Half of colleges lack student representation

Half of JCRs and MCRs do not have representation on their College’s finance committees, according to an OUSU survey.

A further 30 percent lack representation on academic committees. Finance committees vary between colleges, but they typically make decisions on issues such and rent, food, staff pay and building work. Academic committees discuss tutorial arrangements and other educational matters.

Jonny Medland, OUSU VP for Access and Academic Affairs, said he found the results of the survey “extraordinary”.

“These committees will be making decisions on … issues which affect students’ lives. Students should therefore be part of making decisions on these questions,” he said.

One JCR President, who wished to remain anonymous, said he could not access the rules by which students are governed. The bylaws for his college are written in Latin, and he said any attempts to see them are consistently rebuffed by the College.

Seb Baird, Corpus Christi JCR President, said the lack of student representation displayed a “gaping flaw” in the student-college relationship.

“Students are the raison d’etre of the college, and without us they would be obsolete. We contribute a great deal of financial resources through rent and tuition fees, so we deserve a say in how the money is spent.

“To deny students that opportunity is patronising, and is patently unfair,” Baird said.

Jesus College is one of only three colleges at which its students are not present at meetings of the College’s governing body.

JCR President Ross Evans said that the JCR and MCR hope to gain representation “within the week” but that “Jesus College is extremely resistant to change”.

The report highlights that students and colleges are facing unprecedented financial challenges. Both undergraduate and postgraduate student fees are under review by the government.

Colleges are tightening their belts as the University is facing severe funding cuts.

Medland said he was also incredulous at the finding that 30 percent of Common Rooms are not on Academic Committees.

“We are experiencing an Oxford education and must be able to influence how this education is delivered,” he said.

OUSU now has representation on the University’s top education decision- making body, and attends committees on the University’s budget.

“As the student voice becomes more important in higher education it’s essential that colleges move with the times and give an increased role to student opinion in their decision-making processes,” Medland said.

Not all colleges are resistant to student representation. Some simply have yet to arrange it.

Merton College JCR does not currently have representation on an Academic Committee, but JCR President James Nation said it is something the JCR is hoping to obtain this term.

“We already have a very good relationship with college, and it shouldn’t be a problem. By sitting on the committee, we hope to be able to improve student feedback and understanding of procedures,” Nation said.

The survey showed that those students who do sit on college committees found it a worthwhile experience, with nearly all saying that they felt their views were getting an audience.