The School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography is a dynamic and stimulating department, the largest and arguably the most diverse in the UK, with an ethos of openness and tolerance at its heart. Its mission is to be a world leader in all forms of anthropological research and to train the next generations of anthropologists, whether working in the academy or outside it, through research-driven teaching programmes that produce future leaders in their fields. The School produces internationally recognised research and delivers teaching on a wide range of intellectually challenging and socially pressing issues. Currently standing at number 1 in the 2023 QS World University Subject Rankings for Anthropology, and twice in a row having topped the power ranking for anthropology and development studies in the UK government’s Research Excellence Framework exercise, the School prides itself on its interdisciplinary and wide-ranging approaches to solving real world problems that contribute to the promotion of intercultural understanding and tolerance. The School has achieved Athena SWAN Bronze level accreditation.
Anthropology has been taught at Oxford since E.B. Tylor began lecturing on the subject in 1883 in the Pitt Rivers Museum. A Diploma in Anthropology was inaugurated in 1905, the first such course to be offered in a British university. R.R. Marett became Reader in Social Anthropology in 1910 and in 1914 established a Department of Social Anthropology. The first Professor of Social Anthropology, A.R. Radcliffe-Brown, was appointed in 1937 and he renamed the Department as the Institute of Social Anthropology. His successors have been Sir Edward Evans-Pritchard (1946-70), Maurice Freedman (1970-75), Rodney Needham (1976-90), John Davis (1990-95), David Parkin (1996-2008), and David Gellner (2008-). In 2006 a second Chair in Social Anthropology was established, to which Harvey Whitehouse was appointed from October 2006. The Curators of the Pitt Rivers Museum have been Henry Balfour (1891-1939), T.K. Penniman (1939-63), B.E.B. Fagg (1964-75), B.A.L. Cranstone (1976-85), and Schuyler Jones (1985-97). Under Dr Jones the post was retitled Director of the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Directorship has been held by Dr Michael O'Hanlon (1998-2015) and, since 2016, by Dr Laura Van Broekhoven.
Apart from the Museum, the School’s buildings are clustered together on both sides of Banbury Road. In addition to staff offices, these buildings contain teaching spaces, meeting rooms, audio-visual equipment, computing facilities, common rooms, and kitchens.