The mission of the University of Oxford has not changed since its foundation almost 900 years ago. It remains: “The advancement of learning by teaching and research and its dissemination by every means.” Through its high-quality publications and its global reach, Oxford University Press (OUP) plays a key role in that dissemination. Notwithstanding the difficulties caused by the pandemic, OUP has remained focused on this mission.


Foreword by the Vice-Chancellor

Gone are the days of complaints about too many experts. Today, thanks to the extraordinary work of our academics, the public cannot get enough of experts. The RECOVERY Trial led by Professors Peter Horby and Martin Landry have, in one year, saved an estimated 22,000 lives in Britain and one million lives worldwide. Recently, the Vaccine Team celebrated a first anniversary, too.

In the year since they first injected their vaccine into a human being, they have gone on to deliver 250 million vaccinations.

Academics across the University have been critical to the battle against COVID-19 in myriad ways. Not all of them have been medics and scientists. Social scientists, for example, have helped us to understand vaccine hesitancy, to encourage safe behaviour, and the ethics of COVID passports.

In the past year, OUP has provided access to valuable research related to the pandemic.

Our free COVID-19 content and resources have been viewed 21 million times.

The English Language Teaching division ran ELT Together, a month-long programme of digital events to support English language teaching. OUP also released a free children’s eBook—Everybody Worries—to help children who were feeling anxious because of the pandemic. We then translated it into IsiXhosa, IsiZulu, and Sesotho, and distributed 50,000 copies to schools across in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

In January, OUP announced its support for the SHAPE initiative. SHAPE, (which stands for Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts for People and the Economy), celebrates the invaluable contributions of SHAPE disciplines in response to global issues. The Press continues to acquire and publish a wide range of impressive content from all these disciplines across both education and academia.

The quality of OUP publications was reaffirmed in 2020 with the award of three prestigious historical prizes:

  • Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America by Caleb McDaniel—the 2020 Pulitzer Prize Winner in History
  • The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans by David Abulafia won the Wolfson History Prize
  • Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs by Camilla Townsend—winner of the Cundill Prize

The University has in recent years made a concerted effort to diversify the backgrounds of the student body. So too, OUP is focused on diversifying editorial boards and authorship of new journals and key series. By sharing a multitude of voices, OUP continues to play an important role in helping people engage with diverse perspectives to make sense of the world around them. This year we supported a special edition of the 500 Words short story competition, building on global conversations about Black Lives Matter.

Almost six thousand stories were submitted, demonstrating children’s capacity for empathy and their engagement with societal issues.

This Annual Report demonstrates the degree to which OUP, even in the most difficult of circumstances, remains true to our mission by supporting education and research worldwide.

Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor, University of Oxford