For the second year running, the University has been strongly criticised for giving misleading information to nursing students, causing many of them to have to pay over £1,500 extra rent over the summer.
Before signing their contracts at the beginning of this academic year, nursing students were given verbal assurances that, as in previous years, they would be allowed to vacate their halls of residence at any time, after giving four weeks notice. Following this advice, over 50 nursing students paid deposits and signed private housing contracts for homes for their second year.
The nurses informed the University that they wished their contracts to be terminated at the beginning of July 2010 to allow them to move into their new homes. However, they were told that their University contract legally bound them to pay for their halls of residence for the full 51 week let, even if they chose to move out.
According to a number of student nurses interviewed by Nouse, when they tried to argue that over 50 of them had previously been given verbal confirmation that they could leave at any time, Margaret Kuby, Deputy Manager of the Accommodation Office, accused them of lying.
The University has since conceded that “a member of University staff has given incorrect information to a small number of first-year nurses living in University accommodation.”
They continued to say that, as a consequence, all nurses who can prove that they “signed a tenancy agreement [for a house in the private sector] before Monday 22 March 2010” will be released from their University accommodation contracts after August 1 2010.
Despite this, nursing students who have already signed a private contract for the next academic year will still have to pay one month of double rent. Those who cannot prove that they have signed a contract, or who signed contracts after this date, will have to pay full rent up until October.
Matthew Jacobs, Student Records and Bursaries Manager for the Health Sciences Department, said: “The University has… certainly failed on this occasion.”
YUSU Welfare Officer, Ben Humprhys, has called for the University to ensure that next year’s nursing intake is given “absolute clarity” on the situation. He added: “We need to see a proactive response from the University on this, more flexibility with the current cohort, and absolute clarity next year so [that] we aren’t put in this situation again.”
One student, April O‘Callaghan, who was part of the group of nurses campaigning against the University, said: “It’s disgraceful that the University didn’t give us proper financial and legal guidance when it came to signing a legal document like a contract that most of us had never done before.”
Another student nurse, Elisabeth Hill, said: “I was on the phone to my parents just crying, saying, ‘I’m so sorry but I’m going to have to drop out’, because, honest to God, I couldn’t see how I was going to pay for the new house and for the University rent.”
In previous years, nurses have been able to leave after giving four weeks notice, but at the start of this academic year the contract was changed to prevent this practice.
Many of this year’s students knew second and third year nurses who had left their contracts early, and as they were not notified otherwise, assumed that they would be able to do the same.
According to Hill and six other nurses interviewed by Nouse, Kuby has refused to apologise for acccusing the nurses of lying, and for the stress her team’s mistake has caused the nurses during the Easter exam period.