College chairs’ relationship with University strained

Many colleges have had confrontations with the University over the price of drinks and success of the bars. Photo: University of York

Many colleges have had confrontations with the University over the price of drinks and success of the bars. Photo: University of York

Several college JCRC chairs have spoken out against the University for its lack of communication with the student representatives at college level and the way it has managed their problems.

Important issues such as security and portering, social spaces and college bars are not being adequately addressed or recognised by the University according to some college Chairs.

Kallum Taylor, Vanbrugh JCRC Chair, described York as being “a poor-events company rather than a University.”

Taylor says he has been frustrated at the way the University has failed to support his college over issues such as portering and V-Bar.

Lizzie Bartholomew, Alcuin JCRC Chair, also described the problems she has faced regarding college bars commenting on the situation with B-Henrys.

“Currently I feel that we are not being communicated with at all by commercial services regarding issues concerning our college bars.

“Furthermore I feel that the attitude with which issues such as the partial closure of B-Henrys has been dealt with has been poor and at times, inappropriate.”

As reported by Nouse in March this year, James JCRC have felt sidelined in the recent planned demolition of McQ’s bar and the new bar being created in the Roger Kirk centre over the summer.

“It seems like the collegiate system is just a marketing ploy to put in the prospectus”
Kallum Taylor
Vanbrugh JCRC Chair

Alcuin has also had continued problems with the University over threatened closure of B-Henrys in the last few years.

Bartholomew added that: “I feel like some members of commercial services talk to students such as myself in a way that they would not speak to their colleagues.”

Taylor agreed with this sentiment, stating that: “I’ve been told that some staff don’t even know why colleges need their own bar.”

“To this end, I have found it difficult to maintain a working relationship with them [the University] when communication is made about our own college bar, above my head.”

Jane Grenville, the Pro-Vice Chancellor for students, stated that: “It’s true that I haven’t seen the college chairs together since a ‘get to know you’ lunchtime meeting in February, as my diary has been crazy. Normally I would expect to visit each college JCRC once a term to discuss their specific issues rather than hold meetings with all the chairs together.

“I feel like some members of commercial services talk to students in a way that they would not speak to their colleagues”
Lizzie Bartholomew
Alcuin JCRC Chair

“However, I would stress that just by having me at meetings won’t mean all the issues can be sorted out instantly. I am a strategist, I can’t micro-manage.”

Commenting on the strengths and weaknesses of York’s collegiate system, Taylor stated that: “I am trying to improve the college but just get palmed off week on week. It seems like the collegiate system is just a marketing ploy to put in the prospectus.

“Durham and Oxbridge colleges have more autonomy and power, but we get very little support.”

However Grenville refused to comment on this assertion.

Students at Oxford and Cambridge live and are taught in their colleges, while at Durham there is a long tradition of college history and spirit.

“Living in a college means you are an important part of your college community”
University of York Undergraduate Prospectus 2011

Tim Ngwena, YUSU President, said: “College chairs and their JCRCs are elected to represent the students from that college, and in essence are the primary representatives for students in that college on all issues relating to the college.”

He added: “ However when it comes to representing these views YUSU and colleges have to work together given the governance structure of the institution. You must not forget that alot of issues that affect students don’t always sit within colleges.”

Nonetheless, many of the chairs feel that the University could use them more to address students needs and tackles issues at colleges quickly and effectively.

Matt Jenkins, Derwent JCRC Chair, bemoaned the fact that: “We [college chairs] spend 30 unpaid hours trying to get ourselves into meetings rather than spending that time in them.

“YUSU can’t be expected to deal with every single issue. We genuinely do care about the University.”

“At the end of the day we are a university and it should be centred around the students“
Kallum Taylor
Vanbrugh JCRC Chair

Grenville stated that: “YUSU brought this issue to my attention on behalf of the College Chairs. I don’t view it as a structural issue: it is entirely possible to sort it out.”

However Jenkins also said he believed the University was beginning to recognise and respond to their needs, following the theft from the Derwent JCR three weeks ago.

“Even though they were slow to communicate with me, there have been really positive steps.”

Taylor concluded that: “People in offices are faceless, obviously they are professionals who could be in their jobs for 20 years but at the end of the day we are a university and it should be centred around the students.

“They don’t even know what the problem is, they just sit in their offices.”

A look at collegiate systems: Is York’s the worst?


“People go to the college bars to support their college”
Second-year Durham student

– An independent college day

– University type events but on a smaller scale

– Castle college has two formals each week

£20 million to be spent over the next five years on Durham’s college accommodation


At Oxbridge students apply to the colleges rather than the University

– Oxbridge colleges have the most autonomy

– But Durham students also apply to a department and a college together

– Most of Durham and Oxbridge’s colleges are in the city unlike at York


  1. Why does every college need a bar? Would the student body not be better served by fewer, busier bars. This would surely lead to a better atmosphere. That’s one of the reasons students flock to packed out venues in town, they’re a much better experience than multiple (half empty at best) college venues.

    Warwick is a campus University not unlike our own which has a single, great on-campus venue. Yet at Warwick there’s not any private competition to speak of, the nearest town center is rather distant and not exactly student friendly, so there is some demand for on-campus entertainment.

    TUCO’s recent article “That’s the Spirit” ( points out that recent trends in student drinking are towards spirits and drinking at home. When going out, students are less likely to drink and less likely to drink as much compared with previous years. This is something that Commercial Services will recognise is also happening at York.

    It’s time to accept that the college system is broken, and that a unified student experience revolving around fewer, better venues would provide a better student experience at York.


  2. 1 Jun ’11 at 7:04 pm

    Average Joe student

    @ Pete I agree

    Copied from my comment on other article applies here…..

    Perhaps if we started listening to students about what they want then wed construct a society on campus they actually want to be involved in.

    Its time to GET REAL and FACE UP to the facts. People love the collegiate system (excuse the sarcasm) but all those sell out events in run by colleges week on week. I mean its really really working…. OR NOT

    No offence to anyone who runs those events im sure they work bloody hard, and no offence to the college chairs but the reson you guys are having such a hard time is that you are operating within a collegiate system that is broken and there is a simple reason why:


    Let me explain what I mean by this…The collegiate system was established first in oxford then in cambridge as a means of bringing together multiple teaching establishments across those cities into one institution. The same problem does not exist here, in fact we have two lovely self contained campuses.

    What the university and to a certain extent YUSU has done is the compete opposite of the oxbridge collegiate system. They have problmastised an unproblematic situation whereas at oxbridge they simplified a problematic one. What they (York Uni and YUSU) have done is create a problem which is uneccassery because on a self contained campus the solution is simple. You dont have disperate colleges you have one central place to go and be entertained get your food, get your welfare etc and this fosters in the vast majority of institutions in the country a fairly nice collective spirit and everyone has a lot of fun indeed a LOT more fun than they have here on most weekends.

    This is not the answer im sure most people on JCRCs want to hear and its not designed to offend you. You all work bloody hard to make life better for all of us but we have to go to the root cause of what we are doing wrong when it comes to the community we are trying to create here in york. And I’m afraid the root cause is from my personal intelectual opinion is this confusion over what collegiatisim really is, and that is we dont have it here, we (because of campus situation) cant have it here and its time we stopped pretending we ever had it here.


  3. 1 Jun ’11 at 7:35 pm

    Flavio Newcomb

    @Peter Spence

    The main function and purpose of college bars is as a place where student members can reunite and socialise with each other. If they were to close them down, this would impact negatively on that college’s social spirit and the JCRC’s and STYC’s introduction of the next generation of freshers to the university.

    It’s easy to draw a comparison between the bars in town and those on campus, but you have to remember that students go to the bars in town with the friends they’ve already made at uni, and by removing the college bars it can only have a negative effect on people belonging to the respective colleges.

    Yes, it is a problem that the bars are half empty, but the solution is not to remove them, but to improve management and promotion, and this is a job that lies with the JCRC’s bar reps and the college staff, who perhaps should be pushed more to defend the bars’ statuses.


  4. 2 Jun ’11 at 11:13 pm

    Champagne Conservative

    When our own SU’s taking over one of the only campus bars worth a damn for the sake of office space, shunting its hollowed corpse over to a corner of Roger Kirk, it’s not terribly surprising that York students have a low view of our facilities.

    Because, y’know- Airport Lounge Café chic’s so *in* this year.