MORE than two million pounds are needed to save the headquarters of the Oxfordshire Federation of Women’s Institutes from permanent closure and protect its staff from redundancy.

The future of Denman College, at Marcham, near Abingdon, is on the line after the National Federation of Women's Institutes' board of trustees made a proposal to shut its Georgian building

For a number of years, the facility, which welcomes more than 10,000 students annually, has been operating without unrestricted reserves under a cash-flow model reliant on future bookings. This has made Denman ‘vulnerable’ to any economic changes, especially during the Covid-19 crisis. Most of Denman’s employees were put on furlough to reduce running costs and minimise losses during the pandemic.

For more than 70 years the college has provided what it calls a ‘safe haven’ for women and men to learn new skills through the 65 courses on offer.

ALSO READ: Travellers set up camp near primary school

However, as lockdown rules are eased, it is ' becoming clear' that the majority of those booked on courses in July and August did not feel comfortable attending.

A spokesperson for the organisation explained that NFWI is currently in a consultation period with its staff at the college.

Until this is concluded no formal decision will be made about the estate.

Oxfordshire residents devastated by the announcement quickly launched a fundraiser to help the cash-strapped organisation.

Almost £500 were donated within 24 hours from the £10,000 target.

ALSO READ: Council on the hunt for 'poop' offender

Herald Series:

However, it will require at least £1.8m to only guarantee that Denman could remain open until December.

A spokesperson explained: "If we could not reach projected income levels from January onwards then Denman could quickly be at risk again.

"This figure would not help the college recoup its reserves and so it would remain vulnerable to any future periods of closure or major disruption to its income streams."

Melissa Green, general secretary of the NFWI, highlighted that this decision was not taken 'lightly'.

Ms Green said: "We are conscious that for many members this is distressing news, as it is for the NFWI Trustees and our staff, in particular of course for our dedicated and passionate team who are at risk of redundancy.

"We have provided members as much clarity as possible to help them understand how this decision was reached.

ALSO READ: This is how much money a council spent on a brand new tractor

"If the proposal is taken forward following the staff consultations, members will also have the opportunity to make formal representations to the board of trustees."

The organisation would then host a series of Zoom Q+A calls for WI members in September, where members will be able to ask questions.

To make a donation visit