Oxford Today (with Michael Palin)

By Oxbridge Tours - Posted on 20 April 2012


Oxford Today with Michael Palin

Michael Palin Says: This is Brasenose College. I was an undergraduate here from 1962-1965. When I was at oxford I met an awful lot of people here in this room! Many of them with a sense of humour, some of them even turned up later with a silly television programme called Monty Pythons flying circus.  Its over 40 years ago we first plotted comedy here, an age ago when the sun always shone and it never rained!

Margret (M): Oxfords problem I think is it’s almost too beautiful. When you come here and you look at the dreaming spires and you see all those gorgeous young things in their punts in the river you don’t notice unless you begin to look at it all the real work that’s going on here. If you ask those young people in the punts what they are doing… Physics, French, Masters in Public Health, Ancient History.

So the beauty of Oxford tends to give the impression that no one does anything here but in fact a huge amount goes on.

P: 20,000 bicycles off to labs and lectures halls tutorials and training. There is much to do exams to pass dreams to full fill. 25 Prime minsters came to this place, 47 Nobel prize winners, at least 20 arch bishops of Canterbury, 12 saints, one mayor of London; Oxford pulsates with energy and drive.

Where else but in Oxford could a professor of engineering and a professor of ancient history make sense of a hoard of wooden tablets from roman times discovered in a rubbish heap near Hadrian’s wall!

Literally a stones throw from my college is the Radcliff Camera, part of the Bodleian library

‘This is the Magna Carta its one of four owned by the Bodleian library they have been entrusted to us for over 3 centuries.’

These rare pieces are the stars of the collection. But as impressive is the shear volume of the volumes. As a copyright library the Bodleian has the right to claim a copy of every book published in Britain. This is just one week delivery between 2-3 thousand publications. Pressure to find yet more space in a library that already holds 9million items on 120 miles of shelves.

Oxford natural history museum is having a busy morning. Its hosting 50 15 year olds from state schools. They are in town for three days to sample the university life. Perhaps they will begin to see further education in a new light. Some might decide they want to go on to oxford.

Sinead Gallagher: ‘On a deeper level I hope that university isn’t such a foreign concept to a lot of them anymore. For a lot of them they are the first generation in their family to university to think of doing so. There is not brother or sister to ask what was it like?’

Sometimes Young people look at oxford and they see the dreaming spires and they think I couldn’t possible aspire to that. That is such a shame oxford is a huge mix of people from all over the world. My message tot them if I ever get a chance to speak to them is go for it! You will have a wonderful time!

Away from the old buildings and libraries are the new buildings at the city’s edge. The world class super computer centre is every researchers dream. The computer room throbs with power. Here is an awesome fact; the power of these machines is equal to each of the 6.6billion people on the planet doing almost 1500 calculations per second!

When all the worlds’ top universities are trying to globalise, oxford is already there. It is playing a very important role not just as a centre of research excellence but as one of the very few centres outside of the US that can be among the top few players.

Examples of this global mission are in the labs the house oxford chemists. Its an engine that generate solutions from problems. In terms of the energy crisis oxfords labs are working replacements for carbon fossil based fuels that are totally non-polluting.

If you could turn nitrogen that is the major constituent of air and add hydrogen to that to make ammonia, then burn the ammonia all you get back is nitrogen and air; that is completely non-polluting.

At the core of Oxford’s medical programmes are the research labs. From here the long arm of oxford reaches out to Asia, Africa as scientists and researchers pit there wits against the scourges that plague mankind.

At a hospital nearer home a different treatment; The Radcliff infirmary will soon be reborn.

The Oxford I knew 40 years ago has changed. I am however reassured that it still seems the most natural thing on earth for the boys choir to climb to the top of a tower at 6 in the morning every may day to welcome in the summer!

'Oxford was a breath of fresh air for me; bringing in new friends new, new ideas. By the time I left oxford the future pattern of my life was already laid down' Says Michael.