Is campus expansion pushing up accommodation prices?

From the construction of The Enterprise Centre last year and the announcement of the demolishing of Congregation Hall, to the new accommodation buildings on the Blackdale site: UEA’s campus is dramatically expanding.

You would be forgiven for failing to notice the slow pace of initial development, but in line with the university’s development plan: 2030 Vision, big changes are underway at UEA.

Concrete reported in December 2015 that the university plans to recruit 20 per cent more students – an additional 3,000 – over the next ten years, and, the need for new accommodation to facilitate this increase in UEA’s student body is an essential part of the campus development programme.

Barton and Hickling House, named in honour of two Norfolk Broads and developed on the old Blackdale site, will open to students in September.However, the proposed rental rates for these new buildings suggest that UEA’s recruitment approach is intended to target students who are prepared to spend above average amounts on their university accommodation.

The fully furnished housing consists of over 500 single study bedrooms, complete with ensuite bathroom pods and disabled access kitchens, and will accommodate up to 514 students in the academic year 2016-17. The cost of a year’s rent will set students back a whopping £5655.16 for a 38- week undergraduate licence – and £7441.00 for 50 weeks of postgraduate accommodation. That’s more than £148 per week of rental.

The Vice-Chancellor David Richardson launched the 2030 program for the university at Norwich Cathedral in May. He also revealed new research demonstrating that UEA contributes £346.4m a year to the economy of Norwich, in addition to a further £154.3m across the surrounding area of Norfolk and Suffolk, and stated that these figures would rise as the university grew over the course of the next decade.

While the importance of the university’s growth to the local economy is, of course, an essential part of the institutions development; equally, the need for this new accommodation comes at a time where UEA ranked 15th in the Times Higher Education university guide last year.

UEA’s popularity amongst students from all over the world is unsurprising: situated in a beautiful, historic city, and located on a campus boasting a lake, the Avengers headquarters and the famous Grade II listed Ziggurats. An international appeal that is reflected by the 115,000 alumni from more than 100 countries. Plans to grow the 15,000-strong student body in the next decade are matched to ambitions to increase its academic staff by 100 by 2020. This is part of the first of three five-year plans that make up the 15-year vision.

UEA plans to invest around £150 million in the UEA campus during the development program from 2016–2020 and the first project in this investment period, Barton and Hickling Houses, will be the most expensive accommodation on campus. At £40 a month pricier than the current ensuite campus options already available to students, aside from the premier range of flats, and with the addition of a new café situated between the housing, UEA has certainly shown where its priorities lie in terms of campus development. Construction on the £30m, low-carbon project began in April 2015, and despite the Vice- Chancellor’s refusal to comment on whether it had met his budgetary expectations, it was all smiles at the ‘topping-out’ ceremony that took place after the finishing of the roof in May. In keeping with UEA’s green initiatives, the project relied on British building materials, in order to limit the project’s carbon footprint, with the ensuite bathroom pods being delivered from Hull.

Barton and Hickling appear to be great additions to the accommodation options at UEA, however, they will almost certainly be reserved for those with deep pockets.

Perhaps UEA should also be considering cheaper flats and other developments for future projects. The scrapping of student grants for new undergraduates from September 2016, in addition to government plans to allow successful universities to charge higher tuition fees in line with inflation, means that more students are set to be increasingly out of pocket for their degrees, so, would an institution able to offer savings on living expenses become the first choice for most?


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May 2022
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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