Hertford JCR criticises failed outreach scheme

Hertford JCR has criticised college authorities after they failed to offer the Reach Scholarship, which offers free education to students from developing countries. A JCR motion mandated JCR members to send emails to Senior Tutor Alan Bogg, Principal Will Hutton, and Tutor for Admissions Peter Bull, expressing “deep concern” regarding their decision.

The Reach Scholarship programme is a university-wide scheme which offers financial support to a number of students from low income countries who, for political or financial reasons, or because suitable educational facilities do not exist, cannot study for a degree in their own countries. The scholarship covers university fees, college fees, a grant for living expenses and one return air fare per year.

A short-listing panel meets every year to recommend six applicants to the colleges that accept Reach scholars. This can result in applicants being offered a place in one college, while being awarded a scholarship in another, and therefore having to change college before coming up.

Hertford JCR adds a sum of £3 per term to every student’s battles payments which funds half of one Reach scholarship for an undergraduate at Hertford. However, this year college authorities decided not to accept such a scholar.

A representative for Hertford College told Cherwell, “The college is wholly committed to the Reach scheme. There was a communication gap between us and the JCR in this the first year of its operation, but after talks with the JCR we believe it will not be repeated. More broadly we share the same commitment to outreach and widening access as the JCR.”

Hugh Baker, Hertford College’s JCR President proposed the motion. He said the decision “completely goes against Hertford’s strong tradition of access work, and effectively denies strong academic candidates the chance to study at Oxford.”

The JCR argued “that the college’s decision not to accept a Reach Scholar for the coming year flies in the face of our access program” and “that the JCR should have had far greater influence on the college’s decision given that 50% of the funds for the scholarship come from the JCR.”

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An amendment was made to the initial motion, which read, “the JCR resolves to urge the JCR President to strongly consider bringing this story into the public eye.”

Following the motion, over 120 emails were sent to College expressing dissatisfaction with the decision.

The proponent and seconder of the motion subsequently met with the Principal, the Tutor for Admission, and the Senior Tutor to discuss the decision over the Reach Scholarship. Following this meeting, Baker emailed the JCR saying, “The act of migrating a scholar from another college to Hertford was fraught with complications, and individual subject tutors’ decisions realistically had to be made mainly on academic grounds once the short-list had been compiled.”

Baker continued, “It is clear that college are completely supportive of the Reach scheme and have been trying to do the best they can in an essentially flawed framework for awarding the scholarship. The response of the JCR…has made it very clear of the strong moral views of the JCR surrounding Hertford’s access work.”

OUSU and the JCR have resolved to work with college and the university to make changes to the scheme.