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Univ North Working Party: Dr Ian Owen

Univ North Working Party: Ian OwenDr Ian Owen (1971, Physics) is an insurance specialist and Chairman of AllClear Travel Insurance. He was formerly the Chairman of Partnership Assurance, A-Plan and Guardian Financial Services.

How did you get involved with UNWP and how long have you been a member?
I’ve been a member since its inception, having before that taken a particular interest in the exciting possibilities for Univ’s future development that could open up from the purchase of the former Fairfield Home site that was then being explored by Frank Marshall, the Bursar.

What have you brought to the Working Party and College from being involved?
I really have concentrated on two aspects which are inextricably linked. Firstly, encouraging the creation of a coherent and exciting vision for the entire site and, secondly, helping to communicate that vision to prospective donors.

What does the Working Party do, how often does it meet?
We have met every two to three months, acting as an advisory steering committee, providing input into the college’s normal governance structures on selection of architect, facilities to be built, the emerging overall design as well as individual design details, the approach towards liaising with the local community and seeking planning permission as well as considering budgetary aspects, phasing and the raising of funds.

What does being a part of the Working Party mean to you?
Univ’s North Oxford site has extremely fond memories for me. I imagine I’m quite unusual in that regard! I met my wife through Univ whilst an undergraduate and we then began our married life as D.Phil students in Percy Building, which at the time we considered to be sheer luxury. Indeed, in those days it was! We became part of the wider community that existed then in Stavertonia and as a result we both have a strong desire to give something back by helping the vision of an exciting new development fit for future generations become reality.

Which aspect of the project most interests you and why?
There are four aspects in particular:
1. The multigenerational aspects. My wife chairs a charitable residential care home, so we are well versed in the enhancement in quality of life for older people to be derived through something as simple as the residents in Fairfield Home being able to observe day-to-day college activity through their windows, let alone providing common spaces where the different generations can interact.
2. The opportunity to create something far more than mere dormitories, i.e. an academic community within an even wider social community. An indicator of success will be Fellows wanting to live there and students living on the High using the facilities there and vice versa.
3. Imaginatively utilising the outside space as an integral and important element of the entire conception.
4. The interaction between Univ North and the High Street sites. This aspect probably requires more thought.

What do you think Univ North will mean to our community, and to future members of the College?
A really attractive place where future generations of undergraduates, graduates and Fellows will enjoy being and feeling part of a wider academic as well as wider multi-generational community, but still connected to Univ’s main home on the High. It will enable Univ to offer attractive college-owned accommodation, meeting rooms and research spaces within a beautiful landscaped environment that will provide far more facilities than currently available. It should significantly enhance Univ’s standing within the University. Importantly, it must not become a financial burden for future generations.

Why should Old Members and Friends of the College support Univ North?
It is all too easy to ignore the fact that the facilities we all enjoyed whilst undergraduates or graduates were only there because of the generosity of previous generations. Univ is not a richly endowed college and it will only be able to flourish in the future, enabling future generations to be provided with the very best facilities, education and environment, if we are as equally generous as previous generations.

Why did you become a Univ donor?
I wanted to commemorate the memory of my old tutor, Bobby Berman, who had been a wonderfully paternalistic tutor, so spearheaded the raising of a Physics Graduate Scholarship in his name. From that I became involved in the Development Board and then UNWP.

Is there anything else you would like to say about Univ North?
The overall design is hugely exciting and it would be wonderful if we could all assist in making it become a reality. The buildings are designed to blend in with the North Oxford gabled environment whilst sitting within an inspired landscape design that draws together the residential care home, the existing buildings, and children’s nursery into a cohesive whole. This is a once in a century opportunity to make a real difference!

Published: 7 July 2020

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