Accommodation: Are we getting what we pay for?

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As students across the University begin searching for second year accommodation, I find myself wondering whether first year accommodation is actually worth the money we pay for it. Most of us are paying for this out of our student loan. Will we still feel it was worth all that money, ten years down the line?

The snowfall this week covered campus in a frosty blanket. As freshers living in university-owned accommodation, however, we found ourselves in need of actual blankets.

The settling of this icy precipitation coincided with our boiler emitting some spectacular grumblings and spewing water across the kitchen surfaces. The next two days were spent in near arctic conditions and, I regret to say, showering was kept to a minimum. Not exactly the warm welcome back to York we were expecting.

This in itself wouldn’t be a problem, if our flat hadn’t experienced such issues before. Our first problem arose on arriving in Fresher’s week: a broken oven. It’s not the end of the world, and pretty easy to work around, considering as students we subsist primarily on pasta. It also allowed us to inform the porters with childish delight that “our knob had fallen off”.

However, almost a month of being ovenless was frustrating. After our oven was replaced, our freezer decided to take a last stand. Many in my block, myself included, have also had to suffer from the faulty door locks (which lock automatically).

This isn’t a problem if you remember to take your room key every time you venture out into the kitchen. But no-one remembers this when rushing breakfast before a 9.15 lecture. Being locked out on a weekly basis gets pretty tedious. It’s even more irritating when you have to trudge to the porters in the middle of the night, clad in spotty pyjamas and slippers.

I’m not for one second suggesting that we are the first freshers who’ve had to deal with the trials and tribulations of campus life, but tuition fees are rising and quality doesn’t seem to be improving.

When going extended periods of time without the facilities that were promised when signing up to accommodation, you do start to ask yourself: are we getting what we pay for? Of course, there are plenty of benefits to living on campus that I’m going to miss next year. I consider myself lucky in having a 33 week let, saving some money, which isn’t going to be possible when I live out next year.

Living in university accommodation is comparatively stress-free. We don’t have to worry about internet, heating or electricity bills. We have our lovely cleaners ensuring that we don’t stew in our own grime for too long. The library, Costcutter, and sports facilities are sitting on our doorstep. There are a lot of benefits to living on campus that we don’t always appreciate.

But when you’re paying for an oven or heating you do expect to have these facilities. If it didn’t take copious amounts of verbal and written complaints to resolve a problem, I don’t think that I would have reason to grumble. The truth is, we don’t get exactly what we pay for. Yes, it would be great if everything ran more smoothly and the allocation system was fairer.

At the same time though, I don’t think that in ten years time when I’m still paying for it that I’ll regret choosing university accommodation. I’ll just be remembering the great memories and stories to tell that living on campus has given me.

One comment

  1. Accommodation pricing was pretty jocular during my first year (’10-’11), and has only gotten worse. Student landlords are not the most scrupulous bunch by a long shot, but at least they don’t have a duty of care which they seem to flagrantly disregard – not only in failing to provide acceptable accommodation to what sounds like a lot of residents, but failing to do so at a reasonable price. Take the same amount of cash to the rental market and compare what you can get.

    Being close to CostCutter is nice, but there are a lot of (quite possibly cheaper) shops about that you can live near too. Most people won’t use sports facilities. Being close to the library is nice too, but that’s probably not a very important consideration in first year.

    I don’t think I could recommend campus accommodation to anyone in good faith. The experience was great, but very much in spite of where I was staying.

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