Bunk beds. Yes, you read that right, bunk beds. I grew up sharing a room with my brother, and yes, we shared bunkbeds. I also spent last year studying at university in Massachusetts where I had not one, but two — very lovely — roommates so I am not averse to room sharing, or indeed bunkbeds as a concept, and have spent most of my life with minimal personal space. However, it seems a rather hastily pieced together plan if the university is resorting to housing students in bunk beds from September. Remember, these rooms have not been designed to accommodate two students, and are just a single room with two beds. Whilst the price range is definitely something most students will approve of, I’m not sure I would want to share my cupboard space with someone else.
University expansion has become an increasing problem over the last year, and it only looks like it will get worse in coming years. It’s great that UEA is becoming increasingly popular — they don’t call us wonderful for nothing — but the rate at which the cohort numbers have grown in the past years has been too quick for campus to keep up with. Despite the addition of the shiny new Hickling and Barton — with their very shiny price tag — campus accommodation is starting to feel the pressure.
Add in the threat of Article 4 and a very unsympathetic local housing market and you have a problem. Just please remember that when HomeRun opens next Friday, it won’t be the fault of the staff if you aren’t able to secure a house right away — they’re doing everything they can to help, so make sure to cut them some slack.
Even without the university expanding cohort sizes further next year, there will still be a thousand extra students on campus next September. That is, according to my somewhat shaky maths, a growth of over 6 percent.
If you think this space isn’t becoming a problem, try finding a library space after week eight. I’m only slightly kidding when I say it has become a fight to the death, particularly if you want a seat with a plug socket / light / decent desk space / a chair. As for the study carrels, well, I haven’t been able to find my way into one of them since my second year. They’re more precious than that ring everyone fought over in Lord of the Rings.From the campus shop, to the laundrette to the queues at any of the food outlets, wherever you look there are crowds of students. If the university is going to expand its year sizes, then the services need to expand accordingly.
Beyond the initial amused smile that normally accompanies the phrase, ‘putting students in bunkbeds’ other services are surely going to suffer. Appointments at the medical centre will become more difficult to get (at least within a decent time frame) and Student Support Services are going to crack under the pressure. There is already a waiting list for the counselling services -— are a thousand extra students really going to help? Nightline has been relocated in order to provide extra bed space: whilst this isn’t necessarily a negative, the university has yet to confirm Nightline’s new permanent home. Thus this move has detracted from the services Nightline are able to provide and has been detrimental to the student population.
Perhaps bunk beds aren’t necessarily a terrible idea. Indeed, if you have a friend you like a lot and are not too averse to sharing their space in exchange for a fairly decent price tag, it could even be a good idea. But, it is also a sign of things to come. It is a sign of a university that is trying to undertake a marathon without first trying a 5k. A plan, a real concrete plan, needs to be put together in order to protect the students already at UEA. With first year students either having to live out in the centre of town, with a family, or away from the bus routes, student experience is an essential part of university life.With many things, uncertain at the start of 2017 — don’t even get me started on Trump, Brexit, or even my post-graduation plans — one thing is clear: rapid and over expansion should not happen at the expense of student experience.
So welcome back UEA. Whether this is your first semester here or your last (sob), enjoy it. Besides, the world is going to end on the 20th January anyway.