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Within days of the end of term, Keble transforms itself into a conference centre. Young people laden with books, chatting by the Chapel or lying on the grass, no longer populate the quads. Their rooms, the JCR and the Hall are taken over by business professionals, teachers, nurses, politicians, and academics. Like the students, though, they all invariably end up in the bar.
The College has hosted a variety of gatherings in the past year, including a training week for shopkeepers, one for barristers, a meeting of the British HIV Association, and a conference on investment in Africa. VIPs have been known to bring their own chefs, their own bodyguards, even their own loos.
Earl Cairns, Chairman of the Commonwealth Development Corporation, and President Museveni of Uganda with the Warden at a conference dinner.
Keble earns over a million pounds annually from the conference trade roughly twice as much per student as the average Oxford College. Students also profit from the business, working as scouts or bartenders, or waiting in Hall and the SCR. Conference attendees welcome the opportunity to learn about Oxford first hand from these students, and the students enjoy contact with all sorts of people they might not otherwise meet, from prelates to presidents.
Conferences at Keble do have a downside for the students. Undergraduates must vacate their rooms promptly when term finishes. The rooms almost all en-suite, with new furniture are kept to a higher standard than before, but rent charges are also higher. Finally, some students find it strange to see what they regard as their college, their quads and their rooms, occupied by 'strangers'.
Despite the mixed blessings, conference income is vital to Keble's well-being. In response to the growth in the business the College has created its own conference company, Conference Keble Limited. With smart accommodation, a large dining hall, good conference facilities, all combined with the magic of Oxford, its trading outlook looks healthy.
Any member whose organization is interested in holding a conference
at Keble should contact Marilyn Bowler (telephone 01865 272789, fax
01865 272729, or e-mail
With the arrival of the long vacation comes the departure of the latest quartet of students from Dartmouth, the Ivy League college in New Hampshire with which Keble has an exchange programme. Four students come over each term to read Economics or Politics. In return, Keble sends two students on scholarships during Dartmouth's summer term, which coincides with our long vacation.
The link was developed following the sabbatical term which Tim Jenkinson, Keble's Economics Fellow, spent at Dartmouth three years ago.
Dartmouth students confess to feeling spoiled by the individual attention they receive in tutorials here. Back home, tutorials involve up to thirty students at a time. They also notice a greater focus on writing here 15 essays per term instead of 5 and appreciate the emphasis on independence. Tim Jenkinson is equally appreciative of their academic abilities and willingness to work.
One unusual aspect of the link is that Bill Thompson, Head Porter, now has custody of four identical 'Falcon Stealth' bikes. The College realised it was unreasonable to expect students who were only coming for a term to acquire their own transport, so Bill negotiated a bulk purchase. Thus mobilised, the Dartmouth visitors have been able to explore the parts of Oxford that cars cannot reach which is to say, all of it. They love Oxford and its history, and are particularly taken with the social scene and the lower drinking age compared to the USA, where it is 21. Rather surprising, considering that hardly any alcohol is consumed in Keble Bar!
We wish them well in their future careers and look forward hearing reports from Hsienmin Toh (English) and Simon Duffy (History) who are off to Dartmouth for the summer.
copyright © 1998 Keble College, Oxford OX1 3PG