What Really Matters is a Jesus College initiative developed by our Access Fellow Dr Matthew Williams, our Diversity Fellow and Vice Principal Professor Patricia Daley and Professor of English Literature Paulina Kewes, which aims to engage people in some of society’s most pressing issues through discussions with high-profile speakers in related subjects.

We will keep this page updated with information on each discussion in the series and a link to the video recordings of the sessions. 


The Forum on Race and Education explored some of the key issues around race and education in the 21st Century.  It was hosted by journalist and broadcaster Samira Ahmed with a panel that included Adrian Clarke (Careers Leader, Ernest Bevin College), Clare Williams (alumna in English of Jesus College) and Patricia Daley (Vice-Principal of Jesus College, Equality & Diversity Fellow and Professor of Geography).

Forum panelists

The discussion covered the role of education in bringing about societal change in the UK, anti-racism in the context of white privilege and what needs to happen now to bring about racial equality? The black experience participants gave moving personal testimonies of their journeys and the online audience were able to ask questions.

WATCH NOW -  https://youtu.be/Vi1IrwSB70k



In the second of the series, we explored how we might approach the economic and societal challenges we face in a post-pandemic world. ‘The economy, sustainability and the workplace in a post-pandemic world brought together a panel of experts in finance, economics, geography, and sustainability, to look at the actual and potential impacts of COVID 19 on the economy and consider whether they are likely to be short or long-term. Among the questions covered during the discussions were 'Can the UK's economy recover from the impact of the pandemic and what role will Brexit play?'; and 'Will a global recession change thinking about free market approaches to the economy?'

WATCH NOW - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aI85yeDvjIc&feature=youtu.be



This discussion focused on a new initiative that aims to promote and celebrate the social sciences, humanities and arts. SHAPE (Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts for People and the Economy) aims to emulate the influence and reputation held by STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – in secondary education and academic research.

Our panelists were Julia Black, CBE FBA, Strategic Director of Innovation and Professor of Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Dane Comerford, PhD, Director of the IF Oxford: Science + Ideas Festival, Paulina Kewes, FRHistS, Professor of English Literature and Fellow of Jesus College, Katrin Kohl, Professor of German Literature, Jesus College Fellow and Tutor in German and Principal Investigator of the AHRC-funded research project Creative Multilingualism, Diarmaid MacCulloch, DD, FBA, FRHistS, FSA, Emeritus Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford and Vice-President for Communications and Engagement, British Academy and Johanna Waters, Reader in Geography at UCL and Jesus College alumna.

WATCH NOW - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3s89gKi_gU&feature=youtu.be



It's the perennial question that has challenged scientists for decades and inspired a plethora of science fiction writers and filmmakers. This summer the Mars2020 Rover launched and will be the first mission since the 1970s to search for biosignatures, habitability and past life on Mars. Using telescopes like TESS and Kepler, researchers have also found dozens of habitable rocky planets orbiting other stars. In this decade, for the first time, we will have the technology to start observing biosignatures on other worlds both in our solar system and beyond.

Our panel discussed the scientific advances being made in our search to answer the age old question of "Are We Alone?" and touch on the philosophical implications of such a detection on contextualizing our place in the Cosmos. The discussion was chaired by Professor Fred Taylor, Halley Professor of Physics Emeritus and Fellow of Jesus College, author of several books including Exploring the Planets: A Memoir (Oxford University Press, 2016) and The Scientific Exploration of Mars.  The panel includedProfessor Raymond Pierrehumbert - Jesus College Professorial Fellow and Halley Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford, Dr Sarah Rugheimer  - Hugh Price Fellow and Glasstone Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Oxford.  Juliana Garcia-Mejia - Graduate Student, Ford Foundation Fellow and NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the Department of Astronomy at Harvard University and Dr Ramses Ramirez – Affiliate Research Scientist at the Space Science Institute in Colorado, US..

WATCH NOW -  https://youtu.be/_Jm1yFMJzEw




Extinction is a fact of life - probably the fact of life: 99% of species that have ever lived are now extinct. At many points in Earth’s history, extinctions have been a rare but constant trickle, but from time to time the world has been hit with cataclysmic events, such as meteor impacts or a string of volcanic eruptions, that can lead to mass extinctions. It was a mass extinction event that famously wiped out the dinosaurs.

Did you know that many biologists consider that we are in the midst of a mass extinction now: and one where humanity is the cataclysm? In this conversation, our experts in the histories of past mass extinctions, conservation biologists trying to save species that are at risk of extinction, and experts on how one day we may be able to bring extinct species back to life, discussed whether we should care, and how much? As the fate of all species is extinction, do we really need to worry about when the last rhino is poached, or the last bluefin tuna griddled? And if so, what should we actually do about it?

The event was chaired by Katherine Willis, CBE, Professor of Biodiversity and Head the Oxford Long-term Ecology group at the University of Oxford and Principal of St Edmund Hall and the panellists were Tanesha Allen, Researcher at the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), Postgraduate at Jesus College, Tim Coulson, Professorial Fellow of Zoology at Jesus College and Joint Head of the Zoology Department at the University of Oxford, Richard Grenyer Paul Paget-Colin Clarke Tutorial Fellow in Physical Geography at Jesus College, Associate Professor in Geography at the University of Oxford and Erin Saupe Associate Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Oxford. 

WATCH NOW: https://youtu.be/mwR2luegrEk

What Really Matters is a collaborative series overseen by Patricia Daley (Vice Principal, Equality & Diversity Fellow and Professor of the Human Geography of Africa at the University of Oxford),  Paulina Kewes (Professor of English Literature and Fellow), Dr Brittany Welner James (Director of Development) and originator Dr Matthew Williams (Access Fellow).