Students reject St Hilda's head

November 14, 2003

Students at Oxford's last remaining women-only college this week passed a vote of no confidence in their principal, Lady Judith English.

Junior Common Room vice-president Lucy Meakin said communications had broken down completely between students and the college governing body after rumours last week that fellows were to vote on the status of the college in early December.

The college refused to comment on the rumours, releasing a press statement that said: "The single-sex status of the college is an issue which the fellows may discuss at any time and a vote may be requested in accordance with the statutes."

The statement was not given directly to the students, who read about it in the press. In a packed meeting on Wednesday, students unanimously agreed a motion that said: "The behaviour of the principal in this matter must no longer be tolerated."

Following the meeting, the students released their own press statement - which they did not pass to the principal's office - saying "the governance structures of the college are archaic and introverted, and are failing to take the students' views into account".

The principal has so far refused to comment on the JCR vote.

The college last voted on its single-sex status in March. Ms Meakin said that, at that time, student campaigning had centred on keeping St Hilda's women only. But she said that this time the issue was about not being informed about what was going on.

Lady English, a psychiatrist, joined St Hilda's in 2001. She studied at Girton College Cambridge, which relinquished its women-only status in 1979.

Somerville was the last Oxford college to mix, admitting men for the first time in 1994 under principal Catherine Hughes - who was a graduate of St Hilda's.

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