There is no excuse for Freshers’ accommodation shortfall

The University has been greedy, accepting more students than it can accommodate, and Freshers may miss out on a key part of the first year experience

Yesterday it was revealed that the University didn’t have enough beds to accommodate all the incoming freshers. The University has accepted too many students, and those forced to live out of college may miss out on a central part of their Freshers year.

There are two issues at play – firstly, accommodation services have been left in the lurch by an expansion in the University and they can’t process the orders quickly enough. So as a result it’s 19 days until term starts and some freshers still don’t know where they’re going to live. This uncertainty can easily be solved next year – put more resources in accommodation services. Finding somewhere to live in a new university is stressful enough without having to wait on a department that is struggling with its workload.

Secondly and more importantly, there simply aren’t enough rooms – so yes that means some of you reading this will have to live off-campus. According to the University’s ‘guarantee‘, they don’t have to provide on-campus accommodation to freshers, whether they have a firm, insurance or Clearing place. But if the University wishes to place the collegiate system at the centre of University life, which it does (and should) then at least those with firm and insurance offers should be able to apply for on-campus accommodation.

The numbers are small but not inconsiderable. The last time this happened in 2010 there were 120 students living in private accommodation as a result of shortages. This year the number may be considerably higher. With 140 courses offering places, it’s estimated that in total 250 students will be displaced.

Many students make a success of living off campus in their first year, and the university is well-placed to accommodate them, with JCRCs working hard to get people involved in their allocated college, and societies acting as an important social centre for people with similar interests.

But the reality is that it’s not for everyone. Colleges are the centre of student life in the first year. In many students’ opinion there is simply no substitute for the block parties, the mass exodus to Revs on a Sunday and the summer afternoon BBQs on the quad. To some extent this will be denied to those who fail to get accommodation.

So where can freshers turn? The next issue is that the best advertised and most convenient accommodation off-campus is in the new blocks, which have sprung up, the most notable of which is on Hull Road. If you’re in a panic about where you’re going to live you may very well end up jumping at the offer of a well-advertised shiny new flat, even if they are £127 per week, with studio flats priced at an astronomic £155 per week. This is more than a lot of campus accommodation, most of which costs between £79 (twin room, Derwent) and £127 (premium ensuites, various colleges).

The staff, who wrote in their blog that they’re working overtime “drinking a lot of coffee”, aren’t to blame – this is most likely sue to chronic miscommunication between departments, or perhaps a computing error. But more care should have been taken. College life is central to student experience at York and should be offered to all, whether your offer is firm, insurance or Cleared.

Slider image credit: Petroc Taylor

11 comments

  1. 10 Sep ’13 at 12:41 pm

    George Watson

    The obvious solution would be for the university to offer private accommodation to students at the same price as equivalent campus accommodation, paying the difference to the provider themselves, and to offer a free public transport pass if the accommodation is more than, say, a 15-minute walk from campus. The lack of block interactions could be somewhat mitigated by housing all the students in a small number of different private blocks, and the students obviously wouldn’t be excluded from college events.

    Well, I lie slightly; the most obvious solution would be to take fewer students through Clearing, but that damage is already done.

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  2. If only they were building a new college for next year. Oh, wait, they are.

    Offering returning students cashback for staying on campus probably wasn’t a great help this year…

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  3. Do St John’s still have Fairfax?

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  4. Vanbrugh rather…

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  5. Obviously the new college will help next year but they really messed up this year …
    But people make mistakes and I’m sure the people living off campus won’t have a worse university experience for it… Think of it like Fresh Meat!
    And that starting price of 130 is for the Boulevard accommodation. If these students all got together on the Freshers’ FB page then they could get a student house and actually be financially better off…

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  6. My room in the boulevard is the same price as university accommodation not the prices quoted. Get your facts right.

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  7. 11 Sep ’13 at 2:44 pm

    Lindsaymcghie

    My daughter is considering pulling out if university as she has been given a place in’ Fairfax house which apparently is substandard accommodation. Accommodation services aren’t even bothered the fact that she may pull out.

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  8. 11 Sep ’13 at 3:25 pm

    Who will pay the difference?

    When I started as a Fresher, I required parental support to pay for my campus accommodation – the room (then one of the most expensive on campus) now would be at around £125 a week, on a 33 week let totaling a tidy £4,125 that thankfully my parents were able to offer.
    A Fresher this year living in the cheapest Boulevard room will be expected to fork over £5,720 for a 44 week rent, the shortest term available even if they were to move out after the end of the academic year. That excess £1595 will have to come from somewhere and I suspect it will be from the parents.

    PS. @Lindsaymcghie I had many friends stay in Fairfax house, it wasn’t all that bad!

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  9. Would be very interesting to see how many rooms the university retains for conferences and operates as a B&B. Im pretty sure there are few that are deliberately kept free by the university in case there are guests visiting.

    Also enough with this PFI. Yes I know its attractive but surely the university is better off find other sources of investments and building some decent buildings on Hes east where it will see the full benefits of accomodation income. Last I heard, there was a fair amount of land over in Hes-east.

    Few bits of pre-cast concrete and a lick of paint and voila, 100-200 new rooms available with which to generate decent rental income and yield for the university? Or am I just being real simple?

    Or the best idea yet…. narrowboats!! we could have them lifted onto the lake (lets be honest its not like its particularly beautiful so as to be ruined by a few narrowboats of houseboats).

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  10. 16 Sep ’13 at 3:06 pm

    @Lindsaymcghie

    Hi Lindsay,

    I lived in Fairfax – it’s certainly not the best accommodation around, but it’s far from the worst. Well located, good sense of community and close enough to the Uni to feel on campus but also a good 10-15 minutes closer to town than Halifax/Hes East. She’ll be fine!

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