Pembroke College is facing financial crisis following revelations that the college is currently owed £200,000 from unpaid battels bills.
At last week’s finance and general planning meeting, the true shortage left by late battel payments was revealed. It was decided that more punitive measures need to be put in place to draw in debts.
Despite the college rule that demands battels be paid on time, many students have managed to avoid paying their battels. Some students have admitted their backlog of payment totals thousands of pounds.
One Pembroke student commented that he had managed to avoid paying his battels for two terms, accumulating a debt of £3,500 to the college. During this period of non-payment he stated that he had received no punishment from the college, or even regular reminders.
Another student admitted to having not paid his battels for the whole of his first year. He said,
“I just completely forgot about it. If letters were sent then they certainly were not threatening enough.”
Adam Alagiah, a third year Pembroke student commented on the failure of college to ensure prompt payment from students, stating that it created a feeling of complacency amongst the students. He explained, “there is simply no incentive to pay battels on time. Nothing happens if you don’t pay.”
Freddie Krespie, a Pembroke student who is currently living out of college agreed, saying “the college doesn’t really seem to bat an eyelid.”
Currently, all students at Pembroke who owe more than £1000 can be fined for late payment.
However, in light of the £200,000 deficit, the finance and general planning committee have decided that this threshold should be lowered so that students with smaller battels to pay are encouraged to do so on time or else receive a fine.
More drastic punishments are also to be considered for those who continually fail to pay. The college has suggested that these could include being banned from living in college accommodation or being refused permission to continue their course.
Pembroke bursar, John Church, emphasised that treatment of those who could pay but refused, and those who could not afford to pay ought to be markedly different. He stated,
“it should be stressed that at all times I and the College Finance team remain alert to issues of hardship and allow extended periods for repayment where reasonably justified in the circumstances.
“In those cases penalty charges are not levied. In some of those cases the students concerned have received a hardship award”
But one student who fails to pay his battels on time has said that not paying is a result of the college’s “grossly expensive” rents.
Currently at Pembroke, room rents range from £2352.00 to £4191.03 per annum. The student explained that, “by the time I had spent money on holiday, I didn’t have enough left to pay my battels.”
At no other college have unpaid battels amounted to such a quantity.
At St Catherine’s College, Bursar James Bennett estimated that unpaid student bills amounted to £4,000.
Christopher Wigg, Bursar of St Anne’s College, estimated a similar figure. He also commented that a debt of £200,000 could not be withstood by any college.
He said, “given that for colleges, battels are often the main source of income, a higher default rate simply couldn’t be afforded.”
He commented that for the sum of unpaid battels to exceed even £10,000 would be “very surprising”.
University members were surprised that the amount should be so large. Freddie Krespie estimated that at most, there might be £20,000 worth of unpaid battels.
However, despite the increased stress on a tighting of punishments, students have remained sceptical about the College’s ability to enforce punishment.
Krispin commented that the college was justified in in removing a student from their course if they were able to pay their battels, but simply refused to do so.
But he said that this was more of a threat than a likelihood. Another Pembroke student echoed this statement, arguing that it was common knowledge that “getting chucked out of Oxford is far harder than getting into Oxford.”