John Varano


Masters in Major Programme Management




Management Consulting



By John Varano

It’s Happening… Matriculation, Study and Realising a Dream

Taking my first step onto High Street, the reality of my arrival at Oxford finally began to sink in. Alighting the requisite double decker bus on a breezy September morning, I paused to appreciate my surroundings, momentarily forgetting the large suitcases I held in each hand. Their weight eventually brought me back to reality and I gradually continued my journey to the college where I would be residing.

During my first weekend, I explored most of the 38 constituent colleges at Oxford, visited the many museums and pubs on offer and met new friends during a friendly game of croquet on the lush green lawn at Magdalen College. I wandered from college to college, visualising all of the famous alumni that once graced these prominent institutions with their presence. It felt surreal that I would soon undertake an induction that would position me among their ranks (in an academic sense, at least!).

Magdalen College, Oxford

Magdalen College, Oxford

On Sunday – one day before I began my first day and module at Saïd Business School – I reviewed my course materials, read the case studies and academic literature. However, it was challenging to be diligent in my study preparation as I was thinking of the great temptations on offer at Oxford. Whether it was reading books in the Bodleian Library or having a pint at the Eagle and Child – the same watering hole that served the likes of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien – Oxford is a place like no other. As Nathaniel Hawthorne once stated: “the world surely has not another place like Oxford; it is a despair to see such a place and ever to leave it, for it would take a lifetime and more than one to comprehend and enjoy it satisfactorily.”

Radcliffe Camera

Radcliffe Camera

pub exterior

The Eagle and Child

Day one ultimately came and I arrived early at the Saïd Business School. The new cohort was together, introductions were made and class commenced. Dr Atif Ansar, the Programme Director, welcomed everyone and addressed us with insightful philosophical anecdotes, which have become our new foundation and guiding principles. He expressed that “we are here to become master builders.” Continuing his discourse, Dr Ansar referred to Isaiah Berlin’s popular essay “the Hedgehog and the Fox,” incorporating the writings of the ancient Greek poet Archilochus to conclude that “every one of us as Major Programme Managers are foxes. A fox knows many things, but a hedgehog one important thing.”

exterior of Saïd Business School

Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

The morning continued with the Dean of the Said Business School, Professor Peter Tufano, advising us to “learn with serendipity” and Professor and Chair Bent Flyvbjerg directing us that an Oxford experience will remain “a journey for the rest of your life.” From that day onwards to the completion of our first module, the foundation was set and we continued our learning from world renowned strategist, Professor Thomas Powell instructing on strategy to Associate Fellow, Dr Eamonn Molloy lecturing the cohort on designing and managing successful programmes to Lieutenant General Sir David Capewell, Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath and former Chief of Joint Operations for the UK Ministry of Defence, schooling the class on leadership.

Commencement of first lecture at the Saïd Business School

Commencement of first lecture at the Saïd Business School

During our academic induction, the cohort was required to matriculate. It is a time old Oxford custom where new students are entered into the university matricula which confers membership of the University on students. Each of us were required to wear academic dress with subfuscduring the ceremony. During matriculation, the ceremony was regal and mostly in Latin. With a single pronouncement by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor, we became officially Oxonians: “Scitote vos in Matriculam Universitatis hodie relatos esse, et ad observandum omnia Statuta istius Universitatis, quantum ad vos spectent, teneri.” For all of the cohort it was a proud moment and a memory that we will always relish as we are now part of the Oxford community which has dated back more than 800 years.

matriculation at Oxford University

The Sheldonian Theatre and Divinity School: Matriculation Day

In addition, the Oxford experience would not be complete without the formal dinners. Our first as a class was held at the Said Business School, where we were joined by alumni. The evening commenced with grace read out in Latin followed by a few of my peers sharing their stories of how they found themselves at Oxford. Following on, we had our second formal dinner at The Queen’s College which was founded in 1341 by Robert de Eglesfield in honour of Queen Philippa of Hainault. Walking into the college I was taken aback by the opulent neoclassical architecture. As we dined and enjoyed our evening, we took the opportunity to have a discourse about the college’s history and I was given a platform to address my peers about my personal story and how it led me to come to Oxford. Their warm reception left me honoured and humbled. That evening, I truly felt myself to be on a path of personal growth and transformation, setting forth the example to my son that a dream can be realised and attained through self-belief, perseverance and determination.

The Queen’s College, Oxford

The Queen’s College, Oxford

dining hall

Formal dinner in The Queen’s College, Oxford dining hall

Feeling energised and inspired as the first module concluded, I looked forward to returning home to my family in Melbourne, Australia. While I eagerly anticipate my return to Oxford for the second module and attending the upcoming Merton College Winter Ball, no grand moment or accomplishment in my life will ever surpass the feeling of coming home to my wife and son.

Back to top of article

Share this post:

follow us in feedly