Image Credit: Reuben Hodson
The University spent an estimated £130 million to build new Campus East colleges Anne Lister and David Kato, a Nouse Freedom of Information request has revealed.
In its response, the University said: “The College is being built as a design, build, finance, operate (DBFO) project. This means that an external funder, with developer and contractor, have been engaged and that the matter of the actual building cost is not one known to the University.”
The University stressed that the figure of £130 million is “an estimated amount not actual spend.”
The new colleges have been built to accommodate rising demand to come to the University of York, with a small proportion of York students this year having to live in Hull.
All 348 rooms in Anne Lister College are self-catered and have ensuite bathrooms. The college is only a three- minute walk to the Ron Cooke Hub, and a seven-minute walk to The Glasshouse.
Anne Lister residents will pay rent of £159 per week, with all band three rooms on a 51-week let. Most students in other colleges are on a 40-week let.
Miki Oleniacz, a third-year Business student, said: “The accommodation at Anne Lister is great, but I’m paying way too much for it. It’s also unfair that it’s self-catered – it’s not good value for money.”
In a first for the University of York, Anne Lister College is named after a woman and LGBTQ+ historical figure. Anne Lister was a nineteenth century landowner and diarist described as the ‘first modern lesbian’. Lister has also been credited as the influence for the BBC-HBO historical TV series Gentleman Jack.
Sally Wainwright, who directed the hit TV drama, describes Lister as a “remarkable Yorkshire woman” who “had such deep connections with York and had a passionate commitment to the pursuit of knowledge all her life.”
Lister’s diaries detail her various romantic relationships with women, during an era in which homosexuality was illegal, including her secret “marriage” with Ann Walker. A blue plaque now marks the spot where the two were informally married, Holy Trinity Church York.
Commenting on the announcement of the new college name in June, Vice-Chancellor Charlie Jeffery said: “Naming our tenth college after Anne Lister, whose dedication to scholarship and a determination to pursue her life as she saw fit at a time when women had few rights and many obstacles to equality of opportunity, reflects our values and our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion.”
David Kato is a more recent LGBTQ+ figure, having fled his native Uganda to seek refuge at the University of York in 2010. Kato spent six months as a Protective Fellow on the University’s Human Rights Defenders Programme at the Centre for Applied Human Rights.
Professor Paul Gready, who heads the Centre for Applied Human Rights, explained that “The Human Rights Defenders programme brings defenders who risk their lives to fight global injustice and strengthen democracy to our university to share their expertise.”
Kato was a high-profile LGBTQ+ activist in Uganda, returning to the country to campaign against a proposed law which would have imposed the death penalty for homosexual intercourse. This was later amended to life imprisonment.
After winning a landmark court case in 2011 against a Ugandan magazine which had argued for the execution of LGBTQ+ people, Kato was murdered in his home. Homosexuality remains illegal in Uganda.
Vice-Chancellor Charlie Jeffery, explaining the University’s decision to name the college after Kato, said: “Colleges are an integral part of University life here at York and we knew we wanted an inspiring role model when naming our new college – one which would also reflect our belief in equality, diversity and inclusion.”
“It is particularly poignant as we celebrate our status as a University of Sanctuary, in recognition of our approach to offering a welcoming and safe place for refugees, asylum seekers and other people who have been forced to migrate.”
“We hope that by using his name many more people will become aware of the important work he championed.”
David Kato College will open in September 2022.
With some students having to live in Hull this term, YUSU President Patrick O’ Donnell was asked what YUSU was currently doing to support students making the daily trip to York.
“I am pleased with the extra support and funding we have secured for York students based in Hull during the autumn term, such as reducing rents by 25 percent – to an average of 75 p/w – and securing free gym memberships and shuttle buses between York and Hull," Patrick said.
“We have been proactively speaking with this cohort of students, through regular newsletters, meet-ups in both York and Hull and College teams, to learn more about how we can work together and seek necessary action from the University."
“Our focus is now on ensuring that students are supported, both financially and logistically, through the transition to Anne Lister College accommodation in the coming weeks and months.”
A University of York spokesman told Nouse: “There is an increasing demand for on-campus accommodation amongst our student community and the new Campus East accommodation is meeting demand with supply."
"The demand is not only from new undergraduates, as we are seeing an increasing number of students in their second, third and fourth study year wanting to live in University accommodation, which is one of the many reasons for the development of Anne Lister and David Kato College."
Commenting on the DPFO model for the construction of the new colleges, the University explained that "the developer pays for the building work and they run the building on a 50-year lease."
On rent, the University also said: “The University of York works closely with our Student Unions each year to discuss setting rents across all our Colleges. Rent on all room is usually set to keep pace with inflation and meet our Fair Rent Principles."
"We are committed to providing different price bands to accommodate student choice and ensure there are rooms available that suit all requirements."
"Rooms in University accommodation offer a variety of facilities and are priced accordingly, but all meet specific accommodation standards."
"Many of our colleges offer rooms which suit varying budgets and the new development of Anne Lister College and David Kato College will feature rooms priced across varying bands. A room with an ensuite bathroom is likely to be more expensive to rent."
"This, coupled with a choice of let lengths, will enable students with differing budgets to apply for accommodation."