Outrage has been expressed by many of this year’s incoming freshers, after learning that the University looks set to profit from the undergraduate accommodation shortage.
The shortage has forced a significant number of new students into postgraduate halls with costly 51 week rental contracts.
Particular concern has been raised for those students who have been placed in Wentworth College, which is perceived not to cater for the social and welfare needs of new undergraduates, and where the private nature of post-graduate study could potentially leave first-year students feeling isolated.
Undergraduate students living in Wentworth and Halifax will have to pay 51 week lets instead of the usual 33 or 39 week agreements. Students in Wentworth will pay £4,458.93 per year, as opposed to just £2,797.76 for a standard 33 rental agreement, as other undergraduate colleges allow.
51 week lets are best suited to postgraduate or nursing students who continue their study over the summer, and will prove costly for undergraduates who intend to move from campus accommodation to private housing once the summer term ends.
This will mean that students will have to pay double rent, on both campus and private accommodation over the summer, unless they are able to find another student to take over their campus lease for the summer period.
Lase Laleye, an incoming student studying Accounting, Business Finance and Management, told Nouse how he applied for accommodation before the deadline, yet received an email to say he would be living in Wentworth College which he “wasn’t told was actually for graduates” before he moved in.
“It was only after I researched the college myself that I realised I wouldn’t be living with other new students” he stated. “I have to admit I’ve been pretty concerned about living with older people who won’t be going through the same experience, and I’m worried that I will be quite disconnected from freshers’ life living here,” he continued.
“I was upset that I was put in a double room as I feel starting University is a time when everybody needs to feel they have their own space, and I was unable to get that.”
Alex Michalik, Student
Five of the studio flats in Goodricke College, described by the University as “designed to be self-contained for two people living as a couple”, have this year been converted into twin rooms, with two undergraduates now sharing one double room. The rent for such twin rooms is charged at 80 per cent of the single room rate, per occupant. This means that the University will make £179.87 per week, as opposed to the £163.87 paid by a couple for the same room. With these students also forced to take up 51 week rents on such accommodation, this will earn the University an extra £4335 a year.
First-year Navya Mynei, who was “forced” to live in a twin room, has described the inconveniences of a shared room, with “the bookshelves and switch boards all on just one of the desks, so one of us needs to buy extension cables and get up every time we need a book”.
She also stated how “the shower and the WC could’ve been separated to help us save time. But that didn’t happen, and we’ve been late to every single orientation session so far”. Another student, Alex Michalik, described his difficulties when allocated a twin room in his first-year. “I tried to make the best of a less than ideal situation and was encouraged to hear that they had paired us based on similar interests,” he said. “Unfortunately, in reality, we could not have been more different and the atmosphere in the room was very awkward at times. I was upset that I was put in a double room as I feel starting University is a time when everybody needs to feel that they have their own space, and I was unable to get that with just a thin curtain separating us.
“At a time when there are so many changes going on and so many new experiences, I needed a place to relax and call my own which just wasn’t available to me. The situation got so bad that in the end I took the chance to move out of University accommodation and into a flat in the town centre.” The University has come under considerable criticism this year for accepting more students than on-campus lodging can accommodate, despite an original guarantee that all freshers would be allocated some form of University housing.
As a result, freshers this year have also been placed in Hickelton Court in Halifax College, a strictly quiet housing area designed for families and post-graduates. However, Laura Borisovaite, YUSU Welfare Officer, stated that the Colleges are “aware of the issues” and “are working hard to integrate these students”.
“While it may be a minor challenge, there is a lot of added value in living in a mixed environment.”
Laura Borisovaite, YUSU Welfare Officer
She continued to say that “the mixed accommodation halls will house both postgraduates and undergraduates in equal numbers and all students have access to all the social activities and sports facilities on campus regardless of their residential status. The aim of being a student is the fact that you are exposed to a varied environment whilst you are at University. While it may be a minor challenge, there is a lot of added value in living in a mixed environment.”
Nonetheless, with such large numbers of undergraduates taking up residence in campus accommodation, taking into account the rent banding increases and forcing students into 51 week lets, the University looks set to make a considerable profit from the additional sources of income.