Oxford follows Cambridge on Whose University? and Living Wage

Shilpita Mathews 30 January 2015

Oxford University has started its own Whose University Campaign, following the original model initiated at Cambridge in Michaelmas 2014. An open meeting on the 22nd of January at Oxford’s  Wadham College outlined the campaign’s goals of "building upon the work of the original  campaign and to start organising an Oxford version of the 'Whose University?' campaign". 

Oxford is also to receive accreditation as a Living Wage employer this April, according to the OUSU (Oxford University Student Union). This is seen as a major victory for the Oxford Living Wage Campaign which has been campaigning since 2011. Fergal O’Dwyer, Co-Chair of the Oxford Living Wage Campaign, said: “This is the most significant event in the campaign’s history”.

Oxford’s victory follows Cambridge’s Living Wage accreditation in August last year, after many high profile initiatives taken by the Living Wage Campaign run by Cambridge University Student Union (CUSU) and Cambridge University Labour Club (CULC). 

In response to the uptake of the campaign at Oxford, Cambridge’s Whose University? Campaign stated on their Facebook page: “We are delighted that Oxford students are taking up the Whose University? Campaign on their campus.

"The effects of the neoliberal university and the marketisation of higher education obviously go way beyond Cambridge, and it’s great to see that our campaign has struck a chord elsewhere enough for others to take action. We are in touch with the Oxford organising group and will be offering them much support and solidarity as they begin their campaign." 

The Cambridge Whose University? Campaign aims to address “a distinct lack of clarity about who has ownership over college spaces”. An autonomous campaign, run with the support of CUSU’s Women’s Campaign, Cambridge’s Whose University? has been active since late last year. It has been a source of highly charged debate with the Cambridge Union holding an emergency debate last Thursday on the motion: 'This House Supports 'Whose University?'.

 It is yet to be seen what further steps the Oxford campaign is going to take. Initiatives by Cambridge’s Whose University? include the Study Space Sharing Project, which is a forum of students offering and looking for alternative study spaces. With the Oxford campaign taking shape it will be interesting to see how much of Cambridge’s organizational structure and initiatives the new group will emulate.  

With regards to the Living Wage Campaign, there is still a long way to go at both universities. Wadham and Oriel Colleges in Oxford have also committed to Living Wage accreditation in conjunction with the university. Nonetheless, large number of other Oxford colleges are yet to be accredited. In Cambridge, the campaign found that only three Cambridge colleges: Hughes Hall, Queens’ and St Catherine’s were living wage accredited. Murray Edwards and King’s College have pledged since to adopt the living wage.

Cambridge Living Wage Campaign has sent out requests under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act over the holidays regarding staff pay to all colleges and is waiting for the most recent information to act upon. The last survey conducted in 2013, found a total of 1122 Cambridge college employees were paid below the living wage. Results from the campaign’s recent FOI requests may indicate more positive improvements.