History of Linacre College

Linacre House was founded in 1962 as a non-collegiate, non-residential, multi-disciplinary society to meet the social needs of the growing population of graduates in Oxford. The society was accommodated in the former home of St Catherine’s on St Aldate’s and named after Thomas Linacre (c.1460 – 1524) who was the leading founder of the Royal College of Physicians, and a distinguished renaissance humanist who represented the multidisciplinary interests that the society aimed to reflect.

Founding Principal John Bamborough (affectionately known as ‘Bam’) described Linacre as:

“a deliberate experiment by the University to see whether the needs of graduate students could be met by a new type of society.”

Renamed Linacre College in 1965, the graduate community moved to a new site at Cherwell Edge on St Cross Road. This was opened in 1977 by the Chancellor of the University, Harold Macmillan. Linacre was the first college at the University of Oxford for both sexes and for all subjects, and was granted a royal charter in August 1986.

Chancellor Harold Macmillan arriving with the University Proctors to open the new site

When it opened, Linacre had 120 graduate students and about 20 senior members. One of the intentions of establishing the College was to foster contact between graduate students and members of the University academic staff, and accordingly all members of Linacre are members of the single Common Room.

Sir Bryan Cartledge took office as the second Principal in 1988, and in 1991 the College offered the first series of ‘Linacre Lectures on the Environment’. In 1995, the Abraham Building was built on the St Cross Road site as student accommodation and was constructed to leading environmental standards as part of a movement within Linacre to raise environmental awareness and promote sustainable development. The building was named UK Green Building of the Year 1996 and won the BCE Environmental Leadership Award as well as the Oxfordshire Special Conservation Award of 1995.

Professor Paul Slack became the College’s third Principal in 1996 and the same year the Prince of Wales, now King Charles, visited to be shown the Abraham Building. During Paul Slack’s tenure Linacre marked its 40th anniversary with dinners in Oxford, Japan and the USA. The need for further student accommodation also led the Principal to drive a fundraising campaign to build the 32-room Griffiths Building which offered ensuite facilities.

In 2010, Dr Nick Leimu-Brown took office as Linacre’s fourth and current Principal. In the same year, a garden extension named after former Vice-Principal and Emeritus Fellow, Rom Harré, was completed. The current Principal has championed investment in scholarships and has worked to improve access to graduate degrees, with over 50 scholarships now offered at Linacre in an average year.

The Prince of Wales visiting the Abraham Building in 1996

There has been significant growth in the number of students and JRFs at Linacre in recent years. The University has moved from being a majority undergraduate to a majority graduate population and there are now 750 students and approximately 50 JRFs at Linacre. The College has retained its founding principles and Linacre remains known for its diverse international and inter-disciplinary community.

Committed to welcoming students to Oxford by providing high quality but affordable housing the College launched a significant expansion of its student accommodation in 2020, acquiring 3 large new properties and refurbishing others. This led to the establishment of the Centre for Eudaimonia and Human Flourishing at Stoke House in Headington which is supported by an active community of JRFs. At the same time, the main site on St Cross Road has been extensively refurbished, with seminar rooms and the library benefiting in particular from sympathetic modernisation. The College has also begun a programme of significant de-carbonisation, with gas due to be removed from the main site in the Spring of 2024.

In 2023, Linacre became one of the first Oxford Colleges to implement modern charity governance with new statutes establishing a Board of Trustees that will come into force on 1st January 2024.

You can read more about the current Linacre Principal in the Principal’s Welcome here.