By Mohsin Khan
OUSU Council will today debate a motion that demands richer colleges pay more money to poorer colleges as part of the College Contribution Scheme (CCS).
If passed, the motion would support the continuation of the CCS and ask that richer colleges contribute more to the scheme in proportion to their wealth, and that conference income from all colleges be ‘taxed’ less.
The College Contribution Scheme was created in 1973 to redistribute wealth from colleges with larger endowments, such as Nuffield and St John’s College, to colleges with smaller endowments, for example St Peter’s and Lady Margaret Hall.
Tom Lowe, JCR President of Hertford College and proposer of the motion, highlighted the disparity that exists between Oxford colleges’ wealth.
“I believe the CCS should be made stronger so richer colleges pay more. A good example of the massive difference in college wealth is All Souls College. The assets of All Souls are £224 million, in contrast to Mansfield College which is probably the smallest of the colleges. Mansfield’s assets are £11 million. A pretty big contrast,” he said.
A majority of colleges are paying a smaller proportion of their endowment income than when the scheme was created. From 1973 to 2003, the total contributions to the fund have declined from 11.2% to 4.5%.
Total endowment income for the University is around £80 million a year, of which almost £10 million comes from St John’s College. In contrast, the poorest major undergraduate college, Keble, has an endowment income of only £500,000.
The amount that richer colleges currently contribute is not entirely based upon their assets or endowment income. Lowe suggested that differences in college wealth were unjustified, and could lead to a system where colleges were offering significantly different academic standards.
“Richer colleges will say endowment successes are down to good investment,” he said. “In reality, good investment is only part of it. A lot of it comes down to historical accident.
“If you have rich colleges getting richer, and poorer colleges not getting comparatively richer, then you’re likely to end up in a situation where degrees from the colleges mean different things.”
The motion demands that taxation on conference income be reduced, as poorer colleges rely more heavily on conference income than richer colleges.
It also argues that wealthier colleges are better equipped to increase their income than poorer colleges, as they are able to use their premises for conferences and to hire better research fellows than poorer colleges.
The proposed introduction of the Joint Research Allocation Method (JRAM) for distributing money between colleges will give more money to those which conduct research. As richer colleges achieve higher research ratings, these colleges are likely to receive more money from the Government than poorer colleges.
Colleges are funded from four other sources besides the CCS: endowment income, through donations, by hiring out of premises for conferences and by HEFCE grants from the Government. Fees paid directly to colleges by the Government were abolished in 2001, increasing the dependence of poorer colleges upon the CCS.
The Conference of Colleges, the University body charged with investigating the CCS, is due to release a separate report later this term.
By Mohsin Khan