An Oxford University College has bought a Victorian building to provide more accommodation for its postgraduates and visiting students from overseas.

This follows the purchase in 2022 of two other properties in central Oxford which allowed the College to offer accommodation to all undergraduates for the duration of their studies for the first time in living memory.

The £12m purchase of 14-16 Norham Gardens will initially provide 13 ensuite student bedrooms for a mix of graduates and visiting students on full-year licences.

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That number is expected to rise to around 45 by early 2024, with plans for a £500,000 refit converting offices, catering areas, and some of the communal space to more bedrooms. 

The investment has been financed by the college’s endowment funds.

College bursar Chris Wood said: “This is a tremendous step forward in our plans to offer a unique and enjoyable experience for visiting students as well as extending the volume of accommodation available for our postgraduates.”

The College principal, Dame Professor Sarah Springman, said: “I congratulate our team for their hard work on this project.

"Not only does this acquisition provide St Hilda’s College with additional bedrooms for our students, it gives us a valuable hub in the very centre of Oxford.”

Herald Series: Originally two large family homes, the four-storey property was adapted to become the Cherwell Centre and previously used by the Society of the Holy Child Jesus as a convent, guest accommodation, and conference centre.

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Set in landscaped gardens on a 0.6 acre site, close to the University Parks, the building provides over 1,600 square metres of space and is close to several university departments.

Echoing the St Hilda’s College "commitment to diversity and inclusion", 14-16 Norham Gardens features a blue plaque to Violet Butler, a campaigner for better opportunities for young people and women.

The social reformer, social work tutor, community activist and researcher lived there from 1884 to 1959.

Last year, the college bought nearby 11 Norham Gardens and 38 St Giles’ at a combined cost of £18m to provide 80 student bedrooms and to achieve its long-term goal of accommodating all its undergraduate students throughout their degree. 

This new purchase also supports a strategic aim to accommodate more postgraduates and visiting students.

Founded by Dorothea Beale in 1893 as a Hall for Women Students, the College received its first Royal Charter in 1926, when it was incorporated under the title “Principal and Council of St Hilda’s College, Oxford”.

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In 1960, it became a College of the university.

The College’s most recent Supplemental Charter, granted in 2007, changed the name of the College to St Hilda’s College in the University of Oxford and permitted the admission of male students.

The College has approximately 50 fellows, 400 undergraduate students and 200 graduate students.

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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