St Catherine's College; major parts of the College have been shut due to concerns over RAAC.
St Catherine's College; major parts of the College have been shut due to concerns over RAAC.

St Catz accommodation status unclear amid RAAC concerns

Several buildings in St Catherine’s College will remain closed due to concerns over reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

The work is “likely” to continue into October, impacting students’ return in Michaelmas.

In an email to students, the College revealed that key areas of the college including its JCR, Dining Hall, and the top floors of major residential staircases will remain shut as “advisors carry out investigations and explore remedial measures”.

The College will be enacting “temporary measures” to ensure continuity. These include marquees that will serve as a JCR and dining hall.

It is also securing “alternative accommodation” for students living on the top floors of Staircases 1-16 of the college, which includes 152 bedrooms and houses a significant number of 1st and 3rd years. The communication stated that it will let students know “prior to [their] arrival in college” if it includes them.

The College’s Accommodation Officer has reportedly revealed that “third and fourth year students will not be moved offsite”. The College has also stated that it will “work to prioritise accommodation for freshers”.

Typically, 2nd year students live in “New Quad” rooms that were built from 2002-5, and as such are not affected by RAAC concerns. However, the promise that the College has made in prioritising freshers, third, and fourth year students leaves 2nd year accommodation status up in the air.

In an email to the College JCR, its president Axel Roy Lee stated that “the student body must be allowed to contribute to addressing the situation as it unfolds, rather than simply react”.

In line with this, Lee revealed that he was pressing College administration on six key issues. Among these are reductions to rent fees (Battels) in light of limited access to the College, details of alternative accommodation, alongside the method and order of priority for allocating College accommodation.

This follows an earlier announcement that major parts of the College would be restricted over RAAC concerns.

Initially, the College disclosed the information to members of its SCR, before later disclosing the information to students and the public with a statement on its website following reporting by The Oxford Student.

A University spokesperson previously told The Oxford Student that while the University has a “number of buildings constructed in the 1950s to 1990s”, at the moment “there are no identified cases of RAAC materials”. However, to maintain safety, their “internal surveyors are conducting an internal review, and preparing a training pack for wider awareness”.

They also promised that the University would be “vigilant when completing building surveys and maintenance activities” as well as to “take necessary action if required”.

St Catherine’s College and the University of Oxford have been contacted for comment.