“Isolated” freshers told by University to live off-campus

 

Image: Eamonn Byrne Landscape Architecture

Campus accommodation overbooked by the end of August, while the University partners with private providers

 

Students complain of social exclusion, with discrepancies in college systems on how to engage off-campus freshers

Freshers’ applications to live on campus this year had outnumbered those accepted by the end of August – causing further outsourcing of student accommodation to off-campus providers.

Following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from Nouse, University statistics show that, by 31 August, 4140 new undergraduates had applied for campus accommodation. However, only 4110 of these applications were granted, leaving out 30. In response to a separate FOI, the University refused to provide statistics on how many clearing students they had enrolled for this academic year – citing this information as commercially sensitive.

A first year English and Politics student, who had been assigned to Constantine college, spoke about their experience with Vita Student – paying £170 a week for a studio flat. “The accommodation itself is fantastic, you certainly get a lot for your money,” the student said, “but in terms of the University I feel pretty isolated.

“Despite being assigned a college, I’ve been barely involved with any of the college-wide activities, given no information on Freshers’ Week activities within the college, and as I’m in my own studio (not out of choice) it’s made making friends all the more difficult.”

Nouse asked the University what its policy was in cases where on-campus accommodation is overbooked. A University spokesperson replied with the following: “We offer an accommodation guarantee to new full time single undergraduate students, including clearing students and international postgraduate students. All guaranteed students plus all new undergraduate non-guaranteed students were offered a room in University owned, managed or approved accommodation this year.”

The University’s campus accommodation guarantee, covering late applicants, was in effect until 24 August. After this date, it appears that the majority of late applicants had been guided to off campus accommodation. The University sometimes works in partnership with private sector providers, including Vita Student, Student Castle and Foss Studios. Efforts are made to help settle new students into this accommodation, both socially and pastorally.

Nouse issued a call for information to these providers for further details on the nature of the partnership. However, none of the three providers responded. Some colleges have enforced an “off-campus STYC” initiative, whereby second and third year students reach out to off-campus students who have been assigned to that college. The scheme, though, appears to be inconsistently upheld throughout the college system.

One off-campus STYC, Will Palmer, spoke of his own experience in helping students not living on campus settle into student life: “Langwith’s off-campus STYC policy was brought about after my own experiences in first year. With so many students being overlooked and ignored, they often find it difficult to integrate with on-campus students.”

He continued: “Many off campus have found this side of the STYC scheme vital to the enjoyment of Freshers’ Week this year as Frances Livera and I provided them with the missing link between their affiliated college and themselves.”

This initiative appears to be inconsistent in its outreach and enforcement across the University. Will Nightingale, a first year Electronic Engineering student who chose to live in a private student house, was more scathing of the University’s approach. “If you’re not staying on campus, you’re given no option other than fend for yourself,” Nightingale claimed. “I enjoyed my Freshers’ Week because I live with second year students, who were STYCs for a house in Halifax, but I wouldn’t have had any way of knowing which college to pick or anything like that otherwise.” Nightingale was not assigned a college but given free choice and opted for Halifax.

Last year, Nouse reported that 500 students were outsourced to private accommodation. According to UCAS, applications to higher education this year fell by four per cent. While this may alleviate the situation, the first of two new colleges, both to contain up to 650 rooms each, is not due for arrival until 2019.

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