Members of the Oxford Hub have expressed continued hope that their poll will reach 2,000 signatures and persuade the University to continue providing 40 per cent of their funding.
The University have said they are unable to find financial support elsewhere, after the Vice-Chancellor’s discretionary fund pulled funding, and a three year pledge from the Van Houten fund came to an end.
Despite “ongoing and drawn out” negotiations, and a poll that has garnered over 1,000 signatures, Oxford Hub president Makena Löhr fears that the university will fail to live up to social obligations.
Löhr said: “We need to secure long term funding and, out of principle, believe that the University should support the organisation that benefits its own students and relationship with the local Oxford community, in the same way that other universities across the UK support student volunteering and social action”.
Although conceding that “we need to find other funding sources”, Löhr also noted that “core funding [as previously provided by the university] enables staff to apply for funding from grants and trusts that directly fund the projects. These grants very often stipulate that their funds cannot be used for core costs, but without covering core costs, we cannot run the projects.”
The organisation currently employs three graduate places and one full time staff manager, operating out of rooms above the Turl Street Kitchen, who conduct administrative and training jobs, as well as interacting with the university and community figures.
A spokesperson for the University said: “It was always made clear that this money came from funds that were strictly time-limited. We also have to prioritise other areas of student support such as the UNIQ summer schools, teachers’ conferences, National Scholarship Programme, and the Access to Learning Fund, as well as respond to projected reductions in the Disabled Students’ Allowance.”
Löhr conceded, adding: “[I] wholeheartedly agree that these are worthy causes as well, and are pointing out that the Hub addresses different but equally important issues.”
The University has suggested instead that there is now an “opportunity to work closely with other areas, including the Careers Service and OUSU, to identify how a collaborative approach might reduce costs, particularly in those areas where there is a degree of overlap in terms of services provided to students. This might reduce some duplication of effort and enable more limited resources to be focused on those areas with the greatest impact.”
The Oxford Hub, however, maintains that: “We are an incredibly cost effective organisation at a total cost to the university of £4 per student who comes to Oxford.”
Löhr is hopeful the wide support base will help the petition: “It gained 600 signatures in 3 days, and motions are being passed through JCR common rooms already. I think we will reach the 2,000 mark before the end of term, and I hope that the deciding bodies will take note of this overwhelming student support”.
Activists have been vocal in their praise.
Worcester first-year Ronja Lutz said: “It has been the epicentre of my social activity here, a place where I can connect to people sharing visions similar to mine. The Hub has changed my outlook on life, leaving me more positive about what I can do myself to make the world a better place”.