Students attack college welfare ‘lottery’

first_imgDisturbing disparities have emerged in the quality of welfare and pastoral care provided by different colleges.While some students have said that they are entirely satisfied with their college’s welfare provision, others have expressed deep concern with the way welfare is handled by their colleges.One student at St Hilda’s said, “Hilda’s welfare is only structured to ensure the best results possible.”She complained that moral tutors, whose responsibility is to look after the welfare of students, were sometimes far more concerned with their academic success.“It’s not about what’s best for Hilda’s students but about what’s best for exam results. Several other people from my year feel quite afraid of their moral tutors.“Unless you’re getting firsts they take the opportunities they see to tell you you’re not good enough, even if you’re doing well for you.”She described how her own moral tutor had criticised her decision to stay away from Oxford for a few days to deal with family issues on academic grounds, even though she had missed no tutorials.“She sent me a really unpleasant email about getting my priorities straight… It implied that I’d been deliberately shirking my work and I didn’t have a good reason which is obviously really unpleasant.”Madgalen students have also complained that, in some cases, they do not even have pastoral tutors.One fourth year said, “we don’t even pastoral tutors. Or if we do, I have no idea who mine is. I really just don’t have anyone to go to if I’m having problems with my work. At the moment I’m not that happy about how my degree is going, but I can’t talk to my tutors about it because I’m worried they’ll give me bad references for jobs if I’m negative about my subject.“I’d never feel comfortable talking to peer support people – if I needed to talk to someone of my own age I’d just go friends.” OUSU VP for Welfare, Rosanna McBeath expressed her concern about the college welfare lottery. She said that basic welfare provision is the responsibility of each college. As a result, “nobody knows exactly what each college provides – only welfare officers do. This shouldn’t be a lottery.”Colleges are also plagued by failure to inform the students about their welfare provision. There is a “lack of clarity” as to where to go when there is a problem.Sarah Bainbridge, Mansfield’s JCR president, when asked to whom a student can turn in case of a problem said, “there are different people for different things… We have a list of people whom to contact.”In Blackfriars, the student welfare provision consists of the Dean and the Visiting Student Coordinator. Blackfriars’ website refers undergraduates seeking help to university services. Their code of practice stipulates to “contact the Harassment Officer whose name is advertised in the JCR.” No telephone contact numbers are listed as well as no information on how to obtain welfare supplies.Welfare provision is often limited by college finances. Mansfield, one of the poorest colleges, has had no trained peer supporters for two years. Only this Hilary Term training have been re-introduced for six JCR members.In colleges such as Regent’s Park and Merton the first point of call is the Chaplain. This raises concerns whether non-Christians would feel comfortable discussing their welfare with a religious person.Some, however, think the religiosity of Chaplain may be an asset when dealing with welfare. Aisha Danga, a LMH student, said “I’ve been talking to the chaplain and he’s excellent. He just makes you talk. He’s a chaplain, he’s close to God and you feel like he understands.”Other students have praised college welfare procedures. Female Welfare Rep at Merton College said, “our welfare divides between the Dean and the Chaplain who actually is responsible for welfare. Hence disciplinary procedures and welfare do not conflict.” An Exeter student said that he thought the colleges provision was “fantastic.” He added, “everyone’s really happy.”A University spokesperson said, “colleges are often the first port of call for students facing difficulties, who can talk to many different people, including their own tutor; the senior member of college who is responsible for welfare; the college nurse; the student welfare officer; or fellow students who have gone through peer-support training.”last_img