Published on May 9, 2013 | by Kyla Mandel0
Student halls lack space for freshers
About 250 new students at UAL will fail to find places in halls of residence when they arrive this September because of an undersupply of spaces and rising rents.
A recent review revealed the university could only provide beds for just over 3,000 students, when demand is expected to be 3,275.
Next year’s cheapest single accommodation will be £130 a week as rents have increased on average across the halls by £24 in the past couple of years.
James Garford from UAL Accommodation Services said that while demand for student accommodation was increasing, the university seemed to be meeting the demand.
If students are turned away from housing, it is when no space is left to fulfil highly specific requests for accommodation he explained.
However, Garford noted that the demand for lower-priced accommodation has “shot up” this year.
Shelly Asquith, the new president of SUARTS, says the housing costs could prevent students from choosing to study at UAL.
“Affordable accommodation is a pressing issue because it means certain students can’t study at university because they can’t afford their housing cost,” she said.
Asquith has made it her priority to fight for affordable accommodation, calling it “a scandal” that private rooms start at £130 a week.
“Too many of us are expected to pay sky-high prices in halls or a private tenancy. Students are being exploited as a result of a housing crisis and are having to deal with sub-standard living conditions and/or unaffordable rents,” she wrote on her blog.
According to research by the National Union of Students, the cost of student accommodation has increased by 25 per cent over the past three years in the UK.
The survey found that private companies tend to charged the highest prices and that London ranked the most expensive city for students at an average cost of £157.48 a week.
High prices have meant that many students have instead opted for private accommodation during their foundation year, forgoing halls of residence entirely.
Rebecca Livesey-Wright, a first-year student at Central Saint Martins who rents a flat in Bromley-by-Bow, said: “Of the only ones I could potentially afford for some reason they weren’t available to CSM students and were also twin rooms.”
Choosing private accommodation instead, Livesey-Wright noted another deterring factor was the poor quality of living experienced by others students in some of the university halls.
“I didn’t want to live in halls of residence because I had a friend who lived in halls last year, and to be honest with you, the state of their halls, the size of their bedrooms and the fact that they didn’t have a communal space really put me off living in halls.”
At least 10 of next year’s 12 halls are independently owned and/or outsourced to private companies, four of which are managed by the university.
Asquith believes this played a large role in determining price and quality of the accommodation. It comes down to which company the university has outsourced to, Asquith said: “It means we don’t have much say over what they’re charging – which is quite dangerous – and also over the services they offer.”
Garford explained that while it would be nice to own all the accommodation buildings, the school doesn’t have the millions of pounds needed to invest in such a venture. Having an independent company manage the halls, particularly the larger ones, made practical sense he said.
However, recently UAL students have been receiving emails from SUARTS promoting halls of residence unaffiliated with the university.
The SUARTS, which is funded by the university, receives payment from the private hall providers to advertise the halls to students. Asquith noted however, that with a base price of around £200 per week, these halls remained unaffordable.
However, it’s not just halls of residence that differ in price and quality. Asquith said there were dangers in the private rented sector as well, with many students are getting ripped off.
Livesey-Wright, who pays £130 a week, including bills, has had her fair share of landlord troubles. “I could give you a list of problems that goes on for miles,” she said of her landlord, who she claims, frequently lets himself into her flat without the required 24-hours’ notice and has failed for more than seven months to clear a huge pile of tree branches and rubbish from her front garden.
However, having good flatmates and an affordable rent price has stopped Livesey-Wright from moving out.
Students should not have to worry about finding affordable, quality accommodation, argues Asquith, who plans on demanding the balance sheet for UAL’s spending on housing to see how they reinvest their profits.
“[I want to] ensure every student has an option of an affordable room and nobody is shut out simply because their loan won’t stretch far enough to give them a roof over their head.”