The Prince of Wales Undertakes Engagements in Oxford

The Prince of Wales meets Mason during a visit to Bletchingdon Parochial Church of England School on the Bletchingdon Estate Development in Oxfordshire, 2019.



Engagement 1

The Prince of Wales will visit Somerville College as it celebrates its 140th anniversary and marks 100 years of Oxford degrees for women. His Royal Highness will also meet representatives from the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development and learn about the Somerville Sustainability Plan.  

The Prince of Wales will be greeted on arrival by Somerville’s Principal, Baroness Janet Royall. Baroness Royall will then accompany His Royal Highness through the college gardens to the oldest part of the college, to view an exhibition celebrating the centenary of women being awarded Oxford degrees. The Prince will then be introduced to the Directors and scholars of the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development (OICSD) to discuss their work advancing researching on the complex challenges and opportunities posed by sustainable development in the India subcontinent. Moving into the College’s gardens, His Royal Highness will meet with students and staff involved in Somerville’s Sustainability Working Group before planting a tree to commemorate the visit. 

Somerville College 

Named in honour of the Scottish mathematician and scientist Mary Somerville, Somerville College was created for women at a time when universities refused their entry. It was also the first Oxford College to be founded as nondenominational and it remains religiously non-aligned to this day. Following dedicated work lasting many years by Principal Emily Penrose (1848-1942) and others, the University of Oxford finally granted women the right to matriculation and to all degrees in 1920. Notable alumnae include: Vera Brittain, Dorothy Sayers, Dorothy Hodgkin (the first and so far only British woman to receive a Nobel prize for science), Indira Gandhi, Shirley Williams and Margaret Thatcher. In 1994, the college admitted men as well as women and today its student population stands at 435 undergraduates and 243 postgraduate students from all over the world. Sustainability is an issue close to the heart of the entire Somerville community. Key initiatives include the adoption of locally sourced or sustainably produced food (including more plant-based options) and, as of March 2021, a full divestment from fossil fuel. Under the guidance of its Sustainability Working Group, the college is implementing a subsidised scheme to encourage academics and students to reduce their carbon footprints by avoiding air travel. 

The Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development (OICSD) 

OICSD is a ground-breaking Oxford-India partnership created to advance knowledge on the complex challenges and opportunities associated with sustainable development in India. Empowering the next generation of Indian policy-makers and leaders is vital because, at present, 40- 50% of Indian post-graduate applicants who qualify for Oxford cannot take up their places. Against this background, the OICSD has already established a network of 18 alumni scholars, all of whom have returned to India, with a further 16 current scholars pursuing research across issues ranging from sanitation and hygiene to electric mobility in cities. In addition, the OICSD also has core research commitments under the directorship of Professor Radhika Khosla. These include reforestation as a climate mitigation strategy, mapping the impact of cooling technologies on the environment, developing novel healthcare technologies for use in home and community settings and examining the pressure on India’s cities to balance growing energy needs with protecting the environment. 

In 2007 The Prince of Wales founded the British Asian Trust, bringing together the diaspora community in the UK to work towards a South Asia that is prospering and fair for all. Its work supports large-scale, sustainable solutions that enable poor and marginalised people to achieve their full potential and has had a positive impact on the lives of almost five million people in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Last month, The British Asian Trust launched ‘Oxygen For India’, an emergency appeal in response to the Covid-19 crisis in India, which has now raised over £4million. 

Engagement 2

The Prince of Wales, Patron, Oxford Botanic Garden, will make a visit to mark the Garden’s 400th Anniversary. His Royal Highness will undertake a tour highlighting the Garden’s work in research, conservation, education and inspiration for a new generation of botanists. 

The Prince will be greeted on arrival at the Garden by Professor Louise Richardson, Vice Chancellor of Oxford University. Professor Simon Hiscock, Director of the Botanic Garden and Arboretum and Mr Mark Brent, Botanic Garden Curator and Head of Horticulture will then accompany His Royal Highness on a tour, taking in Bobart’s Yew, the Garden’s oldest tree which was planted in 1645, and the newly reconfigured Rock Garden which celebrates Professor John Sibthorp’s 18th century botanical expeditions to the Eastern Mediterranean. Moving into the Literary Garden, The Prince will be invited to plant a tree grown from seed of the original black pine that grew in the Garden from the 1830s-2014 and was much loved by writer JRR Tolkien. His Royal Highness will next visit the conservatory to view plant specimens relevant to the Garden’s research, teaching and conservation. Before departing, The Prince will be gifted with a bottle of Oxford Physic Gin which is made using botanicals from the Garden. 

Oxford Botanic Garden 

Oxford Botanic Garden is the UK’s oldest botanic garden, celebrating 400 years this year. It was founded as a physic garden (Oxford Physicke Garden) in 1621 by Henry Danvers, first Earl of Danby, for the cultivation of medicinal plants for the University of Oxford’s medical students. Its name was changed to the Botanic Garden in 1834 to reflect its changing use to a place of botanical research. The Garden therefore occupies a unique place in history and academic location as the birthplace of botanical science in the UK. 

Today Oxford Botanic Garden remains a centre for plant science research and teaching. Its mission is ‘to share the scientific wonder and importance of plants with the world’. Together with its sister site, the Harcourt Arboretum, it holds a collection of over 5,000 different types of plant. Some are extremely rare in the wild and some exist nowhere else in the world, making the collections internationally important for plant conservation. 

The Prince of Wales has been Patron of the Oxford Botanic Garden since 1991. 

Engagement 3

The Prince of Wales will visit the MINI plant in Oxford to celebrate UK manufacturing and innovation in the production of electric vehicles.

On arrival, His Royal Highness will be greeted by members of MINI UK’s Senior Management team to hear about the company’s sustainability and environmental work, focussing on ambitions for their new Electric MINI. The Prince will then undertake a tour of the plant’s factory floor, pausing to meet apprentices using virtual reality technology as part of their training. His Royal Highness will view a new electric battery being inserted into an Electric MINI before meeting long serving staff, some of whom are fourth generation employees of the plant. Finally, The Prince will have the opportunity to drive a new Electric MINI off of the production line. Before departing, His Royal Highness will unveil a plaque to commemorate the visit. 

For over fifty years, The Prince of Wales has used his unique position to champion action for a sustainable future. Over the decades, The Prince of Wales has launched a number of sustainability initiatives aimed at delivering practical outcomes. In late 2019, His Royal Highness launched the Sustainable Markets Initiative. The Prince uses his position to help raise public awareness about sustainability challenges and solutions through his speeches, articles, books and films. He is also Patron of a wide range of organizations working for sustainability, offering support and encouragement for their work. 

As well as promoting sustainability through his work, His Royal Highness has taken many steps personally to live in a more sustainable way. Around half of his office and domestic energy use comes from renewable sources such as woodchip boilers, air-source heat pumps, solar panels and “green” electricity. Their Royal Highnesses’ Household strives to minimise its environmental impact across its activities, including travel, energy use and the indirect impact of the products and services it uses. 

MINI Oxford 

The visit of HRH The Prince of Wales to the MINI plant in Oxford falls at a key time as the BMW Group is celebrating twenty successful years of MINI production, with more than five million cars built at the plant in that time, exported to 110 countries around the world. Most recently this has included the MINI Electric, which has been a great success since its launch in 2020 and will see volumes doubling in 2021. 

His Royal Highness will hear about the importance of electric cars in helping to reduce CO2 emissions and BMW Group’s ambitious targets in this regard. The company has committed to reducing CO2 from its production operations by 80 per cent by 2030, compared to 2019 and by 40 per cent for its cars over the same period. Plant Oxford features one of the largest roof-mounted solar power plants in the country with enough power to supply 850 houses. 

BMW Group endeavours to encourage young people to choose a career in engineering and is particularly proud of its apprenticeship scheme. The Prince will meet some of the 130 apprentices on the programme, who will demonstrate some of their innovative training. He will also meet a number of the company’s longest-serving staff. A quarter of the employees have worked on site for more than twenty years and a number are from third or even fourth generations of the same family. 

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