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By Alice Lighton
Regent’s Park College is in informal and unhurried negotiations with the University to gain collegiate status.
One of only six Permanent Private Halls (PPH’s) left in Oxford, Regent’s Park has been in talks with University officials since 2008 about becoming a college.
If the PPH succeeds in changing its status, it will be the first to enter the collegiate system since Harris Manchester PPH won college status in 1996.
While Oxford colleges are autonomous institutions, PPH’s are run externally. They are managed under the license of a religious order or a charitable trust.
Regent’s Park is affiliated with the Baptist Union of Great Britain. It specialises in Theology, and Philosophy with Theology.
In order to make the transition from PPH to college, Regent’s Park will need permission granted by royal charter as well as the approval of representatives from the University Council. Lawyers from both sides will also need to hold consultations.
The whole process could take several years to enact.
Regent’s Parks Principal, The Reverend Doctor Richard Ellis, said the advantages and disadvantages of collegiate status are still in need of careful consideration.
“A college exists more in the mainstream of university life than a PPH, and has access to more resources such as joint appointments. There may also be some greater autonomy without the need to exist by special licence” he said.
Dr Ellis also believes that the atmosphere of a PPH is worth saving.
“A PPH may want to preserve elements of its distinct ethos and this might be difficult as a college” Ellis said.
Ellis stressed that the JCR and MCR executives, as well as their representative on the PPHís Governing Body, have been involved throughout the consultation process.
He said that as a new college, Regent’s Park would have to “mesh its strategy with the University’s wider strategic plan”. It would also have to hold a certain level of endowment.
Third-year student, Adam Vallance, said that the JCR and MCR are “totally in favour” of collegiate status.
He said that he feels Regent’s Park officials are dragging their feet.
“I get the feeling that the SCR are not willing to go the whole hog. The change could have been done in less time if they really wanted it” he said. There is tension between the JCR and SCR on the issue.
JCR President, James Fox, said that Regent’s Park functions almost like a college already.
“The student experience is so similar to those of students at other colleges, that a change of our official status would make little material difference to student experience.
Positive benefits would be likely to include a boost to our prestige rather than a fundamental change to our already progressive community.
Reluctance could be due to the possible loss of the PPHís ministerial training programme if college status were to be granted. Mansfield PPH lost the sponsorship and ordinand training courses of the United Reformed Church several years after it became a college in 1995.
Dr Ellis said that nothing has been decided for sure either way yet, and that plans are “informal and unhurried”.
“The university is not clear that it would welcome a new college, and Regent’s Park has not made a final decision that it would definitely seek to change status should be the opportunity arise”, he said.