Open Letters: SU President slams University on student intake

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Students’ Union President, Jordan Kenny, outlines the accommodation crisis caused by an exceptionally high student intake by the University of Bath and demands certain measures be taken to appease the situation. Notably, a pause in the student intake growth and a synergy with Bath Spa University and other local stakeholders to generate an action plan for the future. The University’s response is one of acceptance and understanding of student frustration, but Vice Chancellor Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell points out the student intake for 2015-2016 has not been an overestimation of targets. The VC explains that a review of recruitment strategies is in the University’s agenda and emphasis is put on the SU President and student body involvement in this process. The ‘outside’ factors not controlled by the University, such as private sector accommodation, are also noted, as well as praise to the University’s investments in academic buildings over the recent years. 

SU President’s open letter to the VC on housing

Dear Vice Chancellor,

As you will be aware our students are in the midst of a housing crisis. New, returning and visiting students to the University, are as we speak in dire situations. Let me be clear, we are in a housing crisis and this is unacceptable.

Students are either sleeping on sofas or friends’ bedroom floors, travelling from home, living out of hostels, sharing bedrooms (of up to four persons) or, in the case of a small few, are considering not to continue their studies. Regardless of what point you are at during your time at the University and your specific situation, a permanent roof over your head is undeniably a fair expectation.

The University cannot continue to grow whilst the infrastructure is unable to fully support the number of students that it has.  We must pause our growth, reflect on where we are currently under resourced, and ensure our students’ expectations are met. This means as a minimum, adequate housing provision with easy access to campus and local amenities.

The University may not have a contractual commitment to all students who study at Bath regarding accommodation, but it certainly has a moral one, to ensure that students are not left on their own to suffer in terrible living conditions.

We call upon the University to:
– Immediately pause all further growth in student intake beyond the numbers actually recruited this year, until such point that the core infrastructure has caught up.
– Set out an action plan developed in consultation with the Students’ Union on how the housing crisis will be addressed now and in the future.
– Explain why student number increases have been allowed to take place without sufficient housing available in Bath.
– Work with Bath Spa University, and other local stakeholders to ensure that further increases are properly managed.
– Provide significant support to students currently affected, on top of the already committed reduction in rent prices.
– Ensure communication is made with affected students on behalf of the Senior Management Team.

I look forward to your response.

Jordan Kenny
Students’ Union President
On behalf of the students of the University of Bath

 

VC’s reply to SU President on housing

Dear Jordan,

I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to you and to all our students through the pages of bathimpact.I would firstly like to reiterate the University’s commitment to our students and thank all who have been putting so much effort into helping our new and returning students to find suitable accommodation.

We have this year provided places in University accommodation (both University owned and University managed) for 3,480 undergraduate and 648 postgraduate students. All first year undergraduate students who applied for accommodation have been housed, whether or not they met the terms of our published accommodation guarantee

However, it is evident that despite this, there are a number of our students who have experienced difficulties in finding suitable accommodation from the rooms offered to students by private landlords. I share your concern at the impact this is having on individual students.

In the past, it has not been the University’s practice to seek to actively control private sector accommodation, particularly with respect to returning students.  Greater oversight in the future would be advantageous. We will examine how we approach this in part through gaining a clearer understanding of the issues with private sector provision this year.  In the meantime, we will continue to help any of our students who are still experiencing difficulties.

It is important, however, to set this into the current context.  We have very carefully controlled our intake of new students into the University this year and we did not overshoot our entry targets.  As part of our normal planning cycle, we are reviewing our future strategy.  Recruitment targets will form an important part of this review process, as they did in the development of our existing strategy.  The Students’ Union President and other student representatives will, as always, be actively involved in this review.

Our level of investment in University infrastructure over the last decade demonstrates how we have put student needs at the forefront of our strategy.  For example, the £26 million investment in the high quality teaching space provided by the Chancellors’ Building; the £43 million development of an additional 708 beds in the Quads; the £ 11 million investment in the outstanding facility for the creative arts provided by The Edge; and more recently the commitment of £3.5 million to the development of a learning zone for students in the city centre, in Manvers Street.

The situation in the city of Bath is also changing.  There are important pressures on capacity which are impacting on the availability of accommodation, as well as other aspects of city life.  This includes the expansion of our neighbouring University, Bath Spa.  It is absolutely right that we should be working together to enable all our students to be housed properly and we are taking the appropriate steps to do so.  

Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell DBE DL

Members of the Senior Management Team are happy to meet with any students who are currently affected.  To arrange a meeting, please email:   smt@bath.ac.uk

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2 Comments

  1. The lack of admission of fault is worthy of a cabinet politician and frankly, quite insulting. Students have been accommodated – including Freshers who have been forced to share rooms with each other, something which most of them didn’t find out about until they arrived in Bath.

    Although the housing crisis is at the centre of this, there are so many issues on campus that come down to over-population: if you get to the library later than 10 on any day it’s rare that you’ll get a seat; maths lecturers having to give lectures twice as there isn’t a lecture hall big enough to fit all the first year students in (are they being paid more for teaching more hours?).

    The biggest kick in the teeth is the apparently ‘outstanding’ facilities provided by the Edge: even as a student society it is incredibly difficult to get a booking in there, since as there have only been two large music rooms provided, there is literally not enough space and time for everyone. Ditto with the dance studio, except that’s mostly sold out by the ICIA, so I’m sure even BodySoc doesn’t get as much use of it as they’d like to. And let’s not even mention the two art galleries standing empty on the bottom floor or the whole floor of an arts building being taken up by the Department of Management, since they’re the ones who can pay to use the space. It does also bear mentioning that three times as much money was spent on the sports training village as the Edge, a facility which is not even completely dedicated to the arts, demonstrating in what regard artistic endeavour is held compared to sport.

    Controlling the housing market may be beyond the control of the VC, but what is within her control is ensuring the well being of this university’s students by not selling us short. Build the facilities before you bring in more students, rather than legitimising building more because you can’t fit people into the existing space. Because at the end of the day, surely this all comes down to money. Generating revenue for more buildings, to get international masters students in for one year, who will put up with mediocre facilities for a year, pay their £30,000 and leave, which ultimately should not be the purpose of an institution of higher education.

    We love being here, we love Bath: we do not love being seen as a source of income for the university.

    • Hear, hear Leo. My son has just come home for his first weekend with stories of a ridiculously overcrowded library and canteen. He can’t get his meal, pay for it and eat it in the time permitted, has to share a room and feels generally let down by the Uni. Top for student satisfaction? Hope Bath Uni can hang on to that…………….

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