Oxford Cultural Leaders

About the Programme

Logo for Oxford Cultural Leaders

Oxford Cultural Leaders is for dynamic and reflective directors, heads of department and senior managers who want to challenge and redefine their identity as a leader and their vision for their organisation at a time of great challenge and complexity for the cultural sector. This week long immersive, residential course is held anually in March/April within the University of Oxford's museums, colleges and cultural assets.

The programme was created in response to the clear message from governments across the globe that cultural organisations need to look beyond the state for their income, demonstrating their commercial acumen and ability to deliver successfully new business models. Oxford Cultural Leaders addresses the need for cultural organisations to reinvent themselves as businesses, albeit not-for-profit, with entrepreneurial ways of thinking and behaving, by developing a cadre of leaders who are able to skilfully and confidently tackle these challenges.

“I firmly believe that the success of the sector is reliant on a new type of leader - one who embraces change; is entrepreneurial in outlook; who continually looks outwards to learn new things and yet is rooted in a strong sense of values, core purpose and public service.” Diane Lees, Director General, Imperial War Museums

Oxford Cultural Leaders is supportive and developmental, but creates a space that feels emergent and which is provocative and challenging – it intentionally disrupts how participants think, working on conceptual, contextual, organisational and personal levels.  The programme enables participants to experiment, take risks with ideas, to break old habits, create new ways of thinking and behaving, to become skillful decision makers, and develop mechanisms for dealing with demanding situations.

Oxford Cultural Leaders 2016 participants in discussion

The programme is delivered within a coaching environment where theory is explored and tested through provocation, fast-moving motivational sessions, experiential learning and reflective opportunities where participants are able to step outside the learning space.

“It was an incredibly empowering week. I returned to work with a real sense of agency. It made me realise that leadership doesn’t just happen. It’s a conscious practice.” Jane Severs, Director, Association of Heritage Industries Newfoundland and Labrador (OCL 2016)

Participants will be staying at Pembroke College in the heart of Oxford. A beautiful, peaceful and historic setting which is only a stone’s throw from the wonderful museums, cultural venues and university buildings that we use to deliver the teaching, workshop and social elements of the programme.

The Faculty

The programme is delivered within a coaching environment, where theory and practice are explored and tested through provocations, fast-paced motivational sessions and experiential learning. Reflective opportunities, peer mentoring, and action-learning sessions are woven throughout the design of the programme to enable participants to step outside the learning space. Sessions flow into the evenings where participants are able to hear talks and provocations from cultural leaders and engage in conversations about the future of the cultural sector. 

The faculty for Oxford Cultural Leaders has been carefully curated to include senior cultural sector leaders and commentators, business school experts and industry authorities. For example:

Pegram Harrison (Fellow in Entrepreneurship, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford), Richard Evans  (Director, Beamish, the Living Museum of the North), and Janet Barnes (CEO, York Museums Trust) will provoke participants to consider how cultural organisations can reinvent themselves as businesses, with entrepreneurial ways of thinking and behaving.

Tracey Camilleri (Associate Fellow, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford) will explore how leaders can cultivate creativity in a climate of constraint.

Keith Ruddle (Associate Fellow, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford) will investigate transformational change, leading in complexity, adaptive leadership and ‘wicked problems’.

Diane Lees (Director General, Imperial War Museums) will reflect on how cultural leaders can work with both their governing bodies and their staff to manage change effectively. 

Oxford Museum Directors panel discussion chaired by Di Lees (Director General, Imperial War Museums)

Making an application

Visit the OUMP Website to find out more and apply.

Recruitment is via a competitive process, with a panel of faculty members carefully considering applications based on what they can contribute to the programme, as sharing knowledge and expertise, and providing peer consultancy and and support are core to the programme's success.

Participants (both Home/EU and International) will be asked to contribute a fee (£2,500 in 2017) which includes the cost of all tuition (both at the Business School and Oxford University Museums), accommodation, breakfast, lunch and supper (with the exception of two evenings when participants are able to explore Oxford and its many restaurants and pubs).

To discuss further the programme and the role of participants please contact the Programme Director, Lucy Shaw, lucy.shaw@museums.ox.ac.uk | 01865 613783.

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