A Catholic hall of studies at the University of Oxford is to halt temporarily the admission of undergraduate students due to a “challenging financial situation”, The Oxford Student has revealed.St Benet’s Hall declares a halt to admissions
A Catholic hall of studies at the University of Oxford is to halt temporarily the admission of undergraduate students due to a “challenging financial situation”, The Oxford Student has revealed.
St Benet’s Hall, a “permanent private hall” traditionally associated with Ampleforth Abbey and the British Benedictines, has said in a joint statement with the University of Oxford, that, for the time being, they “cannot be confident that the Hall can support a new undergraduate cohort for the full duration of their studies”. Out of the 130 students at the Hall, roughly two-thirds are currently undergraduates.
St Benet’s hopes to purchase two buildings, 38 St Giles and 11 Norham Gardens, from the Ampleforth Abbey Trust over the coming months.
In their statement, the university and St Benet’s stated that they were “considering options for the hall to move to a sustainable financial model” but that their duty of care towards students meant that, without guarantees of support for the duration of a degree, new undergraduates could not be admitted.
A spokesperson for the trust said: “The trustees of Ampleforth Abbey Trust and the governing body of St Benet’s Hall are working with the University of Oxford to seek to agree a sustainable model for the Hall in the future. All parties are conscious of their main duty of care to the students and staff and hope that any decisions about the future direction of the Hall can be made as soon as possible”.
St Benet’s was originally set up in 1897 by the Benedictine community of Ampleforth Abbey to enable monks to undertake studies at Oxford. Ties between the Abbey and the Hall remain strong. Until 2012, the master of the hall was always a Benedictine monk. But the governance of St Benet’s has been carried out by a dedicated trust for nearly a decade, itself owned by, but separate to, the parent trust of Ampleforth Abbey.
In a letter to members today, the Master, Professor Richard Cooper, appeals for assistance.
He says that St Benet’s is currently digesting a decision by the university on 15 December to pause admission of undergraduates for the 2022/23 academic year. “We currently admit around 20 each year and our overall cohort of undergraduates and graduates is 130.”
He continues: “The background to the university’s decision is relatively complex and we will be providing a more comprehensive update on Thursday covering the circumstances surrounding this and the considerable work that is currently going on to acquire our two buildings.
“In essence we need to demonstrate to the university that, as an entity independent of Ampleforth Abbey, we would have a necessary level of medium/long term financial resilience. As you will read in the magazine, 2022 is both the 125th anniversary of our establishment and 100 years since we moved to 38 St Giles’. Despite the challenges we currently face, I know that our fellows, staff and volunteers are determined to try and ensure that this proves to be a moment of celebration and regeneration.”