On behalf of the whole team at the Oxford Hub, I was very pleased to read the front page article and editorial written by Cherwell today on the Oxford Hub’s funding cuts, and am thankful for all the kind comments of support offered by students. However, I would like to take this opportunity to respond to what the University spokesperson has said and highlight some further points.
The University spokesperson claims, “It was always made clear that this money came from funds that were strictly time limited.” I would like to clarify that while it was clear that the Van Houten fund which funded us was time limited, it was also suggested by the Vice-Chancellor that we should fall into the Academic Administration Division budget. Despite conversations on this issue since September 2014, those budget holders have informed us that we will not be receiving core funding from them, and that they are currently unable to offer funding from anywhere else. The Hub’s work is unique, and while we whole heartedly agree that other areas of student support are of the utmost importance, such as Disabled Student Allowance, Access and the UNIQ summer school, the Hub addresses different but equally important issues.
The OxHub provides training and support in setting up and carrying out community volunteering projects, which is not the focus of any other body in the University. This is an opportunity for students to engage with real issues, developing skills to be citizens of a socially minded world. It has been shown that people who engage with volunteering are happier and more employable. The University is known to have a notoriously difficult relationship with the City of Oxford, (which the recent tensions around Port Meadow highlight further), but what better view to the student engagement with their local community can there be than students giving up time to visit the elderly at Isis House, tutor children in everything from Maths to environmental issues, volunteer at the Food Bank or support those who are homeless on our streets?
I would also like to contest the spokesperson’s references to “duplication” of activities. We are in continuous conversation with OUSU and, when I met with their Vice-President for Charities and Communities last week, we agreed that none of what we do is significantly similar and we are planning to collaborate on training sessions next term. Furthermore, while the university spokesperson suggests that our work is similar to that of other university groups, the Hub is used as their go-to partner to support Lloyds and Moritz-Heyman scholars to complete their required volunteering hours – we receive separate pockets of funding to support these scholars – which indicates their clear acknowledgement that the Hub is the main provider of student volunteering opportunities in Oxford, and has been shown to do so very effectively for the last seven years.