, the Examination Schools of the University, and/or in facilities of the respective colleges. Over the years, Round Tables have been located at several colleges including St. Peter’s, St. Anne’s, St. Antony’s, Exeter, Pembroke, Hertford, Queen’s and Lincoln College. Formal academic sessions are normally held in the debating chamber of the Oxford Union Debating Society, and/or the Examination Schools of the University.
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