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Anger at Somerville over £3,395 summer school

Somerville College’s JCR has expressed disapproval over the paid summer school held at the College during the vacation.

‘Oxford Summer Courses’ cost £3,395 for two weeks and are aimed at giving students “a taste of Oxford”. The JCR expressed concern that such schemes are damaging to access. The motion — which was passed — stated, “They overstate what they can deliver, are potentially exploiting students who want to come here and by letting them use our facilities we are legitimising their programme.”

The motion was also concerned about the effect created by summer school participants on University Open Days, stating, “Some of the students who attended last year’s summer school were rude to numerous members of staff, broke College’s no smoking policy on Open Day in front of visitors and generally gave a bad impression of College.”

One student commented, “It seems a massive shame that a college which does such good access work can also participate in something as damaging as this. The JCR appreciates that College has to make money for development but there must be less objectionable ways to do so.”

The JCR resolved to mandate the JCR President to discuss with College the necessity of hosting paid summer schools.

Treasurer and Dean Andrew Parker commented, “The JCR motion made some important errors. First of all, it argued that by hiring out our premises for summer courses, the College is ‘legitimising their programme’ when we are actually neutral landlords in a commercial transaction. Secondly, it described the booking system as ‘objectionable’ and said the scheme was ‘damaging to access’ without being able to substantiate this, beyond the fact of often having prior bookings when we look to host an event (an inevitable part of College life throughout the year). By contrast, the College’s commercial lets help us to fund access and bursaries.

“Somerville has always been careful to ensure courses held in College are not part of a scheme to get students into the University. The courses we let buildings out to agree not to use any logos or coats-of-arms from the College or University and sign a disclaimer to that effect.

“Oxford colleges are charities which exist to serve their students. Providing the best possible learning environment for students is always our priority — lettings revenue plays an important part in supporting our work in access as well as our bursaries.”

JCR President Shyamli Badgaiyan explained, “After hearing their [College’s] explanations and clarifying information regarding the summer course, personally I stand by their verdict. I trust the judgement of the College in the programs it affiliates itself with, especially in light of how they ultimately serve to help us.”

Oxford Summer Courses said, “We will be addressing any concerns directly with Somerville College.” 

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