Nearly all full-time students spend their first year in Hall and may choose to return for subsequent years if there is space.
The Hall - or Group of Halls - is the centre of their social life. In both catered and self-catered Halls there is ample opportunity for social interactions both formal and informal, in the Junior Common Room (JCR), the dining hall in catered halls, the bar, area pantries and kitchens, and in organised social and sporting events. It is primarily through Halls that friendships are formed.
Since 2011 the Halls have been operated by an external company, UPP, but the responsibility for welfare provision and discipline has been retained by the University.
Each Hall has a Warden, who is a full-time member of University staff with responsibility for pastoral support and discipline within the Hall. Each Group of Halls also has a number of senior students appointed as Wardens' Assistants to work alongside the Wardens in providing welfare support for student residents. The Hall system provides pastoral care in a supportive environment for students. All Hall staff support the JCRs, encourage resident students to participate fully in Hall life through social and other events and are keen to promote the development of good relations with the wider community.
Wardens try to ensure that they are available to see students at reasonable times, normally by appointment through the Hall or Group office. They encourage academic colleagues who have concerns about residents to contact them and will communicate with the student's Tutor, School or Faculty, as appropriate, if there are any major concerns about a student, or if there is a serious disciplinary problem. Academic colleagues are frequently unaware of these problems when they occur outside normal teaching hours and do not immediately affect a student's work.
However, it is also true that the Tutor may know about a student's difficulties without the Hall being aware of them. It is most useful if the communication between Warden and Tutor can be two-way. Tutors should certainly keep Wardens informed of major problems. Wardens wish to encourage the closest possible contacts with Tutors in Departments, and Tutors are encouraged to take an interest in the life of their students in Hall. This ensures that the student's welfare is promoted both in the Hall and in the School.
All Hall staff recognise the relationship between a student's domestic and social life, personal and financial problems, health and their academic performance. A student's attitude towards the University, especially in the first year and the final year, will to a considerable extent be affected by his or her life in the Hall, by how supportive it is, how friendly and so on.
Frequently, Wardens will know a great deal that is creditable to students that others may not be aware of: for example, that the student has taken on the responsibility of JCR Committee membership, or is one of those people who are always willing to help others. As a result, students will often ask Wardens to write references for them.
The Hall is very likely, too, to be aware of the financial problems of individual students, as Hall fees have to be paid promptly. The Welfare and Pastoral Team are frequently involved in discussing financial problems with students and looking for ways of helping them.