Accommodation woes at the University of Bath

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The facts and figures around the accommodation fiasco  picked apart to see where it went wrong

This academic year the University of Bath has accepted a record number of new undergraduate students. Whilst growth of the student body is seen as a sign of success in a university and should be rightly celebrated, there are fears that the levels of growth are unsustainable and the increase of students only serves to decrease the individual’s access to services and in our personal case in Bath: availability of accommodation.

This current academic year the University of Bath has increased its first year undergraduate student number intake to 3,471, an increase of 4.5% compared to last year.

The result of this is that the University has 228 students sharing rooms for the start of the academic year.

The University is now unable to meet the demand for university managed accommodation with 134 students sharing temporarily and 94 students sharing permanently for the entire year.

Students in temporary shared accommodation will be assigned a new room when they become available, but there is no guarantee that this will be the case as it relies on the freeing up of previously occupied rooms. So far the University has managed to relocate several temporary sharers to single rooms reducing the number of temporary sharers by 20.

Different accommodation blocks that have students temporarily sharing include John Wood, Woodland Court, Esther Parkin, The Woodlands and a very small number in Norwood and Eastwood. Those undergraduates in permanent shared rooms are in Eastwood and Woodland Court.

The University is charging between £50 and £115 for these shared rooms depending on the type of room (eg. ensuite), accommodation block, and whether food and drink credit is included. This is compared to £92 per week for the cheapest single rooms available in Eastwood.

3,480 new undergrads this year

3,480 new undergraduates just this year

A University spokesperson said: “For the 2015/16 academic year we are welcoming over 3,400 new undergraduate and 1,200 postgraduate students to begin their studies.”

“Accommodation has been offered – either on campus or in the City – to all first year undergraduates without the need for the sort of house-hunting events run in previous years to support new students.”

“Of the first year undergraduates, 94 are sharing permanently and 134 temporarily, with the University aiming to offer this latter group single rooms by January.”

In a letter to SU President Jordan Kenny, Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell said: “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.

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.”

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Tommy Parker is Editor-in-Chief (2016/17) and former Students' Union Community Officer (2014/15). He writes about gaming, equality issues and the University of Bath.

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