Exeter family celebrates the opening of Cohen Quad

On the afternoon of Saturday 14 January the Exeter College family celebrated Cohen Quad opening for students, as well as officially opening the Student Common Room.

Although the formal Cohen Quad opening events will not be until mid-March, this was a wonderful occasion to mark informally the moment when all the resident students were finally living and studying in Cohen Quad.

The Rector expressed his thanks to the architect, Alison Brooks, and the project architect, Hannah Constantine, for creating such a wonderful space for the College. He also paid tribute to the tireless work of Gez Wells, Deputy Bursar, while also noting his birthday that day with a birthday cake and leading a chorus of “Happy Birthday”. He finished by thanking the students for their patience during the delays and encouraging them to make the most of their new building.

The outgoing JCR President Harry Williams, the new JCR President Dan Smith, and the current MCR President Sandra Ionescu said a few words in response to the Rector and then walked over to the Student Common Room to cut the ceremonial ribbon.

The Cohen Quad Student Common Room, which is adjacent to the Dakota Café and below the Learning Commons, is a space for all students and has been furnished with comfy chairs, a TV, and board games. Over the coming weeks the students will make it more their own space and it will become a hub for undergraduate, graduate, and Williams students alike.


The Rector, Harry Williams, Dan Smith and Sandra Ionescu each spoke at the event


The Student Common Room is formally opened


The event was well attended by students, staff, fellows and alumni

Formal opening announced

Work at Cohen Quad is continuing apace and is on track to welcome the first cohort of students at the start of Michaelmas Term 2016 – just over five months away!

Meanwhile Exeter College’s Rector and Fellows are delighted to announce plans for a grand formal opening, which will take place over the weekend of 18-19 March 2017.

This event – exclusively for those who have supported Cohen Quad and the Exeter Excelling campaign – will be an opportunity to celebrate all that has been achieved through the generosity of Exeter’s donors over the last 10 years. The event will culminate on the evening of Sunday, 19 March with a celebration in the Sheldonian Theatre and a concert.


There is growing excitement as the College prepares to welcome its first students in Cohen Quad in October this year. There was a wonderful buzz among the student body when the housing ballot took place in Hilary Term and students received confirmation that they will have a place in Oxford’s newest student accommodation next academic year and learned which room will be theirs.

Once the students have settled into their accommodation there will be an array of events over the course of the year for all alumni, neighbours, students, fellows and others who are excited about Exeter’s “third quad”. So many people have been involved in bringing this project to fruition and we would like to thank you all and celebrate this new stage in Exeter’s history.

Music at Cohen Quad

With the spring sunshine pouring onto the Cohen Quad site, it is easy to get a sense of how vibrant and light the new quadrangle is going to be. Katrina visited the site with Dr Jeremy Llewellyn, our Music Lecturer, who has been helping us to think about what type of piano will best suit the music practice room and, ultimately, in the auditorium.

The music practice room is situated towards the rear of the site, close to the auditorium and with south facing windows that (when the scaffolding is removed!) will fill the room with natural light. This is a far cry from the basement practice room on Turl Street which is situated next to the boiler and underneath Staircase 14!


Dr Jeremy Llewellyn inspects the music practice room

It’s likely that the best instrument will be a baby grand – if it will fit. Whatever instrument is chosen, we hope that it will attract students who want to play – for pleasure or for their degree – and who will then perhaps play for wider audiences in the auditorium!


The auditorium – work in progress!

Supporter Stories: Justin Bronder (2003, Astrophysics) and the Dakota Foundation

At the heart of Cohen Quad will be a café serving hot and cold food and drinks. The café will form a social hub for students and fellows to meet, make friends and lifelong connections, and exchange ideas. It will be named the Dakota Café after the Dakota Foundation, founded by alumnus Bart Holaday (1965, PPE), which has supported the Walton Street development as part of its mission to enhance human capabilities through activities that combine business discipline with charitable intent.


Architect render of the Dakota Café 

Exeter alumnus and member of the Dakota Foundation board Justin Bronder (2003, Astrophysics) visited Cohen Quad in January 2016 with his wife Jennifer (2002, Music) to see how work is progressing at the site.


Inspecting the site from Worcester Place

“I remember being briefed on the planned extension of the College and being blown away by the vision,” he said. “I thought about what it would mean to me, if I were a student again, to have amazing facilities like that so close to the centre of Oxford and to the College’s main site. When I thought about what future Exeter students will have I was kind of a bit jealous!

“I lived at Exeter House before it was renovated. It was part of the Oxford experience I enjoyed, but you might say it was ‘gritty’! Rector Cairncross came to Exeter a year after I started with a vision and did a great job making that vision reality. Exeter House has now been renovated for members of the MCR and the development at Walton Street is a continuation of that vision, with amazing accommodation for members of the JCR and study facilities for the whole College. Cohen Quad has got all the facilities that appeal to modern, professional students. Today it is students at other colleges who will be jealous of Exeter!


Exeter’s Development Assistant Rosemary Hurford (centre) talks Justin and his wife Jennifer through the construction work and the vision for the site

“The Dakota Café reflects the habits of students and professionals and today’s culture. We live in a café culture. The Dakota Café will be an important part of the academic and social life of the College. I’m proud to serve on an organisation that helps make that possible for Exeter.”


Justin and Jennifer in front of what will be the lecture theatre and north-facing quadrangle

Supporter Stories: Amanda McDonald and Friends

Amanda McDonald came up to Exeter in 1991 to read English.  She has many happy memories of her time at the College and has remained in touch with many of her Exeter friends.

Sadly, Amanda is now very ill and her friends have decided to come together to commemorate her time at Exeter by naming a student bedroom in her honour at Cohen Quad.  Together, they will donate £10,000 to make the dream a reality.

Charlotte Morgan (1991, English) said: “Amanda has been my dearest friend since College days.  We love to imagine future students gossiping, drinking bad coffee and generally having the time of their lives in ‘her’ room, just as we did all those years ago.”

Architect’s render of a student bedroom at Cohen Quad

Amanda returned to Exeter this week with her husband Dean, her father Alan and three of her greatest College friends.  After lunch, she and Dean renewed their wedding vows in the Chapel, where they were married in July 2010.  At the end of their visit, they drove to Walton Street to take a look at Cohen Quad as it goes up.

Amanda said: “Exeter College is a very special place for me and I’m thrilled with the idea of the Amanda McDonald Room. It means so much to me and my family that I will be remembered in this way.”

Amanda and Charlotte cropped
Amanda and Charlotte finishing Finals, summer 1994

After leaving university Amanda went on to a build a successful career in marketing and advertising, becoming MD of a marketing agency in the Midlands.  Her insights into community marketing have proved invaluable for us at Exeter and we’d like to thank her for sharing her inspiring ideas about building vibrant alumni communities, many of which shaped this very blogsite.

If you would like to make a donation towards the Amanda McDonald Bedroom, please contact us.

20131112 001.JPG
The Exeter College Chapel, where Dean and Amanda were married in 2010

Know Your Ruskins

Ever since Exeter announced in 2008 that it had reached an agreement to purchase Ruskin College’s Walton Street campus in Jericho, many Exonians have admitted to being a little confused about their Ruskins (Is that the famous art school? Is it a further education college?). We feel that an explanatory note is long overdue! So here’s the lowdown:

The Ruskin School of Art, part of the University of Oxford, was opened by John Ruskin in 1871 as the Ruskin School of Drawing. It offers a Bachelor in Fine Art degree for undergraduates and a Masters and DPhil in Fine Art for postgraduates. It has two sites, 74 High Street and 128 Bullingdon Road. Exeter welcomes one Fine Art student per academic year. The Ruskin School of Art has no direct connection to Cohen Quadrangle.

Ruskin School of Art on Oxford’s High Street. Photograph by Nic Ansell

In 1899, Ruskin College (originally Ruskin Hall) was founded in the city of Oxford, independent of the University. It “aimed to provide university-standard education for working class people to empower them to act more effectively on behalf of working class communities and organisations such as trade unions, political parties, co-operative societies and working men’s institutes”. Its alumni include British politician John Prescott, Kenyan civil rights advocate Tom Mboya and Siaka Probyn Stevens, Prime Minister and President of Sierra Leone.

Ruskin College is now an affiliate of the University of Oxford, which ensures that its students can access many University facilities such as libraries and social spaces, as well as academic and extra-curricular events and societies.

Ruskin’s campus is in Headington, East Oxford, but its original site was on Walton Street. Its grand red-brick Victorian building was completed in 1913 and various extensions were added over the next 60 years. This is the site that Exeter College purchased in March 2010.

The Ruskin College building soon after completion in 1913. Photograph taken from oxfordhistory.org.uk
Ruskin College garden
Ruskin College from the inside, taken from near the back of the site and looking west to east. The wing on the left-hand side is a 1930s extension. Photograph taken from oxfordhistory.org.uk
Similar view from 2009 after the sale agreement between Ruskin and Exeter was signed, taken from the very back of the site looking west to east. Note the addition of the 1960s grey concrete accommodation block, the 1980s redbrick accommodation block (left foreground) and the subterranean library (centre of image)

Yet the connections between Exeter and Ruskin College go deeper than that. When Rector Cairncross wrote to Exeter alumni in 2008 to tell them of the sale agreement, she said: “There is a nice historical twist to this arrangement. William Morris was an undergraduate at Exeter College, and had close links with John Ruskin. Ruskin College in turn was founded to educate those who were otherwise excluded from education – on principles established through the collaboration of these two social and educational pioneers.”

After the Second World War, an even closer link between the two colleges developed, when Exeter offered a place each Michaelmas term to an entrant from Ruskin to read for an undergraduate degree. You can read about the experiences of Ruskin and Exeter alumnus Tony Moreton (1952, PPE) on pp26-28 of the Exeter College Register 2011.

Exeter College took official possession of the site in October 2012 and all of Ruskin College’s activities were relocated to its newly-renovated campus in Headington.

Ruskin 055
Rector Cairncross receives the keys to the former Ruskin College building from Professor Audrey Mullender, former Principal of Ruskin College, in October 2012



We hope that this helps to explain Exeter’s history with Ruskin College and that any confusion between the two Ruskins has been cleared up. Of course, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to be in touch.

Finally, fear not: we’ll be back to bricks and mortar in our next Cohen Quad update.

Sources: Ruskin College websiteThe History of Ruskin College by Harold Pollins (1984); Oxford History website; Wikipedia; Ruskin School of Art website; Exeter College Register (2011).

Invest in Cohen Quad

The generous support of alumni and Friends of Exeter has enabled us to purchase the former Ruskin College site on Walton Street, enlist award-winning architects to produce an innovative design for the new campus, and begin to make this vision a reality during construction.

New brochure outlining remaining opportunities for support

The total cost of purchasing, designing and building Cohen Quadrangle is expected to be £46m. To date, over £17m has been given in donations from Exeter alumni and Friends out of a fundraising goal of £18m. This means that we are just £1m short of our target!

New brochure outlining remaining opportunities for support

Be part of Exeter’s future! This is your last opportunity to support the quadrangle as it enters its final few months of construction. Donations of all sizes are extremely welcome, and examples of what your gifts could achieve are set out below.

Student bedroom

There will be 90 student bedrooms at Cohen Quadrangle, all with en-suite bathrooms, with views looking out across Jericho, North Oxford, Worcester College and beyond.

A donation of £10,000 will name a student bedroom (with a plaque outside the door honouring your support) as you direct. Click here to read about two Exonians who have done exactly this.

Student bedroom

South Quadrangle steps

The amphitheatre-style steps in Cohen Quad’s South Quadrangle are a sun-trap, providing an attractive outside seating area for Exonians during the summer months. The steps lead down to the Dakota Cafe and up to the Porters’ Lodge and main entrance, forming an important pathway through the site.

A donation of £7,000 will see your name engraved on a step in the South Quadrangle as a visible marker of your support of the new building.

The steps in the South Quadrangle, leading down to the Dakota Cafe

Chair in the auditorium

Cohen Quad’s auditorium will be Exeter’s first above-ground lecture and performance venue.  It is a large, multi-purpose space that offers modern facilities for a wide range of activities.

A donation of £2,000 will ensure there is a chair named in your honour in this exciting part of Cohen Quadrangle.

Lecture Theatre
The auditorium

There are opportunities to invest in other parts of Cohen Quad, too. To see the full range of projects to support such as the Cairncross Kitchen and the Maddicott and Eltis Rooms, please click here.

To make or to discuss a donation, please contact Development Director Katrina Hancock.