ACU has finalized the purchase of a recently renovated Victorian house in Central North Oxford, England.
The house is located at 163 Woodstock Road, and is complete with eight bedrooms, six bathrooms, two kitchens, five reception rooms, a studio, an outside deck and backyard. The building covers a 6457-square-foot area.
Stephen Shewmaker, executive director of ACU’s Center for International Education, said they have been looking for a long time for a property that would meet all their needs.
“Oxford is a very tight community, for multiple reasons,” Shewmaker said. “Some of that is the 850-odd years of history of University of Oxford. The town and the settlements there go back over a thousand years. So to be able to establish a sense of permanence in a place like that is important for us to be considered full participants in the community.”
The current Oxford study abroad program began in the mid-90’s. ACU began leasing the current two houses used to house study abroad students in Oxford, located at 9 and 10 Canterbury Road, in 1999. The search for a permanent property in Oxford began in 2002.
“There’s many people who have been involved in this,” Shewmaker said. “This is a legacy project for ACU, not just in the future, but has been over the last 20 years of people who have known that this is something that we needed to do. And it’s not easy, it’s expensive. When people make statements like, ‘We’re doing work here that’s going to go far beyond us,’ I just see that in this effort more than I’ve seen in anything else during my time at ACU.”
Shewmaker said they plan to begin the transition with the fall of 2020 group, housing study abroad students at the new property. The Oxford Study Abroad Program will remain in the currently leased houses until the end of the summer.
Chelsea Flow, senior ministry and vocations and management major from Amarillo and past Oxford study abroad student, said though living in Oxford is a once in a lifetime chance, the housing situation occasionally put a damper on things.
“The new property will be a huge incentive for future study abroad students,” Flow said. “The old houses are livable but make it hard to study or hang out. Hopefully the new purchases will provide better common spaces and bigger kitchens to grow the community within the group.”
ACU plans to renovate the bathrooms of the house to make them more accessible for large groups of students. ACU has also received permission from Oxford’s City Council to build an extension onto the rear-left wing of the house on the ground floor, to create a small flat to house ACU faculty.
The program is expected to shrink in size from the capacity to house about 35 students in a semester down to about 26 students.
“My hope would be that ACU students would be studying abroad in Oxford for the next 50-100 years or for however long ACU exists,” Shewmaker said. “Whether you’ve worked in study abroad like I have, you’re a faculty member who’s been or you’re a student who’s studied abroad there for a semester or a summer, we all have a more permanent connection to that place by making a purchase there, saying this is what we intend to do and here’s who we intend to be in this community.”