Life at Oxford’s most expensive college costs over £1,100 more per year than at the university’s cheapest, documents released by Queen’s College have revealed.
St Edmund’s Hall topped the list, costing students £4790.56 a year for food and accommodation. A student at Mansfield pays just £3,684.75 for the same services, saving £3,317 over a three year degree.
Martin Slater, the finance bursar of St. Edmund Hall commented, “It’s not surprising. St. Edmund Hall’s rents have always been at the top of the spectrum, essentially because w’re a poor college.”
Many of the wealthier colleges are able to subsidise the rents that students pay. Slater added that there had been “attempts to redistribute wealth between colleges” but that they had “come up against resistance from the wealthier colleges to do anything in that respect.”
James Bennett, the Bursar at St Catherine’s defended higher colleges’ prices saying, “There is a correlation between the quality and price.”
He added, “Are you aware that these prices are just covering the food cost, and they do not cover the costs of electricity, staffing, etc? They are already subsidised.”
Shocking disparities also emerged when looking at accommodation charges alone. Brasenose students pay £3,357 a year, more than £600 above the Oxford average of £2,748.
Brasenose’s JCR President, Arvind Singhal, plans to negotiate lower rent prices with authorities. Jack Ross, a second year at the college, agreed that rent is high. He commented, “We do pay quite a lot of rent. Our JCR president is trying to keep it as low as possible. Most people feel it is quite high but then we get quite a good quality of rooms too.”
Improper spending by colleges may to be blame for the discrepancy, OUSU’s rent and accommodation officer Jamie Susskind suggested. Colleges sometimes use student living charges to subsidise their builiding works, or even attempt to profit from accommodation and food prices.
Susskind added that some colleges are “casual on inflation rates. They would use a different index for rent and a different one to for the payment for their staff.” He also mentioned that at one college, the lack of students applying for financial support encouraged the college to raise rent charges further. Some JCRs which don’t carry out rent negotiations with college authorities may also result in higher prices.
OUSU President Lewis Iwu warned that some colleges risk putting pressure on students to take paid work by charging too much. “Every student is entitled to a minimum standard of living to maximise the student experience and some colleges are in danger of forcing students to take up extra paid work which impacts their academic performance,” he said, “Whilst I appreciate that different colleges have different costs, colleges need to think about the ramifications for current students and access.”
Even students at the cheapest colleges found college life expensive. Rae Bowles, Mansfield student commented, “I think it is still cheaper to buy your own food and cook. You can end up for as much as a fiver for lunch. It all adds up as you are charged for everything you put on your plate extra. We have different meals and you can mix and match.”
A spokesperson from Oxford University stated that 38 colleges are all independent bodies, hence the University does not monitor the rents and food charges. The Conference of Colleges deals with matters of interest to the colleges, societies and permanent private halls.