Charitable and legal status
St Chad’s College was established in 1904 and later incorporated as a company limited by guarantee in 1910 (Company No 109442).* Technically the College is ‘a lay eleemosynary corporation aggregate’ – in other words, a charitable corporation.
The College is a registered charity (No 1142958, registered as ‘St Chad’s College Durham’). Under the Charities Act 2006, universities are supervised by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) as principal regulator, but the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, together with the two recognised colleges in Durham are supervised by the Charity Commission, who are charged with ensuring that the colleges fulfil their obligations under Charity law.
Status within the University
Statute 14 of the University of Durham Statutes, stipulates that
(1) shall maintain as part of the University University College, Hatfield College….
(2) shall, subject to the provisions of these Statutes, continue to recognise as Colleges of the University, St Chad’s College and St John’s College and may recognise other Colleges in the County of Durham as recognised Colleges in the University. The Council shall have no property in or financial responsibility for the recognised Colleges.
Thus, while not being maintained ‘as part of the University’ the College is nonetheless regarded as a College ‘of the University’ or ‘in the University’.
Other legal provisions
The College may be subject to The Universities and College Estates Act 1925 (as amended), though this is untested in the courts. If the College is in fact subject to the Act, then certain restrictions on the use of capital, the use of borrowing and several other matters (such as the disposal of advowsons and patronage) apply.
The Universities and College Estates Act 1925 states that ‘The universities and colleges to which this Act applies are the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Durham, and the colleges or halls in those universities….’ The ambiguity arises because the maintained colleges have no separate legal identity and so cannot exercise any of the powers regulated by the Act, while the recognised colleges do actually have such powers. However, the recognised colleges are not incorporated as Colleges in or of the University. The imprecision of the Act (which occurs in other legal contexts) makes it difficult to know whether the lawmakers might have mistakenly thought that the colleges in Durham have a legal status similar to that of the Oxbridge colleges. Be that as it may, if the purpose of the Act is to ensure that Oxbridge and Durham colleges preserve their permanent endowments, then it may make sense that the recognised colleges and licensed halls plus the University proper are all intentionally covered by the Act.
There are other statutory instruments that apply specifically to the College. For instance the explanatory note attached to The Education (Fees and Awards) (Amendment) Regulations 1998 (no. 1965) refers to fee regulations that apply at ‘the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, and at [the] St Chad’s, St John’s or Ushaw College of the University of Durham…’. The latter allows St Chad’s to charge differential college fees for international students.
* Charities House insists that we also have a Royal Charter as St Chad’s College Durham (RC000594). This is also the name registered with the Charity Commission.