Buildings & facilities
Hertford offers all undergraduates rooms in college accommodation for the duration of their study. The majority of first-year graduates also live in college accommodation. Student rents at Hertford are among the lowest in Oxford, which is one of the things that makes us attractive to students from less well-off backgrounds.
However almost all of the college is badly in need of refurbishment, and the maintenance and refurbishment of these buildings is an expensive and ongoing task. The college needs carry out this renovation without unfairly passing on the expense to the students.
The college aims to renovate every college room every 10-15 years. Hertford has 520 rooms spread across the main Catte Street site, as well as at the Head of the River and the North Oxford properties – rising to 800 ‘spaces’ once kitchens, bathrooms and corridors are taken into account. This means that our target is to redecorate, and where necessary refurbish, over 50 college rooms and spaces each year.
Hertford has also embarked on a 10 year project to improve the heating efficiency for 280 rooms. Where possible, outdated boilers (some dating back to the 1960s) are being replaced with energy efficient systems.
As anyone who has lived in an old building knows, the maintenance of the exterior of a building is expensive and cannot be neglected. Roofing, re-pointing, repairing windows and gutters – each of these seems a small detail until they are multiplied across 16 Victorian houses, four annexes and a Grade I listed central site. Structural repairs to the college houses alone have been quoted to come to £2 million over the next 10-15 years.
Hertford has an obligation to keep all buildings fire-safe, and this duty has a financial implication. Fixed electrical wiring must be tested every year and fire detection systems upgraded every five years. Given the number of rooms and sites involved, the annual cost of this essential work is £35,000.
When Hertford’s buildings were constructed, its architects could hardly have imagined the digital landscape that lay ahead. In 2015 a new Wi-Fi system was installed throughout the main college site and all of the annexes. This infrastructure has been designed to cope with the volume of internet traffic generated by 700 users, each with multiple devices. The project was essential – but came at a cost of over £100,000.
For several years, Hertford has been on the look-out for a major new site to add to our central Oxford portfolio. Opportunities to adapt an existing building or commission a new structure come up infrequently, and the college needs to be in a position to move quickly when the right option presents itself. A new building could allow us to guarantee accommodation for all undergraduates and graduates throughout their time at the college, and potentially create additional space for teaching, seminars, student study areas, and offices. It could also allow us consolidate our accommodation, thereby reducing our maintenance costs.