Image Credit: Annie Watson
The past year saw A-level grades reach a record high, meaning more students than ever secured their place at top institutions. While this was a positive step in terms of recognising students' hard work through unprecedented times and less than desirable working conditions, it has also had negative impacts on the availability of accommodation.
As a result of oversubscription and increased demand, a number of students across the country have been left stranded in accommodation they didn’t sign up for. Undergraduates who have applied for universities such as Bristol,York, Exeter and Edinburgh are just some of those considering deferrals due to accommodation shortages.
According to the BBC, results were at a record high as the number of students that were awarded the top A and A* grades rose by almost 75 percent since 2019. UCAS also confirmed that a record 396,000 students had been accepted by their first choice universities this year, and this equates to an 8 percent increase from the previous one.
With more students than ever and little additional accommodation available, displacement has been a major repercussion. It has been reported by the BBC that around 300 new undergraduates at the University of Bristol will be placed in hotels as their accommodation is not yet ready. The first year students were only recently informed of the delay that will see them away from campus for at least three weeks, until the building on St Thomas Street is complete.The knock on effect of this delay is that another 50 students are expected to be housed in alternative temporary accommodation.
Ruth Day, the Student living officer for the Students Union at Bristol, told the BBC that “ I’m really worried about the student’s experience and isolation.” Living off campus could impact students' ability to make friends and increase their anxiety about moving in later than they usually would.
This is not just an isolated incident as similar stories have emerged up and down the country including as far down as Exeter. Around 100 students at Falmouth University and Exeter’s Penryn Campus are said to be without accommodation. Both universities told ITV they are doing everything possible to find a resolution but believe the shortage is reflective of a wider housing crisis across the South West of the country.
In a statement provided to ITV Falmouth University said “We are pleased to confirm that all Falmouth University’s first year students have been offered a bed in university-owned or managed accommodation this year.
However there are challenges in the private rented sector locally that are affecting a number of returning students or students who don't wish to live in student halls and who can’t find suitable housing.”
The University of York is among the universities under scrutiny as around 150 undergraduates are being placed 36 miles away in Hull. Although some places in the new accommodation blocks are estimated to be ready by January, this means the students will face a 72 mile round trip every time they attend teaching on campus, with the journey by train estimated to take around 60-90 minutes. The university told the BBC that students affected will receive free travel via shuttle busses.
By building two new colleges, Anne Lister College and David Kato College, the university is hoping to increase its accommodation capacity by providing 1,400 new student rooms on campus East. Both colleges are due to be fully open by September 2022.
Nouse approached the University for comment and they stated that “ We are very sorry for the uncertainty and distress that the demand for University-provided accommodation has created. We worked as quickly as we could to allocate rooms to students who were guaranteed accommodation, but we clearly recognise the situation for some of our students not placed in York is far from ideal.”
“ We are fast-tracking our new purpose-built accommodation on campus and affected students will be fully supported with tailored welfare and social activities through our College teams and Student Unions.
“ Normally, a significant number of students choose to find their own private accommodation, and so every year we typically have many more students coming to York than we provide accommodation for on campus. The demand for campus accommodation has been compounded by a reduction in the availability of privately-let accommodation in York as well, which is why we have done all we can to help students find alternative accommodation.”
YUSU President Patrick O’Donnell said: “ It’s hugely disappointing to see that York, along with a number of other universities across the country, has been unable to house new undergraduate students on campus this year. Our initial priority has been to try to ensure everyone is offered a roof over their head.
“These new students are absolutely right to be frustrated, and should be compensated fairly by the University, before they are moved to new accommodation in Anne Lister College. So far, we’ve lobbied the University to increase rent discounts to 25 percent as a disruption payment. This will bring down the average rent of a student living in Hull down to around £70 per week.
“ We have already secured over £10,000 in funding to support free events, activities and memberships for affected students, as well as a free shuttle bus service, seven days a week, with the last bus leaving York in the early hours of the morning. The University has committed to exploring a hardship fund specifically for these students, to ensure they are supported in the coming weeks.
“ Any student who feels they are experiencing distress, hardship or disadvantage should speak with our independent student’s union advice centre where we will try to support you in securing the support you need.”