Common room finances reveal £170,000 gap in profits


Palatinate can reveal that the gap between the JCR with the most profit (St Cuthbert’s Society), and the JCR with the most loss (Hatfield College) is £172,824.07. Whilst some common rooms’ wealth has increased considerably, others have suffered substantial losses.

Ten common rooms have increased their combined wealth by a total of over £310,000 over three years.

The biggest profits have been recorded by St Cuthbert’s Society JCR, whose wealth increased by over £100,000 between end of 2015 and 2018.

Part of this increased wealth comes from the fact that the Cuth’s JCR contains postgraduate as well as undergraduate students.

St Cuthbert’s Society’s JCR President, Elena Martin, said in response, “We view the profiting as an unintended failure. Our budgets have been overly cautious, and we expected our income to decrease as the university moved to an ‘opt-out’ system” for the DSO framework.

“We view the profiting as an unintended failure”

Martin added, “We have invested £23,000 extra in sports and societies and our budget is undergoing an overhaul so we can better examine what we spend.”

Over the past three academic years Josephine Butler JCR has recorded profit of over £50,000, raising their funds from £39,000 to over £90,000. Castle MCR has also substantially increased their bank balance from £18,000 to £43,000 over the same period.

Josephine Butler JCR declined to comment on these figures.

In late November, Palatinate revealed that Castle MCR had historically profited thousands of pounds from its annual charity ball. This raises serious questions about whether all the methods common rooms are using to generate profit are in line with university values.

Durham’s Responsible University Statement claims that “those in senior positions are expected to set an example in their conduct and to promote and support good ethical behaviour”.

Throughout its nine-year history there have been a number of other major oversight and support failings by the university under the DSO framework.

In 2012 the JCR President of Josephine Butler was embroiled in a “corruption scandal” after he arranged to personally receive a cut of the income from the sale of freshers’ photos sold by an external company.

St Cuthbert’s Society JCR’s wealth increased by over £100,000

In 2016 the College of St Hild and St Bede JCR ended up in over £21,000 of debt due to financial mismanagement. More recently, Hatfield College JCR exceeded its planned budget by £44,000 due to oversights and administrative errors.

The impact of these episodes can have a stark impact on their student members. Hild Bede SRC recovered from a bank balance of just under £4,000 at the beginning of the 2016/17 academic year to over £45,000 at the end of 2018/19 by profiting £41,000 in the two years following their debt crisis. Hatfield JCR has lost 77% of its wealth in the past three years, having held a balance of £92,000 at the beginning of 2016/17 and ending 2018/19 with a balance of £21,000.

Significant losses are also recorded at other common rooms. In the past three years the wealth of St Aidan’s College JCR has fallen by £43,000 (38% of its wealth), George Stephenson College JCR lost £51,000 (47% of its wealth) and John Snow College JCR lost £50,000 (57% of its wealth).

Grey College JCR, who are registered as an independent charity, lost over £40,000 in 2018 due to “an increase in expenses relating to fundraising events” and depreciation in investments.

Image: Tim Rawle via Flickr

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