This article was originally published in Linacre News Issue 21, Spring 2001. 

For very nearly the first 25 years of its existence the status which Linacre enjoyed was that of a University department. In this we were following on from St. Catherine’s Society, which was a University department all its life; it was natural for the University to follow this model, especially since Linacre was to inherit the buildings of the old St. Catherine’s in St. Aldate’s, and was thought of as much the same sort of non-residential society. But almost from the start, or at least as soon as it became apparent that Linacre was successful, and not the dreadful disaster that some had prophesied, people began to ask when we intended to seek our charter and to proceed to the status of a College. 

The only answer one could give to that question for many years was “All in good time”. In fact, Linacre quickly obtained some of the formal qualities of a college in that it was allowed to constitute its own governing body of Fellows, instead of being answerable, as St. Catherine’s Society was, to a University Delegacy (committee). But this was not the same as independence, although as far as student members were concerned it made little difference. In fact, being a department had real advantages, in that we could call for help on other departments, the University Chest, for example, for financial accounting, or the University Surveyor for advice on buildings, and we were reluctant to cut ourselves off from this kind of aid. In any case there was no question of the University granting us full collegiate status until we became financially independent, and in default of some considerable benefaction this was going to take a long time. 

Until after the report of the Franks Committee the College received an annual deficiency grant from the University, and once a year our representatives were required to appear before the appropriate University Committee to explain and answer questions about our finances (this could have been a gruelling experience, but in fact members of the committee were always complimentary about our stewardship). As a result of the Franks Committee Report, this grant became the responsibility of the College Accounts Committee, which was responsible for disbursing the product of the voluntary system of college taxation whereby the richer colleges came to’ the aid of the poorer’. This meant a different committee to be faced, but we were equally generously treated. The major change came in 1980, when the committee agreed in essence to amortize the annual grant and to make us a capital grant of a total of 1,000,000 pounds over a period of three years to give us the necessary capital to become independent. 

In June 1980 I reported to the Governing Body that the first tranche of this capital grant had been paid and that the intention was that we should achieve financial independence by 1983. A committee was set up to consider the steps that needed to be taken to achieve independent college status, and this reported in November 1980. Inter alia it noted that statutes and a charter would need to be drawn up, and a committee was entrusted with this task, which was quite a demanding process and by no means a brief one. It involved consultation with the Clerk of the Privy Council, whose only stipulation as I recall was that our statutes should make provision for student representation on the Governing Body, which in fact we already had. The draft statutes were submitted to the Governing Body at the beginning of 1982 and, after discussion and emendation, were forwarded to the Hebdomadal Council of the University. Council sent them back to the College in January 1983 with suggested emendations but eventually approved them, and forwarded them, together with the draft Charter, to the Privy Council. There was no further problem, but the actual charter was not approved by the Queen in Council until the 5th of June 1986 – six years after the start of the whole proceedings. 

This then is the actual date that Linacre became a full college of the University. One might perhaps have expected some official recognition of the occasion. I didn’t really expect the Queen to present the Charter in person (even though I was rather puffed up at finding myself described in the Charter as Her Majesty’s ‘right worthy and well beloved John Bamborough ‘), but I thought perhaps some kind of special messenger might arrive (perhaps a Life Guard in full uniform). ln fact I was just informed that it was ready for collection from Queen Anne’ s mansions (the Home Office) and when I called for it a minion handed it to me done up in a brown paper parcel, which I took back to Oxford on the train. This was a slight anti-climax after all the effort. There was, however, an occasion later in College when the charter was formally handed over to us by the Vice Chancellor. 

John Bamborough

Mr John Bamborough was Principal of Linacre College from 1962 to 1988. 

Photo: Sir Patrick Neill, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, presenting the College Charter to Mr John Bamborough