The Visitorship for Traditional Scholars

THE SCHEME

In 2008, HH the Dalai Lama visited Oxford. So-Wide arranged the visit.  At one point, we asked if he had any advice for us. He recommended that we set up a scheme for traditional scholars to visit Oxford.  There was scope for this. At the time, most of those working on Buddhist topics were in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies, and it was recognised that these students could benefit from direct exposure to the culture they were studying.  So, we did some work. A few years later, the Visitorship for Traditional Scholars started.   In association with the Faculty of Oriental Studies, the scheme invites a traditional Tibetan scholar for the 8 weeks of the University’s spring term (called the Hilary Term). This has happened on nine occasions so far.  The scheme would, in principle, be open to traditional scholars from all Bauddha traditions. In Oxford, however, activity in Pali is currently limited, and students of the Mahāyāna, who are often themselves from East Asia, have less need of such support.

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Bodies supporting the scheme

Charities play a role in the Oxford environment. So-Wide runs the Visitorship in association with:

  • the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies (OCBS ocbs.org),which supports and promotes Buddhist Studies at Oxford, and  
  • the Oxford Buddha Vihara (OBV oxfordbuddhavihara.org.uk),which regularly hosts monastics from diverse Buddhist traditions and where our Visitors live.The Oriental Studies Faculty of the University of Oxford is the academic sponsor (https://www.orinst.ox.ac.uk). Professor Ulrike Roesler heads the Tibetan and Himalayan Studies team there.

Arrangements

Oxford terms are busy. This is particularly true at the beginning and end of the academic year.  So Visitors are invited in the middle of the year. They come for the 8 weeks of the spring (or ‘Hilary’) term, from January to March.  When a prospective Visitor is proposed, the first stage is to talk things over. In phone or video-calls, all aspects of the Visitorship are discussed. This is an opportunity for both sides to check what is involved before committing. It is important to assess, for instance:

  • how easy it will be for a traditional scholar to communicate with students, and
  • how much he or she is likely to gain from the opportunity.

Once a Visitor has been selected, formal letters of invitation are issued. This is normally sufficient to secure a visa.  Some months before the start of the Visit, So-Wide transfers to the Visitor’s bank account a sum to cover initial expenses — visa, domestic travel to secure the visa and to get to the airport, and return air flight. On arrival, Visitors are picked up from the airport, brought to Oxford and ensconced in the Vihara (OBV).

Once they have settled down, our volunteers show them round the town, get them a bus pass and demonstrate how to use it, arrange for the issue of a library card, issue a subsistence allowance, and so on.  The volunteers remain on hand for help and advice throughout the Visitor’s stay. We also nominate one of the students to provide support within the Faculty. 

Soon after arrival, the Visitor meets the teacher(s) and students with whom he or she will work. A basic schedule is arranged (reading-group and talks). The Visitor can then start fill out the programme for the visit in consultation with the students.

Arrangements

Oxford terms are busy. This is particularly true at the beginning and end of the academic year.

So Visitors are invited in the middle of the year. They come for the 8 weeks of the spring (or ‘Hilary’) term, from January to March. 

When a prospective Visitor is proposed, the first stage is to talk things over. In phone or video-calls, all aspects of the Visitorship are discussed.

This is an opportunity for both sides to check what is involved before committing. It is important to assess, for instance:

  • how easy it will be for a traditional scholar to communicate with students, and
  • how much he or she is likely to gain from the opportunity.

Once a Visitor has been selected, formal letters of invitation are issued. This is normally sufficient to secure a visa.

Some months before the start of the Visit, So-Wide transfers to the Visitor’s bank account a sum to cover initial expenses — visa, domestic travel to secure the visa and to get to the airport, and return air flight. On arrival, Visitors are picked up from the airport, brought to Oxford and ensconced in the Vihara (OBV).

Once they have settled down, our volunteers show them round the town, get them a bus pass and demonstrate how to use it, arrange for the issue of a library card, issue a subsistence allowance, and so on.  The volunteers remain on hand for help and advice throughout the Visitor’s stay. We also nominate one of the students to provide support within the Faculty. 

Soon after arrival, the Visitor meets the teacher(s) and students with whom he or she will work. A basic schedule is arranged (reading-group and talks). The Visitor can then start fill out the programme for the visit in consultation with the students.

Arrangements

Oxford terms are busy. This is particularly true at the beginning and end of the academic year.

So Visitors are invited in the middle of the year. They come for the 8 weeks of the spring (or ‘Hilary’) term, from January to March. 

When a prospective Visitor is proposed, the first stage is to talk things over. In phone or video-calls, all aspects of the Visitorship are discussed.

This is an opportunity for both sides to check what is involved before committing. It is important to assess, for instance:

  • how easy it will be for a traditional scholar to communicate with students, and
  • how much he or she is likely to gain from the opportunity.

Once a Visitor has been selected, formal letters of invitation are issued. This is normally sufficient to secure a visa.

Some months before the start of the Visit, So-Wide transfers to the Visitor’s bank account a sum to cover initial expenses — visa, domestic travel to secure the visa and to get to the airport, and return air flight. On arrival, Visitors are picked up from the airport, brought to Oxford and ensconced in the Vihara (OBV).

Once they have settled down, our volunteers show them round the town, get them a bus pass and demonstrate how to use it, arrange for the issue of a library card, issue a subsistence allowance, and so on.  The volunteers remain on hand for help and advice throughout the Visitor’s stay. We also nominate one of the students to provide support within the Faculty. 

Soon after arrival, the Visitor meets the teacher(s) and students with whom he or she will work. A basic schedule is arranged (reading-group and talks). The Visitor can then start fill out the programme for the visit in consultation with the students.