What is Unique about All Souls?
It is often said that All Souls is unique because it has no students. This is incorrect. One category of fellowship, the Prize Fellowship, is open to people who have recently completed an undergraduate degree or recently registered for a postgraduate course: six current Prize Fellows are graduate students. All Souls is, however, unique in that all members of the College are Fellows, and are therefore full voting members of the Governing Body. Unlike at most Colleges, several Fellows’ main work is outwith academia: current and recent Fellows include politicians, lawyers, novelists and an internet entrepreneur. The College believes that people working in such fields are enriched by contact with academia, and that academia is enriched by contact with them. The Prize Fellowship is a further distinctive feature of All Souls. The Fellowship lasts for seven years and Prize Fellows can choose whether to do academic work or to pursue another career. The flexibility and duration of the Prize Fellowship makes it an unparalleled opportunity for people early in their careers.
How do you become a Fellow of All Souls?
There are several categories of Fellowship. The selection procedure for each category of Fellowship is different, but all appointments are made on merit and all Fellowships are open to both women and men. As at other colleges and universities, Senior Research Fellows and Post-Doctoral Research Fellows are chosen on the basis of their proposals for future research and their record of academic achievement.
Some University Professorships and Lectureships are associated with All Souls. Prize Fellows are selected after a written examination, which is held at the end of the summer vacation. Candidates write essays in response to questions on their area of academic work. There is also a general component to the examination, and one paper involves writing an essay in response to a single word (e.g. bias, water, harmony). Copies of past papers are available on the College website. The written examination is used to draw up a shortlist of candidates for interview.
Many people think that you need to receive some kind of invitation to sit the Prize Fellowship examination – this is not true. Anyone who meets the eligibility criteria set out on the College website can apply. The College is concerned that relatively few women choose to sit the Prize Fellowship examination. To encourage potential female candidates to inform themselves about the College and the Fellowship, an open evening for women will be held on Friday 13 March (eighth week) from 5pm to 7pm in the Old Library.
What do Fellow of All Souls do?
Most Fellows spend the majority of their time doing academic research. All Souls has particular strengths in History and Law, but there are Fellows working in a broad range of fields in both sciences and humanities. Many Fellows also teach or supervise students from other colleges and give a variety of lectures and seminars for the University as a whole. Fellows who work outwith academia play an important role in the governance of the College and participate from time to time in academic activities (e.g. conferences) that relate to their area of employment. Fellows who are not engaged on academic work receive minimal payment from the College.
Are there any strange traditions at All Souls?
Most, if not all, colleges have their own peculiar traditions, and All Souls is no exception. Legend has it that, when the College’s foundations were being dug, an enormous mallard flew out of a drain where it had been trapped for many years. The mallard became a College symbol and the ‘Mallard Song’ is sung by Fellows on a few College occasions. In 1801, there was a procession to mark the new century. This involved Fellows marching around the College with blazing torches and singing the Mallard Song; a mallard was carried on a pole. The event was repeated in 1901 and 2001, but fortunately no animal is now involved!