Note to the St Paul’s College Community from the Council Chair regarding feedback on whether the undergraduate community should become co-residential

Note to the St Paul’s College Community from the Council Chair regarding feedback on whether the undergraduate community should become co-residential

4 months ago

Firstly, I would like to thank all who have engaged in the feedback process to date. The College is very pleased to have received more than 400 individual and small group submissions, and large group submissions from nearly 200 of our undergraduates and over 80 Women’s College students. The Council is now reviewing these responses.

I understand there has been criticism of some aspects of the process to date. I confirm that the Council is keen to ensure everyone has a reasonable opportunity to comment. The questions posed were structured to be impartial however, for those who felt unduly restricted in their responses and wish to provide further comment we have opened an account to which any further submissions can be emailed. Please submit them to consultation@stpauls.edu.au. We would appreciate receiving them by 16 June to allow sufficient time for collation and analysis by Council.

It is our aspiration for St Paul’s to be the best college in Australia. It is in this context that this major prospective change is being considered. Be assured, the Council is under no external pressure from the University, government or the media to accept female undergraduates. The Council simply seeks the best future possible for the College.

Information that may be useful in contemplating this matter is set out below.

  • The Warden and staff have worked very hard to produce a balanced budget for this year (2021) after a loss last year put the College under significant financial pressure. An emergency loan was granted from the Foundation in 2020 which the College has committed to repaying. Furthermore, a number of expenditure items have been deferred including fire system upgrades, maintenance and the fit out of the basement study space under the 3rd quad. These items need to be undertaken as soon as our revenue allows.
  • In what was intended to be a temporary measure, at the end of 2019 the Council began accepting non-University of Sydney students to fill vacant rooms. A cap was set at 15% of the student population being non-University of Sydney students. We have now reached this cap and current enrolment trends indicate that maintaining a male only undergraduate College will require for the proportion of non-University of Sydney students to be pushed to a much higher level for 2022 and beyond.
  • In 2021 only 41% of University of Sydney students are male.
  • While the undergraduate community is close to full (around 10 more could be accommodated), we have no waiting list. About 45 additional rooms are available in Graduate House due to international border closures preventing occupancy by overseas post-graduate students. With strong demand for places these rooms could be used for undergraduates (as Sancta Sophia has done in their Graduate House) generating additional annual revenue over $1.5M.
  • Co-residential colleges at Sydney University have reported significantly better application rates than SPC, including many more men applying for membership. For 2021, one college received 5 times the applicants than places available. St Paul’s has significantly less demand. Application data for the last seven years indicate that this represents a structural change in the market with increasing numbers of young men seeking a co-residential college experience.

Please engage freely and respectfully. We know that there are people with very strong views at both ends of the spectrum. Unfortunately, only one of these two groups will be happy with the decision ultimately made by Council. I implore the other group to show the character that Paul’s espouses: respect.

I will provide a further update and more information on the process in the next weeks.

Thank you once again.

Mark Elliott

Chair 28 May 2021