St Benet’s to admit female undergraduates

St Benet’s Hall is coming closer to admitting female undergraduates for the first time in its 118 year history, after preparing to take on a second site in Norham Gardens, which is currently owned by the Society of the Sacred Heart.

The Master of St Benet’s Hall, Professor Werner Jeanrond, explained, “St Benet’s Hall has already accepted female graduate students. The acquisition of this building will enable the Hall to admit female undergraduates and go fully co-ed. Equality is written into the University’s strategic plan and we are now committed to raising the funds needed to make the next move happen.”

Professor Jeanrond, who is also a member of Oxford University’s Theology and Religion Faculty, further commented to Cherwell, “Everybody in St Benet’s Hall is delighted that we have finally identified a building that would allow us to admit female students for the academic year 2016 – 2017, and offer us much needed additional space for teaching, research and administration. We have been working for this for a long time and are so happy that we are now getting there.

“The new building is for mixed occupation; for both male and female students, and offers around twenty rooms. We normally admit approximately 18 undergraduates per year. Our graduate students are offered space in the University accommodation at Wellington Square.”

St Benet’s was founded in 1897 as a place for the monks of Ampleforth Abbey and other monasteries to live in while reading for Oxford degrees and became a Permanent Private Hall in 1918. Subjects which may be studied at St Benet’s Hall include History, Classics, Oriental Studies, PPE and Theology. 

The Society of the Sacred Heart is an international order of women in the Catholic Church, and has been located on the site in Norham Gardens since 1932. The Society has been working to further the education of women in Oxford and beyond. Through working with St Benet’s Hall, the Society of the Sacred Heart is helping to achieve this goal, even though the Sisters are about to withdraw from Oxford.

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Sister Jane Maltby, the Provincial of the England-Wales Province of the Society of the Sacred Heart, commented, “Although we are sad to be leaving Oxford after over eighty years of supporting women’s higher education, the Benedictine spirit of community and commitment to education will further the aspirations we have always striven to achieve.”

Ed Sparrow, a current undergraduate at St. Benet’s Hall, told Cherwell,”Getting the extra building is obviously an important step towards admitting female undergraduates, but we still need to get the money for that which is the biggest obstacle at the moment.

“As for getting girls it would obviously change the nature of the hall quite a lot – most likely for the better but not definitely.”