Oxford SU have voted unanimously this
week to support the inclusion of Private Permanent Halls in the College Contribution Scheme. Regent’s Park JCR President William Robinson proposed the motion, and Mansfield College JCR President Saba Shakil
During the meeting, Robinson told the council, “I don’t know how you could possibly justify excluding literally the poorest institutions and poorest student bodies in Oxford.
“Essentially, this motion seeks in some small way to get the discussion going on why PPHs are not included in the college contribution scheme, and I hope to mandate the Student Union to push for the inclusion of PPHs in the next College Contribution Scheme.”
Private halls of study founded by Christian denominations have existed in Oxford since 1221, and in 1918, a University statute permitted non-profit private halls to gain permanent status. PPHs tend to be smaller than colleges and offer fewer courses, and although they are independently run, their students are full members of the University.
The CCS requires colleges with taxable assets exceeding £45 million to give to a fund from which poorer colleges can apply to receive grants. Cherwell previously reported that Christ Church, St John’s, and All Soul’s provided 38% of all contributions in 2016/17.
Currently, PPHs are not included in the CCS despite having fewer assets than any colleges. Documents obtained from the UK Charity Commission indicate that St Stephen’s House has the highest endowment of a PPH, with £17,829,000 in 2017. St Benet’s Hall has the least at £146,000. In comparison, the total assets of Harris Manchester— the poorest college — are 24,797,000.
The Council motion mandated that the SU President write to the Chair of Conference of Colleges on behalf of PPHs and poorer colleges to “see the benefits of a new College Contribution Scheme.”
It also encouraged JCR and MCR Presidents to lobby heads of houses for their inclusion.
Members of the audience voiced concerns during the question period about whether the motion would increase the amount that wealthier colleges would have to pay under the CCS.
Robinson replied, “The only change that I want to enact at this point is including PPHs, which may mean yes [there will be] potentially less money available for other poorer colleges in the pot. But this motion does not
ask for more money from the rich colleges.”
The motion passed without opposition.
Robinson told Cherwell in an interview after the meeting: “I’m very happy that the SU passed this motion. I think it’s going to be able to achieve good things for PPHs and go some of the way to addressing the fundamental problem that PPHs don’t get proper representation or any kind of decision-making capability at the highest level of central University governance. With the SU behind us, it’s a small step towards making the changes we can
at this moment.”
While expressing his pleasure with the vote’s outcome, Robinson is aware of the major challenges PPHs still face to receive a cut from the CCS. He added: “Getting PPHs involved in the College Contribution Scheme involves a bit of turkeys voting for Christmas. If we are included, the poorest colleges who currently have access to the fund that’s created by the tax on the richer colleges will have less money to apply for, because we will hopefully be taking a good proportion of it.
“That’s the biggest problem: It’s getting heads of houses to vote on something that fundamentally doesn’t benefit them or their student bodies but is something that is good for the wider university in ensuring that the student experience is positive at all colleges and PPHs.”
Chair of the Conference of Colleges, Rick Trainor, told Cherwell that: “a new College Contribution Scheme, if it is enacted, will be a scheme approved by, and administered under the auspices of the University; the Conference of Colleges is still debating proposals for the University’s consideration.
“For these reasons it would be inappropriate for Conference to make any comment on the issues.”
SU President, Joe Inwood, said on the issue, “Students are increasingly dissatisfied with the inconsistencies between colleges in provision for key aspects of the student experience.
“From college counsellors to travel grants, conference funds for graduate
students to sports funding, there is clearly wide variation at present between the richest and poorest colleges.
“Head of colleges need to pay attention to these concerns when a future College Contribution Scheme is discussed at governing bodies, and I encourage JCR and MCR Presidents to engage in this issues.”