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Greyfriars rejected £30 million bid to keep Hall open

first_imgSee also: last term’s video report on Greyfriars’ closure  Alumni and students could take legal action after Friars refuse plans to help religious Hall relocateFriars have rejected a £30 million pound proposal that could have saved Greyfriars Hall from closure, Cherwell can exclusively reveal.According to the Hall’s students and alumni, the Capuchin friars who currently run Greyfriars blocked the deal – which would have required only nominal participation by the Order – because they wanted no further involvement with students.On 25 October last year, the friars announced that the permanent private hall was to close, citing a lack of staff and financial reasons, and arrangements were made to transfer students to Regent’s Park, another PPH.In the month following this announcement, Into, a company which runs courses helping international students gain places at UK universities, made a business proposition to provide £30 million to relocate the Hall and continue teaching for its students. The company has developed partnerships with Newcastle, East Anglia and Exeter universities, and runs courses for international students to study English and improve academic skills before beginning a full degree. Barry Hudd, Communications Officer for the Capuchin Order explained that a representative of Into had spoken to the previous Warden of Greyfriars, Dr Nicholas Richardson, and had made contact with the tutors and fellows of the Hall. However, he added that the company had never made direct contact with the trustees of Greyfriars, who had ultimate control over the future of the Hall.Fellows of the Hall proposed to relocate Greyfriars to another site in Oxford with the money provided by Into, with the friars providing the license for the PPH but with no responsibility for its day to day running. At a meeting of the Order’s trustees from 10-12 December, Hudd said that the friars refused to accept this ‘business plan’ because it “would have given the Capuchin Order full legal responsibility and liability for the Hall without any control, which is why they rejected it.” However, current students and alumni have claimed that many friars did not want to involve themselves with students any further, and blocked attempts to re-establish the Hall with only token links to the Capuchin Order. In an email to students sent last December before the proposal was considered, Rupert Abbott, of the Greyfriars Society alumni association, wrote, “The Order agreed to consider a proposal which is in place to save Greyfriars and secure a wonderful future. This proposal includes significant investment, a relocation to the former site of Greyfriars, and a focus on providing opportunities to the underprivileged.”“However, in hindsight it seems that the Order’s assurances were a stalling tactic. The Order led the Fellows to believe that the alternative proposal to closure would be considered, and then disregarded these assurances to the extent of denying that they had ever been made,” he stated.Abbott threatened legal action if the friars refused to consider the offer. “Students, Fellows and alumni [that] I have spoken to are united in their desire to fight the Order’s decision to close Greyfriars. We have sought the assistance of influential contacts to put pressure on the Order and University. Please note that if the Order fails to reverse its decision, legal action will be brought (in the form of an application for judicial review of the way in which the decision to close was made),” he wrote.Abbott failed to comment on whether legal action was a possibility, but students contacted by Cherwell said that the alumni society, fellows and current undergraduates could all be suing the friary.One former student, who wished to remain anonymous, said that some friars had opposed any links to a relocated PPH during unofficial negotiations with the University and students. “Their attitude was effectively one of ‘we don’t want you here,’” she said.Another student, who also wished to remain unnamed, said he felt that negotiations failed because “the Order does not want the college there.” David Cochrane, a former Greyfriars student, said he felt that some of the friars resented the original decision by the Order in 1981 to begin educating students as a Permanent Private Hall. “There might have been some residual sense that the friars shouldn’t have done this in the first place,” he said.The current Acting Warden of Greyfriars, Reverend Mark Elvins, refused to comment on the allegations, saying that they were “conjecture” and “speculation.”In a statement, Into denied having any formal discussions with Greyfriars about the proposal but added that “it is not the company’s practice to comment in any way on the many conversion that it routinely has with institutions in this country and overseas.”by David Matthews, Deputy Editorlast_img read more

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