The Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISCA) is a leading centre for anthropological teaching and research in the UK and the world. Originally established as the only centre in the UK specialising in postgraduate teaching and research within the discipline, it continues to supervise large numbers of graduate and research students. The department came top of the Power Rankings for Anthropology in the UK in the 2014 REF and the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (and received a score in the 2001 equivalent exercise). Research in ISCA is particularly broad based, including not only traditional ethnographic specialisms in social anthropology, but also thematic specialisms such as visual anthropology, material anthropology and museum ethnography, medical anthropology, and cognitive and evolutionary anthropology. The Institute's links with the Pitt Rivers Museum contribute a particular strength in material culture and the anthropology of representations. In 2001, the ESRC Centre on Migration Policy and Society (COMPAS) was established within within the School of Anthropology as a research centre.
Anthropology has been taught at Oxford since E.B. Tylor began lecturing on the subject in 1883, and the first Professor of Social Anthropology, A.R. Radcliffe-Brown, was appointed in 1937. 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-present). In 2006 a second Chair in Social Anthropology was established, to which Harvey Whitehouse was appointed (taking over from Professor Parkin as Head of ISCA). Professor Marcus Banks is currently Head of School, Dr Elizabeth Ewart Director of ISCA.
ISCA is located in a number of buildings along the Banbury Road, a few minutes' walk north of Oxford city centre. Some staff also work from the Pitt Rivers Museum's main building on South Parks Road, behind the University Museum. ISCA is the largest graduate anthropology department in the UK, with around 80 to 100 students registered for taught course graduate degrees at any one time, and more than 90 doctoral projects currently underway. Staff research interests are wide ranging (see staff profiles). Several important research centres are based at ISCA, including the British Centre for Durkheimian Studies and a major ESRC research Centre on Migration Policy and Society (COMPAS). Close contact with the Pitt Rivers Museum brings collaborative research in the areas of material culture, visual anthropology and ethnomusicology, while visiting scholars from the UK and overseas ensure an ever changing and vibrant research environment.