University refuses to fund OxHub

The future of student-run charity OxHub is under threat due to the University’s refusal to continue core funding, leaving the charity short of about £70,000. Earlier this week, the OxHub executive committee set up a petition calling for the University to provide the organisation with a long-term sustainable source of funding.

The charity previously received approximately 40 per cent of its funding from the University, most of which came from the Van Houten Fund. However, funding for OxHub has never been part of the University’s budget, which is what OxHub is petitioning to change. Contributions in the past have instead come from various funding pots, but the money from the Van Houten Fund was limited to three years and ended in Michaelmas 2014. University cuts mean they have not been offered any other sources of funding.

Makena Löhr, the OxHub President, told Cherwell, “The Vice-Chancellor suggested last year that we should fall into the Academic Administration Division budget. However, despite protracted conversations, those budget holders have since informed us that we will not now be receiving core funding for our work. The Vice-Chancellor’s office has been unable to offer opportunities for funding elsewhere.”

OxHub is a student-led charity which, according to Löhr, seeks to “engage Oxford students in social and environmental projects both locally and globally”. 600 student volunteers are currently involved in projects run by the charity, including the Schools Plus programme, the Homelessness Action Group and OxGrow. In 2014, the charity was recognised with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for its work over the last seven years.

With core funding in place from the University, the charity was able to raise 45 per cent of its funding externally. However, while this external funding goes towards project costs, the cut University funding was necessary for the charity to meet many of its core operating costs, such as staff time for processing expenses.

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On Sunday 22nd February, members of OxHub’s student executive created a petition, calling upon “Oxford University to secure long-term core funding for the Oxford Hub”. At the time of press, the petition had received 224 signatories on Change.org.

Löhr told Cherwell, “We understand that the University faces budgetary pressures, and that savings need to be made. However, cutting Oxford Hub’s funding is damaging to the Hub’s future, and is thus retracting the University’s support of students, who despite all their time pressures and other commitments of their degrees, want to be drivers of positive social change.

“Furthermore, it undermines the University’s public role, in connecting with the local community outside of our University bubble. We don’t really think it is appropriate to pull out the support Oxford Hub provides across the city, given levels of social inequality and the needs of the local community. We would just like to reach a sustainable solution for the Hub that would then preserve the work that students carry out to support social issues across the city.”

A spokesperson for the University commented, “The OxHub is a great venture which we were happy to support as it got off the ground, but it was always made clear that this money came from funds that were strictly time-limited.”

The University spokesperson continued, “We also have to prioritise other areas of student support which have recently been subject to significant funding cuts, such as the UNIQ summer schools, teachers’ conferences, National Scholarship programme, and the Access to Learning Fund, as well as respond to projected reductions in the Disabled Students’ Allowance.

“In discussing this financial situation with the OxHub, we have stressed that there is now an opportunity for them to work closely with other areas, including the Careers Service and OUSU, to identify how a collaborative approach might reduce costs, particularly where there is a degree of overlap in services provided to students.

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“This might reduce some duplication of effort and enable more limited resources to be focused on those areas with the greatest impact.”

Sonia Morland, a finalist at St John’s and a volunteer on the Schools Plus programme, was disappointed with the news, commenting, “The Hub is absolutely great for empowering students to volunteer in a wide range of schemes that help different parts of the Oxford community. The Hub facilitates a lot of great work – though in my experience it sometimes has difficulties in co-ordinating projects with the community in a way that maximises the impact of volunteers’ time.

“Like most charities, the Hub isn’t perfect, but it’s thanks to their programmes that I, and several of my friends, found a way to put our skills to use in the Oxford community. It would be a shame, both for students eager to volunteer and for all the projects which receive Hub help, if that came to an end.”

Oli Davies, next year’s joint-VP of Giving What We Can Oxford, told Cherwell, “Regardless of the effectiveness of the charitable programmes it runs, the role Hub plays in directing Oxford graduates into careers that enact good is invaluable. Resources such as OxFID are a powerful long term investment in terms of training students to do good in the long run – it seems inconceivable the University has anything better to spend that money on, both as a resource for students and just as its social responsibility.”