About

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Our Vision

Each year, Oxford and other world-class universities produce leaders and thinkers who go on to have significant influence and impact around the world. The Oxford Character Project seeks to help talented students develop key virtues of character which will prepare them to be the wise thinkers and good leaders the world so desperately needs. Our research explores virtues and themes that are essential for personal formation and moral leadership, including institutional incentives and biases, the relationship between leading and following, the place of failure, the nature of service and vocation, and the virtues of honesty, wisdom, gratitude, and humility. Our practical programmes draw together cohorts of students to develop qualities of life and leadership in diverse and open learning communities.


The story so far...

The Oxford Character Project was founded in 2014 by an Anglican charity, with the support of senior academics from across the University of Oxford. Our academic work seeks to draw on perspectives from history, literature, education, philosophy, theology, and the social sciences. Our events and student programmes seek to foster open engagement with students and academics from various moral, cultural, and religious traditions, in keeping with the diversity represented in the university community.

Over the last three years, our programmes and events in Oxford have engaged over 800 students, with 120 participants from over 20 countries involved in intensive ‘learning communities’. We are in discussion with universities around the world who are interested to work together to develop new initiatives.


Practical Action for Character Development

The Oxford Global Leadership Initiative aims to help postgraduate students from various disciplines, countries, cultures, and traditions think about the role of moral leadership in their professions. With over 120 nationalities represented in the Oxford postgraduate community, the Global Leadership Initiative seeks to enable diverse students to engage each other and exceptional guest speakers in an ongoing conversation about leadership in the 21st century.

Flourishing in Academia is a new initiative of The Oxford Character Project that is seeking to catalyse a conversation amongst postgraduate students and academics from across disciplines. What intellectual and moral virtues are needed for academic life? What is the purpose of the university? How can we learn to live well in academia?

Through a programme of events including conferences, guest lectures, and group discussions, The Oxford Character Project offers postgraduate students the opportunity to reflect on their own sense of purpose in the world, helping students develop the qualities of character that will further their own flourishing and strengthen their commitment to the common good.

Students selected to join our small and intensive learning communities receive:

  1. Personal mentoring with an experienced leader in their field
  2. One-to-one support from carefully recruited Character Project coordinators
  3. Meetings and retreats to discuss leadership and character
  4. Participation in a community of like-minded peers
  5. Continued support from the Character Project beyond time in Oxford

Researching Character

To inform our practical programme and advance knowledge in the area of character formation and leadership, the Oxford Character Project is engaged in ongoing research on character and moral formation, particularly focused on the life stage of ‘emerging adulthood’. Following a successful pilot phase, which concluded with an international conference on the theme of ‘Cultivating Virtue in the University’, our team is continuing to engage in theoretical and empirical research on character formation; investigating and formulating postgraduate-specific accounts of character development; using quantitative and qualitative tools to measure and iteratively improve practical programming; and developing a clearer understanding of the importance and effectiveness of postgraduate character development. You can find more about our research here

Meet the Team

  • Bethan Willis profile image

    Bethan Willis

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    Dr Bethan Willis leads Flourishing in Academia, a new initiative of the Oxford Character Project. She completed her doctorate at Exeter University on Miroslav Volf and justice in the Balkans in 2013. Since then she has been researching and writing on social justice issues and now also works for the Diocese of Oxford as a social responsibility adviser. In her spare time Bethan enjoys volunteering and embarking on mini adventures with her family – Sean, Huw (7) and Ben (5).

    Bethan Willis

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    Dr Bethan Willis leads Flourishing in Academia, a new initiative of the Oxford Character Project. She completed her doctorate at Exeter University on Miroslav Volf and justice in the Balkans in 2013. Since then she has been researching and writing on social justice issues and now also works for the Diocese of Oxford as a social responsibility adviser. In her spare time Bethan enjoys volunteering and embarking on mini adventures with her family – Sean, Huw (7) and Ben (5).

  • Claire Shuttleworth profile image

    Claire Shuttleworth

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    Claire is administrator for the Oxford Character Project. She graduated from Oxford Brookes University with a degree in English literature and theology. She has worked in a variety of administrative roles including in academic publishing for Wiley-Blackwell.

    Claire Shuttleworth

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    Claire is administrator for the Oxford Character Project. She graduated from Oxford Brookes University with a degree in English literature and theology. She has worked in a variety of administrative roles including in academic publishing for Wiley-Blackwell.

  • Ed Brooks profile image

    Ed Brooks

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    Edward Brooks is the Executive Director of the Oxford Character Project and also heads the Global Leadership Initiative. His academic work focuses on how the virtue of hope might be understood and cultivated in late modernity. Ed came to Oxford to study history at Magdalen in 1999, returning in 2010 following a few years in South Africa. Much of Ed’s first Oxford life was spent on the rugby pitch; these days you are more likely to find him on a long training run in the hills around Oxford. He is married to Liubov and kept busy by three “energetic” young children, Sophia, Felix and Alexa.

    Ed Brooks

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    Edward Brooks is the Executive Director of the Oxford Character Project and also heads the Global Leadership Initiative. His academic work focuses on how the virtue of hope might be understood and cultivated in late modernity. Ed came to Oxford to study history at Magdalen in 1999, returning in 2010 following a few years in South Africa. Much of Ed’s first Oxford life was spent on the rugby pitch; these days you are more likely to find him on a long training run in the hills around Oxford. He is married to Liubov and kept busy by three “energetic” young children, Sophia, Felix and Alexa.

  • Jonathan Brant profile image

    Jonathan Brant

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    Dr Jonathan Brant is the Founding Director of the Oxford Character Project, having established and led the team as well as engaged in academic research as a member of Oxford University’s Theology Faculty and Research Fellow of Harris Manchester College. Jonathan is also head of the Oxford Pastorate with overall responsibility for leading a team serving in the postgraduate community. He wrote a DPhil in Theology at Trinity College, Oxford (monograph by Oxford University Press) which drew upon systematic theology, film theory and qualitative research in considering the potential religious impact of contemporary Latin American cinema. Prior to coming to Oxford, Jonathan worked for Anglican churches in London and South America and is an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction. He is married to Tricia and has a teenage son, Isaac.

    Jonathan Brant

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    Dr Jonathan Brant is the Founding Director of the Oxford Character Project, having established and led the team as well as engaged in academic research as a member of Oxford University’s Theology Faculty and Research Fellow of Harris Manchester College. Jonathan is also head of the Oxford Pastorate with overall responsibility for leading a team serving in the postgraduate community. He wrote a DPhil in Theology at Trinity College, Oxford (monograph by Oxford University Press) which drew upon systematic theology, film theory and qualitative research in considering the potential religious impact of contemporary Latin American cinema. Prior to coming to Oxford, Jonathan worked for Anglican churches in London and South America and is an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction. He is married to Tricia and has a teenage son, Isaac.

  • Luna Wang profile image

    Luna Wang

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    Luna Wang leads and develops the Global Leadership Initiative. Luna studied Law and Economics at Beijing’s prestigious Peking University and worked in the Real Estate Industry for several years in China before coming to Oxford to study for an MSc in Sociology, which she completed in 2012. Her current academic work focuses on the place of women in contemporary Chinese society. She is passionate about people and stories, enjoys travelling and watching movies.

    Luna Wang

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    Luna Wang leads and develops the Global Leadership Initiative. Luna studied Law and Economics at Beijing’s prestigious Peking University and worked in the Real Estate Industry for several years in China before coming to Oxford to study for an MSc in Sociology, which she completed in 2012. Her current academic work focuses on the place of women in contemporary Chinese society. She is passionate about people and stories, enjoys travelling and watching movies.

  • Michael Lamb profile image

    Michael Lamb

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    Dr Michael Lamb is a Research Fellow of the Oxford Character Project. Michael is University Scholar in Residence and Fellow in the Office of Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University. He holds a PhD in Politics from Princeton, a BA in Political Science from Rhodes College, and a second BA in Philosophy and Theology from Oxford. His research focuses on the ethics of citizenship and the role of virtues in public life.  As the McDonald-Templeton Postdoctoral Fellow with the Oxford Character Project, Michael helped to develop the research-based curriculum for the Oxford Global Leadership Initiative and continues to support the Oxford Character Project while developing programmes in leadership and character at Wake Forest.   

    Michael Lamb

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    Dr Michael Lamb is a Research Fellow of the Oxford Character Project. Michael is University Scholar in Residence and Fellow in the Office of Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University. He holds a PhD in Politics from Princeton, a BA in Political Science from Rhodes College, and a second BA in Philosophy and Theology from Oxford. His research focuses on the ethics of citizenship and the role of virtues in public life.  As the McDonald-Templeton Postdoctoral Fellow with the Oxford Character Project, Michael helped to develop the research-based curriculum for the Oxford Global Leadership Initiative and continues to support the Oxford Character Project while developing programmes in leadership and character at Wake Forest.   

  • Rob Heimburger profile image

    Rob Heimburger

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    Dr Robert W. Heimburger has been involved in the leadership of the Oxford Character project since its inception in 2014. He studied philosophy and music at Davidson College, North Carolina, theology at Regent College, Vancouver, and theology and Christian ethics at the University of Oxford, where he completed his doctorate. He is currently researching post-conflict forgiveness within a project on the flourishing of people displaced by conflict within Colombia. He lives in Oxford with his wife and two children.

    Rob Heimburger

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    Dr Robert W. Heimburger has been involved in the leadership of the Oxford Character project since its inception in 2014. He studied philosophy and music at Davidson College, North Carolina, theology at Regent College, Vancouver, and theology and Christian ethics at the University of Oxford, where he completed his doctorate. He is currently researching post-conflict forgiveness within a project on the flourishing of people displaced by conflict within Colombia. He lives in Oxford with his wife and two children.

Our Partners

The Oxford Character Project is funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation. Our research is conducted under the supervision of Professor Nigel Biggar of the Faculty of Theology and Religion in conjunction with the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Life. We are supported by academics across Oxford divisions and work particularly closely with The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities, which hosts our Arts of Leading project. Over the past three years we have worked together with international partners including the University of Hong Kong and Wake Forest University, and local partners including Rhodes House, The China Oxford Scholarship Fund, The Oxford Pastorate and Summit Education Enterprise.

'The Oxford Character Project is a very welcome initiative. Its academic strength is matched by a practical programme that has drawn together a highly diverse group of postgraduate students from all over the world to engage in a conversation about the nature and practice of good leadership. This is an initiative that should be supported by all who would want future leaders, in all areas of society, to be known for their integrity, humility, and commitment to furthering the public good.'

Prof. Lionel Tarrassenko
Head of the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford