Female students mark new start at final single-sex hall

The Oxford Times: Professor Werner Jeanrond, Master of St Benet’s Hall Buy this photo » Professor Werner Jeanrond, Master of St Benet’s Hall

AFTER 116 years, Oxford’s last remaining single-sex hall is finally looking to admit female students.

St Benet’s Hall, a Benedictine monastic permanent private hall, wants to build a new hall of accommodation for female students.

At present, women cannot live in the hall because a canonical rule means they are not allowed to live in the same house as monks.

Drawing on St Benedict’s vision of a single community eating and learning together, the master, monks, fellows, lecturers and students of St Benet’s all sit at the single table in the refectory to share their food and ideas.

The hall welcomes students of all faiths, and none.

Professor Werner Jeanrond, the master of St Benet’s Hall, said this tradition would continue even if women were accepted.

Prof Jeanrond, who became the first layman to hold the position when he was appointed in September 2012, said: “We are trying to acquire a new building so we can house more people and offer women the chance to come.

“We are a small but distinct community and want to make work available to both men and women. It will benefit men and women for life in general. The majority of teachers are female and so this is a logical move. We will continue with the tradition of engagement round one table as it’s very important we are a community.”

Oxford’s last single sex college, St Hilda’s, in Cowley Place, opened its doors to men in 2008, 88 years after women were first admitted to the university in 1920. There are still three all-female colleges at Cambridge, Newnham, New Hall, and Lucy Cavendish.

Johan Trovik, St Benet’s junior common room president, said: “I’m happy that the hall now is working on improving our infrastructure so that we will be able to extend our offer of a unique sense of community of learning and friendship to female students as well, whilst continuing to respect our student monks’ monastic requirements.”

The current accommodation holds 25 undergraduate students, though a total of 54 are affiliated with the hall.

Oxford’s six permanent private halls are separate from its collegiate system.Each hall is affiliated with a different Christian denomination, and they are given a licence by the university to present students for degrees.

 

WHAT IS ST BENET'S?

  • St Benet’s was founded in 1897 as a place for the monks of Ampleforth Abbey and other monasteries to live in while reading for Oxford degrees. It became a Permanent Private Hall in 1918. A constituent body within Oxford University, St Benet’s Hall admits lay and religious undergraduate and postgraduate students to study for degrees in the University of Oxford.

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