Norwich students are facing a housing crisis, as a number of students are without accommodation 72 hours before term begins.
Since August an estimated 130 students have struggled to secure a room, according to Home Run, UEA Student Union’s housing service. The majority of these have been first-year undergraduates and international students, according to Home Run.
4,193 Freshers will be arriving on campus for the first time this weekend, as well as more than 10,000 returning students. However, at least 18 students are known to the university to still be without a room.
The shortage of rooms is believed to be because of the change in first year cohort size on A Level results day. 500 offers were made through the Adjustment and Clearing processes to students not previously registered with UEA.
This is despite UEA building more than 500 new campus rooms in the Hickling and Barton buildings, which open this week. These additions to the campus, which have taken almost two years to complete, mean that UEA now offers more than 4,000 rooms on campus. Some of these have been offered to second and third year students as well as those returning from a year abroad. Final year students will be housed away from first year students, either in flats grouped together within an undergraduate building, or within a designated Postgraduate residence.
Responding to the figures, UEA Undergraduate Education Officer Theodore Antoniou-Phillips urged the university to anticipate fluctuations in recruitment in future in an attempt to prevent student homelessness.
“It’s tempting to blame the shortage of on-campus accommodation for first-year students on the university for over-recruiting; but the reality is that an unexpectedly high number of first years are coming to UEA as it was their UCAS insurance offer, secured on results day.
“This dramatic churn in student recruitment a result of the government’s disastrous marketisation of Higher Education is causing chaos up and down the country, with other SUs reporting empty courses or bulging lecture theatres depending on how their uni has done.
“Where the problem is at UEA is the overall absence of a proper plan to handle the university’s expansion ensuring that uni bosses anticipate these issues and invest in teaching and other facilities that are able to maintain the strong student experience that UEA is famous for.”
Allegations have also been made by senior Union officials that this accommodation crisis may jeopardise student’s course places. This is in part due to the expense of the accommodation recommended by HomeRun.
The union-run service have been recommending that students still without rooms check themselves into a number of local hotels or bed and breakfasts. The costs of these rooms vary greatly and are generally more expensive per night than all of the university or private rented accommodation. En-suite campus rooms (the most expensive available) are charged at between £17 and £21 per night. Some of the residences recommended by the HomeRun service are charging upwards of £140 per night.
Students have been registered on waiting lists, but places are dependent on other students dropping out of their course or otherwise vacating their room, meaning that many may be unavailable for several weeks.
Students are still searching for accommodation, in an attempt to secure a room off-campus. One such student is first-year Sophie Ross. She has now found a room in the city, but feels that the university did very little to help her.
Despite Sophie making UEA her firm choice, she was left without her guaranteed accommodation due to a failure in the application system that opened in the spring. Sophie says she completed her accommodation form in April, however, the university disagreed, and she was subsequently denied a campus room.
She continued, “We were all essentially called liars, the university didn’t want to hear and kept insisting there are no issues with the system.”
When Sophie was eventually offered campus accommodation it was in the INTO building, and she was forced to decline due to the expense. She said, “INTO is the same cost as the new Barton and Hickling, it would have been £2,000 more than my loan.” She admits she then “had no idea where and how to look for private accommodation.”
She said described the situation as, “upsetting” and “stressful” She added, “I do feel that not a lot has been done to help or prevent the problem in the future.
“As a first-year, firm choice who did manage to get in, I felt that the guaranteed accommodation promises surely applied, but evidently not much faith should have been given to that.”
A university spokesman said: “We experienced unusually high demand for accommodation as a result of the large number of students choosing to study at UEA this September. However, we can confirm that all students who were guaranteed rooms and met the deadline for accepting their accommodation offer have been successfully housed in campus residences.
“Although not disputing that any applicants claiming there was a failure in the system are acting in good faith, to date we have not found any evidence that there has been a problem with the process.
“It is very important to us that all our students are suitably housed. We contacted those who missed the deadline to warn them that they may not be allocated a place and to advise them on alternative options including accommodation at the INTO centre on campus, and on making arrangements in the private sector via Home Run.
“We are pleased to have been able to accommodate more than 150 students who actually missed the accommodation guarantee and we will continue to offer rooms that become available to those seeking accommodation.”