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Concerns raised over cost of planned new colleges

Nouse research has revealed the damaging price brackets of the planned colleges, and their potential impact on the Campus East environment

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Nouse research has revealed more details regarding the new colleges that are set to be built on campus East by 2021. This research indicates concerning plans for colleges that include a significant bias towards standard and premium tiers of accommodation (flying in the face of campaigns by students for more affordable prices.) Furthermore, plans also indicate that the building of new colleges will have stark environmental impacts: a fact that Nouse covered last year in an earlier edition. Plans, as they stand for the new colleges, were approved by York City Council last year, on 21 December 2018.

Our research has revealed the bands of rooms the new colleges will provide. 13 per cent of the new rooms will be economy, 12 per cent will be premium, and the remaining 75 per cent of rooms will be standard. All will include an ensuite: this raises questions about the affordability of rooms in the new colleges, which for now, are simply called ‘North’ and ‘South’ college.

The new colleges will provide 1 480 more beds to the University, and therefore this will inevitably lead to more admissions being accepted once the colleges are built.

However, there is not yet any mention of more University facilities, such as more retail outlets or study spaces, to help support this presumed growth in student population. With University resources already stretched, it may not be possible to incorporate an extra influx of students. Housing for second and third-year students is already a problem. With this in mind, an influx of 1 480 more students a year might serve to aggravate this problem. The University did not provide any specific information regarding the pricing of the new rooms, but stated that the cost of the rooms will reflect the present bands of room pricing. However, with the high percentage of premium and standard rooms proposed for the new colleges, it is clear that these colleges will coincide with Campus East’s average higher cost of rent to that of West.

This raises the question as to whether these new colleges match the University’s commitment to affordable accommodation, as it is clear that rooms offering more affordable rent are needed to achieve this. This is particularly pertinent given that York’s accommodation is the 12th most expensive in the country, at £29 more than the national average for student accommodation, as data from 2018 shows.

YUSU Community and Wellbeing Officer Steph Hayle told Nouse: “At a time when universities are more aware than ever of the crippling cost of student accommodation, it is concerning to see our institution not prioritising an increase in more affordable economy rooms. A standard room at York does not come with a ‘standard’ price tag.”

In regards to this, the University told Nouse: “The majority of rooms on Campus East in the new college development will be priced at what is currently a ‘standard’ rate in line with similar room types on Campus West in colleges including Alcuin, James, Halifax and Vanbrugh. For 2020/21 onwards our rates will change to Band 1, 2, 3 and4 following feedback from the student community. Pricing is in line with university policy to provide good quality, affordable accommodation and in conjunction with YUSU and GSA, the University of York has published a budget calculator and affordability statement on our website to help students make informed decisions." Using the information within the planning application documents publicly provided by YorkCity Council, the environmental impact of building the two new colleges can be explored. Before any construction of the new colleges can begin, a Construction Environmental Management Plan must be conducted and approved by the Local Planning Authority. The document in question weighs the risks for damage to water bodies, disturbance to waterfowl, and disturbance to terrestrial breeding birds.

Overall, it classified the damage or pollution to the water bodies on Campus East to be “high” during pre-construction work, but the actual construction of the college building would pose a lesser “moderate” effect on the water. This construction of the colleges, however, poses a ‘high’ risk for the resident waterfowl.‘‘Whilst water quality should be protected throughout construction, waterfowl are at greatest risk of impact.” Ultimately, the report stated that “the proposals do not present any significant impacts on protected or otherwise notable species.” While these new colleges are clearly set to be a great step for the University by allowing for more students to be accepted into York, and therefore more money for the university, they do pose the potential problems of overused University facilities and high rent prices. Additionally, the construction of these colleges potentially threaten the bodies of water within CampusEast, and the animals within them -a danger which would both be damaging to the local ecosystem, and for our identity as an environmentally-conscious University

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