On March 8 the governing body of Oriel College voted to remove scholars’ privilege from undergraduate room ballots, marking the end of a gradual policy change across Oxford’s colleges to disengage room choices from academic performance.
Scholars’ privilege refers to the prioritisation of academic scholars above students without scholarships in their year in college room choices.
Christ Church was the last college to separate room choices from academic performance before Oriel College, initiating a movement within Oriel that included sustained campaigning from the Junior and Middle Common Rooms across two years and consultation of students receiving academic scholarships. 14 reasons were cited by the motion forwarded to the Governing Body. The reasons included concerns about scholars’ privilege in room choices serving as punishment for students without scholarships, as well as issues regarding scholarships not reflecting diligence due to differences in the frequency of scholarships awarded between subjects. Accessibility considerations, such as students with disabilities not being able to share in the scholars’ privilege equally and differences in students’ academic performance due to variations in prior schooling, were also among the concerns listed in the motion.
The abolition of scholars’ privilege in room selections aligns with Oriel College’s focus in recent years to encourage an open and accessible academic environment.
“We are so delighted that the College has agreed to abolish scholars’ privilege in the room ballot,” JCR president Phoebe Winter stated. Winter added that the measure has been on the agenda of JCR committees for several years. “It has taken a lot of time and effort to put together proposals and argue for them in meetings, so it’s hugely exciting that we have finally managed to push this change through.”
Winter hopes to see the implementation of the change and is extremely grateful to Oriel’s Governing Body for voting to abolish the prior system.