TORCH Director

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The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities

TORCH Director

General description of the post

Launched in May 2013, TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities) stimulates, supports and promotes research activity of the very highest quality that transcends disciplinary and institutional boundaries and engages with wider and public audiences.

We seek a senior and experienced academic staff member for the role of TORCH Director, committed to continuing to develop TORCH as an interdisciplinary research incubator and hub for Knowledge Exchange and Public Engagement with research, and to leading a new phase of development following the Schwarzman gift. The Director will ensure that TORCH remains closely attuned to the interdisciplinary interests of Oxford’s humanities researchers at every career stage, and enables collaborative activity at all levels.  Alongside the cultivation of interdisciplinary and international research interests from across the Humanities, the Director will build upon the success of the headlines series Humanities and the Public Good, Humanities and Science, and Humanities and Identities and continue to develop annual headline themes, as well as continuing to promote engagement with external organisations, businesses and charities.  A significant part of the role will entail the chairing of the Humanities Cultural Programme Steering Group, and ensuring that, in collaboration with the faculties of Humanities, GLAM and external organisations, TORCH coordinates the development of an exciting new programme of research-led cultural and public engagement activity.  The Director also chairs the TORCH Management Group, and attends the Humanities Cultural Programme Advisory Board.  The Director will work alongside two part-time academic seconded roles within TORCH, the Knowledge Exchange Champion, and the new role of Academic Champion:  Networks and Partnerships.

The responsibilities of the Director include developing TORCH’s programme of activities, in keeping with its objectives to promote inter/multidisciplinary research at Oxford, facilitate communication of innovative research in humanities across the collegiate University, nurture a vibrant intellectual home for visiting academics and researchers associated with the Centre – especially early career researchers – and foster public engagement with research and knowledge exchange beyond academia. The TORCH Director will work with the Head of Division on identifying and supporting relevant fundraising priorities for TORCH.

The Director will also work closely with the Deputy Head of Division,  and is a member of the Humanities Division Research Committee, which has oversight of TORCH on behalf of the Divisional Board, and to which the Director reports on activities and strategy.  The Director is supported by a dedicated and experienced professional staff, based in TORCH and the Humanities Divisional Office.

Candidates must hold a doctoral degree, or equivalent, in the humanities.

This appointment is open only to internal applicants and offers a buyout equivalent to 100% of teaching stint. The post is available from Michaelmas Term 2020, or as soon as possible thereafter, for two years in the first instance, with an option to extend for a further year.

Deadline for applications: 2 December 2019.


TORCH: additional information

Based in Radcliffe Humanities in the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, TORCH is generously supported by the University’s John Fell Fund, with additional support from Research England’s Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), trusts and foundations, as well as private donors. TORCH has received major grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, including for the Humanities and Science series (2014-16) and Humanities & Identities (2017-20). Since 2013, TORCH has raised over £2 million in grants and philanthropy to support humanities multidisciplinary research and wider public engagement.

TORCH provides space for postdoctoral researchers and runs a range of networks, programmes and fellowship schemes designed to foster innovative interdisciplinary research, especially where it crosses traditional discipline boundaries, promoting the sharing of knowledge and scholarship between Humanities and the social, life and physical sciences. TORCH offers an immense array of opportunities for collaboration and discussion, bringing together researchers at all career stages. During 2018/19, TORCH hosted over 400 events involving audiences of 19,000 people, collaborated with 400 researchers across the University, 30 Early Career Fellows, over 50 research networks, and 9 programmes.

TORCH is a member of the Consortium of Humanities Centres and Institutes ( and works closely with the national Being Human Festival ( Further information about TORCH is available at, and an overview of previous years is available at

The Humanities Division has embarked on a major building project on the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, following the recent announcement of the £150 million gift to create the Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities. Scheduled to open in 2024/25, the building will include performing arts and exhibition venues, and will be home to an ambitious Humanities Cultural Programme designed to be powered by Humanities research, to engage the Oxford community and the public at large and attract new audiences. In the period prior to the opening of the building, the Humanities Cultural Programme Steering Group, chaired by the TORCH Director, will develop the Cultural Programme and, in the pre-opening phase, deliver activities in existing venues in partnership with TORCH.


A dedicated administrative team, led by Victoria McGuinness, supports TORCH and the TORCH Director.


Key duties and responsibilities

The Director is accountable to the Humanities Board through regular reports to the Humanities Research Committee and to the Head of Division. The normal term of office of the Director will be two years, with an option to extend for a third year.

The main duties of the post will be as follows:

  1. To lead in developing TORCH’s strategy and policy, ensuring these are focussed, reflect the diversity and collegiality of research in Oxford, address the challenges of encouraging inter/multidisciplinary research at Oxford and, where appropriate, seek to engage the wider community outside academia.
  2. To work alongside the Knowledge Exchange Champion and the Academic Champion: Networks and Partnerships to develop the Centre’s programme of academic and public engagement activities and to include appropriate measures to gauge effectiveness, in consultation with the Humanities Research Committee.
  3. To drive forwards the development of the Humanities Cultural Programme by chairing its Steering Group, which is responsible for ensuring that the Programme is appropriately planned and resourced, and to encourage and enable collaborative working between the Division’s ten Faculties, the University’s Libraries and Museums and external cultural partners.
  4. To highlight Humanities research in Oxford nationally and internationally.
  5. To develop and implement a strategy to secure TORCH’s financial sustainability for the long-term.
  6. To engage in fundraising, working with the Head of Division and the Development Office.
  7. To secure research grants, working with the Deputy Head of Division, the Head of Humanities Research Support and the Humanities research support team.
  8. To represent the Centre in the appropriate University, national and international fora.
  9. To facilitate communication and collaboration in research and research impact across Oxford, in particular with the colleges, research centres within the Humanities Division and their equivalents in other parts of the University, and the wider higher education community.
  10. To provide academic leadership and, as appropriate, mentorship, and other advice for researchers associated with the Centre.
  11. To ensure the Centre provides a vibrant and welcoming intellectual home for visiting academics associated with TORCH.  

Selection criteria


  1. A doctorate, or the equivalent research experience, in a humanities discipline.
  2. Demonstrable ability to provide strategic leadership and vision for a prestigious interdisciplinary and multi-faceted research programme.
  3. Evidence of the ability to promote and develop collaborative activity that crosses the collegiate University and beyond, including partners and communities outside the academy.
  4. Proven ability to raise external funding, including securing funding from grant-awarding bodies, foundations and/or private philanthropic sources.
  5. Demonstrable interest in, and ability to, foster the development of early career researchers, including undertaking mentoring responsibilities.
  6. The ability to communicate effectively and gain the confidence of a wide range of people, including academic staff, senior University officers, and all grades of professional and support staff.
  7. Excellent oral and written skills, including making presentations in formal and informal contexts.
  8. Excellent interpersonal skills with an in-depth understanding of complex academic environments.
  9. An excellent research record in the Humanities, including research leadership experience beyond individual publications.

Terms and conditions

The position is open only to internal candidates. For joint postholders, the appointment would be subject to approval by the postholder’s college.

The Director’s underlying University contract of employment, and its associated terms and conditions, will remain in place during the appointment. The appointment will be for a period of two years (with an option to extend for a third year), which includes an initial probationary period of one year. Should the Director wish to terminate the appointment prior to the end of the two-year period, the length of notice required shall be at least one month during the probationary period and three months thereafter. The Head of the Humanities Division may request that the appointment be terminated, and the notice period will be at least one month during the probationary period and three months thereafter.

The following arrangements are offered:

  • Teaching buy-out equivalent to 100% of teaching stint (or equivalent support for other academic activities)
  • Deferral of sabbatical leave due during the period of office, if not to do so would involve loss of entitlement.

The specific package of support will be agreed between the Head of Division and the office holder.

How to apply

Applicants should submit a curriculum vitae and covering letter, stating how they meet the criteria for the post and how they would expect to meet the responsibilities of the role. Where applicable, candidates are asked to indicate that their college will support their release from teaching duties.

The curriculum vitae should include qualifications, an up-to-date select list of significant publications, current and planned research activity, and details of two referees (who will be contacted for shortlisted candidates). For applicants who are shortlisted, two letters of reference and one or more interviews will be required.

Applications should be submitted electronically by 2 December 2019 to  Kathryn Boyd-Miller,  

If you wish to discuss the role, please contact Karen O’Brien, Head of Division, Humanities Division (; 01865 (2)70552.