It has been announced to members of St Benet’s Hall that the two St. Benet’s Hall buildings will be vacated by October 2022.
In an email to students on June 2nd, Thursday, the Academic Office of St Benet’s Hall has announced that “Following a meeting of the Ampleforth Abbey Trust (AAT) on Monday, the Chair of AAT has written to confirm the Trust’s plan to place the two properties on the open market. The Hall will vacate them before 7th October 2022.”
This year marks the centenary of when St. Benet’s Hall under Ampleforth Abbey bought its 38 St. Giles building, and its 11 Norham Gardens building was acquired in 2015. Both are owned by the Ampleforth Abbey Trust who put the buildings on the open market after the decision by the university not to renew the Hall’s license.
The decision to vacate the buildings means that the Hall will be unable to use the properties either as teaching space, office space or residency. While it does not confirm that there will be no St. Benet’s Hall next year, the announcement makes it unlikely that students can be enrolled in an institution without these provisions.
In an email last week, the University Deputy Academic Registrar updated students that their Plan A is that “St Benet’s is able to remain open and continue teaching for one more academic year (2022-23)”, however this plan depends “on who buys the buildings from Ampleforth Abbey, and we have no news to share about the sale at the moment.”
The suggestion requires that the buildings are bought by a bidder willing to lend them for a year, so that the Hall can perform the same functions for the remaining students. However, the lack of certainty about ownership means that in last week’s email it was announced that “the University has decided to start looking for alternative college places for students (to come into effect from October 2022).”
Further in the email today, the Academic Office re-asserted that “as you all know, we are already working hard with the University to ensure that all students can be allocated to an appropriate College or Hall to continue their education at Oxford with as little disruption as possible, and with appropriate welfare support.” The decision today means that the buildings will definitely not be run by the St. Benet’s Hall Trust even if they are bought by another academic institution.
The situation remains particularly uncertain for the students who have residency next year at the Hall, and the Academic Office was quick to assure that, “We guarantee that those students who had planned to be residents at St Giles next year will have accommodation.”
The Oxford Student spoke to the St. Benet’s Hall JCR President who said, “Nobody should make the mistake of believing that St Benet’s Hall closing is just a loss for its students, staff, and friends; it is a loss for the diversity in the collegiate system in general. It has been a pleasure to study at this institution and to be part of such a special and strong community. It is all the more devastating to hear this news.”
“We now call on all colleges to provide room for students at St Benet’s who are anxious to integrate into a new college as soon as possible.”
“Benet’s students have been through enough already, so it is now the JCR’s priority to see that our needs and circumstances are accommodated for during the reallocation process. We also stand in solidarity with the staff at St Benet’s, who have always worked with incredible personal dedication so that students succeed, and who are now faced with losing their main source of income.”
Image credits: St.Benet’s Hall JCR
Image description: photo of St. Giles including St. Benet’s building.