Helen McShane, BSc MBBS PhD London, Faculty of Clinical Medicine, has been voted onto Oxford University Council. From September, she will represent two Divisions: Medical Sciences (MedSci) and Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS).
This is a prestigious post which will put one of our Jenner Investigators at the centre of University policy-making and therefore be very significant for the MedSci Division and medical research in Oxford. “It’s a privilege to be elected to Council and I’m excited about serving the University in this important role", says Helen. "I look forward to starting work in the new academic year.”
Council is the University’s governing body, responsible for ‘the advancement of the University's objects, for its administration, and for the management of its finances and property.’ This remit covers academic policy and the strategic direction of the University, including its relations with colleges and external relations.
It is no secret that women are under-represented in the upper echelons of the University, and Council is no exception. Helen prefers to stand on her own merits, and these are clear to anyone who has been following her career. However, she would like to see more women in leadership and is happy to be a trailblazer.
“For the last 13 years I have led a research group in the University, currently consisting of 20 people, combining basic immunology and the development of new vaccines against tuberculosis. This has translated basic science to address a major global public health problem. For this research I initiated and maintained international collaborations in Europe, the US, and Africa. From 2008 I led a consortium of funders, universities and industry, which tested one of our new vaccines in a trial of 3000 South African infants, with a budget of US$30m.
I would hope that the skills I have developed in leading such collaborations: an ability to engage with ethical, financial and regulatory issues and frameworks, the judgement to identify where trade-offs are needed, and the ability to focus the skills of many disciplines and partner organisations on a common goal, would also be helpful for the work of Council.
Balancing the strengths of a University where pooling skills and resources may achieve the greatest research impact, with maintaining the strengths of independent Colleges and disciplines, is essential. Maintaining excellence in teaching whilst being one of the world's leading research universities is a balance Council has to help optimise. A Fellow of Harris Manchester College, I lecture and supervise undergraduates, MSc students and DPhil students and am a consultant HIV physician.
I am committed to the principles of transparency of process, fairness and consistency. I will be delighted to have the privilege of serving the wider collegiate University by sitting on Council.”