Oxford Cultural Leaders

"It was fantastic to take time out from the everyday pressures of running a museum to learn to think strategically in the company of an amazing group of peers. The opportunity to reconnect with my vision for my organisation, and to be supported in that by the outstanding group of lecturers and facilitators was hugely valuable. I've done a number of leadership programmes in the past but this was something really special." Stephanie Fuller, Director and CEO Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft


Applications for OCL 2021 will open shortly. The next programme will take place in spring 2021. 

Information on OCL 2021 will be added to this webpage shortly and if you would like to be notified when the next round is open, or if you would like to arrange a time to talk about any aspect of the programme or application process, please email Emma Thomas OCL Programme Coordinator: emma.thomas@glam.ox.ac.uk 

    About the Programme 

    Logo for Oxford Cultural Leaders

    Oxford Cultural Leaders is a residential executive leadership programme delivered through a partnership between the University of Oxford's Saïd Business School and its Gardens, Libraries and Museums. It is designed 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 annually in spring within the University of Oxford's gardens, libraries and museums, colleges and other 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

    Having access to expertise from across the cultural and business sectors has enabled Oxford to develop a unique programme for cultural leaders. The programme was held for the first time in March 2015, and for every year since has brought together dynamic leaders, from across the world, to experiment and take risks with new business models and to explore new ways of working and creating organisational cultures that encourage new ideas.


    "I went into OCL hoping to gain useful skills and ways of thinking that would help me fulfil professional ambitions as a cultural leader at a time of change. I found all of that and more, but what I couldn't have anticipated was the amazing peer network supporting and championing each other throughout the week and beyond." 
    Sevra Davis, Director of Architecture, Design and Fashion, British Council

    "The Oxford Cultural Leaders programme is a truly transformative experience where you are surrounded by the newly found support of an extraordinarily knowledgeable and kind cohort of colleagues from around the world. An invaluable opportunity that becomes an ongoing resource throughout your career."  
    Myriam Proulx, Business Transformation Specialist, Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau, Canada




    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. It enables participants to experiment, take risks with ideas, to break old habits, create new ways of thinking and behaving, to become skilful decision makers, and develop mechanisms for dealing with demanding situations. 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.


    "OCL is not a programme, it is an experience. You won't think the same way again."
    Ben Sullivan, Managing Director, Biblioteca UK

    “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 


    Find out more about the OCL Programme. 

    The faculty for Oxford Cultural Leaders has been carefully selected to include senior cultural sector leaders and commentators, business school experts and sector authorities. The programme will provoke participants to consider how cultural organisations can reinvent themselves as not-for-profit hybrid-businesses, with entrepreneurial ways of thinking and behaving; explore relational, transformational and adaptive leadership; and enable confidence in cultivating organisational and individual creativity in a climate of constraint.  


    “I have made a lot of changes as a consequence of Oxford Cultural Leaders. The session on board governance had a big impact and got me thinking clearly about what transformation might look like and enabled me to move my plans forward.” Graham Henderson, Chief Executive of the Rimbaud & Verlaine Foundation 


    Find out more about the OCL Faculty.

    Participants on the residential programme stay at Corpus Christi 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.


    OCL 2018

    How will participants benefit? 

    By the end of the programme participants have greater insight into themselves as leaders; reflecting on their vision, values, impact, behaviours and attitudes (including to risk). They are better equipped to deliver a more robust and resilient solution to the challenges ahead and are more entrepreneurially minded. In essence, they will leave the programme feeling more confident to take charge of themselves, their teams, and the tasks in hand. They will be confident in re-evaluating, reflecting and asking questions: what are we doing, what do we need to do and, how can we achieve this?

    “Some of the sessions on the programme had a trick or a technique you could take back and instantly use, which has been great and immediately useful. But the sum of the sessions coming together to explore adaptive leadership has had the most impact on me. The programme has made me feel more considered about my career, my professional practice and my leadership style. I’m more conscious of the art of what I am doing.” Rachel Hudson, Director of Marketing, Communications and Development, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust ​​​​​​

    "The session on transformative leadership and how we can communicate and inspire teams through complex and difficult change was absolutely brilliant. I have already started to apply what I have learned and expect amazing results with my team." 
    Sarah Wight, Chief Operating Officer, Arnolfini Galleries, Bristol 


    See more from our OCL Alumni.


    OCL 2018


    How will their organisations benefit?

    The programme develops leaders who are able to return to their organisations with the confidence and skillset to experiment and take risks with new business models and ways of working while supporting and creating a climate for new ideas.

    Their organisations benefit from having leaders who have the insight and ability to uncover the hidden talents and qualities of their people. They understand how developing and encouraging new ways of thinking, changing behaviours and acquiring new skills can help their organisations adapt; enabling them to become more sustainable and resilient.

    “I have talked to a number of my colleagues about how inspiring I found the course and they too mention how they can see my excitement about it. It really has made me want to integrate some of the activities we did into both my approach but also my team's approach to thinking more about where we want to be and how we are going to get there.”
    Traci Dix-Williams, Director of Operations, Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust

    "OCL was a chance to reflect and think deeply about our joint values, purpose and responsibilities as leaders in the cultural sector. I came away energised and incredibly hopeful about the future, knowing that together we could inspire the organisations we all work for."
    Miki Lentin, Head of Corporate Affairs, British Library


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


    Fees - 2020 residential programme

    The fees for the week include tuition, accommodation and all meals (with the exception of one evening meal).


    To find out more about making an application, please visit OCL Applications

    Applicants from not-for-profit organisations
    1-10 employees £2,850
    10 -150 employees £3,450
    150+ employees £3,950
    Applicants from for-profit organisations       
    1-10 employees £3,450
    10 -150 employees £3,950
    150+ employees £4,550


    *Please note that fees may rise for the 2021 programme. 



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