Cherwell

A Losing Battel?

Last week OUSU released a startling report exposing the massive financial inequalities that exist between colleges in Oxford, and the subsequent disparities in services and accommodation available to different students. Surprised? Maybe not if you live in St Anne’s, Mansfield, or St Hugh’s. Perhaps if you’re ‘lucky’ enough to be a member of one of Oxford’s larger colleges you’re quite happy to maintain the status quo. After all, you’ve got into Christ Church – who cares if oiks across the road in Pembroke have awful food in Hall? It’s not your problem, right? Wrong. The decision by authorities at Trinity – hardly thought of as a wilting wallflower – to hike rents by 20% and food by 40% shows that the changing economic climate affects us all. Future students at Trinity will be forced to pay around £4 000 more for their three-year undergraduate career than the current undergraduate members. We are faced with two problems. On one side we suffer inequalities in college wealth that produce a climate where one Oxford student is liable to enjoy a significantly greater standard of living than another, purely dependent on the accident of college membership. At the same time we see a continuing financial blight affecting to a greater or lesser degree all academic institutions in Oxford. Trinity’s behaviour is typical – faced with a shortfall, they propose an inflation exceeding hike in battels that effectively constitutes top-up fees by the back door. OUSU are incapable of providing an effective voice on the issue of college/student finance. The solution lies individual JCRs acting sensibly (with OUSU’s assistance, natch) to protect their interests and the interests of those that succeed them. Individual rent strikes can work – masses photocopying in Bonn Square will provide nothing more than food for JCR dustbins. Individual JCRs therefore shoulder the responsibility fighting against these increases in charges, not only for their own members but for the University as a whole. If colleges become aware that they cannot force ridiculous rent rises past their undergraduates, perhaps they will force the University’s hand over a sensible, centralised policy on funding that recognises the equality of individual undergraduates. It is not fair for some students to live with rising damp. It is not fair for some students to face an explosion in their battels bills. The University is a community. It should be run as one.
ARCHIVE: 2nd Week TT 2003