Charity watchdog tells Oxford schools to modernize governance

The UK’s Charity Fee has advised College of Oxford schools to vary and modernize how they run themselves, Instances Greater Training has realized. The directive was issued, after one school’s tumultuous, pricey battle to oust its former dean and one other school’s response to a rape allegation raised issues about institutional governing our bodies.


The Charity Fee, which is the equal of the U.S. Inner Income Service, wrote to the universities—which, as charities, are registered with the fee and controlled by it—within the autumn. In a press release, the fee mentioned it was in “constructive, constructive” talks with the universities.

Nevertheless, a separate supply outdoors the Charity Fee, mentioned the fee had “required every school to supply a proposal for reformed governance within the coming months, or face investigation”—an initiative they mentioned “has not been met effectively [by colleges] and has been very controversial internally.” Faculties have been “managed traditionally extra as gents’s golf equipment than trendy charities,” they added.

The Charity Fee’s intervention is alleged to have been triggered by Christ Church school’s costly four-year battle to oust its former dean Martyn Percy, who finally stepped down with a reported almost $1.6 million pay-off, and by Woman Margaret Corridor school’s reported failure to make a “critical incident” notification to the fee after a former pupil alleged she was raped by one other pupil.

The Charity Fee issued an official warning to Christ Church in November 2022 “after discovering that the trustees did not handle the charity’s assets responsibly”—prompting Christ Church to arrange a evaluate of its governance—and has since determined there are wider points frequent to all Oxford schools.

The fee’s issues are mentioned to heart on the massive dimension of Oxford school governing our bodies—sometimes made up of all full fellows of a faculty, with no exterior members—and the implications for the standard of debate and scrutiny. Governing physique members are additionally trustees of the charity, with the fee considered involved by the truth that some schools thus have 100-plus trustees, a possible problem to elements of a charity’s operations.

Additional issues are thought to incorporate the potential for conflicts of curiosity on Oxford school governing our bodies—on condition that fellows are each school staff and charity trustees—together with schools’ perceived restricted deal with the general public profit required of charities.

The Charity Fee is known to be pushing for all Oxford schools to undertake the mannequin adopted already by bigger numbers of Cambridge schools: creating 12-strong school councils—wherein the charity trusteeships are positioned—above the bigger governing our bodies.

“We’re having constructive, constructive discussions throughout Oxford schools as they give the impression of being to strengthen governance,” a Charity Fee spokesperson mentioned. “We welcome the wise steps schools are taking, constructing on classes realized from our intervention at Christ Church and making certain their administration is match for contemporary charitable functions.”

The Convention of Faculties, the affiliation of Oxford schools, mentioned in a press release: “The universities of the college work onerous to make sure efficient governance as a way to allow instructional and tutorial excellence. We acknowledge the necessity to refine and enhance our method when acceptable. To this finish, the Convention of Faculties established final 12 months a governance discussion board wherein finest apply and enhancements may very well be mentioned, and is engaged in helpful dialogue with the Charity Fee and others.”

The authorized battle at Christ Church—wherein the faculty tried to oust Reverend Percy over allegations of sexual harassment, which he strenuously denied—brought about deep concern on the highest ranges of the college. The theologian claimed he was the sufferer of inside plotting by dons who opposed his efforts to modernize safeguarding practices.

After the Charity Fee’s warning, Christ Church arrange a evaluate of its governance that beneficial that the management of the faculty must be opened as much as candidates from outdoors the clergy for the primary time since Henry VIII created Christ Church in 1546.

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