The Head of Division is responsible to the Vice-Chancellor for the management and academic leadership of the Humanities Division, chairing the Divisional Board, and taking forward its policies and strategies for research, teaching and equality and diversity. A key part of the role is oversight of the Division’s financial management. The Head chairs the Humanities Planning and Resources Committee (HPRC), which comprises the chairs of the ten faculties, the Divisional Registrar and Associate Heads of the Division. HPRC has oversight of the Division’s planning and finance remit, and oversees all personnel matters, including academic appointments. The Head’s portfolio also includes fundraising, estates matters, international partnerships and relationships with external bodies. The Head is an ex-officio member of the University Council and its major committees, which are responsible for determining overall university strategy. She chairs the Board of Overseers for the Ertegun Graduate Scholarship in the Humanities, and oversees this key scholarship programme.
Before taking on this role in 2018, Professor O’Brien was Vice Principal (Education) and Professor of English Literature at King’s College, London. At King’s she oversaw institutional strategy for all undergraduate and postgraduate students, the university Maths school, admissions and widening access, and the financing and implementation of student-facing capital projects. She implemented major changes in the areas of online degrees and digital learning, new classroom and clinical teaching spaces, careers and co-curricular learning. Prior to this, she was Pro-Vice Chancellor at Birmingham University and held academic posts at Warwick, Cardiff and Southampton Universities. Originally educated at Oxford, she held a Harkness fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania and a research fellowship at Peterhouse, Cambridge where she is now an Honorary Fellow. She is a trustee of the Rhodes Trust, a trustee of Chawton House, a member of Princeton University Press’s European advisory board and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
In addition to being Head of the Humanities Division, she is a professor in the Faculty of English at the University of Oxford. Her research focuses on the Enlightenment and eighteenth-century literature, particularly the historical writing and fiction of the period. https://www.english.ox.ac.uk/people/professor-karen-obrien-1